Monday, March 17, 2008

Lester R. Brown - Plan B 3.0, Mobilising to Save Civilisation

Lester Brown's book on climate change is unlike many of the myriad of books that have been produced about the subject. His book is geared towards the international strategies that are needed to tackle the problem - or at least limiting emissions so that global temperatures do not rise about the 2 degree mark, and runaway climate change becomes inevitable.

Of course to do this, Brown has to set out the scale of the problem, and even those who have read widely on the subject will once again find themselves scared and nervous. When you read about the 400 million people in India and Bangladesh who are reliant on the waters of the Gangees River, you can only imagine what will happen if that river becomes seasonal. Brown paints a picture of a world where untold millions will suffer drought, famine, disease and war as climate change accelerates.

If Plan A is "business as usual", Brown's Plan B is nothing less than the restructuring and recreation of almost every aspect of society. From how we generate and use energy, to how we grow our crops, to how we travel in our cities. In every case where Brown shows us how our existing setup is leading us straight into catastrophe, he gives counter, real-world examples showing how it's possible to change things to be better and more climate friendly.

Brown points out that the solutions he offers will also benefit mankind. A low carbon world is one that needs high levels of employment. Solving the climate threat should bring wealth and improved conditions to millions of people around the globe.

There are a couple of problems with his strategy. The book finishes with a call for political action, but this is limited to lobbying politicians for environmental taxes. In reality, the changes that he proposes - reducing car use, phasing out oil and coal power stations and so on, will bring down the wrath of the most powerful corporations upon us - and their allies in government. Look at how the car and oil companies have blocked legislation aimed to make cars legally more petrol efficient.

This book has many great ideas, it falls short because it underestimates the entrenched interests of capitalism to resist change - and thus underestimates the power of the movement we need to build to save the planet.

Plan B 3.0 can be purchased through the normal channels. I got mine through Bookmarks, but you can download it for free from the website of the Earth Policy Institute.

Related Reviews

Monbiot - Heat, How to stop the planet burning
Pearce - The Last Generation

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