Lester Brown: President of the Earth Policy Institute

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Living Dialogues episode 70: Lester Brown – Consciously Mobilizing to Save Civilization

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The Washington Post called Lester Brown "one of the world's most influential thinkers."  The Telegraph of Calcutta refers to him as “the guru of the environmental movement.” In 1986, the Library of Congress requested his personal papers noting that his writings “have already strongly affected thinking about problems of world population and resources.”

Brown started his career as a farmer, growing tomatoes in southern New Jersey with his younger brother during high school and college.  Shortly after earning a degree in agricultural science from Rutgers University in 1955, he spent six months living in rural India where he became intimately familiar with the food/population issue.  In 1959 Brown joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service as an international agricultural analyst.

Brown earned masters degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Maryland and in public administration from Harvard. In 1964, he became an adviser to Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman on foreign agricultural policy.  In 1966, the Secretary appointed him Administrator of the department's International Agricultural Development Service.  In early 1969, he left government to help establish the Overseas Development Council.

In 1974, with support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lester Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute, the first research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues. While there he launched the Worldwatch Papers, the annual State of the World reports, World Watch magazine, a second annual entitled Vital Signs: The Trends That are Shaping Our Future, and the Environmental Alert book series.

Brown has authored or coauthored 50 books. One of the world's most widely published authors, his books have appeared in some 40 languages. Among his earlier books are Man, Land and Food, World Without Borders, and Building a Sustainable Society. His 1995 book Who Will Feed China? challenged the official view of China’s food prospect, spawning hundreds of conferences and seminars.

In May 2001, he founded the Earth Policy Institute to provide a vision and a road map for achieving an environmentally sustainable economy. In November 2001, he published Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth, which was hailed by E.O. Wilson as “an instant classic.” His most recent book is Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

He is the recipient of many prizes and awards, including 23 honorary degrees, a MacArthur Fellowship, the 1987 United Nations' Environment Prize, the 1989 World Wide Fund for Nature Gold Medal, and the 1994 Blue Planet Prize for his "exceptional contributions to solving global environmental problems."  More recently, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Italy, the Borgström Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, and appointed an honorary professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

Degrees

B.S. Rutgers University (Agricultural Science) (1955)
M.S. University of Maryland (Agricultural Economics) (1959)
M.P.A. Harvard University (Public Administration) (1962)

Books

Man, Land and Food (1963)
Increasing World Food Output (1965)
Seeds of Change (1970)
World Without Borders (1972)
Man and His Environment: Food (with Gail Finsterbusch) (1972)
In the Human Interest (1974)
By Bread Alone (with Erik Eckholm) (1974)
The Twenty-Ninth Day (1978)
Running on Empty (with Colin Norman & Christopher Flavin) (1979)
Building a Sustainable Society (1981)
The World Watch Reader (edited by Lester Brown) (1991)
Saving the Planet (with Christopher Flavin & Sandra Postel) (1991)
Full House: Reassessing the Earth’s Population Carrying Capacity
(with Hal Kane) (1994)
Who Will Feed China? Wake-Up Call for a Small Planet (1995)
Tough Choices: Facing the Challenge of Food Scarcity (1996)
Eko Kezai Kakume: Environmental Trends Reshaping The Global Economy (1998)
The World Watch Reader (edited by Lester Brown and Ed Ayres) (1998)
Beyond Malthus: Nineteen Dimensions of the Population Challenge (with Gary Gardner and Brian Halweil) (1999)
Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth (2001)
The Earth Policy Reader (with Janet Larsen and Bernie Fischlowitz-Roberts) (2002)
Plan B: Rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble (2003)
Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures (2005)
Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble (2006)
Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (2008)

Book Series

State of the World, annual 1984-2001 (project director and senior author)
Vital Signs: The Trends That Are Shaping Our Future, annual 1992-2001 (project director and senior author)
Environmental Alert Series, 1991-2000

E-Series

Worldwatch Issue Alerts, May 2000-February 2001
Eco-Economy Updates, May 2001- (released by email and fax)

Magazine

Publisher of World Watch Jan/Feb 1988, bimonthly, thru 2000

Author of numerous articles

Papers

“Worldwatch The Politics and Responsibility of the North American Breadbasket”
“Twenty-Two Dimensions of the Population Problem” (with Patricia McGrath and Bruce Stokes)
“World Population Trends: Signs of Hope, Signs of Stress”
“Spreading Deserts: The Hand of Man” (with Erik Eckholm)
“Redefining National Security”
“The Global Economic Prospect”
“The Worldwide Loss of Cropland”
“Resource Trends and Population Policy: A Time for Reassessment
The Future of the Automobile in an Oil-Short World” (with Christopher Flavin)
“Food or Fuel: New Competition for the World’s Cropland
Six Steps to a Sustainable Society” (with Pamela Shaw)
“U.S. and Soviet Agriculture: The Shifting Balance of Power”
“Population Policies for a New Economic Era”
“Soil Erosion: Quiet Crisis in the World Economy” (with Edward Wolf)
“Reversing Africa’s Decline” (with Edward Wolf)
“Our Demographically Divided World” (with Jodi L. Jacobson)
“The Future of Urbanization: Facing the Ecological and Economic Constraints” (with Jodi L. Jacobson)
“The Changing World Food Prospect: The Nineties and Beyond”
“The Agricultural Link: How Environmental Deterioration Could Disrupt Economic Progress”
“Beyond Malthus: Sixteen Dimensions of the Population Problem” (with Gary Gardner and Brian Halweil)

Monographs

The Japanese Agricultural Economy (1961)
An Economic Analysis of Far Eastern Agriculture (1963)
The Social Impact of the Green Revolution (1971)
The Interdependence of Nations (1972)
The Global Politics of Resource Scarcity (1974)
Our Daily Bread (1975)
Human Needs and the Security of Nations (1978)

Currently

Founder, President and Senior Researcher, Earth Policy Institute
Advisory Committee: Institute for International Economics
Advisory Council: Environmental & Energy Study Institute
Member: Cosmos Club
Member: Council on Foreign Relations
Board Member: Institute for Sustainable Development (Poland)
Advisory Council: International Fund for Agricultural Research
Vice Chairman: Advisory Comm. of the US-China Assoc. for Envir. Ed.
Advisory Committee: Eco-Policy Center, Rutgers University
Board of Advisors: International Fund for China’s Environment
Advisory Committee: United Nations Foundation
Advisory Board: Center for a New American Dream
National Advisory Board: Population Connection
Treasurer & Board Member: Farview Foundation
Advisory Committee, Internews
Advisory Council for Excellence in Environmental Engineering: Sierra Club
Steering Committee, The Ecological Cities Project (Univ. of Massachusetts)
Board of Patrons, International Network of Green Planners
Advisory Board, Green House Network
Fellow, World Business Academy
Endorser, Restore the Earth proposal
Member, Advisory Committee, Ecology Channel
Director, Japan for Sustainability
Honorary Advisor, The Institute for Environmental Culture (Japan)
Advisor, Earth Focus, World Link TV's environmental news program
Member, Advisory Board, The Race to Stop Global Warming
Member, Global Advisory Board, The Globalist
Member, Board of Directors, Habitat Media
Advisory Council Member, Global Footprint Network
International Advisory Panel, The Kyoto World Cities Challenge
Friends of the Earth Advisory Board
Member, Romanian Academy of Sciences
Honorary Advisor, National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, Japan
Editorial Board, Solutions: Whole Systems Design for a Sustainable and Desirable Future
Advisory Council, Child Honoring (founded by Raffi Cavoukian)



Formerly

International Agricultural Analyst: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Adviser to the Secretary: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Administrator, International Agricultural Development Service
Senior Fellow: Overseas Development Council
Faculty Member, Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, 1971, 1974
President, Worldwatch Institute (1974–2000)

Awards

U.S. Department of Agriculture Superior Service Award, 1965
Arthur S. Fleming Award, “The Ten Outstanding Young Men in Federal Service,” 1965
Who’s Who
U.S. Jaycees, Ten Outstanding Young Men in America, 1966
Rutgers University, Cook College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, George Hammell Cook Distinguished Service Award, 1976
National Wildlife Federation Special Conservation Award, 1982
UNEP Environmental Leadership Medal, 1982
Lorax Award, Global Tomorrow Coalition, 1985
MacArthur Fellow, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 1986–1991
United Nations Environment Prize, 1987
Gold Medal — Worldwide Fund for Nature, 1989
Rutgers Hall of Fame, 1990
A. Bizzozero Award, University of Parma, 1991
Humanist of the Year, The American Humanist Association, 1991
Windstar Foundation Award, 1991
Gold Medal — Pro Mundo Habitabili award of King Carl XVI Gustaf, Sweden, 1991 (awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences)
Delphi International Cooperation award, 1991
CerviaAmbiente Prize, Italy, 1992
Robert Rodale Lecture award, 1992
Environmentalist of the Year, Tokyo Jaycees, 1992
Certificate of Special Recognition, Association of American Geographers, 1993
Cover biography in Current Biography, 1993
Blue Planet Prize, Asahi Glass Foundation, 1994
J. Sterling Morton Arbor Day Award, 1995
Selected as one of 50 Great Americans by Marquis Who’s Who, 1995
Public Service Award, Federation of American Scientists, 1995
Distinguished Achievement Award, Helyar House Alumni Assoc., Rutgers Univ., 1995
Selected as one of the “100 Who Made a Difference” by The Earth Times, 1995
Selected as one of Audubon Society’s “100 Champions of Conservation,” 1998
Award from Circulo de Periodismo Cientifico de Venezuela, 1999
Rachel Carson Environmental Achievement Award from National Nutritional Foods Association, 2000
People of the Century, chosen by The Daily Journal, New Jersey, 2000
100 Notable Alumni, University of Maryland, 2000
Bruno H. Schubert Foundation environmental award, Germany, 2001
Natural Business Leadership Award, 2002
Excellence Advisory Award, International Fund for China's Environment, 2002
Presidental Medal, Italy, 2003
Honorary Professor, University of Shanghai, 2003
One of the 500 Most Influential People in the United States in Foreign Policy, World Affairs Council of America, 2003
Third Place, Men’s 70-74, Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run
Georg and Greta Borgström Prize, Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, 2005
Claire Matzger Lilienthal Distinguished Lecturer, California Academy of Sciences, 2005
One of 30 Global Visionaries, Planet magazine, 2005
Honorary Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Lester R. Brown permanent exhibit, Cook College, Rutgers University, 2005
Bridgeton High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame, 2005
Heifer All-Star (Heifer International Annual Award), 2008

Literary Awards

Christopher Award for By Bread Alone
Ecologia Firenze (Italian literary award) for The Twenty-Ninth Day
A.H. Boerma Award, FAO, for writings on the world food problem
Best Translation award from the Ministry of Culture, Iran, for Full House (Farsi edition)
Top Ten Book award, TheGlobalist,com, for Eco-Economy
Top Ten Book award, TheGlobalist,com, for Plan B
Best Nonfiction Book award from the Peka Institute, Iran, for Eco-Economy (Farsi edition)
Book of the Month award, Omnipedia, for Plan B
Book of the Week award, TheGlobalist.com, for Outgrowing the Earth
2005 Book award, National Library of China, for Plan B (Chinese edition)

Honorary Degrees

Dickinson College, Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD), 1975
University of Maryland, Doctor of Laws (LLD), 1976
Franklin College, Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD), 1977
Williams College, Doctor of Laws (LLD), 1977
Rutgers University, Doctor of Laws (LLD), 1978
Glassboro State College, Doctor of Humanities (LHD), 1979
Tufts University, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1985
Clark University, Doctor of Humanities (LHD), 1988
The College of Wooster, Doctor of Laws (LLD), 1989
Ripon College, Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD), 1990
Otterbein College, Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD), 1990
University of Pisa, Italy, Doctor of Science, 1991
McGill University, Quebec, Canada, Doctor of Science, 1991
Notre Dame, Doctor of Laws (LLD), 1991
Northland College, Doctor of Public Service, 1993
St. Lawrence University, Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD), 1994
Claremont Graduate School, Doctor of Science, 1996
Villanova University, Doctor of Social Science, 1996
Westminster College (Utah), Doctor of Science, 1998
Westminster College (Pennsylvania), Doctor of Science, 2001
University of Connecticut, Doctor of Science, 2001
Ohio State University, Doctor of Science, 2001
Hitotsubashi University, Doctor of Science, 2006
Michigan State University, Doctor of Agriculture, 2006