Books by Lester R. Brown

Released: Nov. 25, 1991

To remake our outmoded notions of economics—and to save the global environment—the Worldwatch Institute delivers a comprehensive, persuasive guide to achieving a sustainable economy based on energy efficiency and reuse, rather than waste, of resources. Using an analogy to the denial that ran rampant on the Titanic, the authors of the Institute's yearly State of the World series stress the urgent need to move away from a fossil-fuel economy in order to counteract global warming. ``Renewables'' are the key: Brown and his colleagues present tables demonstrating that wind and solar energy will create more jobs than coal and oil development will, and argue that the hazards of nuclear waste and accident obviate the viability of nuclear power. ``When it comes to solar technologies, today's political leaders, still captivated by coal and nuclear power, are akin to the steam engine's 18th-century skeptics.'' The farming of rain forests' natural products (nuts, medicines, rubber) could be substituted for clear-cutting; farming methods that prevent erosion, such as ``intercropping,'' could help feed a stable population (the authors argue that the earth, currently home to 5.4 billion people, cannot sustain more than 8 billion without catastrophic famine and disease). ``Sustainable progress'' rather than standard economic growth would take into account equity for women, the poor, other species, and future generations. Indicators should be adjusted, the authors say, so that for every economic gain that enhances GNP, such as the cutting and selling of trees, a debit—the destruction of that resource- -should be factored in. The refreshing thing about Worldwatch, in addition to its sane, can-do rather than alarmist attitude, is its balanced international scope, its drawing of statistics and examples from every continent. This volume, which launches a Worldwatch Environmental Alert Series, should be made part of the economic and political-science curriculum for undergraduates and graduate programs, including business schools. Read full book review >

Worldwatch Institute's annual report on the global ecology. The publisher touts this as "the world's most widely read public document"; it's also probably the world's most frightening public document, as the Worldwatch staff chronicles in no-nonsense prose precipitous rises in land degradation (especially deforestation), ozone depletion, ocean pollution, AIDS, toxic wastes, fuel depletion and air pollution (culprit: the automobile), world military expenditure, etc. For each problem, the Worldwatch team presents possible solutions, and, gratefully, finds private-and-public sector interest in ecology growing along with the global deterioration. For example, in regard to military expenditure, the report comments favorably on China's decision to cut its military budget by one quarter "and to utilize part of the military-industrial capacity to manufacture civilian goods"; along the same lines, the report points out that the cost of one Trident submarine equals the cost of a "5-year child immunization program against 6 deadly diseases, preventing 1 million deaths a year." A book, then, of literally vital interest. Read full book review >