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Tagged : lester-r-brown


Rising meat consumption takes a big portion of grain harvest

November 23rd, 2011

World consumption of animal protein is everywhere on the rise. Meat consumption increased from 44 million tons in 1950 to 284 million tons in 2009, more than doubling annual consumption per person to over 90 pounds. The rise in consumption of milk and eggs is equally dramatic. Wherever incomes rise, so does meat consumption.

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Eradicating poverty and stabilizing population, lessons from Iran

May 6th, 2011

Lester R. Brown


When it comes to population growth, the United Nations has three primary projections. The medium projection, the one most commonly used, has world population reaching 9.2 billion by 2050. The high one reaches 10.5 billion. The low projection, which assumes that the world will quickly move below replacement-level fertility, has population peaking at 8 billion in 2042 and then declining. If the goal is to eradicate poverty, hunger, and illiteracy, then we have little choice but to strive for the lower projection.
Slowing world population growth means ensuring that all women who want to plan their families have access to family planning information and services. Unfortunately, this is currently not the case for 215 million women, 59 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent. These women and their families represent roughly 1 billion of the earth’s poorest residents, for whom unintended pregnancies and unwanted births are an enormous burden. Former U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) official J. Joseph Speidel notes that “if you ask anthropologists who live and work with poor people at the village level…they often say that women live in fear of their next pregnancy. They just do not want to get pregnant.”

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How China’s struggle to feed itself could starve the world

March 23rd, 2011

In 1994, I wrote an article in World Watch magazine entitled “Who Will Feed China?” that was later expanded into a book of the same title. When the article was published in late August, the press conference generated only moderate coverage. But when it was reprinted that weekend on the front of the Washington Post’s Outlook section with the title “How China Could Starve the World,” it unleashed a political firestorm in Beijing.

The response began with a press conference at the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday morning, where Deputy Minister Wan Baorui denounced the study. Advancing technology, he said, would enable the Chinese people to feed themselves. This was followed by a government-orchestrated stream of articles that challenged my findings.

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The eroding foundation of civilization

October 12th, 2010

(The article below has been adapted from Chapter 2, “Population Pressure: Land and Water,” in Lester R. Brown’s book Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009). Brown is the president of the Earth Policy Institute.)


Lester Brown

The thin layer of topsoil that covers the planet’s land surface is the foundation of civilization. This soil, typically 6 inches or so deep, was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. But sometime within the last century, as human and livestock populations expanded, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation over large areas.

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Crop-based energy’s failures and potential

September 17th, 2010

(The following is adapted from Lester R. Brown’s Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009), which is available at the Earth Policy Institute website. Brown is the president of the Earth Policy Institute.)


Lester Brown

As oil and natural gas reserves are being depleted, the world’s attention is increasingly turning to plant-based energy sources. These include food crops, forest industry byproducts, sugar industry byproducts, plantations of fast-growing trees, crop residues, and urban tree and yard wastes—all of which can be used for electrical generation, heating, or the production of automotive fuels.

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The tragedy of coal; the promise of clean energy

April 9th, 2010

I had been thinking about how this week’s mine accident that claimed 25 lives is just one more way the true cost of coal is being revealed. Coal is only cheap if you fail to factor in the loss of life, the long-term human health effects, the environmental devastation both in the immediate area of coal mining, the regions near coal-fired plants and finally, to the Earth’s atmosphere. Do these costs need to be more far-reaching before we face these facts?

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Lester R. Brown: Lowering income taxes while raising pollution taxes reaps great returns

April 8th, 2010

(This excerpt from Lester R. Brown’s book, was released this week. Plan B 4.0 offers ways to mitigate or stop climate change. Brown is president and founder of the Earth Policy Institute, and also the founder of Worldwatch Institute.) By Lester R. Brown As economic decisionmakers—whether consumers, corporate planners, government policymakers, or investment bankers—we all [...]

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U.S. car fever waning after a century of growth

February 22nd, 2010

(This article, originally entitled U.S. Car Fleet Shrank by Four Million in 2009 – After a Century of Growth, U.S. Fleet Entering Era of Decline ran on the Earth Policy Institute website in January. Its author, Lester R. Brown is president of the EPI and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.)

By Lester R. Brown

America’s century-old love affair with the automobile may be coming to an end. The U.S. fleet has apparently peaked and started to decline. In 2009, the 14 million cars scrapped exceeded the 10 million new cars sold, shrinking the U.S. fleet by 4 million, or nearly 2 percent in one year. While this is widely associated with the recession, it is in fact caused by several converging forces.

Future U.S. fleet size will be determined by the relationship between two trends: new car sales and cars scrapped. Cars scrapped exceeded new car sales in 2009 for the first time since World War II, shrinking the U.S. vehicle fleet from the all-time high of 250 million to 246 million. It now appears that this new trend of scrappage exceeding sales could continue through at least 2020. (See data.)

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