"Lester Brown has produced another 'planetary survey' book that tells us how to get off the wrecking train we are on by courtesy of a dozen environmental assaults such as climate change. The better news (and there’s plenty) is that turning problems into opportunities generally puts money into our pockets." —Norman Myers, 21st Century School, University of Oxford on World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse
Ten years ago, when we launched the Earth Policy Institute in May 2001, we hoped we could make a difference by offering solutions to the problems facing the world. We hoped we could help to turn the tide toward what we called in our first book an “eco-economy.” Progress has been made, but there is much yet to be done. Several years ago we designed a global roadmap for saving civilization. We called it Plan B, which aims to stabilize climate, stabilize population, eradicate poverty, and restore the earth’s natural support systems. Several years later, we remain the only organization with a plan to reverse the environmental trends that are undermining our future.
As a small organization with a global mission, we capitalize on the synergy between a worldwide network of book publishers, the communications media, and the Internet. To date we have published eight books, the most recent of which is World on the Edge, that have yielded 128 editions in various languages. Supplementing the books are the near-weekly releases of Plan B Updates, Book Bytes, Data Highlights, and Eco-Economy Indicators. Our clipping service picks up an average of seven online pieces a day, worldwide, that we have written or in which we are cited.
The Plan B concept has gotten a huge boost in recent weeks from the film, Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. Produced by award-winning filmmakers Marilyn and Hal Weiner, it premiered on PBS at the end of March.
Research Program Top
Combing through mountains of data and using a unique interdisciplinary analytical approach, our researchers have been on the cutting edge of a number of issues, including the new geopolitics of food scarcity, what melting glaciers and ice sheets mean for food production, the dilemma of ethanol: fuel versus food, paving farmland for cars, the growing trend of environmental refugees, the flawed economics of nuclear power, and—even more important—a global plan for saving civilization.
The wealth of data our researchers compile is placed on our Web site for use by researchers, reporters, professors, students, and other decision-makers. Renewable energy dominates the research agenda because it is the backbone of a Plan B energy economy. A few years ago, our researchers started seeing a growing opposition to new coal-fired power plants in the United States. Digging into this, we discovered what was becoming a de facto ban on new coal-fired power plants in the United States and wrote a Plan B Update highlighting this new information, which was picked up by the media.
Our team also saw an emerging shift toward renewable energy projects and released an Update showing how this new energy economy is emerging in the United States.
We have also written about what we see as the real security issues, which are far more threatening than military strikes or terrorism. These security issues relate to food scarcity, soil erosion, falling water tables, rising temperatures, melting glaciers and ice sheets, rising seas and more powerful storms, and environmental refugees.
Outreach Effort Top
Our comprehensive outreach strategy is to maintain a steady flow of information about developing a Plan B economy that encourages appropriate action at all levels of society. We do this through having our books published in as many languages as possible, which currently includes all the world’s major languages (those with more than 50 million speakers): English, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi (India), Polish, Portuguese (Portugal and Brazil), Russian, Spanish (Latin America and Spain), Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. Other languages include Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Hungarian, Malayalam, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian, and Swedish.
Another part of this effort is working closely with the world's major news organizations. Since we began operation, we have generated over 25,000 news clips. Our researchers have given more than 500 interviews for radio and television, including national and international networks such as ABC, the BBC World Service, Voice of America, CNN International, Al Jazeera, CCTV, and NHK TV. They have also been interviewed for dozens of documentaries. Recently our articles have been published in Foreign Policy magazine, the Guardian, Mother Earth News, and the Outlook section of the Washington Post. We also are regularly posted on a number of Web portals, blogs, and news and NGO Web sites, including Treehugger, Grist, and Sustainablog.
People in Action Top
The Institute’s goal is to generate public awareness and support for Plan B. That goal is being picked up by people around the world and implemented in a number of ways. The Action Center section on our Web site (www.earth-policy.org) provides many examples of these encouraging efforts.
In addition, our publications are used by scholars, political leaders, corporate CEOs, students, and other decision-makers. Hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities have adopted our books for course use, including some using it as the “book in common” for incoming freshmen. And 3,743 individuals have purchased five or more copies of the Institute’s books for personal distribution. We call them the Plan B Team. Ted Turner became captain of the Team through his purchase of some 5,000 copies for distribution to the Fortune 500 CEOs, state governors, Congress, university presidents, heads of state, ministers of environment, ministers of energy, ministers of agriculture, religious leaders, heads of the major environmental NGOs, and major media outlets.
Foreign Policy published an article by Lester Brown on “The New Geopolitics of Food” as its cover story in the May/June 2011 issue. Three Web sites—the Daily Beast, Mother Jones, and Business Insider—selected it as one of their top five articles of the week.
In mid-May 2011, the New York Times cited Matt Roney’s article on the geothermal potential in Japan. The Institute’s Update “Time to Rethink Japan’s Energy Future” was the first to weigh in on this unharnessed energy in Japan.
In March 2011, PBS launched a nationwide airing of Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, a film produced by Marilyn and Hal Weiner, award-winning film directors. Narrated by Matt Damon, the film was based on Lester Brown’s Plan B book series.
Inspired by EPI, Junko Edahiro in Japan founded Japan for Sustainability, an environmental NGO whose mission is to disseminate information on how Japanese companies and the government are building an eco-economy.
In January 2009, NHK, Japan’s leading broadcast network, released a 90-minute special documentary broadcast based exclusively on a lengthy interview with Lester Brown about Plan B. The program aired numerous times, attracting a wide viewership.
A substantial initiative in 2008 was the research team’s summary of Plan B into an 8-page full-color report, entitled “Time for Plan B: Cutting Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2020.” The booklet has been translated into German, French, Farsi, and Spanish and distributed at numerous conferences.
TEMA, a Turkish NGO, distributed 4,250 copies of the Turkish edition of Plan B 3.0 to members of Parliament, universities, political leaders, volunteers, the media, mayors, libraries, and NGOs.
In 2007 the Institute took the lead in the public debate on the biofuels/ethanol issue with its groundbreaking Update, “Distillery Demand for Grain to Fuel Cars Vastly Understated: World May Be Facing Highest Grain Prices in History.”
In 2006, worldwide media attention focused on the Institute’s Update on bottled water. Although other groups had released studies on bottled water, EPI’s analysis describing the energy intensity and environmental costs provided a fresh focus.
The Farsi edition of Eco-Economy was awarded “best nonfiction book” published in Iran in 2002 by the Peka Institute (an organization of leading Iranian publishers).
Thanks to You
We have had some successes over these 10 years, but there is still a long way to go. You have been an important part of our success. And we want to thank you for your support. Without your help, by purchasing one or more of our books, by reading our materials and passing them onto colleagues and friends, and by making donations, we could not have done so much in such a short period of time with such a small staff.