February 19, 2011

Lester Brown on Living On Earth

Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, was asked what would have been the impact to the world wheat output if the heat wave that destroyed Russia's grain harvest in 2010 had happened in the US instead.

BROWN: It's a useful question with a disturbing answer, because, if the heat wave that was centered in Moscow had instead been centered in Chicago, and we lost 40 percent of our grain harvest as the Russians did, we would have lost 160 million tons, not 40 million tons. If that had happened, there would now be chaos on world grain markets. Food prices would have been rising throughout the world. Grain-exporting countries would have restricted exports to keep their food prices down, reducing the exportable supplies. Most likely, the oil-exporting countries would have begun to barter oil for grain to make sure they could get the grain they needed. And much of the rest of the world, including lower income and developing countries, would have been left scrambling for the remaining crumbs. And that would have led to governments falling and food riots on a scale that we've not seen before. Because when people get really desperate, they do desperate things.

So in the face of that, what should we be doing?

CURWOOD: I know people ask you this - what can they do on an individual level?

BROWN: That's the question I get more frequently than any other. And I think people expect me to say, you know, 'Change your lightbulbs and recycle your newspapers...' And those things are important, but we now have to change the system. I don't mean a political revolution - I mean we have to restructure the world economy in a way that will dramatically reduce carbon emissions. It's going to take a lot of political support.

So, it's becoming politically active. Pick an issue that's important to you - if it's creating a world-class recycling program in your community, or helping to close coal-fired power plants, or joining a population group to stabilize world population. This is where our future is going to be determined.

Indeed. We can't let the insanity of Inhofe and the rest of the Right keep us from doing what we can to change the system that is killing our future.

Posted by Mary at February 19, 2011 04:36 PM | Environment | Technorati links |