A Race Between Political and Natural Tipping Points

05/13/2010 09:21 PM

According to Lester Brown’s Plan B, 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, human pressure on nature has reached the point that we risk a global threat to that most basic of resources: food. “The world is entering a new food era, one marked by rising food prices, growing numbers of hungry people, and emerging politics of food scarcity,” asserts Brown, who is director of the Earth Policy Institute.

Grain prices have tripled over a three year period. According to Brown, this surge is different from usual spikes in that it is not based on events such as droughts or war, but upon trends, such as the annual addition of 80 million people, people moving to higher standards of living, and a move to using grain and other food crops for biofuel production.

In India and China, the world’s two leading wheat and rice producers, disappearing glaciers are depriving the rivers of the snow-melt needed to maintain water flow in the dry season. “The projected melting of these glaciers if we stay with business as usual poses the most massive threat to food security the world has ever faced,” Brown writes.

Grim news, perhaps, but as Brown sees it, a goad to action. “The shift to renewable sources of energy is moving at a pace and on a scale we could not have imagined even two years ago,” he writes. The U.S. installed almost eight times more wind-generating capacity this year than new coal plants, and China and Europe also have massive renewable energy projects underway. And the energy efficiency revolution has barely begun, he says. For example, adopting new lighting technologies alone would enable us to close more than a quarter of the world’s coal-fired power plants.

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, calling for a worldwide mobilization to stabilize population and climate before they spiral out of control, was first published in 2003 and is now released annually with updated numbers on population, climate and other ecological factors.
Click here for more information on Plan B and for a free download of the book.
Get the updated ecological, population and economic data featured in Plan B.



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