Richard Moore

"Have you ever wondered what it would actually take to transform our global 
economy into a much cleaner, greener and hopefully sustainable machine?"

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #950
Thursday, March 13, 2008

From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News
March 13, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: We have reached a fork in the road to the future. In his
new book, Lester Brown shows us that major economic change is inevitable. We can
choose to stamp out poverty, prevent run- away global warming and invest in 
energy efficiency, renewable energy, and ecological restoration. Or we can 
pursue business as usual and watch civilization unravel.]

by Tim Montague

Have you ever wondered what it would actually take to transform our global 
economy into a much cleaner, greener and hopefully sustainable machine? Well, 
Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute has done the math and his new book, 
Plan B 3.0 -- Mobilizing to Save Civilization is the result. Whatever your 
interest -- addressing the needs of low-income people, improving human health, 
restoring ecosystems, fighting global warming, or reducing industrial 
contamination of our air, land and water -- Plan B 3.0 will be a fountain of 
ideas and inspiration for your work.

As Brown says, "No one can argue today that we do not have the resources to 
eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and protect the earth's natural 
resource base. We can get rid of hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty, and 
we can restore the earth's soils, forests, and fisheries." Brown shows us how we
can shift resources from wasteful military spending to his Plan B economy that 
creates justice and sustainable prosperity for all the earth's people, a "World 
that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized."

So what's the plan? The first priority is to realize that we are at a unique 
period in history. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Brown reminds us, 
found that humans surpassed the sustainable use of all earth's ecosystem 
services in 1980. In 2007 we exceeded those limited resources (water, soils, 
forests, fisheries and so on) by 25 percent.

In short, we're cooking the planet, melting the polar ice caps, sucking dry our 
fresh water supplies, chopping down our forests, over fishing our seas and 
polluting every corner of the earth with industrial and human waste. This isn't 
news to Rachel's readers, but if you hanker for a current global analysis of 
just how threadbare the earth's life support systems have become, Brown provides
it. Many of the book's informative tables and the entire text of the book are 
available for FREE download at the Earth Policy Institute website.

Brown makes the case that growing food insecurity is tied to peak oil and rising
oil prices (the price of oil was less than $50 in 2004, now it's over $100). As 
oil becomes scarcer, the industrialized nations have started using food crops 
for fuel (ethanol from corn, for example) which has caused grain prices to 
surge. Corn prices more than doubled from 2005 to 2007 and world grain stocks 
have been declining for seven of the last eight years, reaching a 34-year low in

The first years of the new millennium have witnessed the resurgence of world 
hunger which had steadily declined in the latter half of the 20th century. In 
2007 the UN World Food Programme announced the "18,000 children are now dying 
each day from hunger and related causes." Many countries are now being 
destabilized by the combination of rampant poverty, shredded ecosystems, and 
associated civil unrest. The number of severely failing states -- where 
governments can no longer provide basic services and social chaos reigns -- grew
from 7 in 2004 to 12 in 2007.

With his always-optimistic demeanor, Brown then sets forth Plan B, not to save 
the planet, but to save civilization. We have to reduce global greenhouse gas 
emissions 80 percent by 2020 by investing heavily in energy efficiency, 
renewable energy, and mass transit. We have to stop deforesting the earth, plant
millions of trees, and restore our ailing fisheries and farmland. And we have to
greatly improve the lives of poor people with free health care, family planning,
school lunch and literacy programs. And we have to do all this with wartime 

The good news is that eradicating poverty and restoring basic ecological health 
to the planet (from humanity's perspective) is doable. It won't be easy, it will
require massive mobilization at all levels of society and government. As Brown 
says, "There are many things we do not know about the future. But one thing we 
do know is that business as usual will not continue for much longer. Massive 
change is inevitable. Will the change come because we move quickly to 
restructure the economy or because we fail to act and civilization begins to 

Plan B -- a plan of hope

Plan B is a plan for restructuring our global economy and financial priorities 
to achieve four goals: eradicating poverty, stabilizing population, stabilizing 
climate, and restoring earth's ecosystems. Addressing any of these problems in 
isolation is a ticket for failure, says Brown.

Eradicating Poverty and Stabilizing Population

Like Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Brown believes that eradicating 
global poverty is relatively affordable and doable (see Rachel's #880). Lifting 
over a billion people out of povertywill slow population growth and greatly 
improve economic productivity. China reduced the number of people living in 
poverty from 648 million in 1981 to 218 million in 2001, a two-thirds reduction,
by rapid economic development and focused social programs that target those most
in need. The cornerstones of reducing poverty are universal primary education, 
adult literacy programs, health care and family planning.

With an emphasis on serving girls and women, the Global South can rapidly 
stabilize population growth, which is a foundation for economic development. As 
education rises, birth rates fall. Family planning and better health care fuel 
this upward spiral creating an economic engine to take a country from less 
developed to developed. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are examples Brown gives 
of countries that have successfully applied this formula.

Stabilizing Climate -- Restoring the Earth's Systems

To stop global warming we have to stop dumping heat-trapping gases into the 
atmosphere and use less energy to do more. We need a carbon- free economy. We 
must simultaneously use less energy, phase out all uses of fossil fuels, and 
restore natural carbon sinks, especially forests. Industrial carbon capture and 
storage (carbon sequestration) is not an option, neither is nuclear energy -- 
Brown rules these out as too expensive.

Brown shows us that, using today's technology, zero waste manufacturing (cradle 
to cradle design), and energy efficient buildings and appliances, we can keep 
our global energy demand constant for the next fifteen years, while population 
and economic growth continue.

We can replace virtually all fossil fuels -- certainly all coal, and oil -- with
wind, solar and geothermal sources; Plan B allows for some natural gas 
combustion. Each of these sources of renewable energy ALONE can power all of 
civilization. Brown reports that Stanford University scientists concluded that 
harnessing just one-fifth of the world's wind resources would generate seven 
times our global electricity needs.

Taken together a renewable energy grid is totally feasible with today's 
technology and can be implemented in less than fifteen years. Yes, we have to 
convert idled automobile plants to manufacture wind turbines and solar cells en 
masse; which of course will create millions of high wage green collar jobs. This
isn't rocket science -- it's a no-brainer win-win for people, profits and the 

Cars running on gasoline and biofuels will be relics of the past in a 
carbon-neutral economy. If we use biofuels at all, it will be by burning them to
generate electricity which is ten times more efficient than converting crops to 
liquid fuels, according to Brown. When you consider that filling the tank of an 
SUV just one time with ethanol from corn consumes enough food to feed a person 
for an entire year, you know something is wrong.

Going carbon-free also means greatly reducing our use of wood for fuel (in the 
developing world) and paper (in the developed countries). Cutting the remaining 
boreal forests and tropical rain-forests for cooking fuel, Kleenex, junk mail 
catalogs and copy paper won't do. Recycling just 50% of all paper, as South 
Korea does, could reduce global wood pulp consumption by a third. Wood and other
carbon-based cooking fuels can be replaced by low-cost ($10) solar cookers.

In the final chapter Brown explains what all this will cost and how society can 
pay for it. Here's what the budget looks like:

Plan B Budget

Goal....................................Funding ($ billions)
Basic Social Goals
..Universal primary education................. 10
..Eradication of illiteracy.................... 4
..School lunch for the poor.................... 6
..Assistance to preschool children............. 4
..Family planning............................. 17
..Universal health care....................... 33
..Closing the condom gap....................... 3
Total......................................... 77

Earth Restoration Goals
..Planting trees to reduce flooding............ 6
..Planting trees to sequester carbon.......... 20
..Protecting topsoil and cropland............. 24
..Restoring rangelands......................... 9
..Restoring fisheries......................... 13
..Protecting biological diversity............. 31
..Stabilizing water tables.................... 10
Total........................................ 113

Grand Total.................................. 190

Tax and Subsidy Shifting

Brown says we need to invest 190 billion dollars per year to stabilize the 
climate, restore ecosystem services and greatly improve living standards in the 
Global South. This is one fifth of the annual global military budget and one 
third of the US military budget.

By systematically shifting taxes onto and subsidies away from coal, oil, and 
nuclear, we can fuel the massive positive change we seek. Brown proposes a 
worldwide carbon-tax of $240 per ton to be phased-in at the rate of $20 per year
for the next twelve years. If the gas tax in Europe were considered a 
carbon-tax, the current average tax of $4.40 per gallon would translate into a 
carbon-tax of $1,815 per ton.

Tax shifting is becoming the norm in Europe. Germany successfully applied tax 
shifting from labor to energy starting in 1999. By 2003 they reduced annual C02 
emissions by 20 million tons and helped to create 250,000 additional jobs. 
Similar plans have been applied in France, Italy, Norway, Spain and the United 

And so, "It is decision time. Like earlier civilizations that got into 
environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch 
our modern economy decline and eventually collapse, or we can consciously move 
onto a new path, one that will sustain economic progress. In this situation, no 
action is a de facto decision to stay on the decline-and-collapse path."

Plan B 3.0 -- Mobilizing to Save Civilization, by Lester Brown is available for 
free download Earth Policy Institute website.

newslog archives:

How We the People can change the world

Escaping the Matrix:

The Phoenix Project

The Post-Bush Regime: A Prognosis

Community Democracy Framework:


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