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Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble Hardcover – September 1, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Plan B Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, believes that "we can build an economy that does not destroy its natural support systems, a global community where the basic needs of all the earth's people are satisfied, and a world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized." Brown (Eco-Economy) backs up his argument with clear and well-reasoned text that outlines how to solve the world's severe environmental problems. According to Brown, the earth's populations are currently living in a bubble economy based on reckless consumption of natural resources. Because of water shortages, soil erosion and rising temperatures, grain production has seriously fallen off. If this situation continues, especially in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent, hunger and disease will prevail and lead to disastrous consequences for the entire world. Drawing on careful research, Brown outlines the details of Plan B, a committed global cooperative effort to raise water and land productivity, cut carbon emissions and stabilize population growth before time runs out. He provides many individual success stories, such as the Netherlands' embrace of the bicycle for transportation instead of the environmentally poisonous automobile. Since 1989, Iran has cut its spiraling population growth through education and access to contraception. In this measured plea, Brown points out that for Plan B to be adopted worldwide, it desperately needs the leadership of the U.S., as the wealthiest nation on earth, to change its focus and resources from a military presence to one that fosters a global economy that will sustain generations to come.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

For the past three decades, Brown has expressed his viewpoints on environmentalism through his advocacy organization, gaining publicity for his proposals through books such as this. His current two-part program to save the planet as outlined here would have developed countries increase their aid to less developed countries by $62 billion annually to support educational and health programs (to reduce population growth), and would impose punitive taxes on petroleum (to halve carbon dioxide emissions). Knowing the political improbability of even sympathetic Democrats realizing the latter idea (the Clinton administration proposed, but Congress disposed of, a BTU tax), Brown suggests that a concomitant reduction in income taxes will turn the trick. His prescriptions aside, Brown's text serves as an information resource, essentially reviewing recent literature about deleterious environmental conditions (e.g., melting ice caps), and the green technologies he favors (e.g., wind farms). Libraries may expect some interest in this call to action. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039305859X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058598
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,188,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Lester Brown recently wrote Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth in which his thesis was that "the environment was not part of the economy...but instead that the economy was part of the environment." (p. xv)
Here he presents an upbeat and positive plan for saving the world from the consequences of what he calls the planet-wide "bubble economy." His central argument is that we are about to face a food shortage of crisis proportions as our aquifers and rivers run dry. The relative price of food, which is directly dependent upon ready water supplies from underground and through the diversion of rivers, he argues, is about to skyrocket as China and other grain-hungry nations begin to import grain.
His plan B is a combination of interventions that would include environmental tax reform, that is, taxing products in terms or their true cost including pollution and the use of non-renewable resources. Thus the consequences of pollution-induced illnesses like asthma, etc. be factored into the cost of gasoline. In this way non-polluting energy sources such as windmills and solar energy cells would become cost-competitive with fossil fuels almost immediately.
The first half of the book is devoted to describing the problem, which he calls "A Civilization in Trouble." The second half is devoted to his Plan B which includes adopting "honest global accounting," stabilizing the population, and raising land productivity. He wants not only to shift taxes from the environmentally sound ways of doing business to the ecologically harmful ways, but to shift the subsidizes that many countries now give to fossil fuel producers and to fishing and logging industries to environmentally safe products and industries.
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Format: Paperback
An important contribution to the environmental debate. I was suprised by the critical review below that gives 1 star to Plan B and cites "The Skeptical Environmentalist" by Bjorn Lomborg as a refutation of Brown's work. Readers of that review may not be aware that "Skeptical" has been discredited, refuted and rejected by the scientific community. Critical reviews of Lomborg's book can be found in leading science journals, including Nature, Scientific American and Science. The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty issued a decision that declared Lomborg's research "to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty," and to be "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice." (Lomborg is Danish). Readers will not be persuaded by references to junk science coming from an anti-environmentalist.
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Format: Paperback
This book is in three sections - the first part provides facts, figures, charts and tables to define the problem; the second part - Plan A - projects the future under the business as usual scenario; the third part - Plan B - is Brown's recommendations of what we must do. The problem has the following components:
- over the last 50 years world population has doubled, the global economy has expanded seven fold and our claims on the earth are excessive;
- we are cutting trees faster than they can regenerate, overgrazing rangelands, over pumping aquifers and draining rivers;
- soil erosion of cropland exceeds new soil formation;
- we take fish from the oceans faster than they can reproduce;
- we are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere faster than nature can absorb it, creating a greenhouse effect raising the earth's temperature;
- habitat destruction and climate change are destroying plant and animal species faster than new species can evolve.
Throughout history man has lived on the earth's sustainable yield but humanity's collective demands surpassed the earth's carrying capacity in 1980 and by 1999 exceeded carrying capacity by 20% creating a global bubble economy. "The sector of the economy that seems likely to unravel first is food. Eroding soils, deteriorating range lands, collapsing fisheries, falling water tables, and rising temperatures are converging to make it more difficult to expand food production fast enough to keep up with demand. In 2002, the world grain harvest of 1,807 million tons fell short of world grain consumption by 100 million tons, or 5%. This shortfall, the largest on record, marked the third consecutive year of grain deficits, dropping stocks to the lowest level in a generation.
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Format: Paperback
Wow, after reading this book, I am left speechless. I read this book in conjunction with a Native American Studies class that I took, and I have never learned more terrifying facts in my entire life. Lester Brown, although he admits that the task is too great for one book, describes bluntly the thin line our species is walking between self preservation and self destruction. He does not pull any punches in describing how the human race is pushing Earth dangerously close to its breaking point. Brown outlines the clear reality that if trends continue the demand put on the environment by humanity will overtake its carrying capacity. He makes many interesting points but he also stays true to the title of the book, not only spreading blame, of which there is plenty to spread, but also offering possible solutions to the most important of problems. I thought I was environmentally conscious before I read this book, boy was I surprised. This book brought my environmental consciousness to a whole new level. It also unfortunately made me realize that unless the rest of the world gets on the same page as Brown in a hurry, the environmental damage will be irreparable. I'll agree once again with what that other reviewer said. Read this book and buy 10 copies to hand out.
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