Dr.Lester Brown, unarguably one of the most influential thinkers of our time and an expert Environment Analyst, was in New Delhi recently and I had the privileged opportunity to listen him talking. He was addressing a group of audience in the Teen Murti House auditorium in New Delhi on the 13th of June, on the release of Hindi Version of his latest book Plan B 3.0 Mobilising to Save Civilisation. The book deals with the major areas where humanity is facing crisis and the ways to resolve the crisis in the most pragmatic manner possible. I would like to highlight some of the important points that were raised during the interactive session that lasted for about an hour. Also present in the panel discussion was Mr. Bittu Sahgal, editor of sanctuary magazine who is seen listening attentively as Dr. Brown speaks in the picture below.
Changing the tax regime is one of the most important steps according to Dr. Brown. His contention is that people pay for the production of fuels or technology but they don’t pay for the outcomes. For instance, while for the petrol that we purchase, we are charged right from extraction to retail distribution, we are not charged for the environmental impact we cause due to the usage of petrol. This is an area of concern. Introduction of a green tax or a carbon tax would serve as a powerful retardant from the overuse of those articles that leave an impact on the environment.
Political will is also essential to make this happen. One of the more relevant points raised during the discussion was that the economic measures finally rest upon those section of people who are exposed to tax and occupy a relatively higher position in the society whereas the problem needs to be addressed at the grass roots who are the worst affected and where the real solution lies. The possible solution to this question is a mass movement. Dr. Brown highlighted how in the US, the civil societies have gone up against the move to construct coal fired power plants and have successfully stopped the construction of plants which do not satisfy the emission norms. Also he highlighted upon the need to shift focus towards the usage of alternate clean/green sources of energy for which he again cited the example of the state of Texas has proposed to set up a wind farm with a capacity of generating 23000MW of clean energy, enough to address the needs of the majority of its population. T. Boone Pickens, one of the oil barons of Texas has also invested in a 4000MW plant as a part of the grid. This exemplifies the fact how the world is shifting towards alternate energy.
Another interesting point that came up in the discussion was how the diversion of food crops to the alternate energy projects in the US has led to the increase in the food prices globally. Dr. Brown stated that almost 25% of the corn production has been set apart for the bio fuel projects.
The session ended with stress on how the youth have to come together in a mass mobilization to address this problem, as we are the ones who would be living in this earth and face the brunt of some of the mistakes our previous generations have committed.
A detailed biography of Dr. Brown can be had here
The Plan B 3.0 book can be downloaded at http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PB3/Contents.htm