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Lester Brown's Team B: a must-order/must-read
Jan 10, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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In my postal mailbox today I got the announcement The Earth Policy Institute is sending out promoting Lester Brown's new book, "PLAN B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble."

After I read the letter, I immediately asked them for a text version to send it out -- it's a most compelling presentation of the global issues of global warming, energy and economic development. I'm looking forward to reading the book (January 23 publication date).

Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, was the founder of WorldWatch Institute. He has been described by the Washington Post as "one of the world's most influential thinkers"and as "the guru of the global environmental movement" by The Telegraph of Calcutta. See a brief bio (and a link to a longer one) at­About/­index.htm.

The book is an expanded, updated version of the 2003 edition of Plan B. As you will see in this letter, plug-in hybrid cars and a rapid expansion of wind power are central components of the plan. I hope CalCars-News readers will buy at least one copy and that many of you will join the "Plan B Team," buying multiple copies and distributing them to their friends.

Feel free to comments about the letter at my blog­blogs/­power/­plan-b-version-2-book

"... a masterpiece!" - Ted Turner "... the most important voice of our time." - Judy Hyde, Quaker leader "The future might judge this book the most important ever written; we strongly encourage you to get and read it." - The Michael Consulting Group A quantum jump forward from the original. And the original was damn good. -Peter Goldmark, former Editor, International Herald Tribune "Your vision of a sustainable planet is a ray of hope in a sea of despairing news." - Fran Bodell

Dear Reader,

In his book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," Jared Diamond describes how earlier civilizations moved onto an economic path that was environmentally unsustainable. Some recognized that they were headed for collapse and shifted onto an economic path that was environmentally sustainable. Others failed to do so and collapsed.

Like these earlier civilizations, our twenty-first century civilization is on a path heading for decline and collapse. We are consuming renewable resources faster than they can regenerate. As a result, forests are shrinking, grasslands are deteriorating, soils are eroding, water tables are falling, and fisheries are collapsing.

Learning from China

And now we have convincing new evidence from China that we must change direction. For almost as long as I can remember, we have been saying that the United States, a country with 5 percent of the world's people, consumed nearly a third of the earth's resources. That was true. It no longer is.

China is now the world's leading consumer of resources. In consumption of the leading commodities in the food sector (grain and meat), in the energy sector (oil and coal), and in the industrial sector (steel), China now leads in all but oil.

If China's economy continues to expand at 8 percent a year, its income per person will reach the current U.S. level in 2031. If we assume that the consumption level per person of various resources in 2031 will be the same as those in the United States today, then the country's projected population of 1.45 billion would consume an amount of grain equal to two thirds of the current world grain harvest. Its paper consumption would be double current world production. (There go the world's forests.) And it would use 99 million barrels of oil per day--well above current world production of 84 million barrels.

The western economic model--the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy--is not going to work for China. Nor will it work for India, which by 2031 is projected to have a population even larger than China's, or for the other 3 billion people in developing countries who are also dreaming the "American dream." And in an increasingly integrated world economy, where all countries are competing for the same oil, grain, and mineral resources, the existing economic model will not work for industrial countries either.

The Changing Oil-Food Relationship

The competition for oil is already altering the relationship between oil and food. We have long been concerned about the effect of rising oil prices on food production costs, but now we can see its effect on the demand for food commodities. Since virtually everything we eat can be converted into automotive fuel either in ethanol distilleries or in biodiesel refineries, high oil prices are opening a vast new market for farm products.

Fuel producers are competing directly with food processors for wheat, corn, soybeans, sugarcane, and other foodstuffs. With high oil prices, more and more ethanol distilleries and biodiesel refineries are being built to convert food into fuel. As a result, supermarkets and service stations are competing for the same commodities. In essence, the affluent owners of the world's 800 million automobiles will be competing with the world's poor for food.

Plan B--A Plan of Hope

Given the extraordinarily challenging situation we face, hope is just a plan away. While we do not know if previous civilizations that collapsed knew of their impending fall and simply could not make the appropriate changes, we do know what is happening to our planet. And we have the resources to effect change--and quickly. Plan B 2.0 describes the new economy and provides a roadmap for getting from here to there.

Plan B focuses on restructuring the global economy, shifting from the existing economy to one that is powered by renewable energy sources, that has a diverse transportation system, and that comprehensively reuses and recycles materials.

A New Automotive Fuel Economy

We have the technologies needed to build the new economy. For example, advances in gas-electric hybrid cars and in wind turbine design have set the stage for the evolution of a new automotive fuel economy. Gas-electric hybrids with an extra storage battery and a plug-in capacity will let us do all our short-distance driving, including the daily commute and shopping, largely with electricity.

If we combine this with investment in wind farms to feed cheap electricity into the grid, we can largely power automobiles with wind energy. Using cheap wind-generated electricity to recharge batteries during off-peak hours costs the equivalent of 50?-a-gallon gasoline!

New Priorities for a New World

Eradicating poverty and stabilizing population are an integral part of building an economy that can sustain economic progress. The budget for poverty eradication and population stabilization outlined in Plan B 2.0 includes the costs of providing universal primary school education, basic village-level health care, and reproductive health and family planning services for women everywhere. It totals $68 billion.

Plan B 2.0 also includes a program to reforest the earth, protect topsoil, restore rangelands, stabilize water tables, restore fisheries, and protect biological diversity. The earth restoration budget to reach these goals totals $93 billion per year.

The budget for these two global initiatives comes to a total of $161 billion. By any standard, this is a lot of money, but it is only one sixth the size of the global military budget of $975 billion. It is also only one third of the U.S military budget, which now matches that of all other countries combined. The question is not whether we can afford to spend this money, but whether we can afford not to spend it. How much is civilization worth?

Challenging though the situation may be, there are signs of the new economy emerging. We see them in the wind farms of Europe, the fast-growing U.S. fleet of gas-electric hybrid cars, the reforested hills of South Korea, the bicycle-friendly streets of Amsterdam, and the solar rooftops of Japan.

Plan B Team

One of the reasons for updating and expanding the original Plan B was the enthusiastic response it generated. Much to our surprise, some 670 people bought a copy, read it, and then became personally engaged, buying 5, 10, 20, or even 50 copies for distribution to friends, colleagues, and political leaders. We call this group of readers our Plan B Team. The designated captain of the team is Ted Turner, who purchased 3,519 copies to distribute to Fortune 500 CEOs, members of Congress, and heads of state and cabinet members worldwide.

What You Can Do

Saving civilization is not a spectator sport. Become politically active and support political candidates who understand the environmental trends that are undermining our economic future and who will work to reverse them.

Of equal importance is information. We all need to understand what is happening and what we need to do. Plan B 2.0 provides this vital information.

Order your copy of Plan B 2.0 today.

Better yet, join the Plan B Team by ordering 5 or more copies to distribute to your colleagues, political representatives, and local media outlets. Urge them to rally around this plan to save our civilization.

For our part, we are offering discounts on multiple copy purchases of Plan B 2.0. (See table below.)

Like earlier civilizations, we have to make a choice. We can stay with business as usual and preside over an economy that continues to destroy its natural support systems until it destroys itself. Or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that changes direction, moving the world onto a path of sustained progress. The choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.

Sincerely, Lester R. Brown President

To get your copy or copies of the book as soon as it is released, please order through our Web site at or call us at (202) 496-9290. You can also see the table of contents and PDF versions of chapters of the book there.

$17 paper $30 hardcover
BULK RATES for paperback copies
2-4 books: $14 ea.
5-10 books: $12 ea.
11-20 books: $11 ea.
21-40 books: $10 ea.
41-100 books: $9 ea.
101+ books: $8 ea.

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