Do we want to be the generation that lost the future for humanity or won it?
That is the sustainability challenge we face. It is our choice; one we can and need to make in the affirmative.
This is the thesis underlying the work of Lester Brown, his Earth Policy Institute, and his most recent book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse (see links below), as he describes it in a flyer and letter to readers (see link).
In the opening of his flyer on the book, he captures the essence of the situation humanity faces as follows:
"Ecological and economic DEFICITS are now shaping NOT ONLY our future, BUT OUR PRESENT. The future is here [NOW; emphases added]."
"We are facing environmental and economic issues of near-overwhelming complexity and unprecedented urgency. Our challenge is to think globally and develop policies that will enable us to chagne direction. Teh quesition is: Can we do so before we go over the edge?"
Mr. Brown's key points in his letter to his readers are as follows:
1. Earth is having a Heart Attack. We as individuals are fine, but the earth' the biospheric life-support system is itself in intensive care and at risk of crashing, permanently.
2. Perfect Storm 2030. A "perfect storm" of food shortages, water scarcity, and costly oil is on the horizon for 2030, or could it be sooner, say 2020? It will be the ultimate, as in last, fatal, recession.
3. Hard-to-Grasp Dynamics. The dynamics of this perfect storm (exponential growth in a finite environment), or even a lower grade imperfect one, are hard to grasp because they lie beyond our immediate senses, and what's worse, beyond our collective experience. Those of us who have had the experience at different points in the past did not live to tell.
4. Perfect-Storm Triggers. A combination of the following will trigger the ultimate storm: (i) massive harvest shortfall from crop-withering heat waves and water shortages from depleted aquifers; (ii) off-the-chart grain price spikes leading to export-country bans on exports; (iii) under-mining of confidence in the market as a reliable mechanism and the associated eroding of trust upon which the international financial system depends.
5. Hope-Reversing Course. Reversing course from environmental trends that are undermining the world economy and restructuring a regenerative global economy/society is possible, but it will take a massive mobilization at wartime speed. This is Lester Brown's Plan B.
6. Culture of Financial/Ecological Deficit Finance. The same values underlying the ecological deficits that are pushing humanity past the brink of recovery are the same ones that lead to the fiscal crisis that precipitated the global crash and depression of 2007 and that we are still experiencing. The crisis is accelerating. We used to think it would be our children, and theirs, who would inherit this mess if left unreversed. Now we can see it is us and our children and theirs, now.
7. Difficult Topic of Social Collapse. Facing and discussing this prospect of social collapse is hard enough because it is difficult to imagine things that we have yet to experience and therefore do not have the concepts and vocabulary with which to discuss. But it is also difficult because the subject is not simply humanity in the abstract, but our famines, our friends, ourselves!
8. The Two Policy Cornerstones underlying a successful bid for Plan B are as follows:
- Restructure taxes by lowering income taxes and raising taxes on carbon emissions sufficiently to redirect capital flow of the capitalist economy based on the full costs of carbon inputs, thereby stimulating the innovation to reduce use/emissions and development/shift to new technology.
- Redefining securing in the 21st century in terms of the real ecological, not aggression, threats; no longer armed aggression, but rather climate change, population growth, water shortages, poverty, rising food prices, and failing states.
The shift in flows and revenue raised in policy cornerstone "a" will fund the $200B investment (1/8th of $1.6T global military budget) needed in reforestation, soil conservation/restoration, fishery restoration, universal primary school education, and reproductive health cares and family planning services for women everywhere.
- Watch Thom Hartman's 15-minute video clip interview with Lester Brown (two 15 min clips)
- Watch the 1.5 hr. documentary here.
Start making your personal adjustments, including political action from letter writing on up to move the system for regenerative success.