I tend to doubt that there’s a write more eloquent than Lester R. Brown when it comes to saying, “We’re screwed!”
Fortunately, the founder of the Worldwatch Institute and now the Earth Policy Institute also comes to the party armed with solutions as he romps through growing food scarcity, our energy conundrum and our interrelated population and climate problems.
This week Brown’s new book “Plan B 4.0” is due in bookstores. It’s an update of, as you might imagine, previous versions that we covered earlier. It’s the Big Picture, environmentally, about how deep we are in this hole and what it’s going to take to build the ladder to get out.
I mean, this is a guy who says we can cut greenhouse gases by 80 percent not by mid-century… but by 2020! You gotta love his title, too. Plan B. Hah!
Predictably — as longtime Dateline Earth readers could guess — Brown’s latest tome starts out talking about the growing food shortage crisis, traceable to a paucity of grains. Grain prices worldwide tripled between 2006 and 2008 — along the lines of what Brown had previously projected. He shows how this is a structural problem, not an ephemeral grain-price hike like those related to weather in the past. The man is a grain-supply Nostradamus, really.
Bear with us here, but he ranges in just the first chapter — the only one available online so far (PDF) — through food shortages, the energy/climate dilemma and population growth, showing they are are all intimately related. And he throws in a little desertification for leavening, along with its twin brother, water shortages.
Here’s a sample from a section discussing how some countries are making arrangements to grow their grain in other countries:
Growing world food insecurity is thus ushering in a new geopolitics of food scarcity, one where the competition for land and water resources is crossing national boundaries. Many of the land acquisitions are in hunger-ridden, land-scarce countries, leaving less land to produce food for the people who live there. The risk is that this will increase hunger and political instability, leading to even more failing states.
No country is immune to the effects of tightening world food supplies, not even the United States, the world’s breadbasket.
The book’s not in some bookstores yet, but it should be arriving this week. It might even be at the bookstore near you by now. Or you can order it online.