May 20, 2013


Where has the time gone? It seems like only a few weeks ago we were moving into our office space. The carpeting had not arrived and the floors were more than dusty. Only some furniture had arrived, mostly in Lester’s office, so the rest of us were using rented chairs and folding tables. The computers and phones, though, were set up and we were ready for action.

During our first month, we held three press conferences: one to launch the Institute, the next about the dust bowl challenging China, and the third on how President Bush’s energy plan totally neglected wind power.

That year we were off the blocks in alerting the world to issues that have mostly gotten worse: China’s worsening water shortages, rising sea level, the drop in the world grain harvest, and climate change.

We also published Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth by Lester Brown, in which he said that we needed to shift our focus from thinking the environment is a subset of the economy to realizing that the economy is a subset of the environment. As he astutely noted that if the economy is not compatible with the earth’s ecosystem both will suffer (and they are certainly incompatible right now).

The larger the economy becomes relative to the ecosystem, and the more it presses against the earth’s natural limits, the more destructive this incompatibility will be.
An environmentally sustainable economy—an eco-economy—requires that the principles of ecology establish the framework for the formulation of economic policy and that economists and ecologists work together to fashion the new economy.
(from Eco-Economy)

Eight books have followed Eco-Economy.  The Plan B series was designed to keep front and center an overarching plan that could be quickly implemented should world leaders have the political will to do something. Our most recent book is Full Planet, Empty Plates, and another is in the works (more about that in a later blog). And our books are not confined to English; they have been published in some 33 languages, including Esperanto!

Over the years, we have broadened the types of publications we do. Our newest are Data Highlights, such as a recent one by Emily Adams, “The Energy Game is Rigged: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Topped $620 Billion in 2011.”

Our original Plan B Updates provide fresh analyses such as Matt Roney’s on how overfishing threatens a critical link in the food chain. And Lester Brown’s Update on the world food situation.

Although we’ve seen a lot of discouraging action and inaction by governments and corporations, we’ve also seen a lot of encouraging and inspiring things taking shape, as evidenced in Janet Larsen’s two Updates on bike-sharing programs around the world.

While the majority of our material is in text or graphics, we also have terrific visuals. Just take a look at our Data Center. Looking for legitimate data? Check it out.

There is also a film by award-winning documentary producers Marilyn and Hal Weiner of Screenscope. Plan B has aired a number of times on national public television and is also available for purchase.

We’ve also posted a number of other videos on our website, including a synopsis of Full Planet, Empty Plates.

And, for you who like to listen while you drive, run, etc., we have podcasts of all of our reports.

Our intrepid researchers have also put together amazing slide shows summarizing the wealth of information in our books, such as for Full Planet, Empty Plates and World on the Edge, which are sometimes also translated into other languages.

As a small research organization, our goal is to provide the information that others will use to effect positive change. We have been seeing that happen and have collected a number of examples of what people have been inspired to do. For instance, after reading one of our books, people have changed careers, working to promote a sustainable future. Others have started organizations and movements to push for Plan B in their countries and cities. They have distributed books to policymakers and started reading groups. They have used our publications in the classroom, in lectures, and in churches. Our books have been used as the book in common at universities. They have even inspired songwriters and investment bankers.

Accomplishments outside of honorary degrees, awards, and publications? Well, after decades of running, Lester finally achieved national ranking as a ten-miler, placing third in the seventy-five to seventy-nine age group. He’s planning on ranking at least as high in the eighty and up category at next year’s Ten-Mile Cherry Blossom Race. Janet and her husband are preparing to celebrate the second birthday of their beautiful daughter, Mandolyn. Matt and his wife Sarah are getting ready to double their fun with twins. Reah Janise keeps knitting, mainly her own designs, and helps her husband with their community garden. (Already munching on lettuce!) Millicent and her sisters like to travel, recently taking their mother to Las Vegas to celebrate her birthday. They say they did everything but gamble! Julianne is preparing to start an evening master’s program in communications at Georgetown University, while Emily and her husband Steve are off sampling Parisian cuisine.

It’s been a great twelve years so far, especially since we are working to provide a plan to save civilization. Isn’t that what we all want?


Reah Janise Kauffman