‘We are in a race between tipping points in the earth’s natural systems and those in the world’s political systems. Which will tip first?’ is how Lester R Brown puts it. To win, we must embark on a radical change of direction with a wartime sense of urgency.
Brown’s plan has four interconnecting strands: climate stabilization, population stabilization, poverty eradication and ecosystem repair. The cost of $190 billion per year, Brown suggests, could easily be drawn from global defence budgets which total six times that amount.
To stabilize the climate he recommends reducing global CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2020 – 40 per cent by ending deforestation, planting trees and changing farming practices. Redirecting taxes from employment to environmental damage (ideally with a tax levied on fossil fuel producing companies) would wind down the use of hydrocarbon fuels and give incentives for efficiency and renewable energy. We haven’t time to wait for the UN, he argues: individual nations must go ahead and take action regardless.
Surprisingly, Brown maintains we can economically grow our way out of the problem – a moot point – and he puts little stress on using less energy through lifestyle and behaviour change. But he does acknowledge the benefits of moving towards a plant-based diet.