Book Review - 'The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America's Prosperity, Security, And Sustainability In The 21st Century'

by: Hazel Henderson

A look at past U.S. policies limiting sustainability in business.

Review of challenges rising from the sustainability imperative.

Critique of authors' view of future opportunities for business to benefit from moving toward a low-carbon society.

The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America's Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century by Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty and Joel Makower, St. Martin's Press, 2016.

These three authors, Mark Mykleby, with a military background; Patrick Doherty, a macroeconomist; and Joel Makower, an expert on business and sustainability, have produced an exciting and viable New Grand Strategy for the USA's future course. While too much space is focused on Mykleby's critiques of historical policy errors and the mistaken continuation of post-Cold War concepts, most of the promise of the new strategy lays out a detailed roadmap for this 21st century. This new framework focuses on re-defining national security in more realistic ways by strengthening and modernizing US domestic infrastructure - now a plank in the platforms of both Republican and Democratic parties. However, the key is to re-shape US infrastructure for a future of different threats, challenges and opportunities rather than spend the $3 trillion of funds needed for renewal only on vital repairs to old roads, bridges and dams. The redesign calls for system-wide efficiency in more compact cities and communities with high-speed transit links, electric buses and vehicles powered by renewable energy, and safe, walkable neighborhoods with mixed-use, affordable housing. Today, this trend is termed: the new urbanism.

The authors rightly point out that the post-World War II building of the interstate highway system, together with federal policies and subsidies, exploded compact cities into thousands of sprawling suburbs, exurbs, automobilization and loss of millions of acres of arable land. All this must now be reversed. Efficiency now requires servicing the lifestyles of 324 million citizens for long-term sustainability, enhanced mobility and energy-saving, affordable housing and quality of life in their communities. This huge agenda is less of a cost than an enormous business opportunity, particularly for housing and construction. Trillions of capital is trapped in obsolete investments, stranded fossil fuel assets, while companies are hoarding cash and buying back their shares. Institutional asset managers are still operating on defunct economic textbooks and models based on "externalizing" costs and risk to others. Today, all those ignored "externalities" are coming back to bite us in depleted soils, polluted land, water and air, traffic gridlock, droughts, floods and other climate disruptions, hollowed out cities, drug addiction, job losses, homelessness, as well as new global threats of terrorism and cyber-attacks for which our military was not designed.

US national politics is still gridlocked and blinded by old ideologies, as witnessed by election speeches about re-creating the past of steel mills and coal mines to "make America great again". Coal is a dying industry and even mining of diamonds and gems is now disrupted by the new industry of home-grown science-created diamonds ( This book explores all the innovations in US towns and cities, neighborhoods, local governments and businesses already building the 21st century societies and jobs for long-term security and sustainability.

While capital is still impounded in traditional investments, fossilized sectors and 20th century companies, millions of new start-ups and urban revitalization of Rust Belt cities and regions go unnoticed by mainstream media. With deeply researched detail based on Joel Makower's GreenBiz Group's outreach, reports and conferences, the book documents hundreds of new companies, technologies and local governments, working partnerships with civic groups, creating renewable agriculture, farmers markets, solar, wind and local energy companies and electric grids, urban renewal, rapid transit systems, walkable communities and the more densely designed urban neighborhoods and parks now desired by today's markets of millennials and "back-to-city" lifestyles. One example on public display is Cleveland's new park in its old city center, showcased as the venue of the Republican Party's 2016 convention. Thousands of small towns are now focusing on walkability and affordable urban lifestyles, including my hometown St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the USA where preservation of its 450 year old history and cultural heritage is paramount. New information-based businesses are built on "infostructure" platforms, broadband, Wi-Fi, fiber optic cables, such as the FINTECH 100 now disrupting global finance.

The Grand New Strategy describes the levers of transition, similar to those we track at Ethical Markets in our Green Transition Scoreboard®, currently totaling a cumulative $7.1 trillion already privately invested worldwide in renewable, green sectors since 2007. The authors show how businesses, together with local leaders, are implementing this transition based on 10 sectors, including how to phase out fossil fuel use. This involves a "no brainer" I also proposed as Chair of Citizens for Clean Air in New York on NBC's Today Show: oil is so valuable as a feedstock for production of plastics and many other products that it should never be burned! We also advocate this obvious mind shift which can at last be implemented by reclassifying proven oil reserves which can no longer be burned as feedstock, rather than writing them off! This is the first of these 10 sectors and the key is "From Burning to Building". The other nine sectors are Transport: From Vehicle to Mobility; Real Estate and Infrastructure: From Sprawl to Smart Growth; Farming: From Depletive to Regenerative; Natural Resources: From Extraction to Stewardship; Electricity: From Centralized Combustion to Distributed Renewables; Telecom: From Megabits to Gigabits; Retail: From Big Box to Bricks and Clicks; Manufacturing: From Outsourcing to Advanced and 3-D; HealthCare: From Hospitalization to Primary Care. And one can add Prevention, as well as equitable provision of broadband to underserved towns and rural areas as vital public infostructure!

This Grand Strategy is viable and already unstoppable in my view, now that wind and solar energy have attained grid parity and are cheaper even on the still uneven playing field of heavily subsidized nukes and fossil fuels. As the authors describe, this requires a paradigm shift beyond conventional economics and its flawed metrics, such as GDP. This shift is also underway as 195 countries ratified in 2015 the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and the COP21 accords on shifting to low-carbon, healthier, more inclusive societies. Beyond economic theories and their cognitive capture of generations of policy makers, asset managers and academics is the 21st century Earth Systems Science as I describe in Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age (2014). Junking the old economic models does not mean flying blind, but using better maps and the new metrics of SASB, IIRC, GRI, all described in the global accounting journal Financial Management, Most of the companies described are new, disruptive and not yet publicly traded. This book is a roadmap for crowdfunders, venture investors, hedge funds and asset managers to find them.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.