EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Over the past six months Lester Brown and our amazing research team has been working on a new book. Now that we have put it into the hands of our publishers, we can tell you about it.

World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse will be released in January 2011. If you pre-order your copy today, you can get it in December.World on the Edge

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1, On the Edge:

The media described the 2010 heat wave in Russia and the flooding in Pakistan as natural disasters. But were they? Climate scientists have been saying for some time that rising temperatures would bring more extreme climate events. Ecologists have warned that as human pressures on ecosystems mount and as forests and grasslands are destroyed, flooding will be more severe.

The signs that our civilization is in trouble are multiplying. During most of the 6,000 years since civilization began we lived on the sustainable yield of the earth’s natural systems. But in recent decades humanity has overshot the level that those systems can sustain.

We are liquidating the earth’s natural assets to fuel our consumption. Half of us live in countries where water tables are falling and wells are going dry. Soil erosion exceeds soil formation on one third of the world’s cropland, draining the land of its fertility. The world’s ever-growing herds of cattle, sheep, and goats are converting vast stretches of grassland to desert. Forests are shrinking by 13 million acres per year as we clear land for agriculture and cut trees for lumber and paper. Four fifths of oceanic fisheries are being fished at capacity or overfished and headed for collapse. In system after system, demand is overshooting supply.

Meanwhile, with our massive burning of fossil fuels, we are overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide (CO2), pushing the earth’s temperature ever higher. This in turn generates more frequent and more extreme climatic events, including crop-withering heat waves, more intense droughts, more severe floods, and more destructive storms.

The earth’s rising temperature is also melting polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers. If the Greenland ice sheet, which is melting at an accelerating rate, were to melt entirely, it would inundate the rice-growing river deltas of Asia and many of the world’s coastal cities. It is the ice melt from the mountain glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau that helps sustain the dry-season flow of the major rivers in India and China—the Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers— and the irrigation systems that depend on them.

We are facing issues of near-overwhelming complexity and unprecedented urgency. Can we think systemically and fashion policies accordingly? Can we move fast enough to avoid economic decline and collapse? Can we change direction before we go over the edge?

That’s what World on the Edge is all about. We’ve posted the Table of Contents and Chapter 1 online so you can get a preview of the book.


Reah Janise Kauffman
Vice President

Posted by Reah Janise on 10/26 at 08:03 AM

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

World Without Borders by Lester R. Brown, 1972In 1972, Lester Brown, then a Senior Fellow with the Overseas Development Council, a private, nonprofit organization he’d helped found, penned the first book ever published on globalization—before the term was even coined.

We recently unearthed a 30-minute television discussion Lester gave shortly after the book was published. This black-and-white film might seem dated, but just listen to the subjects discussed. A world without borders is one “which recognizes the common destiny of all mankind.”

The following is an excerpt from the book—as true today as it was then:

The nation-state with its sacred borders brings with it a concept of territorial discrimination which is increasingly in conflict with both the emerging social values of modern man and the circumstances in which he finds himself. It says, for instance, that we can institutionalize the transfer of resources from rich to poor within national societies, but not among societies. The poor on the other side of a national border are somehow less needful or less deserving than those inside the border. If we consider ourselves as members of a human family, can we continue to justify territorial discrimination any more than religious or racial discrimination?

The dimensions of the problems confronting late twentieth century man are unique in their scale. Man has always experienced catastrophes—famines, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions—but they were local and temporary. Over time, more and more crises have become global in character. Only in this century have wars been world wars; only in recent decades, with such scientific “breakthroughs” as the detonation of the atomic bomb, has man acquired the capacity to threaten the entire species.

We live in an age when problems are increasingly worldwide—the world food problem, threat of world inflation, world population problem, world environmental crisis, world monetary crisis, world drug problem, and so forth. Few, if any, of mankind’s more pressing problems have purely national solutions. They can be solved only through multinational or global cooperation. No country can protect the value of its currency or the health of its people without the extensive cooperation of other countries. Even our daily weather can be influenced by man’s activities elsewhere in the world. The earth’s ecosystem will continue to support human life only if countries can cooperate to eventually limit the discharge of waste materials.

As rapid population growth in much of the world continues, mankind’s backlog of unsolved problems is growing. Questions of global poverty, rising numbers of unemployed and massive rural-urban migration in the poor countries, and a global ecosystem showing signs of acute stress, emerge before our expanded consciousness. Each promises to worsen in the years immediately ahead.

Given the scale and complexity of these problems, the remainder of the twentieth century will at best be a traumatic period for mankind, even with a frontal attack on the principal threats to human well-being. At worst it will be catastrophic. At issue is whether we can grasp the nature and dimensions of the emerging threats to our well-being, whether we can create an integrated global economy and a workable world order, and whether we can reorder global priorities so that the quality of life will improve rather than deteriorate.


Reah Janise Kauffman
Vice President

Posted by Reah Janise on 10/19 at 07:59 AM

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What a busy time. Two weeks ago Lester Brown traveled to Montreal to give presentations at the World Energy Congress, where he also participated in CNBC's "Energy Opportunities" program before flying to Zurich to speak at the Swiss Management Association's Forum. His message: we must shift to renewable energy.CNBC

This week finds him traveling again. In Mexico City, he is giving a lecture at the prestigious Miguel Aleman Foundation to nearly 1,000 people. The foundation was named for Miguel Aleman Valdez, one of Mexico’s more dynamic presidents. The presentation, happening tonight, will be broadcast live on Mexico’s Channel 34 and streamed on the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico’s website.

Tomorrow he flies to Bogota, Colombia, where he will launch the Spanish edition of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. The translator and publisher is CEID Colombia, an educational consultancy organization on environment and sustainable development. Gilberto Rincon had heard Lester speak at a conference in Ottawa, Canada, and had gotten a copy of Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. The book fit in so well with his organization’s goals that he asked if they could publish a Spanish edition.

Since that edition, CEID Colombia also published Plan B 3.0 and now Plan B 4.0. Even before the book was off the press, Giuseppe LaManna ordered 300 copies, which he will distribute to people attending his presentations on global warming. LaManna advocates cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020 and scaling emissions down to 350 ppm (parts per million).

CEID has arranged a number of television interviews for Lester in addition to holding the III International Congress on the Environment, where the Spanish edition will be officially launched.
350.org's Global Work Party
But the busy-ness will not stop when Lester returns because on Sunday, October 10 (10/10/10) he will participate in a rally in Washington, DC. This “Get to Work” rally, sponsored by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, is part of 350.org’s Global Work Party. The rally is part of 350.org’s campaign to push cutting carbon dioxide emissions back to 350 ppm, which is considered the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Currently we’re at 388 ppm, which will accelerate the pace at which the globe is warming. The Global Work Party is designed to be a day to celebrate clean energy solutions.

Lester will be joined at the podium by Dr. James Hansen, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, Joe Romm of Climate Progress, and a number of others. They will be calling on President Obama to get to work on leading a national and global policy push toward 350 ppm.

Earth Policy Institute’s global plan to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020 is one of the ways to make this happen. 


Reah Janise Kauffman
Vice President

Posted by Reah Janise on 10/05 at 04:41 PM


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