For decades, politicians and business leaders have told us that today’s challenge is growing the economy, and that environmental protection can be left to future generations. Amy Larkin, in her book “Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy,” says that in the wake of billions of dollars in costs associated with Hurricane Sandy, wildfires across the West, and groundwater contamination from drilling, it’s clear that yesterday’s carefree attitude about the environment has morphed into a fiscal crisis of epic proportions. She argues that the costs of global warming, extreme weather, pollution and other forms of “environmental debt” are wreaking havoc on the economy.
She cites coal as an example: Despite coal’s relative fame as a “cheap” energy source, Americans pay $350 billion a year for coal’s damage in business related expenses, polluted watersheds, and in health care costs. Larkin says that as companies and nations struggle to strategize in the face of global financial debt, many businesses have begun to recognize the causal relationship between a degraded environment and a degraded bottom line. Amy Larkin is former Solutions Director for Greenpeace USA. Her consulting firm is Nature Means Business. She will be at Utah State University next week for the USU Partners in Business Operational Excellence Conference and other events.