Tuesday, August 13, 2013
While summer is a time tending to be a bit more leisurely, it has been the opposite for the Institute. First, we received copies of the Swedish edition of Full Planet, Empty Plates. Thanks to Doris and Lars Almstrom for their tireless efforts!
On June 24, Lester headed to England where he gave a talk at Oxford hosted by the School of Geography and the Environment. The next day he was in London to give a keynote address at the Agriculture Investment Summit and also did a Q&A on his book, Full Planet, Empty Plates.
While in London, he met with a few reporters, including John Vidal, the environment editor for the Guardian/Observer. They talked about food security and water shortages. Lester had been working on an article about water scarcity, a copy of which he gave to John. Not only did John write two articles based on their conversation, but he posted Lester’s article on the Observer’s website during our Fourth of July holiday. It was entitled "The Real Threat to our Future is Peak Water."
On returning to the office Monday, July 8, we fielded a number of media interviews and found an Internet abuzz with the news. We quickly posted the article on our website under the title “Peak Water: What Happens When the Wells Go Dry?” and sent it out on our listserv. The Guardian/Observer has been called the world’s most read small paper and it certainly deserves it. Its coverage of environmental issues is superb!
Meanwhile, Janet Larsen was making news with her two Updates on bicycle sharing. She compiled an extensive database of bike-sharing programs throughout the world, a collection that has been used by cities exploring setting up their own programs. But it was the Update she co-authored with Matt Roney on farmed fish overtaking beef production that really attracted attention. Between she and Matt, they gave interviews for two Canadian Broadcasting television stations, New Scientist, CTV (China), Radio New Zealand, and Australia Broadcasting, Bloomberg, and The Economist. Plus there were dozens of stories in the media.
And when the news about the first lab-grown hamburger hit, NPR called for our take on it. Janet weighed in for The Salt.
Meanwhile Lester gave two talks in the DC area: one to the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church and the other at the joint annual meeting of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association and the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society.
We also hosted a day of filmed interviews for a documentary by Marilyn and Hal Weiner, the producers who did the Plan B documentary that haas bee aired on PBS and in screenings around the world. Their new film is entitled Extreme Realities and explores the links between climate change, extreme weather, and threats to our nation's security. This will be a new episode in the PBS prime-time environmental series, Journey to Planet Earth.
But, don’t be lulled into thinking that’s all that we’ve been doing. We have a big announcement coming that we think you will all enjoy.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Monday, June 03, 2013
We recently celebrated our 12 year anniversary as an institute, but we also wanted to announce the newest additions to our team.
On Wednesday May 22 the EPI team grew by two. Our Research Associate Matt Roney and his wife Sarah welcomed twins into the world. Born two minutes apart at 8:32 and 8:34 am, Calvin Alexander, 7 pounds 5 ounces, and Abigail Helen, 6 pounds 12 ounces, are both healthy and happy. It remains to be seen if Calvin will take on the roles of being a big brother.
Congratulations to the happy family!
Monday, May 20, 2013
Where has the time gone? It seems like only a few weeks ago we were moving into our office space. The carpeting had not arrived and the floors were more than dusty. Only some furniture had arrived, mostly in Lester’s office, so the rest of us were using rented chairs and folding tables. The computers and phones, though, were set up and we were ready for action.
During our first month, we held three press conferences: one to launch the Institute, the next about the dust bowl challenging China, and the third on how President Bush’s energy plan totally neglected wind power.
That year we were off the blocks in alerting the world to issues that have mostly gotten worse: China’s worsening water shortages, rising sea level, the drop in the world grain harvest, and climate change.
We also published Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth by Lester Brown, in which he said that we needed to shift our focus from thinking the environment is a subset of the economy to realizing that the economy is a subset of the environment. As he astutely noted that if the economy is not compatible with the earth’s ecosystem both will suffer (and they are certainly incompatible right now).
The larger the economy becomes relative to the ecosystem, and the more it presses against the earth’s natural limits, the more destructive this incompatibility will be.
An environmentally sustainable economy—an eco-economy—requires that the principles of ecology establish the framework for the formulation of economic policy and that economists and ecologists work together to fashion the new economy. (from Eco-Economy)
Eight books have followed Eco-Economy. The Plan B series was designed to keep front and center an overarching plan that could be quickly implemented should world leaders have the political will to do something. Our most recent book is Full Planet, Empty Plates, and another is in the works (more about that in a later blog). And our books are not confined to English; they have been published in some 33 languages, including Esperanto!
Over the years, we have broadened the types of publications we do. Our newest are Data Highlights, such as a recent one by Emily Adams, “The Energy Game is Rigged: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Topped $620 Billion in 2011.”
Although we’ve seen a lot of discouraging action and inaction by governments and corporations, we’ve also seen a lot of encouraging and inspiring things taking shape, as evidenced in Janet Larsen’s two Updates on bike-sharing programs around the world.
While the majority of our material is in text or graphics, we also have terrific visuals. Just take a look at our Data Center. Looking for legitimate data? Check it out.
There is also a film by award-winning documentary producers Marilyn and Hal Weiner of Screenscope. Plan B has aired a number of times on national public television and is also available for purchase.
We’ve also posted a number of other videos on our website, including a synopsis of Full Planet, Empty Plates.
And, for you who like to listen while you drive, run, etc., we have podcasts of all of our reports.
Our intrepid researchers have also put together amazing slide shows summarizing the wealth of information in our books, such as for Full Planet, Empty Plates and World on the Edge, which are sometimes also translated into other languages.
As a small research organization, our goal is to provide the information that others will use to effect positive change. We have been seeing that happen and have collected a number of examples of what people have been inspired to do. For instance, after reading one of our books, people have changed careers, working to promote a sustainable future. Others have started organizations and movements to push for Plan B in their countries and cities. They have distributed books to policymakers and started reading groups. They have used our publications in the classroom, in lectures, and in churches. Our books have been used as the book in common at universities. They have even inspired songwriters and investment bankers.
Accomplishments outside of honorary degrees, awards, and publications? Well, after decades of running, Lester finally achieved national ranking as a ten-miler, placing third in the seventy-five to seventy-nine age group. He’s planning on ranking at least as high in the eighty and up category at next year’s Ten-Mile Cherry Blossom Race. Janet and her husband are preparing to celebrate the second birthday of their beautiful daughter, Mandolyn. Matt and his wife Sarah are getting ready to double their fun with twins. Reah Janise keeps knitting, mainly her own designs, and helps her husband with their community garden. (Already munching on lettuce!) Millicent and her sisters like to travel, recently taking their mother to Las Vegas to celebrate her birthday. They say they did everything but gamble! Julianne is preparing to start an evening master’s program in communications at Georgetown, while Emily and her husband Steve are off sampling Parisian cuisine.
It’s been a great twelve years so far, especially since we are working to provide a plan to save civilization. Isn’t that what we all want?
Reah Janise Kauffman
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
The Institute’s most intrepid researcher, Lester Brown, has been quietly making a splash speaking at select events in the DC area over the past few months on the findings in his recent book, Full Planet, Empty Plates.
In December, he spoke at a Chesapeake Climate Action Network conference in Baltimore that was focused on the problem of fracking.
He also received the Planet and Humanity Medal from the International Geographical Union presented by Ron Abler. The medal is for his “early, incisive, and tireless advocacy of measures to promote public and policy maker awareness of global ecological issues via trenchant publications and public presentations.”
In January, Ira Flatow, host of NPR’s Science Friday, interviewed Lester on Full Planet, Empty Plates, getting to the heart of Lester’s history with this issue. January also saw Lester speaking at the Women’s National Democratic Club on the new geopolitics of food scarcity and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. He took time out to trip the “light fantastic” at the Green Inaugural Ball (even though he never made it to the dance floor!)
In April, he gave two luncheon addresses, the first for the National Food Policy conference hosted by the Consumer Federation of America. “It was the perfect luncheon address – thought provoking, entertaining and tied into a number of our other panel discussions throughout the day. Multiple attendees came up to me over the course of the two days to say how impressed they were with his speech,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of The Food Policy Institute.
The second address was for the agricultural committee of the Organization of Women in International Trade . He talked about how the world is now in transition from an era of food abundance and surpluses to an era of chronic scarcity. As food prices climb, the worldwide competition for control of land and water resources is intensifying. “In this new world,” he said, “access to food is replacing access to oil as an overriding concern of governments. Food is the new oil, land is the new gold.”
Chapter 1 of Full Planet, Empty Plates is now available on our website and over the next several weeks we will be releasing the rest of the book in installments. Look for a new chapter about every other week and sign up for our email list to receive them directly. Supporting data, video, and slideshows are also available for free download and check our Events page for Lester's future speaking engagements.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Today more than one billion people will take part in the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. Across the globe, individuals, communities, organizations, and governments will acknowledge the amazing planet we call home and take action to protect it. This year’s theme is “The Face of Climate Change.” The Earth Day Network plans to collect and display images of people, animals, and places directly affected or threatened by climate change – as well as images of people stepping up to do something about it. On and around Earth Day, an interactive digital display of all the images will be shown at thousands of events around the world. The display will also be made available online to anyone who wants to view or show it.
As one of the grandfathers of the environmental movement, Lester Brown is an original “face of climate change,” writing about population, food, and land issues in the early 1960s when he was at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Shortly after earning a degree in agricultural science from Rutgers University in 1955, he spent six months living in rural India where he became intimately familiar with the food/population issue. He then earned a master’s degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Maryland.
Lester’s most recent book Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity exposes the increasingly volatile food situation the world is facing. The newest challenge confronting farmers is climate change. The massive burning of fossil fuels is increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, raising the earth’s temperature and disrupting climate. It is now in a state of flux. Historically when there was an extreme weather event—an intense heat wave or a drought—we knew it was temporary and that things would likely be back to normal by the next harvest. Now there is no “norm” to return to, leaving farmers facing a future fraught with risk.
The environmental movement is making bigger waves than ever and although the faces may have changed, the message is still the same: we cannot continue with business as usual. As we say here at the Institute, pick an issue and get to work on it. Perhaps it is getting a world-class recycling center operating in your community. Or it might be writing and talking to political leaders about the need for a carbon tax. Our People in Action page gives some examples of what people have done. In the meantime, look for an Earth Day event near you!
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
During this week marked by tragedy, we thought it might be nice to share some good news. Last week we celebrated Matt Roney’s pending fatherhood. He and his wife, Sara, are soon to be parents to twins—a girl and a boy.
Matt is an associate researcher whose focus is on renewable energy and the food system. Both issues can be tough to tackle, but we’re guessing it might be a little more challenging to care for newborn twins.
The EPI staff gave some helpful gifts including a baby carrier, bath toys, blankets, booties, books for the parents and the babies, and even some homemade sweaters.
The babies are due in the middle of May and we are anxiously awaiting their arrival. Our advice to Matt: get your sleep now while you can!!
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
We love hearing about how our publications inspire others to take action and share their stories on our website. From the classroom to the political arena, in 2012 people spread the word about Plan B and EPI’s work to create a roadmap to sustainability.
Impressed with the film version of Plan B, the Guemes Island Environmental Trust in Anacortes, Washington created an essay contest for high school aged youth. The essay challenge topic was, “What is the biggest threat to humans from climate change and how will you engage your friends to turn it around?” Contestants were also required to respond to the documentary, “Plan B, Mobilizing to Save Civilization.” Local schools and other organizations were contacted to promote responses from youths 15 to 20 years of age. They raised funds to provide awards which were presented for the top four essays at the Anacortes Library on May 25, 2012.
Andy Kunz, President and CEO of the US High Speed Rail Association (USHSR), posted the Plan B film on the association's home page this year, sent out notifications about it, and mentioned it in major news releases. He said, "Congratulations on making such an important film. We will do everything we can to spread the word far and wide!"
George A. Macpherson has written a novel based around Lester Brown’s Plan B. The Glebe Field is a romance centered around a young couple starting a Plan B for Action foundation and a legal fight between them and developers. Read more.
Makis Fountoulis, who publishes our books in Greece, has also been promoting them through lectures about World on the Edge and Plan B. Last year, he helped get 350 copies of World on the Edge delivered as Christmas gifts. He has given a number of lectures including one recently to a large gathering at the Athens Municipality Cultural Center. He has also been in contact with the Ministry of Education and plans to start giving lectures to high school students.
In honor of their father who unexpectedly passed away, the Sloan brothers are distributing copies of Full Planet, Empty Plates to members of Congress. In their letter accompanying the book they wrote, “The enclosed book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, contains the best analysis of what Chuck Sloan inherently knew. The 21st century will not mirror the 20th century. While the latter was witness to resource abundance and consumption, the former will be defined by resource scarcity.”
Doris and Lars Almstrom are busy translating Full Planet, Empty Plates into Swedish. At the same time they are spreading the Plan B movement through newsletters, organizing gatherings, giving lectures, and doing whatever else to promote action for change. (For some examples, click here). Meanwhile, the EPI books they’ve already published are being used as textbooks in several universities in Sweden. And throughout the country people are organizing study circles to read the Plan B books.
Check out more of these inspiring stories on our People in Action page.
We are grateful to these and many others who regularly repost, reprint, excerpt, and otherwise distribute our publications. Change requires information and we work to provide carefully documented research in ways that will inspire global change.
If you have a story to share with us, we’d love to hear from you!
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
EPI had the pleasure of honoring President Obama at the Green Inaugural Ball on Sunday. The ball was an opportunity to bring together the broad environmental, conservation, and clean tech community to celebrate the past four years and look forward to the future. EPI was thrilled to be a member of the host committee, so we put on our Sunday best and braved the cold D.C. streets the night before inauguration.
The event took place on the seven floors of the Newseum in downtown Washington D.C. and featured performances by seven-time Grammy Award winner will.i.am, master trombonist Trombone Shorty, and soul singer Mayer Hawthorne with appearances by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, "Damages" actor Tate Donovan, "Breaking Bad's" Giancarlo Esposito, and Bill Nye "The Science Guy," a crowd favorite.
The highlight of the night though was a surprise appearance by Vice President Joe Biden. “I came to say thank you,” Biden said. “I also came to tell you what my green wish is: that we finally face up to climate change.” Little did we know that the President himself would reiterate the need to fix climate change the next day in his inaugural address.
Along with the celebrity appearances, EPI staff enjoyed the elevator bars—that’s right bars in the elevators—where the event’s exclusive signature cocktail, the OM-bama was served, appetizers by Wolfgang Puck, with 98% of the ingredients on the menu procured from within 300 miles, and the freedom to explore the exhibits of the Newseum. It was a truly unforgettable night for the staff, our families, and fellow environmentalists, and we are looking forward to what the next four years bring.
p.s. There's a great Huffington Post article with their coverage of the event and more pictures.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Outreach is an essential part of the mission of the Earth Policy Institute (EPI). Our in-house team of two works to get EPI's research into the hands of those who can use it.
Publishing and Book Releases
Our books are the foundation for reaching a global constituency. Thus far our books have been published in 33 languages. Major languages (more than 50 million speakers) include English, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi (India), Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Ukrainian. Other languages include Bulgarian, Catalan, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Greek, Hungarian, Malayalam, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian, Swedish, and Vietnamese for a total of 137 contracts.
Whenever possible Lester Brown likes to launch the various language editions. Early in 2012 he was inducted into the Kyoto Environmental Hall of Fame. While in Japan, he launched the Japanese edition of World on the Edge. From Japan, he flew to Beijing to launch the Chinese edition. In October he launched the Spanish edition in Colombia via video. And in late November, he launched the Dutch and Italian editions of Full Planet, Empty Plates. In addition to launching books, he spoke at a conference on energy hosted by the New York Times. Harvard University gave him their first Environmental Alumni Award. And the University of Maryland asked him to give the inaugural talk for a new environmental lecture series. He also spoke at the 40th anniversary event for the Club of Rome’s “limits to growth” and at a major food conference in Milan.
We work closely with the world's major news organizations. Since we opened our doors in May 2001, we have generated over 46,000 news clips, about 17 each weekday. Institute researchers have given some 600 interviews for radio and television, including national and international networks such as ABC, NBC, Bloomberg, the BBC World Service, Voice of America, CNN International, Al Jazeera, CCTV (China), NHK TV (Japan).
This year, we boldly entered the visual world by making a video summary of Full Planet, Empty Plates. This five-minute clip has been posted to the Institute website as well as on the sites for Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, W.W. Norton, and the many blogs where EPI usually posts research. Our international publishers are now beginning to post the video on their sites as well. We also are posting shorter clips on specific subjects from the book.
Plan B Teams
With the original Plan B, over 700 individuals bought a copy, read it, and then became personally engaged, buying 5, 10, 20, or even 50 or more copies for distribution to friends, colleagues, and political leaders. They became EPI’s Plan B Team. The release of Full Planet, Empty Plates swelled the number of team members to some 4,000. Some members purchase copies and then return to purchase more. Ted Turner is the de facto captain with his distribution of some 4,200 copies to the Fortune 500 CEOs, state governors, Congress, university presidents, heads of state, ministers of environment, ministers of energy, ministers of agriculture, heads of the major environmental NGOs, the major media outlets, and, perhaps most importantly, to each of the world’s billionaires.
EPI incorporates Web 2.0 tools into its media outreach and communications marketing strategy to disseminate releases, data, and any information that the research team releases for the public. Included in these tools are blogs, RSS feeds, public and media listservs (containing some 14,321 and 1,813 addresses respectively), networking sites, podcasts, Twitter, and a micro-blogging site. This year also included the successful launch of EPI’s mobile website, designed specifically for mobile devices.
Twitter has become an essential tool for promoting events, releases, and our books. With 10 posts per week on average and around 125 followers added each month, we now have nearly 4,000 followers. Our Facebook Fan Page has also grown to some 6,000 fans. Our newest social media venture is Pinterest, a virtual bulletin board. On this visual site, we post photos of EPI’s books, graphs that accompany our releases, and videos. We are excited to see what this new venture brings.
Twitter and Facebook are consistently among the top referrals back to our website, along with international Google search engines and EPI’s Wikipedia page. When Googling for issues on which we work, EPI is often at the top of the list due in large measure to the over 275,000 links to our website. As to be expected, our publications and data are a major attraction. On average, EPI’s website has 24,000 unique visitors per day spending about 11 minutes per session.
We live-tweet our press conferences, providing an easily accessible channel for journalists. Prominent reporters and their affiliated news organizations repost EPI content, creating a multiplier effect. Notable reporters include David Roberts of Grist, who posts direct links to EPI’s website regularly, Anca Novacovici of the Huffington Post, and John Vidal of the Guardian. Other notables who retweet and re-post include Daryl Hannah, Sean Ono Lennon, Occupy Wall Street, Earth Business Network, Greenpeace USA, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, Sustainablog, and Treehugger.
Podcasts of our releases and book chapter introductions generate an average of 280 monthly downloads. The most downloaded podcasts in 2012 were the press teleconference for the release of Full Planet, Empty Plates, and the Update on meat consumption in China, and the Indicator on wind power. (Click here for our newest podcast.)
And last, through our blog, we give readers insight into the Institute beyond its research. For instance, in addition to the blogs on World Water Week and Rio+20, were ones on the completion of EPI’s mobile website and new shopping cart, Lester’s trip to Harvard to receive the first-ever Alumni Environmental Sustainability Award, how some people are working with Plan B, and Matt Roney’s graduation from Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Science degree.
We are grateful that our publications are regularly reposted, reprinted, excerpted, and otherwise distributed. Change requires information and we work to provide carefully researched information in ways that will inspire global change.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
With the pressure of writing two books this year, Lester Brown has kept his travel to the bare minimum. Nevertheless, he managed a weeklong trip to Europe following Thanksgiving.
His first stop was The Netherlands where he launched the Dutch edition of Full Planet, Empty Plates. The publisher, Maurits Groen, who owns an environmental consultancy, has been a fan of Lester’s work for some time. Recently Maurits’ company developed a solar lamp, called Waka Waka, to be used in Africa to replace the dangerous kerosene lamps used by many households in the developing areas. Lester also spoke at the Waterproof conference, focusing on the water-food-energy nexus.
Next stop was Brussels where Frank Schwalba-Hoth, former member of the Green Party, arranged an excellent program for Lester, which included speaking at the European Parliament. Lester spoke about the new geopolitics of food scarcity.
Finally Lester landed in Milan where he gave a keynote address at Barilla’s 4th Annual Forum on Food and Nutrition. The video is available on their website. (Go to the Nov 29 tab. There are 4 pages of videos. Lester’s is on the third page.) Following his keynote, he autographed copies of the Italian and English editions of Full Planet, Empty Plates and gave a presentation on the book.
Friday morning he spoke at the IULM University in Milan followed by an afternoon presentation at the University of Bologna. The Italian press interviewed Lester before he left on the trip and during. Our thanks to Barilla for inviting Lester to speak and to our publisher Edizioni Ambiente.
Next stop for Lester is a visit to his family for the holidays.
Happy Holidays to all!
Reah Janise Kauffman