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
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Presentation at conference on alternative fuels at Beihang University’s Energy and Environment International Center
|Even while squirreled away in his office working on three books (!!), Lester Brown is still finding time to weigh in on topics of interest at conferences.
On Thursday, March 1, he spoke at the symposium “Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet.” Held in D.C. and sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the Club of Rome, the symposium celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launching of the book Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jorgen Randers. The symposium, which was live-streamed, provided perspectives on the challenges to sustainability still facing the planet. Lester’s topic: World on the Edge.
On March 28, he will be speaking at the Affordable World Security Conference, which is being held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on March 27 and 28. For those who would like to tune in, this conference will be live-streamed. Lester will be participating in a panel looking at new strategies for moving forward. And if you are in the DC area and would like to attend this conference, it is free and open to the public.
Shortly after posting the blog on his travels to Japan and China, we received some additional photos, which are included along the side of this blog.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Appointment as Honorary Advisor, Energy and Environment International Center, Beihang University
Hosts in Beijing
Speaking at symposium in Tokyo on February 10, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
When Lester Brown left on his trip to Japan and China two weeks ago, he was just about the only member of the staff who wasn’t fighting or down with a cold, flu, or some other illness. Being a world traveler, he is fortunate to have a strong constitution.
His first stop was Tokyo where he launched the Japanese edition of World on the Edge. The publisher is Diamond Inc., which has a long tradition of publishing books by Lester.
Other than media interviews, the main event in Tokyo was the symposium, World on the Edge, sponsored by Japan for Sustainability, headed by long-term associate Junko Edahiro, Aijinomoto, and Nippon Koa Insurance. Lester gave the keynote to a standing room only (and then some) crowd. We heard later that the feedback from the audience was “overwhelmingly positive.”
Click for larger image.
Lester then went on to Kyoto where he and Klaus Topfer were inducted into the prestigious Earth Hall of Fame Kyoto (see previous blog). The response to his presence in Kyoto was that every bookstore in Kyoto sold out of the Japanese edition of World on the Edge.
From Kyoto, Lester headed to Beijing to launch the Chinese edition of World on the Edge, published by Shanghai Scientific & Technological Education. His first stop was to keynote a conference on alternative fuels at Beihang University’s Energy and Environment International Center, where he was appointed an advisor. Afterwards, he was interviewed by CCTV News.
In what has become a routine stop for Lester when in Beijing, he gave a presentation at Bookworm Bookstore, one of the gathering places for expats.
Concluding his time in Beijing, Lester spoke to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China at The Netherlands Embassy. His talk, which was well received by the correspondents, was on why food prices may keep rising.
Lester is now back at work on two books, one planned for release this September is entitled Full Planet, Empty Plates.
So stay in touch!
Reah Janise Kauffman
P.S. JUST IN! The Spanish edition of World on the Edge is available. Copies can be ordered from the Centre of Studies for Sustainable Development (CEID), Carrera 7 # 237 – 04, Bogotá, Colombia Email: [email protected]
Monday, February 06, 2012
On Sunday, February 12, Lester Brown will be inducted into the Earth Hall of Fame Kyoto.
This prestigious award is given in recognition of the achievements of people who have contributed to the conservation of the global environment. The significance of the award being given in Kyoto, Japan, is that this city is the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto is also a beautiful city, with its temples, shrines, and gardens, designed around the truth that “man is part of nature, and his life comes from nature.”
The award, which was first given in 2010, was begun as a way to affirm that all people, regions, and countries have a share in solving our planet’s environmental problems. Thus those who receive the award are people who have worked on behalf of Earth.
The theme for 2012 is on the global commons and commemorates last year’s catastrophic disasters in the Tohoku region of Japan.
This is the third year of the award. Inductees in 2010 were Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and chairperson of the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development, whose 1987 report, “Our Common Future,” advocated the concept of sustainable development; Syukuro Manabe who developed a model used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Global Climate Change to project global warming; and Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, for her untiring efforts to promote coexistence with the environment.
Inductees in 2011 were Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, who proved that management of communal resources is most effective when a community with vested interests in the resource plays a complementary management role; His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, Kingdom of Bhutan, who proposed the concept of Gross National Happiness, stressing a “better way of life” respecting both culture and nature; and Masazumi Harada, who has conducted social medical research on environmental pollution issues beginning with Minamata disease.
This year’s inductees are Lester Brown and Klaus Töpfer.
Klaus Töpfer is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Known for promoting environmental and sustainable development, Töpfer believes that environmental policy is the peace policy of the future. As Germany's Minister of Environment, he introduced groundbreaking environmental regulations and laws, including the life-cycle economy and "Green dot." He actively contributed to the success of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was a forerunner in the negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the establishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The Earth Forum Kyoto, which oversees this award, is the result of the cooperation between the prefectural government and many of Kyoto’s universities and research organizations.
The Earth Hall of Fame Kyoto Management Council is comprised of Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto City, Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Japanese Ministry of the Environment, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, International Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Kyoto International Conference Center.
Congratulations to Lester and Klaus Töpfer.
Reah Janise Kauffman
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
As noted in our previous blogs, we rely on a network of publishers to translate and publish our publications, thus helping us to reach a global audience. Hamid Taravati, who translates and arranges for our books to be published in Iran, sent us an email recently updating us on some of the environmental work going on there. He is also a member of our Board. The following are excerpts from his letter.
A few weeks ago I received a call from Jahad Daneshgahi, a semi-governmental organization that is the publisher of Plan B and other Lester books and is very close to Iran reformists, asking me when the translation of the World on the Edge would be finished. That was the third time they had called to ask this. I apologized for the delay and promised to deliver the edited text soon. This seldom happens in Iran, a country where the rate of book reading is terribly low. Normally it is writers and translators, especially for scientific books, who ask the publishers, many times, and insist a lot to convince them to publish their books. But for Lester books it is different. At the end, the caller said, "People want to know what will happen next."
Around two weeks ago Farzaneh and I were invited to a meeting in which three distinguished agronomists and university professors were present. They had selected us to be honorary members of the board of a new organization established to issue licenses for bio farmers. [The first such organization in Iran.] At dinner, Professor Koochaki, one of the most prominent agronomy professors of Iran and author of many academic books, asked me about Plan B goals and said that your books—Lester's books—have been the most impressive books he had ever read in the environment field because they are so "comprehensive."
A few months ago I was invited to a conference to talk about environmental ethics. I quoted Mones Sperber, the German psychologist and philosopher, who says “When a society is confronted with a crisis—environmental, social or political, like confronting a despotic government—the best way to get out of it is not to focus on misery, devastation, crime, etc.—bad news—but to show how we can get out of that, to create hope. Then people will move."
People want to know what will happen to their life. They need to have a complete picture of what is happening, good or bad, and to know in what direction they should go. This is what Lester provides, and they absorb it with much enthusiasm. There are many scientists whose books are taught at Iran universities, but those who have read Lester's books have a prejudice to that. I am glad that Lester has started writing his autobiography and I think it will have an important effect on environmentalists. As the Board has discussed last year: "Lester has been one of the very first to promote sustainable development and making it popular." People who have impressed the human community in their real life are the best candidates to write an autobiography. And I am glad that the book will be published by the EPI. I eagerly expect to receive it and start translating immediately.
We live in a part of the globe where nothing comes to one's mind except bad thoughts! I think that in the coming year the world will be expecting horrific events—environmental and social. I hope they will not destroy everything we have. One of the most important is the food crisis. The price of food is increasing so rapidly in this country that is worrisome. The price of a loaf of bread which used to be 45 Tooman is now 450 Tooman, ten times more. Also Iran is producing 1 million cars a year. It takes 12 to 14 hours to go from Tehran, the capital, to Chalus on the Caspian Sea, by car on holidays and the distance is only 150 Km [about 93 miles]. The reason is that there are too many cars.
Finally I want to thank Lester, and all of you, for the great work that you are doing. We normally post an email each week to all the Iranian NGO's and to our fans and friends, containing an article from EPI or part of the Plan B's books. This is the only thing that can now be done here since nobody reads the existing newspapers. What I receive in response is very encouraging, supportive and comforting. I hope EPI will become more popular day by day and Lester, as one of the most influential thinkers of the world, will guide us to the new routes of breaking the vicious circle of population growth, poverty and environmental degradation.
All the best,
Hamid and others like him are our inspiration. Through their personal sacrifices, they are making a difference. It is largely because of the work of Hamid and Farzaneh that environmental issues are front and center in Iran. They have provided the information.
So, to all who are similarly working, thank you!
Reah Janise Kauffman
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
We realize that it will take an enormous dissemination effort to guide the global transition to a Plan B economy. Thus, at the Institute we work through a combination of a worldwide network of media contacts, publishers, and the Internet to reach a global audience. We also hold press teleconferences to draw special attention to some of the issues.
Publishing and Book Releases
Books are the foundation for which we reach a global constituency. Thus far, our books have been published in 31 languages. Major languages (more than 50 million speakers) include English (three publishers: US & Canada, UK & Commonwealth, India & South Asia), Arabic, Chinese (two publishers: Mainland and Taiwan), Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi (India), Polish, Portuguese (Portugal and Brazil), Russian, Spanish (Latin America and Spain), Thai, Turkish, and Ukrainian. Other languages include Bulgarian, Catalan, Danish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian, and Swedish. The three new languages this year—Dutch, Greek, and Vietnamese—brought the number of contracts to 122.
Two weeks after launching the U.S. edition of World on the Edge, Lester Brown was launching the UK edition in London and at Oxford University. He also launched the book a few months after that in Brussels at the European Parliament. In Boston and Cambridge, Lester gave presentations at Harvard’s Center for the Environment and the Cambridge Forum, which was taped and aired at a later date. He was also interviewed by Bloomberg TV and NPR’s Living on Earth. Other nationwide radio programs included the BBC, Leonard Lopate, The Nation, NPR’s Fresh Air, Science Friday, PRI, and Greenpeace radio.
In the fall, he released the Dutch edition of World on the Edge (We kunnen nog kiezen) in The Hague, the French edition, Basculement, in Lyons, Lille, Cergy, and Paris, and the Korean edition in Seoul and Gwangju.
Other notable presentations that Lester gave were at Columbia University’s Earth Institute’s 17th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference, the Forum for the Future of Agriculture in Brussels, the Consumer Good’s Global Summit in Barcelona, the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto, and a presentation in Tokyo for the Asahi Glass Foundation which was celebrating its twentieth anniversary of the Blue Planet Prize, which Lester had received in 1994. He also spoke at the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Foreign Agricultural Service, and the WWF Kathryn Fuller Science for Nature Symposium in DC.
One of the most exciting conferences Lester participated in was in The Netherlands in September where he saw a Plan B pension fund becoming a reality. He met with managers of three major investment companies, with combined assets of nearly $1 trillion, whose goal was to design such a fund. A month later, the CEOs of these funds agreed to launch the fund. This process began last year with Marcel de Berg, who, inspired by Plan B 3.0, used his position as an investment manager to begin the process of establishing a pension fund that would promote a Plan B economy. The idea may be spreading. Following this conference, Lester flew to Zurich to speak to a group of investment managers headed by Sustainable Asset Management, which was also part of the Plan B pension fund initiative.
EPI works closely with the world's major news organizations. Since it began operation in May 2001, EPI has generated over 45,000 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). In addition to the press teleconference releasing World on the Edge, EPI held four more press teleconferences on the issues of climbing world food prices, the geopolitics of food scarcity, the drop in carbon emissions in the United States, and if the United States could feed China. Each generated extensive media attention. More and more of the Institute’s research is posted on websites and discussed by bloggers.
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 copies for distribution to friends, colleagues, and political leaders. They became EPI’s Plan B Team. The release of World on the Edge 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. Our thanks to all of you!
We use a variety of online tools for our media outreach and communications marketing strategy to disseminate releases, data, and any information that our research team releases for the public. Included in these tools are blogs, RSS feeds, public and media listservs, networking sites, and a micro-blogging site.
We also have an active Twitter account, releasing 10 posts per week on average to promote events, our releases, and other interesting activities. Our Facebook Fan Page is also an active site. In fact, Twitter and Facebook are 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, the Institute is often at the top of the list due in large measure to the nearly 130,000 links to our website.
This year we have been live-tweeting its press conferences, providing an easily accessible channel for journalists. Prominent reporters and their affiliated news organizations have reposted our content, creating a multiplier effect of the outreach. Notable are reporters from Grist and the Guardian. Other notable organizations that re-tweet and re-post include Greenpeace USA, Beyond Coal, Quit Coal, National Geographic Green, 4H, Sustainablog, and Treehugger.
Unique in publishing, EPI posts its publications online for downloading the day of release, allowing free global access. Books are posted in PDF. Through October some 20,548 PDFs of World on the Edge and 25,998 of Plan B 4.0 were downloaded. In addition, previous editions of Plan B along with EPI’s other books are frequently downloaded, reinforcing the value of this free service. Data downloads generally exceed that of individual book chapters.
Through our blog, we try to give readers a look into the non-research part of our work, such as presentations, book tours, international publishers, and other events. For instance, in addition to the blogs on the world topping 7 billion and Lester’s gift of memorabilia to the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, another reflected back on the activities of the Institute’s first ten years, another some of the interesting people who had stopped by the office, while another the Institute’s newest arrival—Mandolyn Rose Larsen Brown.
We have been heartened by the response we've had this year to the topics on which we work. Still, as evidenced by the political stalemate and corporate ill-will toward making positive change for the health of the planet--and therefore the health of all life on earth, there is a long way to go. We will be continuing to report on our progress toward a plan to save civilization, so stay tuned ... there’s a lot to look forward to in 2012!
Reah Janise Kauffman
Thursday, December 08, 2011
So, what have we been up to this past year to promote our plan for saving civilization? That's what this blog and the next will discuss.
|“World on the Edge details the vice closing around us: a quadruple squeeze of global warming and shortages in food, water and energy. Then it explains the path out—and how little time we have left to take that path. Got anything more important to read than that?”
—Peter Goldmark, former CEO of the International Herald Tribune
During the first six months of the year, the research team was focused on issues relating to food scarcity. It began with the release in early January of World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. One of its main themes is the food production bubble, which has been created by unsustainable practices including overpumping aquifers, overplowing land, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. The question is not whether the food bubble will burst but when.
The book received many favorable reviews, including Ed Crooks of the Financial Times, who called it “a provocative primer on some of the key global issues that businesses will face in the coming decades.”
In addition to posting a comprehensively endnoted edition of World on the Edge on EPI’s website and the immense database supporting the analyses, the research team developed two PowerPoint presentations relating to the book. The first focused on the food bubble, with the second an overview of the key topics and data. EPI’s PowerPoint presentations and data are some of the most downloaded items from the Institute’s website.
|“No one is better informed than Lester Brown of the multi-faceted crisis facing our planet. And no one has spelt out so clearly how our civilisation could be saved from falling 'over the edge' while there is—hopefully—still just time.’”
—John Rowley, People and Planet
Spinoff articles from the book quickly followed, most relating to the food issue. In rapid succession, Lester wrote “The 2011 World Food Crisis,” which Foreign Policy posted on its website. The LA Times Syndicate released “World One Poor Harvest from Chaos” in early March. The Guardian issued two articles by Lester, one in January entitled “Will climate change burst the global 'food bubble'?” and one in April entitled “This will be the Arab world's next battle" referring to water shortages. Meanwhile, the Washington Post published “Can the United States Feed China?” in its Outlook section in March, which was followed by his op-ed, “When the Nile Goes Dry,” in the New York Times in June.
Of special note was a piece Foreign Policy requested he write for its May/June issue on food. His was the cover article, entitled “The New Geopolitics of Food.” The article made three “top news” of the week lists: the Daily Beast, Mother Jones, and Business Insider. It also received more Facebook “likes” than any other Foreign Policy article in 2011: nearly 11,000 likes compared to the next highest of some 7,000. Even Lester’s January article that was posted online garnered 4,666 likes—more than most of Foreign Policy’s other articles.
The Plan B film which aired nationwide on PBS the end of March brought EPI’s work to the attention of Playboy. Shortly after it aired, Lester got a call from an editor at Playboy asking if he could write a piece for the magazine on the failing states issue. The article, entitled "Failed States," ran in the September issue.
The second half of the year, the research team examined energy issues, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, the $50 million gift by Michael Bloomberg to the Sierra Club for its Beyond Coal campaign, and the drop in carbon emissions in the United States from 2007 to 2011.
|“The world is a much more hopeful place because of the work and life of Lester Brown. World on the Edge should be read by everyone who wants to see a better life for their children, which is just about everybody.”
—Ted Glick, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
With October the month when world population would top 7 billion, reporters began contacting the Institute. Brigid Fitzgerald Reading wrote an Eco-Economy Indicator, “World Population Hitting 7 Billion” that was picked up in a number of places and triggered additional media calls. Meanwhile, two articles by the Associated Press and Reuters quoting Lester packed the Institute’s clipping service with close to 600 online articles as of the end of October. Television interviews included Associated Press, Canadian Broadcasting, Canadian TV, and NBC Nightly News. The NBC segment aired not only on the evening program, but the next morning on the local affiliate followed by the weekend program. We also posted a blog discussing this milestone.
Throughout 2011, the team maintained a flow of Plan B Updates, Eco-Economy Indicators, Book Bytes, and Data Highlights—nearly one a week. Twelve Plan B Updates were released, 11 Book Bytes, and three Eco-Economy Indicators (temperature, population, and solar power). A few of the 12 Data Highlights that were released received particular attention, perhaps because of the unusual nature of the material, such as “Growing Goat Herds Signal Growing Grassland Decline,” “Demographics Loom Large in State Failure,” and “Learning From China: Why the Existing Economic Model Will Fail.”
We release all of our information via our listserv as well as posting them for free on our website. As our researchers are busy working on new articles, if you aren't already subscribed on our listserv or RSS feeds, you might want to do so now.
Next blog: our outreach effort.
Reah Janise Kauffman
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