Sunday, January 3, 2010

Start the New Year With A Plan!

Ladies protesting in penguin suits hold up placards in Copenhagen. When asked about the suits, they said "penguins deserve a planet too".

While in Copenhagen I was struck by the funny-but-scary placards carried by many of the protestors, “There Is No Planet B”. While this may be true, there is actually a very well thought-out Plan B.

The Earth Policy Institute in Washington DC is among many organisations to cry out about the many problems facing our society in the new decade. They have aggregated data from hundreds of very recent scientific reports and it makes for grim reading indeed. Some of the lowlights include the end of cheap food, massive displacement of people, and the loss of our international shipping system. These are very real and well documented. But what they have done in this book, which no one else has, is to outline a very possible plan to change it all around. It is a real set of changes we can accomplish with today’s skills and technology to eradicate poverty, stop climate change, and put our world on a path away from destruction.

The book, titled Plan B 4.0 should be required reading for everyone, and I urge everyone to get it as soon as possible. You can buy it here or download it for free here. The Challenges section is hard to read, because it is up to the minute and very dire indeed. But once you push through it, and start to get into the possibilities of how to fix these problems, there is an empowering sense that it is possible and we have to do it because if we don’t, we will suffer badly. Not our kids in some future time, but us in the next ten to twenty years.

If you are somewhat skeptical of the more frightening research, or are unfamiliar with the real danger of continuing with our status-quo lives, read this book. The book only outlines scientific data, and is recommended by Time Magazine, The Guardian and the Washington Post.

In the forward, the author Lester Brown quotes Paul Hawken, who in a commencement address in 2009 said: “First we decide what needs to be done. Then we do it. Then we ask if it is possible.”

Something that we (at least in the western world) have always been brought up to think is that world is getting better, with better education, better food, better laws, better moon rockets, better plastic storage bins, just plain better. This book makes clear a few very stark realities, that this “bettering” has come at a very stiff price, and in no way equally. In fact, the days of the traditional models of industry and food production have reached their improvement threshold.

If we don’t change our fundamental energy and agricultural practices, the days of getting better are simply over. This is, as Hunter S. Thompson once said, “the high water mark”. Many independent studies say that mark was hit in 2000. Agricultural production peaked, oil output peaked, water use reached it’s own critical threshold. From here on out, things will get worse unless we do something profoundly different.

This book offer us the rare answer to the question: What can we do? I urge all my journalist colleagues in particular to read this book for a clear understanding of our very perilous position, and help share this information with their audiences. One thing Copenhagen has shown is that people who read newspapers care deeply about environmental issues. It glosses over nothing, and mines the world’s best research to bring an analysis that is as encouraging as it is terrifying. There is no Planet B, this one is it.

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