EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
Lester R. Brown

Chapter 11. Earth Policy Institute: Time for Plan B

Reah Janise Kauffman and I began planning the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) in early 2001. And longtime friends Roger and Vicki Sant provided the half-million dollar start up grant, just as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund had done to launch Worldwatch twenty-seven years earlier. Janet Larsen (then my research assistant) and Millicent Johnson (manager of publication sales) also left Worldwatch, helping to form the core of our new organization. We were the first half of what would become an eight-person staff. Our purpose was clear: to provide a plan for moving the world off the decline-and-collapse path and onto a path that was environmentally sustainable.

The move from Worldwatch to our new office on Dupont Circle was scheduled for the first weekend in May 2001. Reah Janise and Millicent managed the process while I was tucked away in my apartment working on the institute’s first book, Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth.

Although carpeting was a few weeks away and most of the furniture was still en route, two days after moving in we held a press conference to announce the founding of this new environmental research institute. The reporters, who must have felt like they were literally present at the creation, were amused by the bare concrete floors. Then, two weeks later we held another press conference to launch our first publication, a four-page Earth Policy Alert on northwestern China’s growing dust bowl and the dust storms that country was generating each year during late winter and early spring. When climatic conditions are just right, these vast storms can cross the Pacific intact, depositing dust across the western United States. Topsoil from China’s northern plains is being exported—and at great cost.

Not wanting to lose any momentum, a week later we scheduled another press conference, this one responding to the Bush/Cheney energy plan, which was drafted in secret in consultation with the fossil-fuel industry. This new plan consisted almost entirely of building coal, nuclear, and natural gas–fired power plants. It did not even mention the word wind, even though wind power was the country’s fastest-growing source of electricity generation, albeit from an admittedly small base. I was dismayed that the country that launched the modern wind industry was ceding leadership to Europe. C-SPAN covered our entire press conference on future sources of electricity, airing it several times over the next few weeks.

When Eco-Economy was ready for editing, we turned to Linda Starke, who had edited all of my books for nearly twenty years. It was shortly off to W. W. Norton & Company, and within a matter of weeks, the first printing of 40,000 copies was off the press.

On September 11, 2001, shortly before the book was released, I was scheduled to give a luncheon talk at the New York Times. I took the train to New York the evening before so I could have an early breakfast with Stirling Scruggs, a program director at the United Nations Population Fund to discuss funding for the institute. Stirling’s response was reassuring. I then headed back to my room in the Hilton Hotel at Fifty-Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue to work on another manuscript until lunch time.

Not long after, my daughter Brenda called from Colorado. She had first called the office in Washington only to discover with alarm that I was in New York. She then immediately called my hotel to see where I was and how I was doing. When I seemed confused by her call, she said, “Dad, turn on the television.” I, like so many others, then watched the unfolding of the attack on the Twin Towers. Shortly after I tuned in, the south tower collapsed. We stayed on the line, Brenda listening on the radio in her pickup and I watching television, trying to grasp the meaning and scope of what was happening.

From my hotel window in the Hilton overlooking Sixth Avenue, I could see large numbers of people streaming north. The subway was closed. Offices had closed and were releasing their staffs. Hundreds of thousands of people were walking home.

Before lunchtime, I walked down to the office of the Times, then at 229 West Forty-Third Street near Broadway, to make absolutely sure that no one was expecting me. This was quickly confirmed. The paper was in scramble mode. I walked south on Broadway to get a closer look at where the Twin Towers had been.

It was difficult to comprehend. The early tally indicated the number of lives lost could be over 2,000. Television commentators such as Peter Jennings were likening it to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The world changed on September 11, 2001. The public then learned about Al Qaeda, which was identified as the source of the attack. Later we learned the name of its head, Osama bin Laden.

In late afternoon, I called the University of Rhode Island, where I was scheduled to give the fall convocation address the following afternoon, to see whether it had been cancelled. They intended to proceed as scheduled, so the next step was to confirm that Amtrak would be operating. Miraculously, the 8 a.m. train on which I was booked was delayed only half an hour. As we departed and went under the East River and came up on the far side, I looked back at the Manhattan skyline. That’s when the gravity of the attack really hit me.

Despite the events of the previous day, my convocation address went well and I was soon on the train back to Washington. Even though the luncheon talk at the Times did not materialize, Eco-Economy was enthusiastically received worldwide. Among the unsolicited responses was one from renowned biologist E. O. Wilson, who called the book “an instant classic.” Shimon Peres, then deputy prime minister of Israel, said it was “a timely examination of an issue that needs to move to the forefront of the global agenda.” And Børge Brende, formerly Norway’s environment minister, said it was a “marvelous and inspiring book!”

Eco-Economy was translated into eighteen languages, some with multiple editions. In English, there were three editions: North America, India, and the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth countries. There were two Chinese editions, one for the mainland and the other for Taiwan. In Spanish there was one for Spain and another for the Latin American market.

Given the enthusiastic worldwide reception of Eco-Economy, our first effort to give a sense of what an economy that was in harmony with the earth would look like, we felt we were on the right course. The world was hungry for solutions.

About this time I realized that devising a plan to reverse the trends undermining our economy was not a one-time event. It was an ongoing process, always adapting to advances in technology, policy breakthroughs, and the effects of mounting pressures on the earth’s ecosystem. Keeping this plan current would fully occupy the energy of our staff of eight: five of us were researchers, and three handled outreach, sales, and administration.

While working on an updated version of the plan, I was having lunch with Catherine Cameron of the Wallace Global Fund. When I described what we were working on and asked if she had any ideas for a title, she said, perhaps because her foundation was an early promoter of Plan B, the morning-after contraceptive pill, “It sounds like Plan B to me.” And so it was.

It has been clear to ecologists for some time that business as usual, which we call Plan A, is no longer a viable option. Civilization cannot survive the ongoing environmental trends of deforestation, overplowing, overgrazing, overpumping, overfishing, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. It’s a losing scenario.

Eco-Economy, the four subsequent Plan B books, and World on the Edge (2011) followed the same general model. The early part of each is devoted to identifying and describing the environmentally destructive trends that are undermining the economy and thus our future. The second half outlines Plan B—what it is going to take to reverse these trends.

Plan B has four components: stabilize population, eradicate poverty, cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020, and restore the economy’s natural support systems, including forests, grasslands, croplands, and fisheries.

We wanted not only to present solutions but also to give a sense of the fiscal costs of doing so. The first Plan B, published in 2003, contained a budget for eradicating poverty and stabilizing population. Totaling $62 billion per year, it included the annual cost of achieving universal primary school education, basic health care, and access to reproductive health care and family planning services.

In Plan B 2.0, Janet Larsen, who is now our director of research and who knows more about most of the issues we work on than I do, developed an “earth restoration budget,” which calculated the costs of such activities as reforestation, soil conservation, and setting aside marine parks to protect oceanic fisheries. The additional annual expenditures to protect the world economy’s natural support systems totaled $93 billion. Combined with an upward revision in our social goals budget, we now needed an additional annual fiscal outlay of $161 billion.

With Plan B 3.0, the plan became both more comprehensive and ambitious. In deciding how much to cut carbon emissions to prevent climate change from spiraling out of control, we started with the science, not the politics. We did not ask what would be politically feasible. Rather we asked, How much and how fast do we need to cut carbon emissions to save the Greenland ice sheet and avoid an ultimate twenty-three-foot rise in sea level? Or how fast do we need to cut carbon emissions to save at least the larger glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau—the glaciers whose ice melt helps sustain the major rivers and irrigation systems of Asia during the dry season? This is why we concluded that the world had to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020—not by 2050, as many political leaders have proposed.

Greenland is in a sense a metaphor for our global society. If we cannot cut carbon emissions fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet, we probably cannot save civilization itself. If we reach the point where such a rise in sea level becomes unstoppable, it would alter not only how we think about the future, but, more fundamentally, what we think of ourselves. Reasons for cutting carbon emissions quickly are many, such as the threats posed by the crop-withering heat waves of the sort that decimated the Russian wheat harvest in 2010 and 2012 and the U.S. corn harvest in 2012, but we need not go beyond ice melting to see that our civilization is in trouble on the climate front.

By the time we started thinking about Plan B 3.0, Jonathan Dorn, a first-class energy modeler, had joined the staff. He produced an energy model that enabled us to describe in detail how the world could cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020 through a combination of gains in the efficiency of energy use; shifts from fossil fuels to wind, solar, and geothermal energy; and an end to deforestation. Another colleague, Frances Moore, did the carbon modeling that enabled us to show how Plan B could halt the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at 400 parts per million by 2020. Once we reach this, then we can focus on actually reducing carbon dioxide levels.

Having a detailed energy model did not greatly alter the budget for creating a sustainable civilization because Plan B had always depended largely on tax restructuring to create a low-carbon energy economy. The challenge was to raise the tax on carbon emissions, and offset it by lowering the tax on income. In effect, we can use tax policy in a revenue-neutral way to achieve environmental goals. Our thinking from the beginning was that if we could get the market to tell the truth—that is, to incorporate the indirect costs of burning fossil fuels, such as air pollution and climate change, into the prices of gasoline and coal-fired electricity—then the world energy economy would begin to restructure itself. The strategy is to create an honest market so that renewable sources of energy can quickly replace fossil fuels.

In World on the Edge, we noted that the newly estimated $185 billion of additional expenditures needed each year to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and restore the economy’s natural support systems—forests, soils, aquifers, and so on—could be done with a relatively small shift in defense expenditures. The $185 billion is less than a third of the U.S. defense budget. It is only an eighth of the global defense budget. We cannot say we do not have the resources to move the world economy off the decline-and-collapse path and onto one that can sustain progress.

One thing that helped me think about how we can make the needed changes in the world is what I call the three models of social change. One is the Pearl Harbor model, a situation where a catastrophic event changes everything. The second is the Berlin Wall model, where gradually building pressures reach a tipping point and suddenly lead to widespread social change, sometimes even a political revolution. The Berlin Wall coming down was a visual manifestation of a revolution that would change the form of every government in Eastern Europe. The Arab Spring in 2011 was a repeat of this mode of change as people took to the streets and overthrew autocratic repressive elements. The third model, which I call the sandwich model, is one where upwelling pressures for change among the population are matched by a desire for change at the top. This is the model that is now driving environmental progress in the United States. For example, the Sierra Club’s grassroots-based Beyond Coal campaign is strengthened by the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement of air pollution regulations on coal-fired power plants. As of early 2013, 142 of the country’s 522 coal plants have recently closed or will close shortly.

We hope that our work at EPI can give ammunition to those working at the grassroots and to support policy initiatives for those at the top.

Whenever I have something new to say on an issue, I write it up as an article for a magazine or perhaps the Washington Post, The New York Times, or the Guardian in London, or we do a 1,200-word Plan B Update. We distribute these updates electronically not only to our worldwide list of editors, reporters, and bloggers, but also to our house e-mail list and social networks. In addition, we hold a press teleconference to focus attention on a particular needed policy change.

For example, in 2006 EPI emerged as an early leader in opposing the use of grain to produce fuel for cars. We began with the release of an update entitled “Supermarkets and Service Stations Now Competing for Grain,” noting that the amount of grain required to fill an SUV tank could feed one person for an entire year. Two articles quickly followed. The first I did, entitled “Appetite for Destruction,” appeared in Fortune magazine in August. The other, “Starving the People to Feed the Cars,” was carried in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post and in twenty-one other newspapers. This was not a new worry for me. From the beginning of the ethanol-from-grain program in 1978, I was concerned about the potential effect on food prices. Indeed, in 1981, I wrote a Worldwatch Paper entitled Food or Fuel: New Competition for the World’s Cropland. But it was not until Hurricane Katrina disrupted oil refining in the Gulf and the price of gasoline climbed to $3 a gallon that it became hugely profitable to invest in ethanol fuel distilleries. Indeed, the months following Katrina saw an orgy of these investments.

In early January 2007, we released an update that made it clear the biofuel industry was vastly understating the amount of grain that was being used to make ethanol. This exposé of the industry’s systematic underreporting was needed because the U.S. Department of Agriculture was relying on the industry for data rather than tracking this burgeoning use of grain for fuel itself. We followed with an update entitled “Massive Diversion of U.S. Grain to Fuel Cars is Raising World Food Prices.” These releases generated hundreds of news articles, while some 160 websites either posted the food-versus-fuel updates or linked to them. I was called to testify about this issue on Capitol Hill before Senator Barbara Boxer and the Committee on Environment and Public Works in June 2007. The use of grain to fuel cars finally peaked in 2011 after six years of runaway growth and is now declining.

Another issue that EPI often weighs in on is bottled water, because its marketing is such a huge con job. Clever advertising is used to convince people that bottled water is somehow safer and tastes better than tap water. In reality, the regulations on the quality of tap water are generally much more stringent than those on bottled water. Bottled water costs 1,000 times as much as tap water yet it is often the same product—tap water—packaged and trucked from the bottling site to the consumer at an enormous energy cost. Janet has become a key resource person on this issue.

In June 2011, Janet did an update entitled “Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death in China.” Typically, in the early stages of a country’s development, the leading cause of death is infectious diseases. As countries develop, the mortality is caused more by the diseases of modernization, principally cardiovascular diseases. In China, which is in the middle stages of development, cancer rates have soared as a result of uncontrolled pollution. Given the fast-growing number of “cancer villages” and what we know about the lag time of exposure to pollutants and the onset of cancer, this situation is likely to get far worse.

We engage a wide range of environmental and environmentally related issues. For many years, I’ve been urging Japan, one of the most geothermally rich countries in the world, to harness that energy for power generation as so many other countries are doing. The standard response, which was nurtured by the nuclear lobby, was that tapping geothermal energy would mean disrupting their national parks because of the locations of their geothermal resources. In fact, geothermal energy is almost everywhere in Japan—and it’s one of the world’s cheapest, safest, and cleanest sources of electricity.

After the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami, we got the geothermal issue back on the table. Matt Roney, who tracks energy for us, did an update entitled “Time to Rethink Japan’s Energy Future.” He made a very basic point: Japan has a wealth of geothermal energy. With nearly 200 volcanoes and 28,000 hot springs, Japan has enough readily harnessable geothermal energy to back out all of its nuclear power plants. His calculations became a reference point for the media when discussing Japan’s energy future.  Now, at last, Japan has officially launched a program to harness its geothermal energy for power generation.

One of our challenges as an institute is how to help the world understand the resource constraints that we are facing in an ever-growing global economy, one where expectations are rising ever higher.  We decided in 2005 to do an article that would look at what would happen to the demand for resources if China’s income per person reached the 2005 level in the United States. At an 8 percent annual rate of economic growth, China would reach that level in 2031. In that future, if China were to follow U.S. consumption patterns with three cars for every four people, it would have over a billion cars—more than there are in the entire world today. It would consume more oil than the world produces. Its paper use would exceed that consumed by the world in 2005. In calculating China’s consumption of these and various other resources, it became clear that the U.S. economic model is not a viable one for China. Nor will it work for the rest of the world, including the United States, for much longer.

Fewer than a dozen reporters attended the press conference we held for this update. For some reason, they were not inspired to write it up immediately. But that night William C. Mann, an Associated Press reporter who was probably on night duty, came across our release and wrote a story that was released at 2:43 a.m. By the time I got to the office that morning, the phone was ringing.  One of the first calls came from the Russian equivalent of The Wall Street Journal in Moscow. Then came calls from Europe, including the Financial Times in London and the BBC World Service. Reporters were surprised by the calculation, but they also wondered how and why we were the ones uncovering this rather alarming projection. Unfortunately, the stir this piece created with its shocking calculations lasted only a short time before slowly fading off the radar screen. But the issue will not go away.

At EPI we try to anticipate and interpret emerging trends, such as the new geopolitics of food. For most of the last half-century, the overriding issue in international agricultural trade has been access to markets and how the United States, Canada, Australia, and Argentina could collectively pressure the Europeans and Japanese to open their markets. But as we moved into the new century, I concluded that the focus would soon shift to concern about access to supplies. As food supplies tightened in late 2007 and early 2008, and as grain prices soared to record levels, some countries began to restrict grain exports in order to try to keep domestic food prices under control. Russia and Argentina restricted wheat exports. Vietnam, the number two rice exporter, banned exports for several months as it tried desperately to keep its domestic food prices under control. Importing countries panicked.

Suddenly, these countries realized they could no longer depend on the world market to supply grain as needed. Their response was to try and buy or lease land in other countries to produce food to meet their import needs. By 2010, Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, and others had acquired a total of 140 million acres, mostly in Africa but also some in Latin America and parts of Southeast Asia. This amount of land is equal to that planted in wheat and corn combined in the United States.

I summed up this analysis in an article entitled “The New Geopolitics of Food” in the May/June 2011 issue of Foreign Policy. It attracted more attention than any article I’ve written since “Who Will Feed China?” in 1994.

In it, I go behind the headlines on land grabs, noting that these are also frequently water grabs. Since it rarely rains in Egypt, for instance, its agriculture is entirely dependent on the flow of the Nile River. Sudan and Ethiopia, the two countries that occupy 70 percent of the Upper Nile Basin, are leading targets of land grabs by foreign governments and corporations. Millions of acres have been acquired. And much of the water to irrigate it will come from the upper Nile, which means less and less of the river flow will reach Egypt. In June 2011, I discussed this in an op-ed piece in The New York Times entitled “When the Nile Runs Dry.”

Sensing the imminent stresses on the food front from these and related issues, I expanded the analysis into a book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. It was released in September 2012. The main thesis is that the world is in transition from an era dominated by surpluses to one dominated by scarcity. The annual growth in demand for grain has doubled over the last decade, while constraints on production are making it more difficult for farmers to keep up. Some 3 billion people are moving up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock and poultry products. As a result, the world demand for grain is climbing at 41 million tons per year, up from 21 million tons a decade ago.

Usually I try to influence things by writing, but occasionally I get to talk directly with key decision makers. In early 2007 I had lunch with Shoichiro Toyoda, who headed Toyota when the company was emerging as the world’s leading automobile manufacturer. We were first brought together by the World Expo near Nagoya in 2005, where he was honorary chairman and I served as an environmental adviser. At lunch, I lobbied him on the advantage of developing a plug-in Prius. I pointed out that in the United States we had a near-endless supply of wind energy, enough to run our economy, including powering our entire fleet of cars, many times over. We could run all of our cars on wind-generated electricity at a gasoline equivalent cost of 80¢ per gallon.

In a subsequent exchange of letters, I again pressed him on this point. It was always a good-natured back and forth, but he did take it seriously, and in a 2007 letter he said at the end simply, “Watch us.” The plug-in Prius, which was test-marketed in the United States in 2011, was on the market in the spring of 2012.

In May of 2010, the University of Nagoya hosted an afternoon symposium on systemic thinking. On the symposium panel with me was Takeshi Uchiyamada, who spoke on the development of the Prius. In 1993 Toyota management had given Uchiyamada and his team of engineers the assignment of designing a car for the twenty-first century. End of instructions. Early on, they decided the car would have to be a hybrid, one with both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

The product of this exercise was the Prius. The third-generation Prius, which came on the market in 2010, can travel fifty miles on a gallon of gasoline. A remarkable piece of automotive engineering, it has set the standard for the industry worldwide. Takeshi Uchiyamada is one of my heroes.

Large investment banks, too, such as J.P. Morgan and HSBC, are interested in Plan B. This has led to numerous invitations for me to address investor conferences. In the Netherlands, Marcel de Berg, president of 21C, an investment management services company focused on sustainable and responsible investment strategies, decided in 2009 after reading Plan B 3.0 that there was a need for an investment program guided by the Plan B goals. He was given strong public support by Herman Wijffels, the highly regarded executive vice president of the World Bank. After more than a year of meetings and discussions, several of which I participated in, three large Dutch financial institutions—Rabobank, Robeco, and a pension fund for health care workers—came together in 2011 to create a Plan B investment facility. Collectively, these three firms have nearly $1 trillion in assets. They are now planning capital investments to build a Plan B economy, making the Netherlands the first country to do so.

After meeting with these firms in the fall of 2011, I flew to Zurich, where I’d been invited to talk with the Sustainable Asset Management team about a similar plan for Switzerland. As their name implies, they are already moving in the right direction.

More and more people are realizing the need to take climate change seriously. The recent spate of extreme weather events is driving some of this concern. During 2011, beginning in late March with an extremely active tornado season, followed by extensive flooding in the Mississippi basin, then heat, drought, and wildfires literally burning out of control in Texas, and then Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, we saw the news channels become weather channels. Coverage of the destruction from tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and in Joplin, Missouri, went on for weeks, as did that of Hurricane Irene and the damage on the East Coast. A week after the hurricane, many who lost power remained without it. That fall, a surprise late-October snowstorm in the northeast dumped up to ten inches of snow in New York when leaves were still on the trees. Falling limbs left millions of people without power, some for up to two weeks.

Then came the Great Drought of 2012. The U.S. corn crop withered away, shrinking by 29 percent. This drove up food prices worldwide. As parts of the Mississippi River dried up, shipping was curtailed. Thousands of ranchers, with no grass and no feed, liquidated their herds. The secretary of agriculture prayed for rain, but his plea went unanswered.

Even as the heartland withered, late October 2012 brought Superstorm Sandy to the eastern United States. It was not a particularly strong hurricane, but it was huge, with a 1,000-mile wingspan. Instead of coming up the U.S. East Coast from the Caribbean and then moving in a northeasterly direction as storms typically do, the hurricane made an abrupt left turn—with the center of the storm coming inland across New Jersey.

The combination of the storm surge, the strong winds, and the heavy rain had a devastating effect in the middle Atlantic states, from Virginia through New Jersey and New York into Rhode Island. For the first time in recorded history, parts of southern Manhattan were under several feet of water. Seawater poured into the New York subway tunnels, leading to a closure of the system. Although the final figures are not in yet, it seems likely that Sandy will be by far the most destructive storm in U.S. history, exceeding the damage, for example, from Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Just as the incident with Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor altered the future of nuclear power, so too will more extreme weather events alter our thinking about burning fossil fuels. Carbon emissions are falling fast in the United States, the world’s largest economy.

We may soon reach a tipping point on the climate issue, much as we did with cigarette smoking beginning a generation or so ago. In 2011, Germany got over 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources; in 2012, it was roughly 23 percent. Electricity is now being generated from wind on a commercial scale in more than eighty countries. The cost of solar electricity is dropping fast worldwide. Cities around the world are carving out new bicycle lanes, introducing bike-share programs to encourage biking instead of driving. We are making progress!

As in earlier times and positions, I am still able to enjoy intersections with history. One came via a phone call from Roger Payne, one of the world’s leading authorities on whales, in 2010. He was going to be in town and wanted to schedule lunch. I was eager to do so. In the late 1960s, Roger and researcher Scott McVay discovered and described the long, complex songs of Humpback whales at mating time and published a definitive cover article in Science.

A week or so later he called back and said he was also trying to have lunch with Maya Lin, who was going to be in Washington, but she could only do it on the day that he and I were planning lunch. He wondered if it would be okay if the three of us had lunch. I said by all means. This was an unexpected opportunity to sit down with two people I had long admired.

During lunch, I asked Maya how long it had taken her to come up with the concept for the Vietnam War Memorial once she visited the site. She said it took only three or four hours. It was one of those things that came almost immediately. She then took her initial visualization and translated it into the winning design. There were 1,442 designs submitted in the competition, all anonymously by number. Maya had concluded, I later learned, that if it were known that she was of Asian extraction, a female, and a student (at Yale), she could not possibly have won.

New experiences do not come often to someone who has been around as long as I have, but they do still occur. In March 2012, we received a handwritten letter with a check for half a million dollars. It was from Henry Ingwersen, a ninety-year-old retired Air Force Colonel. Like us, he was concerned about the future of civilization. He said he didn’t know if the world could be saved, but if anyone could do it, he thought it would be us. He had sent us his life savings.

Another once-in-a-lifetime experience came in October of 2012 when we received a copy of Plan B 3.0 in Esperanto. For the younger among us, Esperanto is a language that was created to become the world’s lingua franca. But even as Esperanto was being promoted, English was taking over as the common language that tied the world together.

I was surprised because I’d forgotten we had signed a contract for an Esperanto edition. Although I’ve been published in over forty languages, until this, Basque was perhaps the most exotic language in which I’d been published. But Esperanto? Who would have guessed!

As I look back over the twelve years since starting EPI at retirement age, it was clearly the right decision. The combination of being freed of the management responsibilities of a large organization and having such a talented support team here at EPI has enabled me to focus on making these years among the most productive and satisfying ones in the half century I have been in Washington. And, no, I am not yet done.