Science

Published on January 25th, 2011 | by Earth Policy Institute

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World on the Edge: Quick Facts

World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic CollapseWe are facing issues of near-overwhelming complexity and unprecedented urgency. Can we think systemically and fashion policies accordingly? Can we change direction before we go over the edge? Here are a few of the many facts from the book to consider:

“We can get rid of hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty, and we can restore the earth’s soils, forests, and fisheries. We can build a global community where the basic needs of all people are satisfied—-a world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized.” –Lester R. Brown

World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse is available online for free downloading at www.earth-policy.org/books/wote.

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  • Mark Behrend

    Excellent thesis in every regard but one: Like most environmental calls to arms, “World on the Edge” treats the root cause of the problem — overpopulation — as a sacred cow. Given that the world’s census has quadrupled in the last 100 years, it is axiomatic that our environmental problems are at least four times as bad as they would be, if we had thought to lower our birth rates when we increased our lifespans. (In reality, they are many times worse, since the policies and technologies driving us to the brink today were virtually nonexistent in 1911.) Without radically reducing our numbers, all other environmental actions are just rearranging deck chairs on the proverbial sinking ship.
    Though population control is often denounced as a smokescreen for racism, birth rates are the result of education, economics, and ideology, and have nothing whatever to do with race. Wherever women have three simple rights — access to education, roughly equal pay, and the ability to say “no” to impregnation — they choose to have 1 or 2 children on average, and populations decline automatically. Until we address these issues — and treat patriarchal cultures as a menace to our survival — the global catastrophe Lester Brown outlines is not a matter of “if,” but of “when.”

  • John Joslin

    I think Lester Brown is an amazing and invaluable global resource. I have been following him from the original agricultural green revolution. With his knowledge, experience, worldwide contacts and energy and skill in persuasion he is an indispensable teacher and world leader.
    Thanks God for Lester Brown

  • http://web-conferencing-central.com kevin nelson

    Today I played with my 8 and 11 year old daughters with such joy and love. But to realize with such clarity the simply enormous changes that humanity and nature face in this era and eras to come, is to concede that only the longest view of time holds hope for a planet in harmony and balance. In the meantime, while so many people fail to understand the implications of so many simultaneous cuts to that which sustains us, I guess we will blunder into a staggeringly wounded time, just ahead. In the end, I believe we’ll come out of it with mankinds greatest lessons by far, but the tunnel will be long indeed.

    • http://Web Arturo

      If “sugar is the new oil”, then Agave will save the world. ~17% of the Earth’s surface is ideal for growing agave (agricultural land is 30%), but agave can be grown on up to 41% of the Earth’s surface.
      On an annual basis, one hectare of agave will tield ten thousand gallons of ethanol and/or 65 tonnes of prime-quality dry biomass, ideal for liquid biofuels production.
      25M hectares of agave in the USA would yield the same amount of biomass the whole country currently produces. Double dry biomass availability! Tripple it!!!
      They say Buddha once said: “Pain is unavoidable, but the suffering is optional”

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