Lester Brown's Plan B 3.0
July 2, 2008 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Say what you will about the content, this is an awesome way to present a book. Online and with data attached.

(And the content looks pretty nice too)
posted by DU at 6:50 AM on July 2, 2008

Wait, so enviro-fascists aren't a myth?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:57 AM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

OK, I combed through Chapter 3 - and he spent 59.75 pages listing everything that rising temperatures and seas can do to us - and 2 paragraphs saying essentially "we have to quit using all this coal and oil and switch to alternative energy sources."

I thought he had a plan!!!!!!! (I do like pdf books, though)
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:00 AM on July 2, 2008

Wow many thanks for this - chapter four is very topical for some of my own research. While off work I've been spending a fair amount of my free time lookung at new investment opportunities, and I've been very fascinated with (not saying I agree, mind you), with the emergence of markets for water. In other words, water as a market commodity.

Unless folks open their eyes, this is gonna be big business in maybe a decade. If nothing else, water will become a tool for political coercion, much like oil (and perhaps other commodities) are now being used.

And water has already been used as a political weapon. Many wars and smaller conflicts have been fought over water - in fact, at least 48 since the year 2000; a good overview was published by The Pacific Institute [.pdf].

Landry & Anderson wrote an interesting paper [.pdf] talking about the transformation of water "from a political commodity to a market commodity". While discussing water transportation they reviewed activities in North America and New Zealand. A very accessible paper. Full citation: Anderson, T., L., Landry, C., J. , 2001, EXPORTING WATER TO THE WORLD

The Economist did a survey article dated July 19th, 2003, entitled "Priceless: A Survey of Water". I can't seem to find a free link, and I hate to link to something behind a paid for firewall, but if you're a subscriber its a good read.

Back in 1998 Anderson wrote a fascinating paper foreseeing to some extent the rapid growth of water markets [.pdf]. Its a good read if only for his review of water trading in North America and Europe. Full citation: Anderson, T., L., 1998, THE RISING TIDE OF WATER MARKETS.

While many may not agree with Anderson's conclusion "Growing demands for consumption, pollution dilution, and environmental amenities will put pressure on limited water resources. But these pressures need not create crises if individuals are allowed to respond through market processes.", that shouldn't detract from the quality of his research. As with most academic papers, there is a rich web of citations that can be followed, depending upon your particular focus on the topic.

In terms of books, I've currently got on my reading list (not read, no idea when I'll get to them):

Barlow & Clark, Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World's Water.

Rothfeder, Every Drop for Sale: Our Desperate Battle Over Water .

This is a very interesting area, no doubt folks are gearing up to try to make some money off of it. I'm hoping that politicians will draw a line, try to stop this before it gets way out of control.

But given the history I'm not so sure this will come to fruition.
posted by Mutant at 7:09 AM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

I like some of what this guy has to say -- he's been on NPR a lot lately -- but I really hate that the metaphor du jour for something that's really important seems to be "war". Can't it just be really really important action against climate change?
posted by gurple at 7:12 AM on July 2, 2008

Interesting, but it sounds a little bit like Chicken Little rounding up Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey et al. on a crusade to tell the president.
posted by caddis at 7:15 AM on July 2, 2008

I think this book boils down to "ride a bike".
posted by Mister_A at 8:13 AM on July 2, 2008

i don't know, i'm kind of looking forward to what comes after "civilization."
posted by klanawa at 8:31 AM on July 2, 2008

Wait, so enviro-fascists aren't a myth?

Nope, they're not. And the only thing that is likely to be able to keep them from coming to power is some kind of enviro-evangelism.
posted by jamjam at 8:36 AM on July 2, 2008

Mutant, you ever read The Fifth Sacred Thing, a fictional book with some variations on how water will be dealt with?
posted by salvia at 9:21 AM on July 2, 2008

enviro-fascists .. keep them from coming to power

See "Plan A .. business as usual" aka "Game Over for your Grandkids". When I was in boy scouts I was taught to keep the campsite in better condition than I found it - not because I was hippy dip, but because it is the right thing to do, morally, for other people. It amazes me how some people take issues that effect us all and turn it into a political hot potato. This is not 2000 with Gore for President, he's already won the worlds most prestigious recognition (Nobel), Bush has already made Global Warming a top priority, the world has moved on and knows the dangers - folks still playing the anti-environment card no longer have a voice, both canidates have pledged strong pro-environment action, anti-environmentalists at this point are sidelined with no representation (unless your from Hawaii).
posted by stbalbach at 9:33 AM on July 2, 2008

It's easy to suggest these things, and it's hard to build the political support and alliances to make them happen. About half of ch. 13 has already begun to show signs of happening, at least at some level. To make the rest happen is going to take some serious economic and policy analysis, and some serious political maneuvering. A successful effort would bring together energy experts, economists, bill-writing lawyers, and politicians.

Instead, here is what Brown suggests:
gather some like-minded friends together to meet with your elected representatives to discuss why we need to raise environmental taxes and reduce income taxes. Before the meeting, draft a brief statement of your collective concerns and the policy initiatives needed.
Now, I am all for citizen participation. But imagine me and a few friends just writing up a list (1. Tax oil more, 2. Initiate a cap-and-trade system, 3. Lower income taxes) and walking in to Senator Feinstein's office. We say, "Lester Brown says, 'A carbon tax of $240 per ton of carbon by 2020 may seem steep, but it is not.'" She would say, "don't you think a carbon tax of $240 / ton of carbon would send the economy into a recession? I'd hate to gutter the economy so much that no company could afford the metal to produce these windmills you want." And we'd say, "hmm, I never thought about that," and that would be that.

Books like these are good when they're way out in front ("here's a crazy idea"), but this one isn't. This book is still good, particularly given all the media outreach he's doing, to the extent that it will build up support for the ideas among a certain portion of the population and give the choir a few more facts. But at this point, on these suggestions, the research needed should have its target audience be policy wonks. The research wouldn't be a survey of general concepts we could try. They would be detailed policy proposals with an analysis of their impacts. The Brookings Institution produces some of these, for example. Lester Brown has done very comprehensive research for decades, so I hate to knock it, but I would prefer to have his research tied more directly to real political action that could make these ideas happen.
posted by salvia at 9:49 AM on July 2, 2008

Can't we just build a big spaceship and leave a bunch of cute little robots behind to clean up the mess?
posted by briank at 10:15 AM on July 2, 2008

But imagine me and a few friends just writing up a list (1. Tax oil more, 2. Initiate a cap-and-trade system, 3. Lower income taxes) and walking in to Senator Feinstein's office. We say, "Lester Brown says, 'A carbon tax of $240 per ton of carbon by 2020 may seem steep, but it is not.'"

This is even assuming that Senator Feinstein (or any other senator) would actually deign to meet (as opposed to sending out a blank-faced receptionist or PR drone to meet) a constituent or a group of constituents who weren't fat cat contributors from, say, Pacific Gas & Electric, Qualcomm, Disney, or The Gap.
posted by blucevalo at 12:30 PM on July 2, 2008

> i don't know, i'm kind of looking forward to what comes after "civilization."

A quote from Alex Steffen's essay "Night, Hoover Dam" pretty much sums up my feelings to that whole line of thinking:
[R]eal apocalypses are sordid, banal, insane. If things do come unraveled, they present not a golden opportunity for lone wolves and well-armed geeks, but a reality of babies with diarrhea, of bugs and weird weather and dust everywhere, of never enough to eat, of famine and starving, hollow-eyed people, of drunken soldiers full of boredom and self-hate, of random murder and rape and wars which accomplish nothing, of many fine things lost for no reason and nothing of any value gained. And survivalists, if they actually manage to avoid becoming the prey of larger groups, sitting bitter and cold and hungry and paranoid, watching their supplies run low and wishing they had a clean bed and some friends. Of all the lies we tell ourselves, this is the biggest: that there is any world worth living in that involves the breakdown of society.
In short: there will be no talking-dog sidekicks.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:31 PM on July 2, 2008 [5 favorites]

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