Tuesday, August 03, 2010
In 1968 when Lester Brown was 34 years old and Administrator of the International Agricultural Development Service under Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, he was asked to speak at the University of South Dakota on the world food prospect. The presentation was filmed.
We recently unearthed the 16-mm film and digitized it, dividing the 60-minute presentation into four sections.
If you didn’t catch it the first time around in 1968, here’s your chance!
Reah Janise Kauffman
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The last week in May, after receiving the Hero Award from the Colorado Sustainable Alliance in Denver and a few days of R&R with his family, Lester Brown began the final two legs of his five-week trip launching various editions of Plan B 4.0 in other countries.
Waiting in Tokyo and ready with a jam-packed itinerary was Soki Oda, EPI’s publisher. (For more information on Soki, see our earlier blog.) Also waiting in Tokyo was Janet Larsen, our Director of Research. Lester had invited her to accompany him during the last two weeks so that she could meet with some of the people she’s been communicating with for a number of years.
Arriving a day before Lester allowed Janet time to get into the Tsukiji Market, the world's largest fish market. She "only" had to get up early enough to be in line before 4:30 AM (opening time) to be one of the first 140 people the market allowed in to watch the day's tuna auction. (Jet lag can be useful!)
One of Lester’s first meetings was with Toshishige and Masatsugu Kurosawa, brothers who own the Ikari Corporation. Lester calls them the Ted Turner of Japan in that they are strong supporters of the Institute in Japan and regularly distribute copies of the Japanese editions of the Institute’s books. In fact, they are distributing 1,500 copies of Plan B 4.0.
On Thursday, Janet and Lester traveled to Narashino, where Lester participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for an epidemiological institute being opened by the Ikari Corporation.
Lester presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Tokyo generated a number of news stories, mostly centered around how much geothermal energy potential Japan has.
Another interesting highlight was Lester’s presentation at Nagoya University, which has close ties with Toyota, being headquartered in Nagoya. The University plans to develop Plan N (for Nagoya) as an offshoot of Plan B.
One of the other speakers at the conference was Takeshi Uchiyamada from Toyota who was responsible for developing the Prius. Although he does not own a car, Lester has long been fascinated by the Prius and other hybrid and all-electric cars. Uchiyamada and his colleagues had been assigned to create a car for the 21st century. The idea of a hybrid car surfaced quickly, along with 80 designs, which were narrowed down to 20, then 4, and finally the car we see today. The person heading the project was particularly knowledgeable on power systems, resulting in the Prius’ unique integrated control system, which is what makes it so efficient. Interestingly, the sales people weren’t sure the car would sell very well.
We had a new publisher for the Chinese edition of Plan B 4.0, Shanghai Scientific & Technological Education. Working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) they set up a press event and lecture at the Expo in Shanghai on May 31. The conference was set up to also showcase WWF’s Low Carbon City initiative. Through this initiative WWF is catalyzing various stakeholders to improve energy efficiency (industry, construction, and transportation) as well as develop renewable energy features that work within a city.
Lester and Janet also met Zhu Dajian, who had written a Foreword for the Chinese edition of Plan B 4.0 where he called for the need to have a Plan C for China’s development. Professor Zhu and other scholars had initially developed Plan C in the wake of Lester’s original Plan B. It is a design to bring China into the 21st century, enhancing social and economic development, but not at the expense of the environment.
From Shanghai, Lester and Janet flew to Beijing where Lester gave presentations (see our Events page), including one at Bookworm Bookstore, a well-known bookshop for ex-pats in the Chao Yang district. They also met Professor Wang Tao, Director General of the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental & Engineering Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with whom they talked about dust storms and China’s water situation.
Janet stayed on for a few days after Lester returned home, meeting with environmental NGOs in Beijing and giving a presentation on Plan B 4.0 at Beijing Normal University. She also took a little time to be a tourist, including a notable hike on the Great Wall.
Reah Janise Kauffman
P.S. A thankful but tired traveler.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
A news report coming out of the 2010 G20 Summit reported that “Every day governments give away an estimated two billion dollars of taxpayer money to the fossil-fuel industry.” (Stephen Leahy, Free Ride for Oil and Coal Industry May Be Over, IPS News)
This massive subsidy to the fossil-fuel industry not only is adding to climate change by rewarding the very energy sources that are helping to create it, but it is making it incredibly difficult for alternative energy sources to compete. It also deprives countries, especially those verging on bankruptcy, to feed and educate their population, attend to infrastructure needs, and more.
As Lester Brown says in Plan B 4.0:
A world facing economically disruptive climate change can no longer justify subsidies to expand the burning of coal and oil. Shifting these subsidies to the development of climate-benign energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal power will help stabilize the earth’s climate. Shifting subsidies from road construction to rail construction could increase mobility in many situations while reducing carbon emissions. And shifting the $22 billion in annual fishing industry subsidies, which encourage destructive overfishing, to the creation of marine parks to regenerate fisheries would be a giant step in restoring oceanic fisheries.
In a troubled world economy, where many governments are facing fiscal deficits, these proposed tax and subsidy shifts can help balance the books, create additional jobs, and save the economy’s eco-supports. Tax and subsidy shifting promises greater energy efficiency, cuts in carbon emissions, and reductions in environmental destruction—a win-win-win situation. A carbon tax on coal, for example, that fully incorporated the climate and health costs of burning it would lead to a quick phaseout. (From Chapter 10, “Can We Mobilize Fast Enough?”)
Our votes and our voices make a difference. Write to your political leaders about shifting subsidies away from environmentally destructive activities to climate-benign energy sources.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Earth Policy Institute has long been concerned about the increased melting of the earth’s mountain glaciers. While they would raise sea level only a matter of inches, the summer ice melt from these glaciers is what sustains many of the world’s rivers during the dry season. As glaciers recede and disappear entirely, large populations of people who rely on the melt water will be adversely affected. As temperature rises there will be a shrinkage of river-based irrigation water supplies. In early 2009 the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service reported that 2007 marked the eighteenth consecutive year of glacier retreat. And glaciers are melting at double the rate of a decade ago.
Today’s New York Times environmental blog, Green, has a particularly compelling video on this melting: Then and Now: The Retreating Glaciers.
As Lester Brown writes in Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, mountain glaciers are melting in the Andes, the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, and elsewhere, but nowhere does this melting threaten world food security more than in the Himalayas and on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau, where the melting of glaciers could soon deprive the major rivers of India and China of the ice melt needed to sustain them during the dry season. In the Indus, Ganges, Yellow, and Yangtze River basins, where irrigated agriculture depends heavily on rivers, this loss of dry-season flow will shrink harvests and could create unmanageable food shortages.
For more on this subject, see Chapter 3 in Plan B 4.0, available for free downloading.
The snow and ice masses in the world’s leading mountain ranges and the water they store are taken for granted simply because they have been there since agriculture began. As the earth gets hotter, we risk losing these “reservoirs in the sky” on which both farmers and cities depend.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Lester Brown stopped in Denver en route from Romania to Japan to receive the Hero of Sustainability Award from the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. The event took place over a wonderful dinner at the Oxford Hotel. The Alliance called Brown "America's pioneering environmentalist." Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. kicked off the event with David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguised Professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, introducing Lester who spoke about Plan B.
On his return from Japan and China (more about this trip later), Lester was inducted into the University of Maryland's Alumni Hall of Fame, the most prestigious recognition the association bestows on its alumni. Every five years, 11 alumni “whose lifetime achievements reflect the excellence of the university" are selected for this honor. In April, Lester also received an alumni award from the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for his achievements.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Having authored or co-authored over 50 books and having been published in over 40 languages, Lester Brown often has a long history of being published in a number of countries. Italy and Romania are among this prestigious list, and in mid May Lester traveled to both countries to launch Plan B 4.0.
In Italy, the cornerstone contact has been Gianfranco Bologna, Cultural and Scientific Director of WWF Italy and Secretary General of the Fondazione Aurelio Peccei, the Italian section of the Club of Rome. The relationship between Lester and Gianfranco goes back over 30 years. Shortly after they met, Gianfranco began his role in finding publishers for Lester’s books, particularly the State of the World reports, of which he is the curator of the Italian edition. An author in his own right of several books on nature and sustainable development, he also heads the various translation teams, ensuring a high quality translation. When Lester has been in Italy to launch the editions, Gianfranco has coordinated with the publishing house to set up excellent presentations and media coverage. Because of his standing in Italy, Gianfranco and Lester often speak at the same major conferences.
For Plan B 3.0, Gianfranco was joined in the translation effort by a volunteer team headed by Dario Tamburrano of the Amici de Beppe Grillo di Roma. Beppe Grillo is an Italian activist, blogger, comedian, actor and politician, who also works in theatres and television. Beppe himself has been a fan of Lester for some years and has a huge fan base. His blog is one of the top ten blogs worldwide. An excerpt from Plan B 2.0 on his blog generated an unprecedented amount of traffic to our website. Due to their combined outreach efforts, Plan B 3.0 became a hit in Italy, going through several printings and often being featured by Beppe in his television program. It was also put online for free downloading.
Beppe has posted interviews of Lester on his blog. You can read and hear the most recent interview, done when Lester was in Milan, here. He previously had interviewed Lester for a documentary he produced entitled Terra Reloaded, which includes the opinions of renowned global experts regarding the future of this planet.
Plan B 4.0 was translated by this same team with Gianfranco at the helm. Meanwhile, Marco Moro, the editor at Edizioni Ambiente, set up a masterful outreach program. The first event was at the Museum of Natural Science in Trento, a gorgeous city in the mountains, the next in Torino at the headquarters of the Cultural Foundation Compagnia di San Paolo, and last in Turin at the International Book Fair, which was the official launch event for the Italian edition of Plan B 4.0. In between major events were media interviews. To see some of the Italian press coverage, click here.
From Italy, Lester flew to Bucharest. In 1987, he received a letter from the head of Editura Tehnica asking for the rights to publish State of the World 1987. The head of Editura Tehnica had a long-standing interest in global environmental issues, and he wrote a 23-page introduction to this first Romanian edition, relating the global issues to what Romania was experiencing. Thus began a relationship between author and publisher that continues until this day.
The publisher was Ion Iliescu, who became the interim leader and then President of Romania after the death of Nicolae Ceausescu. During Iliescu’s terms of office, Romanian politics were stabilized and the country became part of NATO. He also continued to oversee the publication of books by Lester.
President Iliescu’s interest in the environment extended into writing his own books on the subject and generating appropriate government responses. One initiative was a two-day conference that he organized in 1994 for cabinet members, academics, and others from the countries of Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. The conference was entitled “Workshop Worldwatch: Sustainable Development and International Cooperation.” President Iliescu himself chaired the meeting and invited Lester to give the keynote presentation. At the workshop, President Iliescu and Lester did a joint book signing of their various books.
Editura Tehnica has published all of Lester’s books since he started Earth Policy Institute in 2001. This is all made possible by Roman Chirila, the editor, who ensures a near-simultaneous release with the English editions.
When Lester was in Bucharest this May, his visit was personally overseen by President Iliescu. Iliescu, with his own blog, even promoted Lester’s travel to the region in an entry. Lester had the opportunity to talk with the former president himself on a major television program. The program with Iliescu sparked considerable media coverage within the region, notably on the tax issues discussed.
During the visit, Lester was honored by being inducted into the Romanian Academy of Science as an honorary member and granted a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine at a ceremony attended by a number of prestigious leaders, including two past presidents of Romania. A special highlight was a visit to the Parliamentary Palace, also called the People's House. Initially designed by Ceausescu, President Iliescu oversaw its completion once he was in office.
Thus ended the European leg of Lester’s five-week trip. ... Next time Denver and Asia.
Reah Janise Kauffman
P.S. Stay up to date with Lester's presentations on our Events page. To read or listen to some of the major media coverage, go to EPI in the News.
Friday, May 07, 2010
Stockholm. The capital of Sweden and a city of which 30 percent is comprised of waterways and 30 percent of parks and green spaces. Just 40 percent for buildings, motorways, etc. What a lovely balance.
Lester Brown has now landed in this lovely city where Lars and Doris Almström have planned a few days of outreach for the Swedish edition of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.
Lars and Doris are an indefatigable team. A few years ago, like a number of other people, they answered Lester’s call in Plan B to become active. Inspired by the book and wanting to get a Plan B economy moving in Sweden, they translated Plan B 2.0 into Swedish and posted it online for free electronic downloading on a Web site they established to promote the Earth Policy Institute’s work.
While they were busy translating Plan B 3.0, they partnered with an excellent publisher, Addera Förlag AB. By this time, they had both retired from their full time jobs and were now engaged full time in disseminating Plan B. They revamped their website and offered Plan B 3.0 for free downloading.
As mentioned in the previous blog, the Norwegian publisher, Olav Randen of Boksmia, contracted to publish Plan B 3.0 mere months before Lester was scheduled to launch the Swedish edition. Doris and Lars sent him their manuscript, which he was able to use to quickly produce his excellent Norwegian translation.
With Plan B 4.0, Doris and Lars once again provided an excellent translation and have made the book available for free electronic downloading and for sale. They have also set up a program of activities while Lester is in Stockholm that is designed to reach as broad an audience as possible, having already made inroads into getting the book into classrooms.
With more people like Doris and Lars, we know a Plan B world is close at hand.
Reah Janise Kauffman
P.S. Next ... Rotterdam and Italy!
Monday, May 03, 2010
Lester Brown has begun an epic journey this week to launch various editions of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization in Berlin, Germany; Brussels, Belgium; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Trento, Torino, and Milan, Italy; Bucharest; Tokyo, Japan; and Shanghai and Beijing, China. Whew! And in between Bucharest and Tokyo, he will touch down in Denver to receive the Hero of Sustainability Award from the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado.
The first leg has begun in Berlin. The German publication of Plan B began through Bernd Hamm, a professor at the University of Trier, who was so inspired by Plan B that he sought out and found a publisher. This will be the third book that Kai Homilius Verlag, the publishing house, has released in German. Verena Gajewski has done a remarkable job of translating each edition, checking numbers and facts with our researchers to make sure everything is correct.
For launching the book, Kai Homilius has turned to GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit) to arrange some events. Following a press conference to formally launch the German edition of Plan B 4.0, there will be a public lecture at GTZ Haus where Lester will discuss the environmental threats to food security. The following morning, he will have breakfast with about two dozen German political leaders. And for lunch he will be meeting with Jochen Flasbarth, the head of the German Federal Environment Agency.
One of the delights for Lester when he is in Germany is catching up with a distant cousin who he discovered after the fall of the Berlin wall, as she lived in East Germany.
From Berlin, Lester heads to Brussels where he will be giving a public address at the European Parliament, co-hosted by Estonian MEP Indrek Tarand, whom Lester met a few years ago at a conference on the environment in the Baltic states. The extraordinary person we rely on in Brussels is Frank Schwalba-Hoth, who has known Lester since he was an MEP for the German environment party. Frank, who is an unrivaled networker, sets up exceptional meetings for Lester with both parliamentarians and the media.
Lester will then touch down in Oslo to pre-launch the Norwegian edition of Plan B 4.0. The publisher, Boksmia, is headed by Olav Randen. For Plan B 3.0, Olav arranged a television interview between Lester and Erick Solheim, Norway’s Minister of the Environment. Of note was that Olav contacted us just two months before Lester was scheduled to launch the Swedish edition of Plan B 3.0 in September 2008. With a Herculean effort, he translated and published the book so that Lester could launch his edition the day after the Swedish edition came out. Look for the Norwegian edition of Plan B 4.0 in June.
To see where Lester Brown will be next, go to our Events page, which will be updated as new information arrives. You can also follow him on Google Maps.
Reah Janise Kauffman
P.S. Next ... Stockholm!
Monday, April 19, 2010
Lester Brown was invited to participate on an Earth Day-themed panel discussion on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC with director James Cameron, actress Sigourney Weaver, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, columnist Tom Friedman, radio host Richard Greene, and other figures on Thursday, April 15 to discuss the urgency of climate change action. Participants were also treated to a private screening of Cameron’s blockbuster 3-D movie Avatar. (Read the Washington Post article on the event.)
As many of you may already know, Avatar is a science fiction movie set in the year 2154. The main conflict concerns a rare precious mineral called "unobtanium," something highly valued by humans. As Sanho Tree, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, notes in his review of the movie, “Unobtanium serves as a generic placeholder for the commodities we extract from native lands: oil, gold, silver, lumber, pasture or any other thing of value according to market forces. How much unobtanium is enough? … no amount can satiate modern society's never-ending desires.”
Cameron said this movie about the environment is "meant to be a call to action" and "a warning of what's happening.”
To our surprise, during the panel Cameron announced to the 300-plus audience that he had read Lester’s book Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization not just once but four times. He said it was the best big picture summary of what is going on with the environment and on what we can do to save civilization. He personally told Lester the same thing when the two met for the first time.
Sigourney Weaver introduced herself to Lester, saying how much she admired his work. Lester was delighted to meet both Cameron and Weaver and to speak with them about the current state of the environment and the need to move forward with solutions.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was another public figure that came out to support this panel. The main reason, he said when he introduced himself to Lester, was to meet Lester in person as he was a great follower of Lester's work.
We value this kind of support, and hope it can turn into actions that will ensure a livable planet for us all.
Meanwhile, this week we celebrate Earth Day. Lester will be giving talks in the Washington, DC area. If you’re close by, check out the presentations.
* April 20: 6:30-9:30 pm Earth day speaker at Georgetown University, Hariri Lohr Auditorium
* April 22: 8:00-9:30 pm Earth Day speaker at American University, Ward Building, Room 1
And if you aren’t in the DC area, remember to check out the great Earth Day events around your area at the Earth Day website.
Reah Janise Kauffman
P.S. If the Icelandic volcano permits, Lester will soon be embarking on a 5-week book tour in Europe and Asia, even touching down briefly in the United States. See our Events page for details, which will be updated in the coming weeks.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Earth Day will be celebrated all over the country next week and Lester Brown will participate with a couple of presentations in the Washington, DC area. The first will be an evening presentation at Georgetown University on April 20 followed by one at American University on Earth Day (April 22). (See Events.)
This will be the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, started in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in. Since then Earth Day has grown under the guidance of Denis Hayes, who was selected by then-Senator Nelson's staff to organize the first Earth Day, which has now become the world’s most widely observed secular holiday. More than just one day, it is a weeklong global teach-in promoting awareness of climate change, renewable energy, a green economy, pollution, and much more. Earth Day is planning a big event on the National Mall on Sunday, April 25 from 12 noon to 7 pm: music, inspired speakers, and more.
The Earth Day Network now circles the earth with its 20,000 NGO partners in 192 countries. Check out their website for events and activities near your location. Highlights of some of this year’s global events and outreach include:
• Large city events on almost every continent including New York; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rabat, Morocco; Tokyo, Japan; and the Philippines.
• The National Mall flagship rally in Washington, DC on Sunday, April 25th will include a call to action on climate, performances, and an Eco-Village of the future.
• Sir Richard Branson’s organization, the Carbon War Room, is convening a two-day conference of high level entrepreneurs on April 21st and 22nd which will create a roadmap for a new green economy, renewable energy and innovation for the next century.
• 500 mayors are expected to participate in a Global Day of Conversation on Earth Day, April 22nd, convening their citizens to discuss climate change and sustainability.
Support the Earth Day events in your area.
For us at the Earth Policy Institute, the goal is for Earth Day to become a daily celebration, enlivened with a stewardship consciousness of Earth and its remarkable natural resources and life. This is why we offer a plan for saving civilization and the earth. It is, after all, the only home we have.
Reah Janise Kauffman