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Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  383 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
“[Brown’s] ability to make a complicated subject accessible to the general reader is remarkable.”—Katherine Salant, Washington Post

As fossil fuel prices rise, oil insecurity deepens, and concerns about climate change cast a shadow over the future of coal, a new energy economy is emerging. Wind, solar, and geothermal energy are replacing oil, coal, and natural gas, at a pa
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 5th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published October 15th 2008)
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Lester R. Brown

(What follows is the first section from his Wiki article, with a bit of editing. Emphases are mine. The following sections of this article provide fascinating reading about a man who has evolved from a New Jersey tomato farmer to become one of the world’s acknowledged agricultural and environmental experts.)

“(born March 28, 1934) Lester R. Brown is a United States environmental analyst, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute
Mar 31, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Ted Schmeckpeper
Re the future of humankind - we can either change our policies now, and change them fast...or we can wait until we experience a massive ecological disaster, and by then it may be too late to reverse our wrongdoings. That is the basic message of this book. It's a giant of a book - not in size but in stature - and it's largely recognised as the standard work in its field.

On the upside, it cites lots of marvellous initiatives that are being undertaken all round the world in an effort to improve the
By far the best book on the environment that I've read so far. Well written and researched, Brown reviews all aspects of the environmental challenges we face today and proposes solutions (with budgets) to our problems.

The book is revised every few years and available for free (audio or text) at

Chapter headings are listed below.
1. Selling Our Future
2. Population Pressure: Land and Water
3. Climate Change and the Energy Transition
4. Stabilizing Climate: An E
Fiona Mai
The thing I like about this book is the huge amount of facts and data it gives to support all the arguments made. The book also describes all the environmental and social problems humans are facing right now in a systematic way, which makes it easier for readers to see the big picture and understand the current situation from a wider point of view. For those who are concerned about saving the Earth, this book is a good start, though the opening offers an outlook which is too bleak.
There are als
Jul 16, 2010 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, ebook, beyond
"Plan B is far more ambitious than anything the world has ever undertaken, an initiative that has no precedent in either scale or urgency. It has four components: cutting
net carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2020, stabilizing population at 8 billion or lower, eradicating poverty, and restoring the earth’s natural systems, including its soils, aquifers, forests, grasslands, and fisheries. The ambitiousness of this plan
is not driven by perceived political feasibility but by scientific reality
Aug 21, 2015 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is awesome. For anyone interested in saving the world, it is probably the first book that they should read. The references section is like fifty pages long; this book is extremely well researched. Lester Brown looks in extreme, scientific detail at why and how our planet is warming, and how that will affect natural systems and human systems, and what, specifically, we can do to stop it. For environmentalists who are tired of weak solutions like, "get energy efficient light bulbs", and ...more
Adam Cherson
Dec 31, 2013 Adam Cherson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rate this book a 4.05 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. Of all the books on the environmental crisis, this is one of the most data driven and that's why I rate it highly.

Chap. 8: Preserving our natural resources will take $93B per year. (Does not include climate change expense).


A strategy for eradicating poverty will not succeed if an economy's environmental support systems are collapsing. If croplands are eroding and harvests are shrinking, if water tables are falling and wells
Aug 03, 2011 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
400 million people are today being fed by overpumping aquifers. With world-wide aquifers being depleted, the water-based foot bubble is about to burst. In fact, it is the view of the author that the price of grain is now tied inseparably to the price of oil, and that future wars in the Middle East will more likely be fought over water than oil.

The point of Plan B 4.0 is that we cannot continue with business as usual. We are in a race between political tipping points and natural tipping points. W
Sep 11, 2012 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, easy to follow, and seems to be reasonably researched. I do question whether parts of the plan would be as simple as he states, even though he does not state that they are very simple. Definitely worth reading and I would like to see an updated copy, as this is a few years old and those few years have most likely made the situations described worse, not better.

This book cannot really be judged on a Liked, Really Liked, ... basis. The first few chapters should make you scared for th
Apr 12, 2013 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Required reading for both sides of the energy debate, although we are long overdue for 5.0! Would love to see an update, especially since there were many projections, good and bad, that were made for the interval between 2008 and 2013.

I docked a star because the author dismisses analyzing whether the policies he proposes can reasonably be expected to be implemented. I strongly disagree - the author is essentially telling the opposition to please desist in their complaints and just allow us to r
Feb 19, 2011 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book written by someone who's clearly an optimist: two thirds of the book detail a work plan for transitioning to sustainable energy systems and reducing our impact on aquifers and on the topsoil to the point where we're not riding a "food bubble" until it pops.

That being said, there are some parts of the book that don't quite add up. He talks about mitigation almost exclusively rather than adaption. He does not go into the economic consequences of oil shock, and he doesn't complete th
Apr 27, 2011 Allee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe its because I've been working in a part of the environmental movement for the past 6 months, but nothing in this book was really new or groundbreaking to me. So it kind of read as an overly broad and simplistic manifesto. And I guess I appreciate the tone of "we can do it!", and to be fair it was written before the current crop of GOP crazies swept in, but politically it just aint gonna happen that we go to all renewable energy by 2020. I think we do have the technology, money, and knowhow ...more
May 18, 2010 Lekan rated it it was amazing
Clearest, most well-researched, most holistic, and most realistic assessment and proposal on environmental disasters I have ever encountered. I consider myself very well-read on this topic, but Brown presents his case supported by 70 pages of endnotes, linking each topic together, and giving plenty of real world examples for the anecdotally inclined.

For those who still have doubts on climate change, the ongoing agricultural disaster, our population problems, and our fragile water supply, this bo
Sep 19, 2011 Mavis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was very informative and the amount of research involved in the production of this book was impressive. I also like that he doesn't dwell on just climate change, rather he discusses the social and environmental changes that are needed to sustain our society indefinitely. However, at times I experienced 'information overload' because there were so many numbers and statistics being given. The information flowed well, there was just a lot of stats involved in his expl ...more
Feb 16, 2010 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to be depressed by the major challenges facing the planet and the seeming lack of will or ability by our elected officials to do anything serious about it, but Plan B 4.0 gave me more optimism and specific ideas about how we might make this change than anything I've read before. Brown has been revising this book for many years, so "4.0" is the latest version. Thus its ideas are very contemporary and clearly reflect a deep base of knowledge of the political and economic realities surrou ...more
João Abegão
Oct 11, 2015 João Abegão rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most important book I have ever read.
By my calculations Environmental Science will be the most important science of this century, as humanity will have to learn and unite to fight climate change, poverty, preserving the resources etc. I predit a time when Nobel Prizes will be extended to the contributions made on this regard. Also, we need this book in every country's school program, young adults need to study this and prepare themselves as they will become the main actors of this century.
The author covered a lot of ground in an organized and understandable manner. Readers learn about the issues facing our planet and people as well as some possible solutions. I did get bogged down in the numbers and details a few times.

One thing that set the book apart from others I’ve read is the author dealt with the topic of population which can be a touchy subject. Any solution for addressing climate change and environmental restoration needs to address stabilizing earth’s population, helping
Oct 08, 2013 Shankar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book which shakes you up to the reality of the climate change crisis and unlike other doomsday writings, provides you with an optimistic blueprint to save the earth.
I would have loved it even more if he had added notes on how challenging each step of the blueprint would be. This book was written a couple of years ago and already current events have scraped off some of the optimism.
But nevertheless, it still is a very important book for anyone who is concerned about the environment.
Feb 17, 2015 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extremely eye-opening and readable assessment of where we are today. A must read for everyone who believes that life is good, because if you care about it, you really need to have a larger understanding of what makes a good life possible, how our current lifestyles are compromising that possibility for future generations, and what kind of changes are necessary to protect the Earth's ability to provide for human civilization.
Greg Horstmann
Apr 02, 2010 Greg Horstmann rated it really liked it
Macroeconomics is more interesting than you think. I've always enjoyed mechanisms in drugs, cars, politics, ecology. Many if/then statements played out. Its even more interesting with this subject in that the stakes are so high and the rewards are so potentially satisfying. too bad the public will probably be too lazy to keep up with us until they are motivated by even More inconvenient circumstances such as price hikes on products or lower quality living.
Dec 05, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice to read a book about the coming environmental catastrophe that isn't simply gloomy. Brown not only tells us the bad news--that business as usual isn't going to cut it--but gives a plan that seems surprisingly doable and, more importantly, points out how much money it will cost. Spoiler: it's less than the United States is currently spending on defense. Reading it two years after publication, I'm pleased to see that we're making some progress.
Oct 07, 2009 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Critical examination of our exploitation of global resources, the consequences, and what we can do to get our civilization back on track for sustainable growth through smart energy, food, water, and poverty policies. Available for free download here
Alisha Hanson-Glatzel
The first couple of chapters are fairly doom and gloom. Interesting stat's about all the why's and how's we got here but chapter 4 explodes with details that are tangible and easy to comprehend. I'm easily excitable, but I'm really getting pumped - I think we just might be able to pull this thing off.

Aug 31, 2010 L rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had to read this for class. It's not bad in terms of providing an overview of the problems we face and the possible solutions. But the proposed solutions are decidedly market based, assuming government intervention to fix market failures. It just doesn't strike me as very plausible given government reluctance to address climate change.
Feb 16, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Umm, so unless we cut CO2 by 80% in 7 years human civilization on the planet will likely be over! (Seriously.) We're all in for a really rough ride over the next 50 years. Why 5 starts. Well, because he's right. He has concrete steps of what we should do. Really feel like Obama should have made climate change happen instead of health care.
Victoria Collins
Oct 02, 2013 Victoria Collins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
Do you think about changing things? Do you have the impression that we should probably do something to protect the environment, to feed the hungry and improve our well-being. If you do, and even if you don't, you should read this book. It'll give you the why and how of what we should change and now.
Peter Michael
Jan 13, 2013 Peter Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This single most important book you will ever read not only irrefutably documents the mounting environmental damage caused by the global species infestation of humans but lays out how to stop and reverse the damage, "Plan B."
Luke Reisdorf
Jun 08, 2011 Luke Reisdorf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for anyone who wants to confront the main challenges facing our globe today. This data dense book both proposes the seemingly impossible and argues convincingly that we can arise to the occasion.
Filip Jovakaric
Dec 10, 2013 Filip Jovakaric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! A lot, if not all, global and environmental problems are presented here with great solutions from around world.

I would recommend it to anyone who wants to help in improving our only planet.
As heard on "The World" from PRI.

Also: heard on The World Beyond the Headlines.
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Lester Russell Brown is an American environmentalist, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. BBC Radio commentator Peter Day calls him "one of the great pioneer environmentalists."

In the mid-1970s, Brown helped pioneer the concept of sustainable development, during a career that start
More about Lester Russell Brown...

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