The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Strategic CSR - Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day on Tuesday (April 22), this Newsletter features a review of Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, which has been getting a lot of attention since it was released earlier this year. This, I think, is not because she is necessarily telling us something that we did not already know, but because (a) she is packaging the information in a way that conveys the full implications of the approaching calamity and (b) she does it in a way that is easily understandable to a wide audience. In short, Kolbert’s thesis is that there have been five major species extinctions in the history of the planet, and we are rapidly heading towards a sixth:
 
“Ms Kolbert, who writes for the New Yorker, uses case studies to document the crisis. Setting out for Panama to investigate a vanishing species of frog, she learns that amphibians are the world’s most imperilled class of animal. Close to her home in New England, a fast-spreading fungus has left bat corpses strewn through caves. On a tiny island off Australia’s coast, she laments the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef by ocean acidification, sometimes known as global warming’s ‘evil twin.’”
 
The consequences of this activity are broad and will be lasting:
 
“By the reckoning of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, two-fifths of all amphibians, a quarter of mammals and an eighth of birds are threatened.”
 
The twist to her argument is that, while natural causes are responsible for the first five mass extinctions (e.g., ice ages, comets from outer space, etc.), the primary responsibility for the sixth lies with humans:
 
“Ms Kolbert glides through the problems humans have created—climate change, incursion into wildlands, the transport of invasive species—with broad strokes. She misses a few chances to emphasise the value of biodiversity, beyond its natural wondrousness and the general interconnectedness of species. Her chapter on bats, for example, does not mention their importance to human food supplies as bug-eaters. … The root cause of the current extinctions is not ambiguous. Humans have already left a mark, and our ingenuity seems unlikely to turn things around.”
 
The message is both stark and overwhelming. As she concludes her book:
 
“‘Life,’ she writes, ‘is extremely resilient but not infinitely so.’”
 
Have a good weekend
David
 
David Chandler & Bill Werther
 
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Killing machines
February 22, 2014
The Economist
Late Edition – Final
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