We are in a race between political and natural tipping points. Can we close coal-fired power plants fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet and avoid catastrophic sea level rise? Can we raise water productivity fast enough to halt the depletion of aquifers and avoid water-driven food shortages? Can we cope with peak water and peak oil at the same time? These are some of the issues Lester R. Brown skillfully distills in World on the Edge.
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With food scarcity driven by falling water tables, eroding soils, and rising temperatures, control of arable land and water resources is moving to center stage in the global struggle for food security. “In this era of tightening world food supplies, the ability to grow food is fast becoming a new form of geopolitical leverage. Food is the new oil,” Lester R. Brown writes. What will the geopolitics of food look like in a new era dominated by scarcity and food nationalism?
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As fossil fuel prices rise, oil insecurity deepens, and concerns about climate change cast a shadow over the future of coal, a new energy economy is emerging. Wind, solar, and geothermal energy are replacing oil, coal, and natural gas, at a pace and on a scale we could not have imagined even a year ago. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, we have begun investing in energy sources that can last forever. Plan B 4.0 explores both the nature of this transition to a new energy economy and how it will affect our daily lives.
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Lester R. Brown, whom the Washington Post praised as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers,” built his understanding of global environmental issues from the ground up. Brown spent his childhood working on the family’s small farm. His entrepreneurial skills surfaced early. Even while excelling in school, he launched with his younger brother a tomato-growing operation that by 1958 was producing 1.5 million pounds of tomatoes.
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One of the biggest threats to global stability is the potential for food crises to cause government collapse in poor countries. This article was published in the May 2009 edition of Scientific American.
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