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  • Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 4. Food or Fuel?

    The massive diversion of grain to fuel cars has helped drive up food prices, leaving low-income consumers everywhere to suffer some of the most severe food price inflation in history. As of mid-2012, world wheat, corn, and soybean prices were roughly double their historical levels. More

  • Full Planet, Empty Plates, Chapter 5: Eroding Soils Darkening Our Future

    The thin layer of topsoil that covers the earth’s land surface was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. Sometime within the last century, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation. Now, nearly a third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming, reducing the land’s inherent fertility. Soil that was formed on a geological time scale is being lost on a human time scale. More

  • Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 2. The Ecology of Population Growth

    Throughout most of human existence, population growth has been so slow as to be imperceptible within a single generation. Reaching a global population of 1 billion in 1804 required the entire time since modern humans appeared on the scene. To add the second billion, it took until 1927, just over a century. Thirty-three years later, in 1960, world population reached 3 billion. Then the pace sped up, as we added another billion every 13 years or so until we hit 7 billion in late 2011. More

  • Rising Temperature Raising Food Prices

    Over the last two months, the price of corn has been climbing. On July 19th, it exceeded $8 per bushel for the first time, taking the world into a new food price terrain. With heat and drought still smothering the Corn Belt, we may well see more all-time highs in coming weeks as the extent of crop damage becomes clearer. More

  • We Can Reforest the Earth

    Protecting the 10 billion acres of remaining forests on earth and replanting many of those already lost are both essential for restoring the earth’s health. More

  • World in Serious Trouble on Food Front

    The world was hoping for a good U.S. harvest to replenish dangerously low grain stocks; this is no longer in the cards because of this Summer’s extreme weather. World carryover stocks of grain will fall further at the end of this crop year, making the food situation even more precarious. Food prices, already elevated, will follow the price of corn upward, quite possibly to record highs. More

  • U.S. Carbon Emission Down 7 Percent in Four Years, Even Bigger Drops Coming

    By Lester R. Brown Between 2007 and 2011, carbon emissions from coal use in the United States dropped 10 percent. During the same period, emissions from oil use dropped 11 percent. In contrast, carbon emissions from natural gas use increased by 6 percent. The net effect of these trends was that U.S. carbon emissions dropped […] More

  • Learning from China: Why the Existing Economic Model Will Fail

    By Lester R. Brown For almost as long as I can remember we have been saying that the United States, with 5 percent of the world’s people, consumes a third or more of the earth’s resources. That was true. It is no longer true. Today China consumes more basic resources than the United States does. […] More

  • Raging Storms and Rising Seas Swelling the Ranks of Climate Refugees

    By Lester R. Brown In late August 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approached the U.S. Gulf Coast, more than 1 million people were evacuated from New Orleans and the small towns and rural communities along the coast. Once the storm passed, it was assumed that the million or so Katrina evacuees would, as in past cases, […] More

  • A Fifty Million Dollar Tipping Point?

    By Lester R. Brown At a press conference on July 21, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was contributing $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club, called it a “game changer”. It is that, but it also could push the United States, and […] More

  • Grain Production Falling as Soil Erosion Continues

    The thin layer of topsoil that covers much of the earth’s land surface is the foundation of civilization. As long as soil erosion on cropland does not exceed new soil formation, all is well. But once it does, it leads to falling soil fertility and eventually to land abandonment. As countries lose their topsoil through […] More

  • Iowa Eclipses Canada in Grain Production, Challenges China in Soybean Production

    By Lester R. Brown The U.S. state of Iowa is an agricultural superpower, simultaneously eclipsing Canada in grain production and challenging China in soybean production. No, these are not mathematical errors. Last year Iowa’s farmers harvested 55 million tons of grain while Canada’s farmers harvested only 45 million tons. Over the last five years, Iowa […] More

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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