EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
Lester R. Brown

Chapter 11. Plan B: Rising to the Challenge: Introduction

Plan B is a massive mobilization to deflate the global economic bubble before it reaches the bursting point. Keeping the bubble from bursting will require an unprecedented degree of international cooperation to stabilize population, climate, water tables, and soilsand at wartime speed. Indeed, in both scale and urgency the effort required is comparable to the U.S. mobilization during World War II.

Our only hope now is rapid systemic change—change based on market signals that tell the ecological truth. This means restructuring the tax system: lowering income taxes and raising taxes on environmentally destructive activities, such as fossil fuel burning, to incorporate the ecological costs. Unless we can get the market to send signals that reflect reality, we will continue making faulty decisions as consumers, corporate planners, and government policymakers. Ill-informed economic decisions and the economic distortions they create can lead to economic decline.

Plan B is the only viable option simply because Plan A, continuing with business as usual, offers an unacceptable outcome—continuing environmental degradation and disruption and a bursting of the economic bubble. The warning signals are coming more frequently, whether they be collapsing fisheries, melting glaciers, or falling water tables. Thus far the wake-up calls have been local, but soon they could become global. Massive imports of grain by China—and the rise in food prices that would likely follow—could awake us from our lethargy.

But time is running out. Bubble economies, which by definition are artificially inflated, do not continue indefinitely. Our demands on the earth exceed its regenerative capacity by a wider margin with each passing day.

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