Review of a publication by Lester R. Brown: Plan B: Rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble.

According to the author, who is considered to be one of our great gurus of ecology, the first serious fallout from degraded environmental trends will be continuing shortfalls in grain production, which will effect food supply. These shortfalls, which have already begun, are due to raising global temperatures and a world wide lowering of the water table. From there it just gets worse.

Plan B is intended to be a massive mobilization; an urgent worldwide effort to stablize population, raise water productivity, and stabilize climate. It strives to develop an eco-economy.

The book is divided into two parts; the problem and the solution (Plan B) You can take a look at it, as well as see how it is now being used, at .

here are some questions to think about:

Here are some notes on the book:


Many serious problems: NOT in US: Depletion of ground water resources in most populated lands:
China, India, Pakistan, Mexico Mid East, Africa

Desertification / deforestation/overgrazing China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Africa

Water shortage translates into food shortage

Grain shortage will probably come first; 6 countries: US, Canada, France, Australia, Argentina and Thailand Supply 90% of grain exports. China now beginning to import

AIDS: S Africa, S. Asia linkage of poverty and disease: corresponds to bubonic plague in Europe

Sees food as a national security issue
Sees poverty as breeding ground for terrorism

In calm manner, states we want to stop the bursting of the food economy bubble, which would Dramatically raise prices. But also suggests that “Business as usual” can eventually lead to:
Social breakdown (anarchy) lack of resources; failure of government to deal with lack of internal resources
Book: The Coming Anarchy Robert Kaplan


Where the government goes elsewhere to solve the resource problem: war
Book: Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict: Michael Klare

Note: Pentagon sees global warming as a national security issue
Note: Many wars have been energy (oil) related
Most disruptive environmental trends accelerating


Sees positive trends we have seen in past discussion: “good news”;

US method of controlling soil erosion offers a model to the rest of the world
Israel leader in drip irrigation technology, beginning to be followed by other countries

Lots of good ideas from worldwide solutions
All the solutions we need are already practiced somewhere in the world.
All we need to do is to get all the solutions practiced everywhere
This is a huge coordination problem; best handled by government


UK Gordon Brown & France Jacques Chirac: need war on poverty
economic data shows we could be successful in war on poverty:

military spending: Billions 2002 population (millions) US 343 291 US allies 205 Russia 60 China 42 1295 Iran/Iraq N Korea 12 Total excluding US 319 Additional annual Funding to reach Global social goals 62 < ------cost of winning war on poverty


Also need changes introduced by government:
Eg: creating an honest market; (consider environmental “externalities”)
Tax shifting from income to environmentally destructive practices

“Although shifting subsidies and taxes are at the heart of the energy transformation That is needed, other policy tools can increase efficiency or accelerate the shift to renewables and the Hydrogen based economy. These include formal as well as informal procurement policies. National and local Governments, corporations, universities, and individual home owners can buy green power.

In the US, even if green power is not offered locally, there is a National Green Power Partnership electricity market operated by the US EPA that enables anyone to buy green power” p. 174 The green power may not be delivered to your home, but it will be delivered somewhere, and will need to be produced somewhere, and is all cleared through EPA’s national computer bank. “One approach used by several countries, and by 36 states in the US s known as two way or net metering. Whenever consumer owned soalr cells or wind turbines produce more electricity than needed, a two way electric metre enables individual homeowners to sell electricity back to the utility.

Study after study has shown that it is possible to reduce carbon emissions whaile making money in the Process. Dupont, one of te world’s largest chemical producers, has already cut greenhouse gas emissions by 65%. In an annual report, the CEO reported savings of $1.5 billion in energy efficiency gains from 1990 to 2002. As more users signup, the incentive to produce green power at premium rates increases.


I don’t see a real “Plan” In the sense of a series of steps to arrive at the desired goal. We are severely limited at the first obstacle: American leadership, which at this time is in direct opposition to many of Brown’s great suggestions. But even with American leadership, there is still the coordination problem with other countries.

I see guidelines for making a plan:
“We now have some idea of what has to be done” p 218

“It is easy to spend hundreds of billions in response to terrorist threats, but the reality is that the resources needed to disrupt a modern economy are small, and a Department of Homeland Security, however heavily funded, provides only minimal protection from suicidal terrorists. The challenge is not just to provide a high tech military response to terrorism, but to build a global society that is environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and democratically based- one where there is hope for everyone. Such an effort would more effectively undermine the spread of terrorism than a doubling of military expenditures. [except the rich would not get richer]”