Restore the Earth

Our planet is ailing.  We need a comprehensive plan to restore it to full health.   Lester Brown, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the environment, lays out a road map in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.  The good news is that almost everything we need to do has already been done by one or more countries.  Here is a summary of steps to take according to Brown.

1.  Stabilize the population.  Reduce fertility to the replacement level or just below.  In seven years Iran cut population growth in half with these strategies: passing a national family planning law; establishing health clinics; mobilizing government agency resources toward the goal; providing a full panoply of family planning measures available free; raising female literacy; and using TV to disseminate information.

2.  Build a global solar/wind/geo-mass/hydrogen energy economy.  New Zealand, led by Helen Clark, aspires to be “carbon neutral.”  Its goal is to boost the renewable share of its electricity to 90% by 2025.  North Dakota, Kansas and Texas have enough harnessable wind energy to satisfy national electricity needs

3.  Redesign urban centers for people not cars.  Integrate rail and bicycle, shift to cars powered by electricity or biofuels, electrify freight and passenger trains, promote walking and biking.  The Bicycle Master Plan of The Netherlands provides for the creation of bicycle lanes and trails in all its cities.  Roughly 30% of urban trips now are on bicycle.  When public transport is the centerpiece, augmented with walk and bikeways, exercise, clean air, and green space result.

4.  Design fiscal and regulatory policy to establish environmentally constructive activity.  Lower taxes on income; raise taxes on environmentally destructive activities such as carbon emissions.  Base increased taxes on the true ecological cost of such activities.  Subsidize not mining but recycling, not fossil fuels but climate-benign energy sources, not urban auto dependency but urban rail systems.  While China continues to build coal plants, it is also shifting its subsidies to wind.

5.  Restore the Earth’s natural systems.  Institute global reforestation efforts to prevent flooding and to soak up carbon. Control erosion through contour farming and strip cropping.  Combat desertification through improved rangeland management, incentives to eliminate overstocking and revegetation.  Regenerate fisheries through establishing marine parks where fishing is off limits thus allowing fish to live longer, grow larger and produce more offspring.    Raise water productivity through converting to water-efficient irrigation practices as well as urban and industrial water recycling. 

6.  Design a New Materials Economy.  This includes creating recyclable products, banning those that pollute, taxing garbage generation, offering incentives for eco-friendly products, clustering factories so that waste produced by one can be used as raw material by another.  Ireland now charges 43 cents for each plastic bag used.  Denmark has banned throwaway beverage containers.

Results We Can Expect:  a thriving planet with enough clean water and food for all, clear air, beautiful countryside, and cities that combine culture and nature in life-giving ways.

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