Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Lester Brown’s first book, Man, Land and Food, was published in 1963. Since then, he has authored 15 additional books and co-authored another 35 (not including his numerous monographs). Each book has been translated into at least one other language, often many more, so that his books can be found in some 44 languages.
Some of the languages in which he has long been published are Japanese and Chinese. The reason for both relate to an individual or individuals in each country.
In 1984, concerned about the need for solid environmental information in Japan, Soki Oda, an editor at the time, purchased the rights to publish State of the World 1984 and then found a publisher, Diamond Sha. Over the years, he became so involved with disseminating environmental information, especially because global environmental information was so lacking in Japan, that he established an organization, World Watch Japan, to promote the Institute’s research there.
When Lester founded Earth Policy Institute, Soki bid for the rights to publish our books in Japan, starting in 2001 with Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth. In addition to publishing and marketing, Soki also arranges book promotional tours that often generate exceptional media coverage.
Lester has been on prime time television on numerous occasions in Japan as well. In November 2008, NHK, Japan’s major media network, conducted a two-hour interview with him for a New Year’s program they were doing on the future. Unbeknownst to us, the 90-minute program was solely on the solutions he described in his Plan B book series. The program has aired a number of times since January 2009.
Japan is the only country that has published a book written by Lester that has not been published elsewhere. There isn't even an English edition. Eko Keizei Kakumei: Environmental Trends Reshaping the Global Economy was published in 1998 by Tachibana Publishing through the team efforts of Junko Edahiro, then an interpreter, and Peter David Pedersen then with BC Consulting. Peter David now heads E-Square Inc. Junko, who was Lester’s main interpreter when he visited Japan, is now a well-known author in her own right and heads her own environmental NGO, Japan for Sustainability, and Change Agent, Inc. which conducts seminars on systems thinking. Junko edited the book, drawing on Lester’s lectures and on interviews she conducted with him. The book became a Top Ten bestseller in Japan.
In China, Lin Zixin, formerly with the Institute of Scientific and Technological Information of China (ISTIC), has arranged the publication of Lester’s books in Chinese for more than 20 years. Mr. Lin retired from ISTIC at about the same time that we established Earth Policy Institute. Thus, when we were interested in a Chinese publisher, we looked to Mr. Lin, who not only found a publisher for Eco-Economy, but personally led the team of translators and arranged outreach. Part of the outreach for the Chiinese edition included a trip to Inner Mongolia and Gansu provinces that helped Lester better understand the pressures on the land in China’s northwest, information that fueled subsequent books.
The government of China pays attention to Lester’s books. The first to draw a lot of attention was Who Will Feed China? which caused quite a stir in 1995. Perhaps the best assessment of its effect appeared in the South China Morning Post: “[Brown’s] arguments have caused near panic in the highest levels of the Communist Party and the government has responded by holding seminars and issuing defiant rebuttals…. In the past 40 years few other foreigners have managed to shake the confidence of China’s rulers as Brown has.” Lester's analysis, however, resulted in China reorienting its agricultural price, land use, and water policies.
Meanwhile, the Chinese edition of Plan B received a coveted national book award in 2005 from the National Library of China. And both Premier Wen Jiabao and Pan Yue, Deputy Minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, have quoted Plan B 2.0 in public addresses and articles.
In late May and early June, Lester will be in both countries to promote the Japanese and Chinese editions of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. See our Events page for details as they unfold.
Reah Janise Kauffman
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