Mobilizing to Save Civilization - Lester Brown's latest book - downloadable
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2008 23:04:57 -0500
Subject: Rachel's #950: Mobilizing to Save Civilization - Lester
Brown's latest book - downloadable
Rachel's Democracy & Health News #950
"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"
Thursday, March 13, 2008................Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click
PLAN B 3.0 -- MOBILIZING TO SAVE CIVILIZATION
By Tim Montague
Have you ever wondered what it would actually take to transform our
global economy into a much cleaner, greener and hopefully sustainable
machine? Well, Lester Brown of the http://www.earth-policy.org/Earth
Policy Institute has done
the math and his new book,
http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PB3/index.htmPlan B 3.0 --
Mobilizing to Save
Civilization is the result. Whatever your interest -- addressing the
needs of low-income people, improving human health, restoring
ecosystems, fighting global warming, or reducing industrial
contamination of our air, land and water -- Plan B 3.0 will be a
fountain of ideas and inspiration for your work.
As Brown says, "No one can argue today that we do not have the
resources to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and protect the
earth's natural resource base. We can get rid of hunger, illiteracy,
disease, and poverty, and we can restore the earth's soils, forests,
and fisheries." Brown shows us how we can shift resources from
wasteful military spending to his Plan B economy that creates justice
and sustainable prosperity for all the earth's people, a "World that
will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized."
So what's the plan? The first priority is to realize that we are at a
unique period in history. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Brown
reminds us, found that humans surpassed the sustainable use of all
earth's ecosystem services in 1980. In 2007 we exceeded those limited
resources (water, soils, forests, fisheries and so on) by 25 percent.
In short, we're cooking the planet, melting the polar ice caps,
sucking dry our fresh water supplies, chopping down our forests, over
fishing our seas and polluting every corner of the earth with
industrial and human waste. This isn't news to Rachel's readers, but
if you hanker for a current global analysis of just how threadbare the
earth's life support systems have become, Brown provides it. Many of
the book's informative tables and the entire text of the book are
available for FREE download at the
Brown makes the case that growing food insecurity is tied to peak oil
and rising oil prices (the price of oil was less than $50 in 2004, now
it's over $100). As oil becomes scarcer, the industrialized nations
have started using food crops for fuel (ethanol from corn, for
example) which has caused grain prices to surge. Corn prices more than
doubled from 2005 to 2007 and world grain stocks have been declining
for seven of the last eight years, reaching a 34-year low in 2007.
The first years of the new millennium have witnessed the resurgence of
world hunger which had steadily declined in the latter half of the
20th century. In 2007 the UN World Food Programme announced the
"18,000 children are now dying each day from hunger and related
causes." Many countries are now being destabilized by the combination
of rampant poverty, shredded ecosystems, and associated civil unrest.
The number of
failing states -- where governments can no
longer provide basic services and social chaos reigns -- grew from 7
in 2004 to 12 in 2007.
With his always-optimistic demeanor, Brown then sets forth Plan B, not
to save the planet, but to save civilization. We have to reduce global
greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2020 by investing heavily in
energy efficiency, renewable energy, and mass transit. We have to stop
deforesting the earth, plant millions of trees, and restore our ailing
fisheries and farmland. And we have to greatly improve the lives of
poor people with free health care, family planning, school lunch and
literacy programs. And we have to do all this with wartime urgency.
The good news is that eradicating poverty and restoring basic
ecological health to the planet (from humanity's perspective) is
doable. It won't be easy, it will require massive mobilization at all
levels of society and government. As Brown says, "There are many
things we do not know about the future. But one thing we do know is
that business as usual will not continue for much longer. Massive
change is inevitable. Will the change come because we move quickly to
restructure the economy or because we fail to act and civilization
begins to unravel?"
Plan B -- a plan of hope
Plan B is a plan for restructuring our global economy and financial
priorities to achieve four goals: eradicating poverty, stabilizing
population, stabilizing climate, and restoring earth's ecosystems.
Addressing any of these problems in isolation is a ticket for failure,
Eradicating Poverty and Stabilizing Population
Like Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Brown believes that
global poverty is relatively affordable and doable (see
Lifting over a billion people out of povertywill
slow population growth and greatly improve economic productivity.
China reduced the number of people living in poverty from 648 million
in 1981 to 218 million in 2001, a two-thirds reduction, by rapid
economic development and focused social programs that target those
most in need. The cornerstones of reducing poverty are universal
primary education, adult literacy programs, health care and family
With an emphasis on serving girls and women, the Global South can
rapidly stabilize population growth, which is a foundation for
economic development. As education rises, birth rates fall. Family
planning and better health care fuel this upward spiral creating an
economic engine to take a country from less developed to developed.
Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are examples Brown gives of countries
that have successfully applied this formula.
Stabilizing Climate -- Restoring the Earth's Systems
To stop global warming we have to stop dumping heat-trapping gases
into the atmosphere and use less energy to do more. We need a carbon-
free economy. We must simultaneously use less energy, phase out all
uses of fossil fuels, and restore natural carbon sinks, especially
capture and storage (carbon
sequestration) is not an option, neither is nuclear energy -- Brown
rules these out as too expensive.
Brown shows us that, using today's technology,
(cradle to cradle design), and energy efficient
buildings and appliances, we can keep our global energy demand
constant for the next fifteen years, while population and economic
We can replace virtually all fossil fuels -- certainly all coal, and
oil -- with wind, solar and geothermal sources; Plan B allows for some
natural gas combustion. Each of these sources of renewable energy
ALONE can power all of civilization. Brown reports that Stanford
University scientists concluded that harnessing just one-fifth of the
world's wind resources would generate seven times our global
Taken together a renewable energy grid is totally feasible with
today's technology and can be implemented in less than fifteen years.
Yes, we have to convert idled automobile plants to manufacture wind
turbines and solar cells en masse; which of course will create
millions of high wage green collar jobs. This isn't rocket science --
it's a no-brainer win-win for people, profits and the planet.
Cars running on gasoline and biofuels will be relics of the past in a
carbon-neutral economy. If we use biofuels at all, it will be by
burning them to generate electricity which is ten times more efficient
than converting crops to liquid fuels, according to Brown. When you
consider that filling the tank of an SUV just one time with ethanol
from corn consumes enough food to feed a person for an entire year,
you know something is wrong.
Going carbon-free also means greatly reducing our use of wood for fuel
(in the developing world) and paper (in the developed countries).
Cutting the remaining boreal forests and tropical rain-forests for
cooking fuel, Kleenex, junk mail catalogs and copy paper won't do.
Recycling just 50% of all paper, as South Korea does, could reduce
global wood pulp consumption by a third. Wood and other carbon-based
cooking fuels can be replaced by low-cost ($10) solar cookers.
In the final chapter Brown explains what all this will cost and how
society can pay for it. Here's what the
Plan B Budget
Goal....................................Funding ($ billions)
Basic Social Goals
...Universal primary education................. 10
...Eradication of illiteracy.................... 4
...School lunch for the poor.................... 6
...Assistance to preschool children............. 4
...Family planning............................. 17
...Universal health care....................... 33
...Closing the condom gap....................... 3
Earth Restoration Goals
...Planting trees to reduce flooding............ 6
...Planting trees to sequester carbon.......... 20
...Protecting topsoil and cropland............. 24
...Restoring rangelands......................... 9
...Restoring fisheries......................... 13
...Protecting biological diversity............. 31
...Stabilizing water tables.................... 10
Grand Total.................................. 190
Tax and Subsidy Shifting
Brown says we need to invest 190 billion dollars per year to stabilize
the climate, restore ecosystem services and greatly improve living
standards in the Global South. This is one fifth of the annual
budget and one third of the US military budget.
By systematically shifting taxes onto and subsidies away from coal,
oil, and nuclear, we can fuel the massive positive change we seek.
Brown proposes a worldwide carbon-tax of $240 per ton to be phased-in
at the rate of $20 per year for the next twelve years. If the gas tax
in Europe were considered a carbon-tax, the current average tax of
$4.40 per gallon would translate into a carbon-tax of $1,815 per ton.
Tax shifting is becoming the norm in Europe. Germany successfully
applied tax shifting from labor to energy starting in 1999. By 2003
they reduced annual C02 emissions by 20 million tons and helped to
create 250,000 additional jobs. Similar plans have been applied in
France, Italy, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.
And so, "It is decision time. Like earlier civilizations that got into
environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual
and watch our modern economy decline and eventually collapse, or we
can consciously move onto a new path, one that will sustain economic
progress. In this situation, no action is a de facto decision to stay
on the decline-and-collapse path."
Plan B 3.0 -- Mobilizing to Save Civilization, by Lester Brown is
available for free download
I am working on creating wildlife habitat that is off-limits to
humans ("pure habitat"). Want to help? (I spent the previous 8
years fighting auto dependence and road construction.)
Please don't put a cell phone next to any part of your body that you are fond of!
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