"Brown understands well the precariousness of human civilization ...[and] expresses it in patient and telling detail that addresses the intelligence and humanity of the reader." —Bryan Walker on Celsias.com
Earth Policy Institute had a big, busy year in 2012 with the launch of Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester Brown. We also released new Plan B Updates, Data Highlights, Eco-Economy Indicators, and Book Bytes. Meanwhile, another book has been taking shape: Lester’s autobiography, Breaking New Ground: A Personal History. (We are looking at a Fall 2013 release, so be on the look out!)
Publishing and Book Releases
Our books are the foundation for reaching a global constituency. Thus far our books have been published in 34 languages. Major languages (more than 50 million speakers) include English, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi (India), Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Ukrainian. Other languages include Bulgarian, Catalan, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Hungarian, Malayalam, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian, Swedish, and Vietnamese, for a total of 137 contracts. We have even been translated into Esperanto!
Whenever possible, Lester likes to launch the various language editions. Early in 2012 he was inducted into the Kyoto Environmental Hall of Fame. While in Japan, he launched the Japanese edition of World on the Edge. From Japan, he flew to Beijing to launch the Chinese edition. In October he launched the Spanish edition in Colombia via video. And in late November, he launched the Dutch and Italian editions of Full Planet, Empty Plates.
In addition to launching books, Lester gives a number of talks each year. In 2012, for instance, he spoke at a conference on energy hosted by the New York Times. Harvard University gave him their first Environmental Alumni Award. And the University of Maryland asked him to give the inaugural talk for a new environmental lecture series. He also spoke at the 40th anniversary event for the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth and at a major food conference in Milan.
Since we opened our doors in May 2001, EPI has generated over 46,000 news clips, about 17 for each weekday. Institute researchers have given well over 600 interviews for radio and television, including national and international networks such as ABC, NBC, Bloomberg, the BBC World Service, Voice of America, CNN International, Al Jazeera, CCTV (China), and NHK TV (Japan).
This year, we entered the visual world by making a five-minute video summary of Full Planet, Empty Plates. It has been posted to the Institute website as well as on the sites for Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, our publisher W.W. Norton, and many of the blogs that usually post EPI’s research. Our international publishers are now beginning to post the video on their sites as well. We also are posting shorter clips on specific subjects from the book. Our researchers also developed slideshow presentations that go along with the book.
Big Stories of 2012
This year, with the drought and heat toasting much of the United States, EPI’s team closely monitored the corn crop. On July 19, we held a press teleconference where Lester stated that the USDA’s estimate of a corn harvest shortfall of 12 percent was likely to be closer to 25 percent. The Institute’s findings meshed with reports from farmers who were expecting exceptionally poor harvests. On Monday, June 23, the Guardian (U.K.) asked Lester to write an op-ed on the harvest, prices, and weather for a Tuesday release on its environment page.
The op-ed caught the attention of news organizations including NPR’s Talk of the Nation, the Leonard Lopate Show, Alertnet, and Bloomberg television. In addition, an interview with Lester about world food security was published in IFC’s magazine, Handshake, resulting in additional articles quoting Lester.
Janet Larsen’s Update, “Meat Consumption in China Now Double That in the United States,” also garnered global attention. Janet found that a quarter of all meat produced worldwide is now eaten in China. Since 1978, China’s meat consumption has risen from 8 million tons to 71 million tons. The piece was reposted on major blogs including Sustainablog, the Economist, and the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. Robert Samuelson cited it in his May 13 Washington Post Op-Ed piece "The Boom on the Farm."
Janet also wrote “The Dust Bowl Revisited,” an Update coinciding with the November release of Ken Burn’s PBS dust bowl series. Shortly afterwards, Thom Hartmann had her on his television program, “The Big Picture,” to discuss it and the World Bank's warning of a 7 degree temperature rise by 2100.
The tsunami that wiped out a number of cities in Japan and created a meltdown in the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 resulted in all of the country’s nuclear reactors being shut down for a time. Matt Roney covered this in an Update entitled “Fukushima Meltdown Hastens Decline of Nuclear Power.” Fukushima led some European countries to phase out their nuclear programs entirely, while other countries were proceeding cautiously with their nuclear program. As Matt noted, the world’s fleet of reactors is aging and new plants are suffering construction delays and cost increases, likely presaging a long-term decline in reliance on nuclear power.
Social networking is an important part of our media outreach strategy of disseminating releases, data, and any information that the research team releases for the public. The tools we use include blogs, RSS feeds, public and media listservs, networking sites, podcasts, Facebook, and Twitter. This year we also launched a website designed specifically for mobile devices.
Twitter has become an essential tool for promoting events, releases, and our books. We post 10 times per week on average and have around 125 followers added each month. Our Facebook Fan Page has also grown exponentially. Our newest social media venture is Pinterest, a virtual bulletin board. On this visual site, we post photos of EPI’s books, graphs that accompany our releases, and videos. We are excited to see what this new venture brings.
Twitter and Facebook are consistently among the top referrals back to our website, along with international Google search engines and our Wikipedia page. When Googling for issues on which we work, EPI is often at the top of the list due in large measure to the over 275,000 links to our website. As to be expected, our publications and data are a major attraction. On average, our website has 24,000 unique visitors per day spending about 11 minutes per session.
We live-tweet our press conferences, providing an easily accessible channel for journalists, allowing them to repost our content. Notable reporters include David Roberts of Grist, who regularly posts direct links to our website, and John Vidal of the Guardian. Other notables who retweet and re-post include Daryl Hannah, Sean Ono Lennon, Anca Novacovici, Occupy Wall Street, Earth Business Network, Greenpeace USA, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, Sustainablog, and Treehugger.
Podcasts of our releases and book chapter introductions generate an average of 280 monthly downloads. The most downloaded podcasts in 2012 were the press teleconference for the release of Full Planet, Empty Plates, the Update on meat consumption in China, and the Indicator on wind power. (Click here for our newest podcast.)
And last, through our blog, we give readers insight into the Institute beyond its research. For instance, in addition to the blogs on World Water Week and Rio+20, were ones on Lester’s trip to Harvard to receive the first-ever Alumni Environmental Sustainability Award and a post on how some people are working to promote Plan B.
Plan B Teams
We are heartened by the continuing interest in the issues on which we work. Most especially, we are thrilled by the number of people who have purchased five or more copies of our books and distribute them to others. We have dubbed these people our Plan B Team. Total membership is now more than 4,000. Ted Turner is the de facto captain, with his distribution of some 4,200 copies to the Fortune 500 CEOs, state governors, the U.S. Congress, university presidents, heads of state, ministers of environment, ministers of energy, ministers of agriculture, heads of the major environmental NGOs, the major media outlets, and, perhaps most uniquely, to each of the world’s billionaires.
We are working on new releases all of the time so stay tuned!
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