Earth Policy Institute: Podcast (book bytes)

While on a brief assignment for the USDA in India in 1965, Lester Brown pieced together the early clues of an impending famine. His urgent warning to the U.S. and Indian governments set in motion the largest food rescue effort in history, saving millions of lives.

Direct download: us_india_monsoon_failure.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 9:18am EST

The situation in which we find ourselves today pushes us to redefine security in twenty-first century terms. The time when military forces were the prime threat to security has faded into the past. The threats now are climate volatility, spreading water shortages, continuing population growth, spreading hunger, and failing states. The challenge is to devise new fiscal priorities that match these new security threats.

Direct download: Redefining_Security.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 11:52am EST

Moving the global economy off its current decline-and-collapse path depends on reaching four goals: stabilizing climate, stabilizing population, eradicating poverty, and restoring the economy's natural support systems. These goals are mutually dependent. All are essential to feeding the world's people. It is unlikely that we can reach any one goal without reaching the others.

Direct download: Getting_the_Market_to_Tell_the_Truth.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 12:36pm EST

Our natural systems are the foundation of our economy. We can roughly estimate how much it will cost to reforest the earth, protect topsoil, restore rangelands and fisheries, stabilize water tables, and protect biological diversity. The goal is not to offer a set of precise numbers but rather to provide a set of reasonable estimates for an earth restoration budget.

Direct download: How_Much_Will_It_Cost_to_Save_Our_Economys_Foundation.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 12:22pm EST

Many countries are facing dangerous water shortages. As world demand for food has soared, millions of farmers have drilled too many irrigation wells in efforts to expand their harvests. As a result, water tables are falling and wells are going dry in some 20 countries containing half the world’s people. The overpumping of aquifers for irrigation temporarily inflates food production, creating a food production bubble that bursts when the aquifer is depleted. For full report, visit the EPI website.

Direct download: Growing_Water_Deficit_Threatening_Grain_Harvests.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 4:10pm EST

Heat waves clearly can destroy crop harvests. The world saw high heat decimate Russian wheat in 2010. Crop ecologists have found that each 1-degree-Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum can reduce grain harvests by 10 percent. But the indirect effects of higher temperatures on our food supply are no less serious. For full report, visit the EPI website.

Direct download: Rising_Temperatures_Melting_Away_Global_Food_Security.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 9:53am EST

During the years when governments and the media were focused on preparations for the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations, a powerful climate movement was emerging in the United States: the movement opposing the construction of new coal-fired power plants. 

Environmental groups, both national and local, are opposing coal plants because they are the primary driver of climate change. Emissions from coal plants are also responsible for 13,200 U.S. deaths annually—a number that dwarfs the U.S. lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. 

What began as a few local ripples of resistance quickly evolved into a national tidal wave of grassroots opposition from environmental, health, farm, and community organizations. Despite a heavily funded industry campaign to promote “clean coal,” the American public is turning against coal. In a national poll that asked which electricity source people would prefer, only 3 percent chose coal. The Sierra Club, which has kept a tally of proposed coal-fired power plants and their fates since 2000, reports that 152 plants in the United States have been defeated or abandoned. For report, visit the EPI website.

Direct download: The_Good_News_About_Coal.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 9:03am EST

After the earth was created, soil formed slowly over geological time from the weathering of rocks. It began to support early plant life, which protected and enriched it until it became the topsoil that sustains the diversity of plants and animals we know today. Now the world’s ever-growing herds of cattle, sheep, and goats are converting vast stretches of grassland to desert. For full report, visit the EPI website.

Direct download: Growing_Goat_Herds_Signal_Global_Grassland_Decline.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 9:00am EST

Turning Toward the Sun for Energy

One key component of the Plan B climate stabilization strategy is solar energy. Solar is even more ubiquitous than wind energy and can be harnessed with both solar photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal collectors.

Solar PV—both silicon-based and thin film—converts sunlight directly into electricity. The growth in solar cell production climbed from an annual expansion of 38 percent in 2006 to an off-the-chart 89 percent in 2008, before settling back to 51 percent in 2009. At the end of 2009, there were 23,000 megawatts of PV installations worldwide, which when operating at peak power could match the output of 23 nuclear power plants. Germany, with an installed PV power generating capacity of almost 10,000 megawatts, is far and away the world leader in installations. For full report, visit the EPI website.

Direct download: Turning_Toward_the_Sun_for_Energy.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 9:00am EST

Wind: The Center of the Plan B Economy

For many years, a small handful of countries dominated growth in wind power, but this is changing as the industry goes global, with more than 70 countries now developing wind resources. Between 2000 and 2010,world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 megawatts.

Measured by share of electricity supplied by wind, Denmark is the leading nation at 21 percent. Three north German states now get 40 percent or more of their electricity from wind. For Germany as a whole, the figure is 8 percent—and climbing. And in the state of Iowa, enough wind turbines came online in the last few years to produce up to 20 percent of that state’s electricity. For full report, visit the EPI website.

Direct download: Wind_The_Center_of_the_Plan_B_Economy.mp3
Category:Book Bytes -- posted at: 3:11pm EST