Breaking New Ground: A Personal History


Lester R. Brown

Press Release

For Immediate Release           

Contact: Reah Janise Kauffman
202-496-9290 x 12
rjk (at)

A Personal History

By Lester R. Brown

In January 1964, U.S. News & World Report featured an article “Why Hunger is to be the World’s No. 1 Problem,” based on a book, Man, Land and Food, by Lester R. Brown, a young unknown analyst at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The article said, “For the first time, a careful study of world food supplies has been matched with the facts of expanding world population.” It was this groundbreaking study that launched his career as “one of great pioneer environmentalists.”

In Breaking New Ground: A Personal History (W.W. Norton & Company) Brown recounts his life story as a founder of the global environmental movement. He recognized the process of globalization well before the term existed and helped define sustainable development. Brown spent his life analyzing the state of the planet through an interdisciplinary lens. The first in his family to graduate from elementary school, he reveals what inspired him—and the millions who have read his books—to become environmentally active.

Brown, whom the Washington Post praised as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers,” built his understanding of the environment from the ground up. His entrepreneurial skills surfaced early during his youth working on the family’s farm in southern New Jersey. Even while excelling in school, he launched with his younger brother a tomato growing operation that by 1958 was producing 1.5 million pounds of tomatoes.

While on a brief assignment for the USDA in India in 1965, he pieced together the early clues of an impending famine. His urgent warning to the U.S. and Indian governments set in motion the largest food rescue effort in history, saving millions of lives. This near miss by India led it to adopt new agricultural policies that he helped to shape.

Brown went on to advise governments internationally and to found the Worldwatch and Earth Policy institutes, two major non-profit environmental research organizations. Through these organizations and his writings, including 51 books published in 42 languages, Brown has helped us understand the interconnections among such issues as overpopulation, water shortages, and climate change, and their effect on food security. His 1995 book Who Will Feed China? led to a broad restructuring of China’s agricultural policy.

Never one to focus only on the problem, he always proposes pragmatic solutions to stave off the unfolding ecological crises that endanger our future. Under the auspices of the Earth Policy Institute, which he founded in 2001, Brown has been offering responses to the major environmental challenges facing us today. His plan to save civilization—Plan B—has four components: stabilize population, eradicate poverty, cut carbon emissions 80 percent, and restore the economy’s natural support systems, including forests, grasslands, and fisheries.

From a poor, but ambitious young man to a scholar and leader, Lester Brown inspires people to get to know the world around them. Breaking New Ground is all the more engaging because of his drive to make the world a better place.


Lester R. Brown is the founder of the Earth Policy and Worldwatch institutes and has been honored with numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the United Nations Environment Prize, and 25 honorary degrees. He lives in Washington, DC.


TITLE: Breaking New Ground
AUTHOR: Lester R. Brown
PUBLICATION DATE: October 21, 2013
PAGE COUNT: 192, with 16 pages of photographs
ISBN: 978-0-393-24006-1
PRICE: $24.95 hardcover