Friday, November 11, 2005

Plan B

Lester Brown was the President of Worldwatch Institute until Chris Flavin took over a few years ago. Brown is now at the Earth Policy Institute.

Plan A is basically this. The capitalist nations will continue in their rather aggressive plundering of the Earth's resources until such a time that we are all plunged into war, population dieoff, and reduced standards of living. A general decline in civilization will emerge as the most powerful nations try to maintain their former hegemony. Those who find themselves at the feet of these plunderers will ally themselves with other plundering, yet still developing states, to slow and frustrate the more powerful nations by engaging in so called terrorism.

The final result is a dark, poisoned, and brutally unsatisfactory existence.

Those who think that Plan A might not be such a hot idea, would like to come up with another plan.

A Plan B.

Here is Lester's, and here is the opening of his book.

Two years ago I wrote a book entitled Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth, which argued that the environment was not part of the economy, as many corporate planners and economists believe, but instead that the economy was part of the environment. If we accept this latter view, I wrote, it follows that the economy must be designed so that it is compatible with theecosystem of which it is a part.

Eco-Economy described this environmentally compatible economy, noting that we now have the technologies to build it. Almost everything we need to do to build this new economy, I noted, is now being done by one or more countries in the world.

Plan B not only argues further for the restructuring of the economy, it points out why this needs to be done at wartime speed. Time is running out. Whereas historically we lived off the interest generated by the earth’s natural capital assets, we are now consuming those assetsthemselves.

We have built an environmental bubble economy, one where economic output is artificially inflated by overconsumption of the earth’s natural assets. The challenge today is to deflate the bubble before it bursts.

The most vulnerable economic sector may be food, where the bubble is most obvious. The overpumping of an aquifer to expand food production in the short run almostguarantees a drop in production in the long run. Although grain production has declined in some smaller countries, it is now declining in China. Over the last five years, China’s grain harvest has dropped from 390 million to 340 million tons—a drop equal to the grain harvest of Canada.

Thus far China has been covering its shortfall by drawing down stocks, but it can do so for only another year or two. When China enters the world grain market for massive imports, it will put heavy pressure on exportable grain supplies.

We will not have to read about this in the newspapers. We will see the effects at the supermarket checkout counter. Rising food prices may be the first global economic indicator to signal serious trouble between us, now 6.2 billion, and the earth’s ecosystem.

The scope of Plan B has been limited so that it will be short enough to be read by busy people. There is, for example, no chapter on biological diversity. Yet the principal policy recommendations—stabilizing population and stabilizing climate—are central to protecting the
diversity of life.

The traditional approach of protecting biological diversity by fencing off land as parks or preserves, as valuable as that is, is not enough. If we cannot stabilize population and if we cannot stabilize climate, there is not an ecosystem on earth we can save.

It is time to redefine security. Ironically, on September 11, 2001, I was in New York to give a luncheon talk on Eco-Economy to the science and environment staff of the NewYork Times. Needless to say, that talk was never delivered.

The shift in attention from environmental issues to terrorism that began on that fateful date continues to this day. The basic point of Plan B is that our principal threats are now more environmental than military. Terrorists are a threat. But the destruction wrought by terrorists is likely to be small compared with the worldwide suffering if the environmental bubble economy collapses.

And, finally, I do not have the credentials for writing this book. Nor do I know anyone who does. But someone had to give it a try.

Lester R. Brown
Earth Policy Institute
May 2003

If we had maybe 200 Lester Browns.

It wouldn't even be a fight.

But as good as this is,

It is just barely a beginning.

We must reshape our minds,

We must heal ourselves of the pathology of nationalism,

We must reorder our very sense of being,

And we must toss out most of our beliefs and ideas,

as we move forward into this sea of unknowing.

For we cannot know what the wind sees,

and we cannot see the wind write its song

when the night is still,

and the dark walks weeping.

Reformers - political, social, and religious - will only cause more sorrow for man unless man understands the workings of his own mind.

In the understanding of the total process of the mind, there is a radical, inward revolution, and from that inward revolution springs the actions of true cooperation, which is not cooperation with a pattern, with authority, with somebody who "knows": When you know how to co-operate because there is this inward revolution, then you will also know when not to cooperate, which is really very important, perhaps more important.

We now cooperate with any person who offers a reform, a change, which only perpetuates conflict and misery, but if we can know what it is to have the spirit of cooperation that comes into being with the understanding of the total process of the mind and in which there is freedom from the self, then there is a possibility of creating a new civilization, a totally different world in which there is no acquisitiveness, no envy, no comparison.

This is not a theoretical utopia but the actual state of the mind that is constantly inquiring and pursuing that which is true and blessed.

J Krishnamurti

On this 11th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour,

an Armistice was declared.

Let us declare peace again.



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Blogger oZ said...

I corrected a typo around 10:30 that slipped in during last night's posting.

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a wonderful post. I love the short poem at the end. where does that come from? MS

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very nice piece OZ.

8:45 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

I wrote the little stanza last night. The wind is a wonderful word for metaphor.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing the Lester Brown's book to my screen.

The food reports are sobering - the wheat decline being just a beginning. We have already lost so much diversity in our agriculture - so many hybrids that won't re-seed themselves.

The Seeds of Change People and the many other heritage seed exchange programs will become even more important if we can't find enough produce in our supermarkets.

11:11 AM  

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