Free Forum Q&A – LESTER BROWN, Founder of Worldwatch and Earth Policy Institute author of PLAN B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

Written on July 9th, 2015

LB-Plan B4.0



Originally Aired October 2009

We are in a race between tipping points in natural and political systems.
Which will come first? Can we mobilize the political will to phase out coal-fired power plants before the melting of the Greenland ice sheet becomes irreversible? Can we halt deforestation in the Amazon basin before the forest becomes vulnerable to fire and is destroyed? Can we cut carbon emissions fast enough to save the Himalayan glaciers that feed the major rivers of Asia? Can we win this race?
LESTER BROWN thinks we can…

In his book, PLAN B 4.0: MOBILIZING TO SAVE CIVILIZATION, BROWN lays out the symptoms, the diagnosis, and the cure. He estimates that we could solve all the world’s greatest problems for $200B a year – less than half the US defense budget.

PLAN B 4.0 is a comprehensive plan for reversing the trends that are undermining our future. Its four overriding goals are to stabilize climate, stabilize population, eradicate poverty, and restore the earth’s damaged ecosystems. Failure to reach any one of these goals will likely mean failure to reach the others as well.It’s time for Plan B: an all-out response at wartime speed proportionate to the magnitude of the threats facing civilization.


Written on January 28th, 2015
Aired 10/03/10 THOMAS GEOGHEGAN, a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School, is a labor lawyer with Despres, Schwartz and Geoghagen in Chicago. He has been a staff writer and contributing writer to The New Republic, and his work has appeared in many other journals. Geoghagen ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary to succeed Rahm Emanuel in Congress a candidate, and is the author of six books including WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?, THE SECRET LIVES OF CITIZENS, and, most recently, WERE YOU BORN ON THE WRONG CONTINENT? In his new book, WERE YOU BORN ON THE WRONG CONTINENT?, today's guest makes a strong case that European social democracies - particularly Germany - have some lessons and models that might make life a lot more livable. Not only that, they could help us keep our jobs. In comparison to the U.S., the Germans have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, nursing care, and childcare. But you've heard the arguments for years about how those wussy Europeans can't compete in a global economy. You've heard that so many times, you might believe it. But like so many things, the media repeats endlessly, it's just not true. According to Geoghagen, "Since 2003, it's not China but Germany, that colossus of European socialism, that has either led the world in export sales or at least been tied for first. Even as we in the United States fall more deeply into the clutches of our foreign creditors-China foremost among them-Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all. And even as the Germans outsell the United States, they manage to take six weeks of vacation every year. They're beating us with one hand tied behind their back."

Q&A: Rebirth of US Manufacturing – James Fallows, Charles Fishman

Written on January 15th, 2015


Aired: 03/31/13

I do my best to question conventional wisdom, but I had heard and repeated the fact that the US had lost its manufacturing and it was never coming back so often that I assumed it must be true. But I pick up the December 2012 issue of the Atlantic magazine recently and two articles jump out at me – both declaring that manufacturing is re-emerging. James Fallows writes of US startups exploiting new technologies to speed up the process of design-to-product, and Charles Fishman writes about US corporations like GE moving production back to the US.

James Fallows’ article, Mr. China Comes to America, opens with these words: “For decades, every trend in manufacturing favored the developing world and worked against the Unites States. But new tools that greatly speed up development from idea to finished product encourage start-up companies to locate here, not in Asia.” That got my attention! Charles Fishman’s article The Insourcing Boom goes even a step further. It’s opening words: “After years of offshore production, General Electric is moving much of its far-flung appliance-manufacturing operations back home. It is not alone.”

I make no bones about the fact that I like to report good news, but I don’t want to make nice or play Pollyanna. This information from these reporters strikes me as the real thing and I’m only too glad to admit I may have prematurely buried “made in America”.


James Fallows

Charles Fishman


Written on December 25th, 2014

Aired: 12/23/12

Recorded: 10/17/12

When gas prices were at or near record highs a few months ago in the US, that got people’s attention. What about food prices? Have you noticed them rising? Are you making different choices in the supermarket? If not, it might be because of two things.
One, in America so much of our food is processed, packaged and marketed, that raw commodity prices make up only a fraction of the price of the food we buy. In other countries, especially the less developed ones, an increase in the price of rice or corn can have a major effect on how much a family can afford to eat. Two, Americans spend only 9% percent of their income on food, while millions around the world spend 50-70%. Millions of households now routinely schedule foodless days each week-days when they will not eat at all. A recent survey by Save the Children shows that 14% of families in Peru now have foodless days. India, 24%. Nigeria, 27%.

In his newest book, FULL PLANET, EMPTY PLATES, LESTER BROWN writes,
“The U.S. Great Drought of 2012 has raised corn prices to the highest level in history. The world price of food, which has already doubled over the last decade, is slated to climb higher, ushering in a new wave of food unrest. This year’s corn crop shortfall will accelerate the transition from the era of abundance and surpluses to an era of chronic scarcity. As food prices climb, the worldwide competition for control of land and water is intensifying. In this new world, access to food is replacing access to oil as an overriding concern of governments. Food is the new oil, land is the new gold. Welcome to the new geopolitics of food.”



Q&A: Chris Mooney – The Republican Brain

Written on October 22nd, 2014



Aired 05/16/12

Crazy though it may be, I assume many have accepted the fact that the Republican party has a problem with science and ultimately with evidence facts — reality. It is now a matter of politics for them to deny science. Among their presidential primary candidates, only Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney accept that warming is happening and humans are a contributing factor.

CHRIS MOONEY has been on this trail for years. In 2005, he wrote the best-selling
THE REPUBLICAN WAR ON SCIENCE. By the time their anti-science, anti-reality bias was established, MOONEY was asking a deeper question. Did science have anything to teach us about why? And it turns out, recently, science does. That brings us to Chris’s new book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.

According to Mooney, from climate change to evolution, the rejection of mainstream science among Republicans is growing. Not only that, so is denial of expert consensus on the economy, American history, foreign policy, and much more. Why won’t Republicans accept things that most experts agree on? Why do they fight facts? He writes that the political parties reflect personality traits and psychological needs -Republicans wedded to certainty, Democrats to novelty – and this is the root of our divide over reality.

Hopefully, understanding how or why Republicans deny science and facts should suggest ways to interact and work with that “reality” differently in order to be more effective moving forward.