We desperately need a new way of thinking, a new mind-set. The thinking that got us into this bind will not get us out. When Elizabeth Kolbert, a writer for the New Yorker, asked energy guru Amory Lovins about thinking outside the box, Lovins responded: "There is no box."
There is no box. That is the mind-set we need if civilization is to survive.
These are the concluding words of an essay Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization? published in the May 2009 Scientific American. The author, Lester Brown, heralded as "one of the world's most influential thinkers" is deeply concerned about the direction of our food, fuel and environmental policies. He writes that, "[o]ur continuing failure to deal with the environmental declines that are undermining the world food economy—most important, falling water tables, eroding soils and rising temperatures—forces me to conclude that such a collapse is possible."
In this thought-provoking essay, Brown notes our inability to increase food production on par with increases in population and highlights the stress that this causes on societies that are already in turmoil. Demand for grain stocks for human food now competes with other less efficient uses - fuel and livestock feed for meat production. Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production, and they are getting worse. Brown advocates for urgent action to stem these three environmental emergencies before it is too late.
He lays out the framework for his plan - Plan B.
Similar in scale and urgency to the U.S. mobilization for World War II, Plan B has four components: a massive effort to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent from their 2006 levels by 2020; the stabilization of the world’s population at eight billion by 2040; the eradication of poverty; and the restoration of forests, soils and aquifers.
A significant agenda, no doubt. I encourage all to read this sobering assessment and to consider "there is no box."