Monday, April 23, 2012
Bill McKibben’s 350.org has launched Connect the Dots Day. Scheduled for May 5 this global initiative is to draw attention to the fact that people all over the world recognize that climate change is happening (see poll results in New York Times article) and it is creating unpredictable weather events.
McKibben is asking everyone to get involved with an event of some kind: a presentation, a protest, a community project, pictures, or another idea. Once compiled, they will deliver the message to politicians and media the world over.
Another initiative regarding climate change has been undertaken by iMatter. Five youths have taken the bold step of suing the federal government for failing to protect the atmosphere. They held rallies throughout the United States on Earth Day, March 22, 2012. And on May 11 in Washington, DC, the lawsuit is being heard. The basic premise is that the atmosphere is a public trust for all generations and the government has a legal responsibility to protect it. The lawsuits would also require the government to put into place plans to reduce carbon emissions by at least 6 percent per year.
In 2008, Lester Brown wrote about the need to connect the dots in his book Plan B 3.0 in relation to water and food.
"The link between water and food is strong. We each drink on average nearly 4 liters of water per day in one form or another, while the water required to produce our daily food totals at least 2,000 liters—500 times as much. This helps explain why 70 percent of all water use is for irrigation. Another 20 percent is used by industry, and 10 percent goes for residential purposes. With the demand for water growing in all three categories, competition among sectors is intensifying, with agriculture almost always losing. While most people recognize that the world is facing a future of water shortages, not everyone has connected the dots to see that this also means a future of food shortages."
Connecting the dots so that other people can see the connections between has been his life work. This is his interdisciplinary or systemic way of thinking. Connecting the dots is more than food and water. It is also carbon emissions and climate change, population growth and declining natural resources, food scarcity and failing states. And to resolve these and more global issues, we need to take action.
“One of the questions I hear most frequently is, What can I do? People often expect me to suggest lifestyle changes, such as recycling newspapers or changing light bulbs. These are essential, but they are not nearly enough. Restructuring the global economy means becoming politically active, working for the needed changes, as the grassroots campaign against coal-fired power plants is doing. Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.” –Lester R. Brown
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
From time to time, we come across great books that we feel need to be shared. Take a look at these if you are lacking summer reads for vacation or need inspiration.
Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era by Amory B. Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute
Oil and coal have built our civilization, created our wealth, and enriched the lives of billions. Yet their rising costs to our security, economy, health, and environment are eroding and starting to outweigh their benefits. The tipping point where alternatives work better and compete on cost is not decades in the future: it is here and now. And that tipping point has become the fulcrum of economic transformation.
Reinventing Fire offers market-based actionable solutions integrating transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity. Built on Rocky Mountain Institute’s http://rmi.org 30 years of research and collaboration in all four sectors, Reinventing Fire maps pathways for running a 158%-bigger U.S. economy in 2050 but needing no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, and no new inventions. This would cost $5 trillion less than business-as-usual—in addition to the value of avoiding fossil fuels’ huge but uncounted external costs.
Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance by David Roodman
The idea that small loans can help poor families build businesses and exit poverty has blossomed into a global movement. The concept has captured the public imagination, drawn in billions of dollars, reached millions of customers, and garnered a Nobel Prize. Radical in its suggestion that the poor are creditworthy and conservative in its insistence on individual accountability, the idea has expanded beyond credit into savings, insurance, and money transfers, earning the name microfinance. But is it the boon so many think it is?
Readers of David Roodman's openbook blog http://blogs.cgdev.org/open_book/ will immediately recognize his thorough, straightforward, and trenchant analysis. Due Diligence, written entirely in public with input from readers, probes the truth about microfinance to guide governments, foundations, investors, and private citizens who support financial services for poor people. In particular, it explains the need to deemphasize microcredit in favor of other financial services for the poor.
The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity by Jeffrey Sachs
In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, Sachs offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity.
As he has done in dozens of countries around the world in the midst of economic crises, Sachs turns his unique diagnostic skills to what ails the American economy. He finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions.
By taking a broad, holistic approach—looking at domestic politics, geopolitics, social psychology, and the natural environment as well—Sachs reveals the larger fissures underlying our country’s current crisis. He shows how Washington has consistently failed to address America’s economic needs. He describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry.
Finally, Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around, one that will restore America to its great promise.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Note: Much of these descriptions come from the publishers’ book blurbs.
Monday, April 02, 2012
While our intrepid research team has been diligently working on various Data Highlights and Eco-Economy Indicators (more on the way, so stay tuned!), and while Lester has been immersed in working on his books (spoiler alert!) one on the global food situation, another on the energy situation, and the other his autobiography, the rest of us have been making some changes.
One that we hope you will especially like is a mobile website. Our Web Communications Coordinator, Kristina Taylor, took the lead on this initiative, putting in a lot of research and thought on how best to get our research onto mobile devices. She designed the initial pages, which were passed on to the tech and design specialists at Provoc. Provoc is also the organization that redesigned our website a few years ago.
We are now moving rapidly on completing the mobile website, which should be live in a few weeks. We’ll keep you posted!
The other change is two-fold and will be mostly invisible. When you order a book from us, it is processed by our in-house “team” of Millicent Johnson. However, the foundation of our in-house publications database started crumbling and so we began looking for an alternative, which is close to completion.
In the meantime, Kristina and Millicent teamed up to look for a new shopping cart solution, which also now is nearing completion.
As for me, I have been delving into dusty files from 30, 40 and 50 years ago to glean information that Lester can incorporate into his autobiography. One of the treasures has been his report cards! He loved to read and would rush through his homework so he could devour yet another library book. His enthusiasm sometimes resulted in homework errors. Another fun item was finding the sari he brought back from his time in India as an IFYE (International Farm Youth Exchange) in 1956. When he gave his talks on life in the villages of India, he would demonstrate how to wrap a sari, which is how he met his wife, Shirley.
Reah Janise Kauffman
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