Free Forum Q&A – LESTER BROWN, Founder of Worldwatch and Earth Policy Institute author of PLAN B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save CivilizationWritten on July 9th, 2015
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.
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.”
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.
Originally Aired: 12/30/12
Where do you think the most important changes need to take place to turn things around in terms of big issues like the economy, the environment, and social justice?
Some might say climate change is the critical global issue so it must be clean energy. Others might say nothing will make as much difference for the world’s people as educating and empowering girls and women. Closer to home, a case can be made that public financing of political campaigns would have the most impact on all such issues by making it possible for the power of the United States to become a greater force for good.
All good answers, but this week’s guest gives another answer – and its one that I share. Frances Moore Lappe, who has herself been a force for good at least since the publication of the phenomenal best-seller Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, says that the greatest impact would follow from changing our minds.
In her 18th book, ECOMIND: CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK, TO CREATE THE WORLD WE WANT, Lappé argues that much of what is wrong with the world, from eroding soil to eroding democracies, results from ways of thinking that are out of sync with human nature and nature’s rhythms. Humans are doers, she says. But our capacity for doing is undermined by seven “thought traps” that leave us mired in fear, guilt, and despair — none of which are motivators to action.
Drawing on the latest research in climate studies, anthropology, and neuroscience, she weaves her analysis together with stories of real people the world over, who, having shifted some basic thought patterns, now shift the balance of power in our world. Chapter-by-chapter, Lappé takes us from “thought trap” to “thought leap,” and with each shift, challenges become opportunities.
PAUL GILDING says it’s time to stop worrying about climate change. We need instead to brace for impact because global crisis is no longer avoidable. He believes this Great Disruption started in 2008, with spiking food and oil prices and melting ice caps. It is not simply about fossil fuels and carbon footprints. We have come to the end of Economic Growth, Version 1.0, a world economy based on consumption and waste, where we lived beyond the means of our planet’s ecosystems and resources
According to Gilding, the coming decades will see loss, suffering, and conflict as our planetary overdraft is paid; however, they will also bring out the best humanity can offer: compassion, innovation, resilience, and adaptability.
Gilding says we must fight-and win-what he calls The One Degree War to prevent catastrophic warming of the earth. He believes the crisis offers us a chance to replace our addiction to growth with an ethic of sustainability, and an unmatched business opportunity as old industries collapse and new companies reshape our economy. In the aftermath of the Great Disruption, we will measure “growth” not by quantity of stuff but quality of life.
PAUL GILDING is an independent writer, advisor and advocate for action on climate change and sustainability. He has been involved with and led activist campaigns on a wide variety of social and environmental issues and served as Executive Director, Greenpeace Australia and Greenpeace International. Gilding founded Ecos Corporation in 1995, consulting to some of the world’s largest corporations on issues of sustainability until its sale in 2008. His first book is THE GREAT DISRUPTION: Why the Climate Crisis will Bring on the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.