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The Green Life: Green Books and Global Economics

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October 20, 2008

Green Books and Global Economics

"Together we need to rebuild a capitalism that is more respectful to man, more respectful to the planet, more respectful to future generations and be finished with a capitalism obsessed by the frantic search for short-term profit," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday. In his role as president of the European Union (a rotating office with a six-month term), Sarkozy may have one of the loudest microphones, but his push for an overhaul of international financial regulation ahead of a planned summit at Camp David comes amid a rumbling of calls to rethink measures of economic growth.

As we noted last month on The Green Life, economist David Suzuki spoke during his West Coast Green keynote of "putting the 'eco' back in economics." And New Scientist asked in a recent special report, "How do we square Earth's finite resources with the fact that as the economy grows, the amount of natural resources needed to sustain that activity must grow too?"

Peter Dauvergne, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, takes up a similar riddle in his new book The Shadows of Consumption (MIT Press), due out on Thursday. He mines the histories of cars, leaded gasoline, refrigerators, beef, and seal hunting for clues, but reaches only vague conclusions: traded goods should reflect more of their environmental and social costs, international aid should compensate for damage wrought by production of consumer goods in developing countries, multinational corporations should hew to consistent standards.

All of this leaves us with more questions than answers--a ratio that may help explain (along with fortuitous timing, a killer Web site, grassroots organizing, and viral marketing) what has rocketed Van Jones' new book The Green-Collar Economy to #12 on  the New York Times Best Sellers list. Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded still outranks at spot #2. Have you read these books? Which would you like to see hit #1?

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