Thursday, December 01, 2011
Congratulations to Lester Brown who has been named one of the top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy "for calling the food crisis of 2011."
Here's what Foreign Policy writes about why he was selected:
In January, as Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was fleeing a mass uprising in Tunisia and the first demonstrators were crowding into Cairo's Tahrir Square, global food prices reached peaks not seen in two decades of U.N. records. Whether the food riots that exploded in countries from Algeria to Yemen that month were a cause or simply a confounding factor in the Arab Spring, to Lester Brown the lesson is clear: "Get ready, farmers and foreign ministers alike," he wrote, "for a new era in which world food scarcity increasingly shapes global politics."
Brown has spent decades calling attention to the true fragility of a global agricultural system that the average Safeway shopper takes for granted, warnings that proved prophetic when global food prices first spiraled out of control in 2007-08. He foresees a future in which agricultural innovation slows and countries engage in a kind of resource nationalism over food, exacerbating already chaotic market fluctuations. And as Brown argues in his 2011 book, World on the Edge, the food crisis is just one symptom of a civilization hurtling toward an array of environmental tipping points -- collapsing polar ice sheets, exhausted aquifers, diminishing fossil-fuel reserves -- without the political will to avoid them. "Rising food prices," Brown wrote back in 2003, "may be the first global economic indicator to signal serious trouble between us … and the earth's ecosystem." He was right about the rising prices part; even Brown hopes he was wrong about the rest.
This is the second year Lester has been selected for this prestigious list.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Translations of World on the Edge are rolling out faster than Lester Brown can launch them. On a recent trip to South Korea, he spoke at the Climate Change Symposium sponsored by the Korea Green Fund, and gave two presentations for the Gwangju Summt of the Urban Environment Accords, an international conference of mayors and others concerned with climate change and greening their cities. He also launched the Korean edition of World on the Edge, entitled The Angry Planet, published by Doyosae.
This trip included a press conference and a number of media interviews, including one with Chosun TV, which will air in December.
Other editions that have been recently released include Italian and Spanish. The Greek and Portuguese (Brazil) editions will be released in November. Following these will be Chinese, Japanese, and Farsi. (See our Translations webpage.)
Sometimes our publishers find it more expedient to release an electronic edition only, concentrating their efforts on getting a good translation. Such is the case with our Swedish publishers, Doris and Lars Almström, who also have a website dedicated to promoting Plan B in Sweden.
In Hungary, David Biro, a school teacher by day and a dedicated translator by night, has now translated his third book by Lester Brown. He generously provides us with the electronic translation so that we may post it on our website.
A new entrant to electronic editions, is Vietnamese, provided by Hanh Lien, who inspired us with his rapid translation of World on the Edge.
And in case we failed to mention it before, Romania and the United Kingdom also have released editions of World on the Edge. The Romanian edition was the first translation to be published. Editura Tehnica worked at warp speed to release the book at the same time the English edition was released.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
On October 31, Halloween to some of us, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predicts that world population will hit 7 billion.
As Lester Brown wrote in 2006 when the population of the United States hit 300 million, this is not a cause for celebration.
According to a team of scientists led by Mathis Wackernagel, as of 2007, it takes 1.5 Earths to sustain humanity’s current level of consumption. If all 7 billion on Earth lived like an average American, we would require five planets. Clearly our collective demands far exceed the ability of our planet’s natural support systems to sustain us.
A few other facts:
- There will be 219,000 people at the dinner table tonight who were not there last night—many of them with empty plates.
- Over the course of a year, we are adding 78 million new people, or an entire Ethiopia.
- Virtually all of the top 20 countries considered to be “failing states” are depleting their natural assets—forests, grasslands, soils, and aquifers—to sustain their rapidly growing populations. And in these countries, over 50 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty.
- Some 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty.
- Twenty-two percent of the children in the United States—the richest nation in the world—live in poverty. One fifth are chronically hungry.
- Half the world’s people live in countries where water tables are falling as aquifers are being depleted. Since 70 percent of world water use is for irrigation, water shortages translate into food shortages.
- Over 1 billion people in the world are chronically hungry and malnourished, a number that has been increasing in recent years.
As Brigid Fitzgerald Reading wrote in her recent piece World Population Hitting 7 Billion: “Supporting the world’s human population will mean eliminating poverty, transitioning to an economy that is in sync with the earth, and securing every person’s health, education, and reproductive choice. If we do not voluntarily stabilize population, we risk a much less humane end to growth as the ongoing destruction of the earth’s natural systems catches up with us.”
Lester Brown in World on the Edge writes, “we have the technological and financial resources to eradicate poverty. Investments in education, health, family planning, and school lunches are in a sense a humanitarian response to the plight of the world’s poorest countries. But in the economically and politically integrated world of the twenty-first century, they are also an investment in our future.”
To find out more about our global population and solutions, check out these links.
“Population Pressure: Land and Water,” from Plan B 4.0 by Lester Brown
"Eradicating Poverty and Stabilizing Population," from Plan B 4.0 by Lester Brown
See also the wall chart produced by Population Connection
Population Media Center
Population Action International
Article “Are There Too Many People on the Planet?,” National Geographic
7 Billion: It's Time to Talk campaign working to open up the conversation on population to new audiences around the globe
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Lester Brown returned from his European tour last Saturday tired, but exhilarated. His first stop was in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where he was excited to see the concept of Plan B taking root. He met with managers of three major investment companies whose goal was to design a Plan B pension fund. We should know by the end of this month if this fund will become a reality … but it’s looking very positive.
This unique application of Plan B was begun by Marcel de Berg. After reading Plan B 3.0, Marcel was inspired to use his work as an investment manager to promote a Plan B economy. One way of encouraging this, he thought, would be through pension funds, so he convened a conference last year to begin the process.
Lester then traveled to The Hague where he released the Dutch edition of World on the Edge (We kunnen nog kiezen), published by Maurits Groen of MGMC. Maurits has long been concerned about environmental issues, as can be seen in a solar LED lamp that he designed and introduced a few weeks ago at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York. The beauty of this lamp is that it will sell at less than half the price of comparable lamps, thereby making it available especially for disadvantaged people in off-grid areas. Maurits' environmental concerns had also led him to reading some of Lester’s books. When he realized that the most recent ones were not available in Dutch, he contacted us to obtain permission to translate World on the Edge. The press conference he arranged in The Hague netted a number of articles, including a two-page spread in Trouw.
Next stop was Zurich where Lester met with another group of investment managers headed by Sustainable Asset Management. They have realized that environmental trends affect economic trends, and Lester suggested to them that for investments to be really successful it is necessary to also restructure taxes. (SAM was also working with the pension fund initiative in The Netherlands.)
France welcomed Lester as he launched the French edition of World on the Edge, entitled Basculement, in Lyons, Lille, Cergy, and Paris. At each stop, he gave presentations and media interviews. Basculement was co-published by Soufflé Court and Rue de l’echiquier.
Lester also met Marc Zischka of Ecologik Business, who, along with Frédéric Jouffroy helped translate Basculement. Marc and Frederick have been translating EPI’s Updates, Indicators, and Book Bytes into French for the past five years, posting them on a website dedicated to our work. A few years ago, Philippe Vielle and Pierre-Yves Longaretti (see La Belle France blog) asked them if they would also post these on Alternative Planetaire’s website, which they began a few years ago to advance a French version of Plan B.
A monumental thanks to Philippe Vieille who, along with editing the book, put together the successful three day-four city outreach program for Lester. Philippe, who runs his own biotech company, also edited another book, entitled Rebond, which was released at the same time. Rebond is a book providing practical applications of Plan B principles by various companies, members of CJD, in France. The last chapter is an interview between Lester and Michel Meunier, the president of CJD. CJD was a sponsor of both Basculement and Rebond.
Our thanks to all!
Reah Janise Kauffman
Monday, September 26, 2011
During his career, Lester Brown’s books have been published in over 40 languages, a phenomenal achievement for any writer. French was one of the first, publishing the first two books he ever wrote: Man, Land and Food and Increasing World Food Output. Altogether, 7 of Lester’s books and 14 of the two book series he introduced and co-authored at Worldwatch, have been published in France. Soon an eighth book will be added to the list.
World on the Edge is being co-produced by Souffle Court and Rue de l'Echiquier publishing houses and will be available in early October when Lester will be in France to promote it.
Of the various publishers who have taken on the task of publishing Lester’s books in France, none have excelled the work of the current team. In 1996, Pierre-Yves Longaretti, co-director of the astrophysics institute in Grenoble, France, read Plan B 2.0 and answered its call to action by asking for the rights to translate the book and get it published in France. Eco-Economy had been published in France, but none of the other intervening books. Pierre-Yves’s friend, Philippe Vieille, who heads a biotech company, had recently founded a small publishing house, Souffle Court, which would be the publishing house.
Pierre-Yves not only translated the book—a huge task in itself—but he added footnotes relating the analysis to the situation in France. Philippe, meanwhile, teamed up with Calmann-Lévy, one of France’s premier publishing houses to co-publish the book. The editor told us that the translation was exceptional, a joy to read.
Philippe also was able to get Nicolas Hulot, a French media personality, to write a forward. In 2007, Hulot warned candidates in the French Presidential election that he would present himself as a candidate if ecology were not one of the main subjects of the election. Polls showed that his popularity was such that he would be a serious threat to the candidates. Thus, five of the 12 candidates, including Nicolas Sarkozy, signed his “Pacte Ecologique” (ecology pact).
In addition, Pierre-Yves and Philippe founded the nonprofit Alternative Planetaire to work on implementing Plan B in France. They have continued to translate much of our work, posting translations of our EPI Updates on their website. In addition, they have translated our Time for Plan B summary and the Plan B slide presentation.
Lester is looking forward to getting together with this tireless team. To see where Lester will be in France, go to our Events page.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Monday, September 12, 2011
The announcement on Tuesday, August 30, that a coal-fired power plant on the Potomac River near Alexandria, Virginia, would soon be closed was another victory in the ongoing campaign by many environmentalists to move the world into the renewable energy era. This campaign includes making sure no new coal-fired power plants are built, existing plants are closed, and renewable energy is promoted.
Coal is the world’s largest source of carbon emissions, destabilizing our climate and contributing to environmental pollution. In the United States alone 13,200 lives are lost each year due to air pollution from burning coal. If deaths from black lung disease among coal miners are included, the number climbs even higher. In addition, the health care costs to society of burning coal are currently estimated at more than $100 billion per year, roughly $300 for every person in the United States or $1,200 for a family of four. These costs are real, but it is the American people, not the coal companies, who shoulder the burden.
The efforts to stabilize climate will be won or lost with coal. Fortunately, several environmental groups are leading the charge against coal: the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, and Earthjustice.
The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has successfully stopped over 150 coal plants in the United States from being built. They are now working to keep new coal plants from being built and to shut down existing coal-fired power plants. Already 71 plants are scheduled for total or partial closure, most of them by 2016.
Friends of the Earth has a number of campaigns around the world. They are working to protect communities from toxic coal ash, end mountain top removal, get the World Bank to stop funding coal projects, put existing mining protections into action, eliminate dirty coal subsidies, halt the development of liquid coal, and expose false solutions like carbon capture and sequestration.
Greenpeace USA has now taken a step further with its Quit Coal campaign. Organizing its vast community of activists into an online network, it has focused community efforts to shut down coal plants in the United States. In doing so, Greenpeace has made it easier for people to reach out and organize in their own communities to make the change that is necessary to cut carbon emissions in the world’s leading industrial economy.
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is going after the banking sector to get them to cut financing of new and existing coal plants and to fund clean energy projects such as wind and solar. In August 2010, RAN announced that several leading U.S. investment banks, including Bank of America and J.P. Morgan, had ceased lending to companies involved in mountaintop removal coal mining.
Earthjustice provides vital legal representation, often free, to environmental groups to “even the odds against powerful special interests and to hold accountable those who jeopardize the health of the planet.” It works to preserve our natural heritage, to promote clean energy, and to safeguard our health.
The fossil fuel industry, however, is not going down easily. They are pumping billions of dollars into their own campaigns to discredit the science of climate change and to lobby Congress to eliminate pollution laws and controls.
Pushing back against this tide is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who on July 21, announced that he was contributing $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. This action by Bloomberg, one of the most successful business entrepreneurs of his generation, demonstrates a strong commitment to providing a healthy future for everyone.
Here are some links if you would like more information on what we’ve written on closing coal plants.
- U.S. Moving Toward Ban on New Coal-Fired Power Plants
- The Beginning of the End for Coal: A Long Year in the Life of the U.S. Coal Industry
- A Fifty Million Dollar Tipping Point?
- Chapter 8: Building an Energy Efficient Economy, from World on the Edge
Coal is not the only energy source being protested in the United States. The newly US State Department-endorsed Keystone XL pipeline created a strong wave of protests in Washington, DC in August spearheaded by 350.org and the Tar Sand Action Group. Over 1,200 people were arrested during this protest, notably James Hansen, Bill McKibben, and Phil Radford from the environmental community, as well as Daryl Hannah, an actress who is known to speak out on environmental issues. The Dalai Lama and other notables have also joined in opposition to this project.
It is up to each of us to become involved in these efforts to close coal-fired power plants and to help the United States become a world leader in stabilizing climate.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
There are few things more exciting than to receive an email or letter from an individual who is so energized by our books that they want to translate one into their language. Over the past several weeks, we’ve been approached by people who want to translate and publish World on the Edge in Croatian, Czech, Greek, Malayalam, and Marathi.
One can never tell what that kind of enthusiasm will generate, but looking at one of our longtime publishing arrangements might provide a clue.
In 1990, Hamid Taravati, a medical doctor in Iran came across a copy of State of the World 1989 in a bookshop in Tehran, in which Lester Brown had a chapter. Hamid had found practicing medicine alone to be unsatisfying, especially when compared with the problems his country was facing. He wanted to do something to help solve them. Thus he decided to start translating books that might provide help. He had translated two before he came across State of the World. He found the analysis and issues so impressive that he started translating it the same day. From that day on he and his wife Farzaneh Bahar, also a doctor, have devoted their lives to increasing environmental literacy in Iran, mostly through translating Lester’s books.
Hamid and Farzaneh have translated and published all of EPI’s books, all of which generate great interest. For example, Eco-Economy was selected for an award by the Peka Institute (formed by several leading Iranian publishers) as the best nonfiction book published in Iran in 2003. The four reasons given for selecting Eco-Economy were its clear and concise presentation of the global environmental problems facing humanity and solutions for them, the credibility and global influence of the author, the excellence of the translation, and the noteworthy efforts of Hamid in increasing environmental literacy in Iran.
In addition, the Iranian Ministry of Environment distributed copies of Eco-Economy to the 1,000 representatives of Iran’s environmental NGOs. The Minister called it a “monumental work.”
The Deputy Minister of Natural Resources distributed 500 copies of Outgrowing the Earth throughout the Ministry and to NGOs. An engineering company purchased 600 copies and distributed it to its clients, and a well-respected physician purchased 100 copies for dissemination.
Hamid and Farzaneh eventually created an environmental NGO which works more on the local level offering workshops to promote various Plan B goals and environmental literacy in general. They also have a website devoted to the work of the NGO and the books. It also has a special section that contains translations of our Plan B Updates. Hamid also regularly publishes excerpts from the books and Updates in Iran’s leading newspapers and magazines.
Hamid regularly tells us about professors, policymakers, and others who have purchased dozens of copies of the books and how excited they are about the information. The irony in this situation is clear: the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, but the relationship between us at EPI and Hamid and Farzaneh could not be closer. As a result of their work, we are now one of the principal sources of information on global environmental issues in Iran.
Reah Janise Kauffman
P.S. Click here for our list of translations.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
To someone like Lester Brown, who is invigorated by a 10-hour workday seven days a week, vacations are a misnomer. Nevertheless, once a decade or so, he is enticed to go somewhere without a fax or phone. In the mid-1990s, it was a hiking trip with his son Brian across the tops of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Last month Brian scored again, this time taking his father to the Denali National Park in Alaska. See also.
Thus, the day after his participation in the Asahi Glass Foundation’s symposium, "Conditions for Survival,” in celebration of its twentieth year in presenting the Blue Planet Prize, Lester boarded a plane for Fairbanks and spent the next nine days hiking, biking, and exploring the Denali Wilderness. Situated near Wonder Lake, their lodging gazed across at Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, which they circumnavigated in a small plane.
Shortly after his return, Lester was invited by Ted Turner to spend a few days at his ranch in Montana. Coinciding with an already scheduled trip to give a keynote at the ARE Day Summit in Aspen, Colorado, he accepted.
And what about the rest of the EPI team? Perhaps a bit less cool, but still delightful: we have had or are having staycations and camping and hiking trips, celebrating a wedding and graduation on the West Coast, visiting family, and getting away with friends in sunny southern California.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
From time to time, the Institute receives some interesting books. Check out these that we excavated from Lester’s office if you are in search of any late summer reads.
A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & the Environmental Challenge
Edited by Laurie Mazur
A collection of essays from experts on population, climate change, and other linked environmental issues, this book addresses the effect of population growth on the natural support systems that the economy needs to sustain our modern civilization. Editor Laurie Mazur advocates the adoption and use of family planning as an effective way to deter rapid population growth, which will then strengthen the push for environmental conservation.
Some organizations represented in the book: UN Population Fund, Center for Global Development, Center for Environment and Population, Earth Policy Institute, International Women’s Health Coalition, Sierra Club, Worldwatch Institute, and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
“As members of the largest generation in history move into their childbearing years, the need for reproductive health services will grow exponentially…ensuring that they make real choice about childbearing could help stabilize world population at 8 than rather nearly 11 billion—which will, in turn, make climate change and poverty easier to address.” -- Laurie Mazur
Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
By David R. Montgomery
Montgomery is a geomorphologist who studies the topographical decay of the land as a living, but wrote this book to discuss soil erosion’s impact on past civilizations and how it could drastically affect our own if not remedied. One of his arguments is that in the past farmers were able to move on to more fertile land if their cropland was degrading. With today’s issue of land scarcity, this is not an option.
“… the human cost of soil exhaustion is readily apparent in the history of regions that long ago committed ecological suicide.” –David R. Montgomery
Pesticides: The Chemical Weapon that Kills Life
By Lev A. Fedorov and Alexey V. Yablokov
A short read on how chemical warfare plants were converted into pesticide production facilities. Fedorov and Yablokov utilize lost masters theses and dissertations from the 1970-80s made available in the 1990s to analyze the long-term impact of pesticides used in agriculture on humans and the environment in the USSR.
From the Foreword: “The growing concerns about the public health and environmental impacts of pesticides have led many in the general public and the government to question whether all benefits of pesticides, such as the perfect red apple, are worth the associated costs of environmental pollution, human illness and loss of life, bird kills, and the destruction of other beneficial natural organisms.” – David Pimentel, Cornell University
Thinking in Systems: A Primer
By Donella H. Meadows, Edited By Diana Wright, Sustainability Institute
Meadows applies systems theory into different aspects of society in this introductory book. Using nontechnical language and scattered with quotes and graphs to alleviate any confusion on the reader’s side, the book challenges the reader to think about how the theory can be applied to help create sustainable systems. Meadows wrote the preliminary draft of the book in 1993, but died in 2001. It was then published by the Sustainability Institute so that Meadow’s work would be available to all.
Global Climate Change: A Primer
By Orrin H. Pilkey & Keith C. Pilkey; Art by Mary Edna Fraser
Father and son team Orrin Pilkey and Keith Pilkey decided to bring global warming out of the lab and into the forefront with their book Global Climate Change: A Primer. By explaining scientific research and terms for the public mainstream on global warming, they then address the general rebuttals of climate deniers. The book is also accompanied by silk batik art from Mary Edna Fraser, which is based on maps, satellite images, and photographs that she takes while flying in a propeller plane.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
The release of World on the Edge and our 10 year anniversary kept us busy this year. But it did not prevent Lester Brown from participating in a number of conferences. After World on the Edge was released in January, he left little time before heading to another continent. In London he released the Earthscan (which is now part of the Taylor & Francis group) edition of World on the Edge before stopping over in Oxford, where he launched a new environmental lecture series at Oxford's Environmental Change Institute.
On the way to the University, his driver pointed out the house where Roger Bannister lived. Bannister was a medical student when he broke the 4-minute mile barrier in 1952, running it at 3:59.2. To Lester, a long-time runner, Roger was as close to a hero as one can get. His faculty host suggested that he inscribe a copy of World on the Edge for Sir Roger, and he would get it to him. Some weeks later he received an autographed photograph of Bannister crossing the finish line at the end of that historic mile. The inscription said simply, “Thank you for your kind comment. Roger Bannister.” Wow.
Not long after returning, Lester set off again in early February, this time to Boston and Cambridge where he gave a presentation at Harvard’s Center for the Environment, did a number of radio interviews, including one for NPR's Living on Earth, and gave an evening presentation for the Cambridge Forum.
March saw Lester in Brussels, giving a keynote presentation at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, and a presentation at the European Parliament, put together by long-time friend Frank Schwalba-Hoth.
March was also a special month in that it was when Plan B, the film, was screened at the DC Environmental Film Festival and released nationwide in the United States on PBS. The day before the PBS release, found Lester giving an evening keynote presentation on World on the Edge for the Annual Convention of Reform Rabbis in New Orleans.
Other notable keynotes that he gave were at the Earth Institute of Columbia University’s 17th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference in New York City, the Consumer Good’s Global Summit in Barcelona, the 21st World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto, and a presentation in Tokyo for the Asahi Glass Foundation which was celebrating its twentieth anniversary for the Blue Planet Prize, which Lester had received in 1994.
Want to keep up with what’s coming up? See our Events page.
Reah Janise Kauffman