Title: Quantified: Redefining Conservation for the Next Economy

Authors: Joe Whitworth

Page Numbers: 256  (Hardback)

Publisher: Island Press

Publishing Date: September 2015

There is a general consensus that indices such as Gross Domestic Product ( GDP) and Consumer Price Index (CPI) are good but limited measures of economic growth and development especially as we globally focus on sustainable development.

One of the biggest hurdles in tackling sustainability issues is lack of enough data-driven research to monitor and evaluate various situations.  Through his book, Joe Whitworth aims to go beyond the romanticised version of conservation to propose borrowing innovative approaches from companies like Google and Apple to conserve the environment for the sake of the economy.

Whitworth defines “Quantified Conservation” as leveraging best practices and using sophisticated tools to bring about measurable improvements that ensure both a healthy environment and a thriving economy for decades to come. Using a five-pronged framework consisting of situational awareness, outcomes, innovation and technology, data analytics and gains as well as his experiences as the CEO of  The Freshwater Trust, Whitworth analyses various case studies to bring his point home.

Quantified is informative and well-researched and despite being western-centric, the examples used are quite applicable in the Kenyan context. For instance, Whitworth states “..there is a lot of hodgepodge of laws and policies fashioned over multiple eras that do not reflect today’s realities by failing to demand a full account of our actions to a finite planet.”  This could also be applied to the fact there are a lot of grey areas in the attempts to define and quantify green standards in a bid to address these pressing issues.

My favourite chapter in the book was definitely was Chapter 6 on funding aptly titled:  Throwing Money at the Problem (and Missing)  given my interest in sustainable finance. He pointed out the shift in global financial architecture that has seen increased donor-as-investor models such as impact investing and crowdfunding that are helping to solve social problems. All these have been accompanied by increased scrutiny and accountability and the need for substantial data as compared to the previous traditional methods.

The downside of the book is that it’s  a bit repetitive and a tad self-promoting but does not water down the message of the book: personal and corporate responsibility to garner more information and clarity on environmental issues to find worthwhile solutions.

Photo credit: Netgalley. ¦Review first appeared on Netgalley

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