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  • Growing Water Deficit Threatening Grain Harvests

      By Lester R. Brown Many countries are facing dangerous water shortages. As world demand for food has soared, millions of farmers have drilled too many irrigation wells in efforts to expand their harvests. As a result, water tables are falling and wells are going dry in some 20 countries containing half the world’s people. […] More

  • Shining a Light on Energy Efficiency

    Our inefficient, carbon-based energy economy threatens to irreversibly disrupt the Earth’s climate. Averting dangerous climate change and the resultant crop-shrinking heat waves, more destructive storms, accelerated sea level rise, and waves of climate refugees means cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. The first key component of the Earth Policy Institute’s climate stabilization plan is […] More

  • Rising Temperatures Melting Away Global Food Security

    By Lester R. Brown Heat waves clearly can destroy crop harvests. The world saw high heat decimate Russian wheat in 2010. Crop ecologists have found that each 1-degree-Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum can reduce grain harvests by 10 percent. But the indirect effects of higher temperatures on our food supply are no less […] More

  • The Good News About Coal

    By Lester R. Brown During the years when governments and the media were focused on preparations for the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations, a powerful climate movement was emerging in the United States: the movement opposing the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Environmental groups, both national and local, are opposing coal plants because they are […] More

  • Growing Goat Herds Signal Global Grassland Decline

    After the earth was created, soil formed slowly over geological time from the weathering of rocks. It began to support early plant life, which protected and enriched it until it became the topsoil that sustains the diversity of plants and animals we know today. Now the world’s ever-growing herds of cattle, sheep, and goats are […] More

  • Geothermal Power Heating Up Worldwide

    By J. Matthew Roney In 1904, Italy’s Prince Piero Ginori Conti became the first person to use thermal energy from within the earth to turn on the lights — five of them, to be precise. Now, more than a century after his experiment, 24 countries are using geothermal power. The 10,900 megawatts of capacity installed […] More

  • When the Nile Runs Dry: Egypt, Water, and Political Stability*

    By Lester R. Brown A new scramble for Africa is under way. As global food prices rise and exporters reduce shipments of commodities, countries that rely on imported grain are panicking. Affluent countries like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, China and India have descended on fertile plains across the African continent, acquiring huge tracts of land […] More

  • Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death in China

    By Janet Larsen Cancer is now the leading cause of death in China. Chinese Ministry of Health data implicate cancer in close to a quarter of all deaths countrywide. As is common with many countries as they industrialize, the usual plagues of poverty — infectious diseases and high infant mortality — have given way to […] More

  • Education Leads to Lower Fertility and Increased Prosperity

    By Brigid Fitzgerald Reading As the world continues to add close to 80 million people each year, high population growth is running up against the limits of our finite planet, threatening global economic and political stability. To stay within the bounds of the earth’s natural resources, the world’s population will have to stabilize. The United […] More

  • Water Shortages Threaten Food Future in the Arab Middle East

    By Lester R. Brown Long after the political uprisings in the Middle East have subsided, many underlying challenges that are not now in the news will remain. Prominent among these are rapid population growth, spreading water shortages, and ever growing food insecurity. In some countries, grain production is now falling as aquifers are depleted. After […] More

  • "Let No Man Say It Cannot Be Done": Restructuring the American Economy

    By Lester R. Brown We need an economy for the twenty-first century, one that is in sync with the earth and its natural support systems, not one that is destroying them. The fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy that evolved in western industrial societies is no longer a viable model — not for the countries that […] More

  • Smart Population Planning for the Global Family

    By Lester R. Brown When it comes to population growth, the United Nations has three primary projections. The medium projection, the one most commonly used, has world population reaching 9.2 billion by 2050. The high one reaches 10.5 billion. The low projection, which assumes that the world will quickly move below replacement-level fertility, has population […] More

  • Time to Rethink Japan's Energy Future

    By J. Matthew Roney Nearly four weeks after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, emergency personnel are still struggling to stabilize the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Beyond the immediate need to minimize further radioactive leakage and protect public health, the government is beginning to reconsider its long-term plans for nuclear power […] More

  • Can the United States Feed China?

    By Lester R. Brown In 1994, I wrote an article in World Watch magazine entitled “Who Will Feed China?” that was later expanded into a book of the same title. When the article was published in late August, the press conference generated only moderate coverage. But when it was reprinted that weekend on the front […] More

  • Wind: The Centerpiece of the Plan B Economy

    By Lester R. Brown For many years, a small handful of countries dominated growth in wind power, but this is changing as the industry goes global, with more than 70 countries now developing wind resources. Between 2000 and 2010, world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 […] More

  • Why World Food Prices May Keep Climbing

    By Lester R. Brown In February, world food prices reached the highest level on record. Soaring food prices are already a source of spreading hunger and political unrest, and it appears likely that they will climb further in the months ahead. As a result of an extraordinarily tight grain situation, this year’s harvest will be […] More

  • By the Numbers – Data Highlights from World on the Edge

    The hundreds of data sets that accompany Lester Brown’s latest book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, illustrate the world’s current predicament and give a sense of where we might go from here. Here are some highlights from the collection. More

  • World One Poor Harvest Away From Chaos

    By Lester R. Brown In early January, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that its Food Price Index had reached an all-time high in December, exceeding the previous record set during the 2007-08 price surge. Even more alarming, on February 3rd, the FAO announced that the December record had been broken in January […] More

  • Environmental and Demographic Forces Threaten State Failure

    By Lester R. Brown Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and across the Middle East at the start of 2011 have reminded the world just how politically fragile some countries are. But the focus of international politics has been shifting for some time now. After a half-century of forming new states from former colonies and from the […] More

  • Restoring Food Security for All Takes Action on Many Fronts

    By Lester R. Brown Today there are three sources of growing demand for food: population growth; rising affluence and the associated jump in meat, milk, and egg consumption; and the use of grain to produce fuel for cars. Population growth is as old as agriculture itself. But the world is now adding close to 80 […] More

  • World on the Edge: Quick Facts

    We 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: There will be 219,000 people at the dinner table tonight who were not there […] More

  • 2010 Hits Top of Temperature Chart

    Topping off the warmest decade in history, 2010 experienced a global average temperature of 14.63 degrees Celsius (58.3 degrees Fahrenheit), tying 2005 as the hottest year in 131 years of recordkeeping. This news will come as no surprise to residents of the 19 countries that experienced record heat in 2010. Belarus set a record of […] More

  • World on the Edge: When Will the Food Bubble Burst?

    “Our early 21st century civilization is in trouble. We need not go beyond the world food economy to see this. Over the last few decades we have created a food production bubble—one based on environmental trends that cannot be sustained, including overpumping aquifers, overplowing land, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide,” notes Lester R. […] More

  • Future at Risk on a Hotter Planet

    By Lester Brown We are entering a new era, one of rapid and often unpredictable climate change. In fact, the new climate norm is change. The 25 warmest years on record have come since 1980. And the 10 warmest years since global recordkeeping began in 1880 have come since 1998. The effects of rising temperature […] More

  • Improving Food Security by Strategically Reducing Grain Demand

    By Lester R. Brown After several decades of rapid rise in world grain yields, it is now becoming more difficult to raise land productivity fast enough to keep up with the demands of a growing, increasingly affluent, population. From 1950 to 1990, world grainland productivity increased by 2.2 percent per year, but from 1990 until […] More

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