Book Reviewer
Lloyd Alter is managing editor of environmental news site TreeHugger. He has been an architect, developer, inventor, prefab promoter, and writes for the website Planet Green. Lloyd also teaches sustainable design at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Waking the frog

Tom Rand says becoming amphibian soup is not a climate fait accompli.

In his new book, Waking the Frog, Tom Rand tackles the question of why we, like the metaphorical frog in the boiling pot, are just sitting and doing nothing while the carbon count rises and the climate gets more disruptive.

Rand makes clear he doesn’t think we have to boil to death. “The good news is that we can solve the climate problem,” he writes. “The capital we need sits in our pension funds and money markets, the policy tools to unlock it are well understood and emerging innovations are fully capable of powering our civilization.”

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Scrap culture

The secret world of recycled stuff

Every Jewish family that's been in North America since before WWII has the scrap business in its genes. A hundred years ago, 25 per cent of New York's Jews were in scrap. My dad's first job for the in-law's family business was racing for the car batteries of dead cars, the most valuable component being the easily removed lead inside. He followed scrap from Toronto to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Chicago (where I was born) and back.

Reading Adam Minter's book Junkyard Planet reminded me of the many stories I’ve heard about the business, about the menches and the schlemiels who were part of it. Minter, who is Shanghai columnist for Bloomberg World View, traces how what was a Jewish business has become a Chinese one, as China developed a voracious appetite for scrap that gets melted down and returned to us in the form of new products. As an author and a grandchild of the scrap business, Minter is in an extraordinary position. His knowledge and background gives him entrée into a very secretive world. He understands what he is looking at and as a skilled writer does a great job of sharing what he sees.

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Embracing work with purpose

Is Aaron Hurst’s The Purpose Economy a true reflection of reality?

Are we at the tipping point of a new economy? Aaron Hurst thinks so. He is the founder of the Taproot Foundation and is launching Imperative, a platform "for you to discover, connect and act on what gives you purpose." In his new book The Purpose Economy, Hurst defines what he thinks will replace the industrial and information economies of the last century.

"A Purpose Economy is based on empowering people to have rich and fulfilling careers by creating meaningful value for themselves and others; it creates purpose for its employees and customers – through serving those in need, enabling self-expression, and building community."

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A world without waste

The Upcycle is good enough to eat, and that's the point it wants to make.

A decade ago, William McDonough and Michael Braungart wrote Cradle to Cradle, a book that environmentalist David Suzuki called “groundbreaking” and a “Bible for the Second Industrial Revolution.” Since then it has become an industry, with a certification system and an independent Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The premise was straightforward:

“Human beings don't have a pollution problem, they have a design problem. If humans were to devise products, tools, furniture, homes, factories, and cities more intelligently from the start, they wouldn't even need to think in terms of waste, or contamination, or scarcity. Good design would allow for abundance, endless reuse and pleasure.”

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Does dense equal sustainable?

Suburban sprawl might be bad, but overcrowded cities are not the solution.

It has become accepted wisdom that density is a good thing, as part of the notion that cities should grow, adapt and change if they are to become more sustainable, create jobs and remain economic engines.

But not all density is created equal, and there is such thing as too much density. That’s where many academic planning journals and right-wing think tanks start to cross the line. Many complain of too many restrictions that are keeping high-rise condos and business towers from blooming like weeds in a vegetable garden.

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