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  • Hydropower Continues Steady Growth

    World hydroelectric power generation has risen steadily by an average 3 percent annually over the past four decades. In 2011, at 3,500 billion kilowatt-hours, hydroelectricity accounted for roughly 16 percent of global electricity generation, almost all produced by the world’s 45,000-plus large dams. Today hydropower is generated in over 160 countries. More

  • Redefining Security for the 21st Century

    The situation in which we find ourselves pushes us to redefine security in twenty-first century terms. The time when military forces were the prime threat to security has faded into the past. The threats now are climate volatility, spreading water shortages, continuing population growth, spreading hunger, and failing states. The challenge is to devise new fiscal priorities that match these new security threats. More

  • Fukushima Meltdown Hastens Decline of Nuclear Power

    With the world’s fleet of reactors aging, and with new plants suffering construction delays and cost increases, it is possible that world nuclear electricity generation has peaked and begun a long-term decline. More

  • Arab Grain Imports Rising Rapidly

    The Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they take in more than 20 percent of the world’s grain exports. Imports to the region have jumped from 30 million tons of grain in 1990 to nearly 70 million tons in 2011. Now imported grain accounts for nearly 60 percent of regional grain consumption. With water scarce, arable land limited, and production stagnating, grain imports are likely to continue rising. More

  • Meat Consumption in China Now Double That in the United States

    More than a quarter of all the meat produced worldwide is now eaten in China, and the country’s 1.35 billion people are hungry for more. In 1978, China’s meat consumption of 8 million tons was one third the U.S. consumption of 24 million tons. But by 1992, China had overtaken the United States as the world’s leading meat consumer—-and it has not looked back since. More

  • Rising Meat Consumption Takes Big Bite out of Grain Harvest

    World consumption of animal protein is everywhere on the rise. Meat consumption increased from 44 million tons in 1950 to 284 million tons in 2009, more than doubling annual consumption per person to over 90 pounds. The rise in consumption of milk and eggs is equally dramatic. Wherever incomes rise, so does meat consumption. As […] More

  • Demographics Loom Large in State Failure

    After a half-century of forming new states from former colonies and from the breakup of the Soviet Union, the international community is today faced with the opposite situation: the disintegration of states. Failing states are now a prominent feature of the international political landscape. The most systematic ongoing effort to analyze countries’ vulnerability to failure […] 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

  • Lester Brown's World on the Edge: Mobilizing against Collapse

    For a number of years, we’ve used the Apollo project as metaphor for the kinds of transformation we need to create in terms of our energy and resource use. It’s a compelling, aspirational vision that draws on our desire to reach goals that might seem unattainable. No doubt such concepts harness creativity and ingenuity… and […] 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Reducing Urban Water Use

    By Lester R. Brown U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt once noted that “civilized people ought to know how to dispose of the sewage in some other way than putting it into the drinking water.” The one-time use of water to disperse human and industrial wastes is an outmoded practice, made obsolete by new technologies and water […] More

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    Taxpayer Dollars Subsidizing Destruction

    By Lester R. Brown One way to correct market failures is tax shifting—raising taxes on activities that harm the environment so that their prices begin to reflect their true cost and offsetting this with a reduction in income taxes. A complementary way to achieve this goal is subsidy shifting. Each year the world’s taxpayers provide […] More

  • U.S. Feeds One Quarter of its Grain to Cars While Hunger is on the Rise

    The 107 million tons of grain that went to U.S. ethanol distilleries in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels. More than a quarter of the total U.S. grain crop was turned into ethanol to fuel cars last year. With 200 ethanol distilleries in the country […] More

  • US Car Fleet Shrinks by Four Million in 2009

    America’s century-old love affair with the automobile may be coming to an end. The U.S. fleet has apparently peaked and started to decline. In 2009, the 14 million cars scrapped exceeded the 10 million new cars sold, shrinking the U.S. fleet by 4 million, or nearly 2 percent in one year. While this is widely […] More

  • Growing Demand For Soybeans Threatens Amazon Rainforest

    Image credit: Tiago Fioreze at Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license Originally published at Plan B Updates By Lester R. Brown Some 3,000 years ago, farmers in eastern China domesticated the soybean. In 1765, the first soybeans were planted in North America. Today the soybean occupies more U.S. cropland than wheat. And in Brazil, […] More

  • Rethinking Food Production for a World of Eight Billion

    by Lester R. Brown In April 2005, the World Food Programme and the Chinese government jointly announced that food aid shipments to China would stop at the end of the year. For a country where a generation ago hundreds of millions of people were chronically hungry, this was a landmark achievement. Not only has China […] More