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
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