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Plan B – A Plan to Save Civilization


By Lester R. Brown

There is much that we do not know about the future. But one thing we do know is that business as usual, including our continuing failure to reverse the environmental trends undermining the world food economy, will not last for much longer. Massive change is inevitable. “The death of our civilization is no longer a theory or an academic possibility; it is the road we’re on,” says Peter Goldmark, current director of the climate program at the Environmental Defense Fund. Can we find another road before time runs out? I think so. I call this road Plan B.

Plan B is the alternative to business as usual. Its goal is to move the world from the current decline and collapse path onto a new path where food security can be restored and civilization can be sustained. Just as the trends that are behind the current deterioration in the food situation—including the loss of cropland to development and soil erosion, falling water tables, the conversion of food into fuel, and rising carbon emissions—go far beyond agriculture itself, so too must the response. In times past it was the Ministry of Agriculture that held the key to expanding agricultural research, expanding credit to farmers, and all the other obvious things that fall within its province, but securing future food supplies now depends on the mobilization of our entire society.

For these reasons Plan B is far more ambitious than anything the world has ever undertaken, an initiative that has no precedent in scale or urgency. It has four interdependent components: cutting net carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2020, stabilizing population at 8 billion or lower, eradicating poverty, and restoring the earth’s natural systems, including soils, aquifers, forests, grasslands, and fisheries. The ambitiousness of this plan is not driven by perceived political feasibility but by scientific reality.

Stabilizing Global Food Security: The Four Components

The plan to cut carbon emissions involves dramatically raising energy efficiency worldwide, investing in the massive development of renewable energy resources, banning deforestation, and planting trees by the billion. Plan B essentially outlines a transition from an economy powered mainly by oil, coal, and natural gas to one powered largely by wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

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