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Nature's Fortune

Environmentalism has traditionally been anathema to business. To most corporations, nature is merely the source of commodities--raw materials--to be extracted and sold. Short-term profits override long-term environmental consequences; sustainability is sacrificed for the bottom line. The green lobby is a petty annoyance, a fly to be squashed under the great force of capitalism. And the ill-will goes the other way--environmentalists are generally scornful of big business and its ruthless, single-minded search for profit; they are skeptical of any "green" initiatives a corporation might sponsor.
But economic growth and the well-being of nature are not mutually exclusive. In "Nature's Fortune" CEO of the Nature Conservancy (and former Goldman Sachs banker) Mark Tercek and conservation biologist Jonathan Adams argue that profit and environmental stewardship need not be competing ends, and that in fact, saving nature is the smartest investment any business or government can make.
Tercek and Adams show that the responsible stewardship of natural resources is now of utmost economic importance for people who do not traditionally consider themselves environmentalists. Farmers, ranchers, loggers, fishermen, miners, corporate executives, and investment bankers must begin to properly value the natural systems their business depends on--and account for them on their balance sheets. After all, whether you're talking about company assets or natural resources, success in business and conservation ultimately both depend on properly assessing value.
This idea is slowly but surely taking hold in unexpected corners. For instance: In Iowa, the unprecedented occurrence of three 500-year floods over a 17-year period awakened the corn farming community to the reality that the area's economic future was dependent on the conservation of floodplains. Thus a broad coalition of unlikely collaborators, including sportsmen, farmers, conservation organizations, business leaders, and elected officials, worked together to pass the largest conservation ballot initiative in the country, an amendment to the Iowa state constitution that would create a fund to reduce, prevent, and mitigate the impacts from future flooding. In the largely red state of Iowa, the amendment received more votes than the Republican candidate for governor.
"Nature's Fortune" will tell the story of a new kind of conservation--bold, flexible, innovative, financially sophisticated, and relevant from megacities to small towns to trackless wilderness, from the developed world to the remote countryside. It is a revolutionary guide to the world's economic--and environmental--well-being.
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About the Author

Mark R. Tercek is president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy. Tercek was previously a managing director and Partner at Goldman Sachs, where he led various business units and later was tapped to build and lead the firm's environmental strategy. He lives in Washington, DC.Jonathan S. Adams is a science writer and conservation biologist. The author of The Myth of Wild Africa, The Future of the Wild, and co-editor of Precious Heritage, he lives in Rockville, Maryland.All proceeds from Nature's Fortune benefit The Nature Conservancy.


Winner of the 2014 Green Prize for Sustainable Literature Award in the category of Business. Publishers Weekly "The authors convincingly argue that corporate responsibility is not only the right ethical tactic, but the right business move...According to this savvy book, both environmentalists and business executives need to understand 'how nature contributes to economic and ecological well-being.'" Kirkus Reviews "A hopeful message that a sensible marriage of business and environmental interests is in the cards, which until now has mostly been trumped by shortsightedness." William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America "By breaking conservation down into dollars and cents, Mark Tercek shows that economic growth and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive goals. Nature's Fortune takes a pragmatic approach to an important issue, and turns the conversation from ideology to arithmetic." Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us and Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope on Earth "In this encouraging, intelligent book that comes none too soon, Mark Tercek and Jonathan Adams show that the corporate world ultimately can't flourish unless the natural world does, too. Through stories equally compelling to entrepreneurs or environmentalists, CEOs or scientists, we see how Nature's Fortune and our own are inextricable. If we conserve and nurture our planet's gifts like any other crucial asset or investment, we profit--or, we squander them at our own peril. Happily, this book shows why we needn't, ever." Chris Anderson, TED Curator "This book makes plain as day why we need to stop taking nature's gifts for granted. Its thoughtful solutions can underpin conservation goals with a powerful business logic. From an alarming premise, we are given reason to hope." Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize--winning author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World "Mark Tercek presents a timely argument for 'valuing' nature that will be meaningful as much to business as to environmentalists. He demonstrates how this can work and why it is important, whether with water and forests high in the Andes, the floodplains of the Mississippi, fisheries off the California coast, or even in the dense centers of major cities. The result is a compelling 'business case' for investment in nature that is also an agenda for action--and cooperation." Marshall Goldsmith, bestselling author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There, MOJO, and Succession "In this telling work, Nature's Fortune, Mark Tercek reveals how an investment banker becomes a conservationist and brings two seemingly incompatible worlds together with amazing grace and immense success." Andrew N. Liveris, Chairman and CEO, The Dow Chemical Company "If ever business and nature are going to realize their full potential to grow together, it will come about from the vision and perspectives that are contained in the pages of this book. A case like this could only be made by an author who has led passionately on both sides of the equation." Henry M. Paulson, Jr., former chief executive of Goldman Sachs and Treasury secretary, and chairman of the Paulson Institute "Mark Tercek knows business and he knows the environment. We have worked together on both. This book shows us how we can bring them together to the benefit of nature and our economy." Morton Schapiro, Professor of Economics and President, Northwestern University "This is an important book for environmentalists, investment bankers, and everyone else. It presents a compelling case that investing in nature is a great deal--not just morally but economically as well. It is in all of our enlightened self-interest to take this book very seriously." Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College, and author of Eaarth "There are probably more important reasons to protect the natural world, but as this book makes clear, it's economic folly to keep wasting our one sweet planet. It's worth infinitely more than economists have traditionally taught--infinitely more!" Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University Research Professor, Emeritus, and author of The Social Conquest of Earth "In Nature's Fortune, Mark Tercek and Jonathan Adams expertly articulate the interdependence of our economy and nature's economy, and the practiced ways both can be saved in perpetuity." Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline "In the 1970s environmentalists and business despised each other. In this century they are often close partners. The change was brought about by leaders like Mark Tercek. His book shows how prosperity is as dependent on clean rivers as on strong bridges (both are infrastructure). GMO crops can be as welcome as restoring wildlands, since they both contribute to a healthier planet." David Quammen, author of Spillover and The Song of the Dodo "The cause of conservation in the twenty-first century desperately needs sharp, sophisticated, practical minds from the world of commerce. Mark Tercek's is clearly among the best of them." John Fahey, Chairman and CEO, National Geographic Society "Mark Tercek argues with refreshing clarity and persuasiveness that we must recognize the substantial economic value in our scarce natural resources. I agree wholeheartedly that the ultimate allocation and use of these resources must be market-based, backed by wise regulation. Tercek makes his point with wonderful real-life examples and prodigious logic." Ted Turner, Chairman, Turner Enterprises, Inc. "In Nature's Fortune, Mark Tercek tackles the environment with a banker's eye and an outdoorsman's heart. He makes a clear case for why protecting nature is the smartest investment we can make." Helene Gayle, President and CEO, CARE USA "Nature is essential for both our human as well as our economic well-being. As someone who has lived in both worlds, Mark Tercek is well positioned to take us on a guided tour of the intersection between business and the environment. With clear examples, this timely book provides a road map for smart investments and new alliances to build a sustainable and prosperous future for people and planet. Bravo!" Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank "Nature has long been recognized as a source of wealth, but we have yet to give natural capital the proper weight in economic decision making. In this timely book, Mark Tercek argues persuasively that investing in conservation and sustainable use can yield huge dividends for both people and the environment."

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