Video: Amory Lovins: Natural Capitalism

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Amory Lovins, Natural Capitalism, October 17, 2004by Marcus Morrell, © Big Picture TV 2005


Dr. Lovins talks about the reaction around the world to his seminal book ‘Natural Capitalism’, which he co-wrote with L. Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken. Since it was first published in 2000, he has worked with a number of companies in helping them to develop “natural capitalist” strategies to do business as if nature and people were properly valued. His hope, he explains, is that successful case studies from within different industry sectors will encourage other companies to follow similar strategies. He finishes by commenting on how engineering is taught in schools and warns that it must change if we are to see a meaningful shift towards sustainable eco-design.

Video Details

Natural Capitalism
Running time
5m 00s
San Raphael, USA, October 17, 2004
Marcus Morrell
About Amory Lovins
Energy Consultant, Author

Amory Lovins is one of the world’s foremost energy consultants and is the CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, based in Colorado. His work focuses on developing advanced resource productivity and energy efficiency. His many innovations have won major awards around the world and Newsweek Magazine has praised him as “one of the Western world’s most influential energy thinkers.”


Well despite the publisher, the book has sold over 100,000 copies in English by word of mouth, with no review copies sent out and no promotion, and it is spreading pretty well. CEOs continue to send it to their executives and customers by the case. It’s in many other languages. It’s now up on the Mandarin web, and seems to be having a good influence on Chinese development strategy, and I’m very pleased with how it’s going. The model we have used so far to promote it in industry is to help early adopting companies become such conspicuously successful natural capitalists that their rivals are forced by competitive pressure to follow suit or lose market share and this works very well, but it’s one company and one sector at a time. We’ve done it now in maybe a dozen sectors, and are continuously moving on to new ones, but it’s a big world.

There’s a lot to do, and not much time to do it in, so we are still looking for good ways to make this way of doing business as if nature and people were properly valued into a kind of beneficial social virus that will propagate itself exponentially, and we’re finding some of the leverage points needed to do that, but we need to find a lot more. Using the tunneling through the cost barrier principles from natural capitalisms, advanced resource efficiency, that’s a way to get expanding, not diminishing returns from investments in efficiency, by optimizing a whole system for multiple benefits, instead of a component for a single benefit, so you make very large savings costs, less than small or no savings, and one of our more interesting experiments was, helping Texas instruments redesign a new microchip fabrication plant, a chip fab, a multi billion dollar project, and their engineers and ours together came up with 16 big honking ideas, which stood for, holy cow, oh my god, why didn’t I think of that, no nonsense, I forget the rest of the acronym! 15 of them reduced capital cost, and overall, they had a major potential to reduce capital cost, and one other plant we were working on, that was a $5 billion facility, we came up with ways to save upwards of a billion dollars in capital costs, and over two thirds of the energy in CO2, it had a lot of other benefits, these kinds of stories quickly get around in those industries and then our phone rings a lot and of course, what we’re after is trying to change how engineering is done and taught.

We’re tired of fixing up stuff that wasn’t designed right in the first place. In fact one of these summers, I want to do an exercise we call, 10XE, Factor 10 Engineering, where we pull together a summer study of leading practitioners and teachers of engineering, and write the casebook with facing columns, small pipes big pumps, big pipes small pumps, and by developing the calculations and drawings and so on, in parallel down the page, it should become clear why you get a 10 or a 100 fold different answer, and I figure once we have that casebook across the range of engineering applications and disciplines, it should be the fulcrum to leverage the non violent overthrow of bad engineering. You can rearrange mental furniture in the head of any designer. They don’t have to have some special attributes to start with. We have had, how to say this tactfully, engineers that you might have called up from central casting to play a certain role of a not very imaginative engineer, and they really got it. It just took half an hour of certain stories and examples that have high brain Velcro, and once it sticks on, they’re not going to get it off again, and they’ll never design the old way again, at least without wincing, and then a few weeks later they start sending me emails of, you might be interested in this thing we just did, and then I know they’ve really got it!

Amory Lovins

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