Saving Civilization - global warming's critical challenge to our future

Review and recommendation of:
Lester R Brown, Earth Policy Institute (2010) Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

If you haven't already done so, you will do yourself a big favor by placing Brown's latest book at the top of your reading list.

My copy of Plan B 4.0 arrived when I was two-thirds of the way through my initial attempt to get up to scratch on the latest science and technology related to the state of the environmental challenge. Truthfully, this one resource might serve the purpose for most busy people.

Supported by the research team at the Earth Policy Institute, Lester Brown has done a remarkable job focusing the latest science and technology - presented simply and clearly - around a four pronged proposal to address the immediate challenge. Plan B 4.0 is available for free downloading at or, if you prefer, you can purchase a printed copy at their website. You can also check their website for regular updates.

The four components of Plan B are 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. Brown clarifies how each of these components is essential to the other and how all are essential to achieving food security. Food security he convincingly argues is the weak link. The contributing trends are rising temperature, ice melting, population growth, and the use of grain to produce fuel for cars. Without sufficient action to counter these trends, we risk civilization collapse.

While the challenge is large, Brown's concrete approach to it is optimistic and inspiring. His account is replete with examples of actions currently underway and planned by individuals and governments in all parts of the world. The sum total of these actions is impressive, and probably will be news to most readers.

As Brown states, "the ambitiousness of this plan is not driven by political feasibility but by scientific reality," concluding that "the choice is ours - yours and mine. We can stay with business as usual and preside over an economy that continues to destroy its natural support systems until it destroys itself, or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that changed direction, moving the world onto the path of sustained progress. The choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come."

Relying on currently achieved science and technology, and initiatives already completed, Brown is able to provide a 187 billion dollar price-tag for achieving Plan B. This budget represents only 13% of what the world spent on the military in 2008 alone (or 31% of what the US spent that year). There can be little doubt about which investment is likely to produce the greatest dividend in human security.

The four prong thrust of Plan B 4.0 is a needed response to the environmental challenge, but in my opinion would be more likely to succeed with two further concurrent actions. While self-preservation may motivate the more enlightened part of the economic and political elite to make essential contributions to the achievement of Plan B, I hope we do not sit idly by depending on their response. An examination of the response in the U.S. to the massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that more is needed. Otherwise, a de-facto alliance between those megalithic for-profit corporations whose lobbyists are busy at work protecting their investment in fossil fuels and those growing numbers of people worldwide fearful of being displaced in a transition to a largely carbon-free economy could overwhelm all efforts to meet the environmental challenge.

We need to ask: Can green objectives be achieved without also achieving commensurate social democratic ones? I believe Plan B needs explicit actions (1) to reduce the power over government and over the electoral process of private for-profit corporations - especially those invested heavily in fossil fuels - and (2) to assure those of us without millions of dollars of personal wealth at our disposal that there will be resources allocated to enable everyone to participate in the transition to the new economy. The additional cost of these two additional prongs in Plan B? Probably less than one year's worth of the tax cuts the wealthiest one percent of the population world-wide have received over the two decades since the fall of the Berlin wall. Including these two additional prongs in Plan B 4.0 makes it an even more ambitious one. But, as Brown asks about his four prong plan, can we afford not to attempt the six-prong version?

- Charles McFadden
8 August 2010


This website was launched September 1, 2010 in support of a green social democratic alternative to neoliberal capitalist policy and practice. The primary result is a work by Charles and Karen McFadden of seven chapters, grouped under the title, Towards a Green Social Democratic Alternative to Capitalism available here in pdf and html formats.

Below under the heading What’s New can be found the most recent materials posted on this website, including opinion pieces, book reviews, articles and selections from the 2017 edition of the main work.  For the interest of new and returning visitors, new materials will be included quarterly.

What's New


Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

6.8 Additional concerns about 20th century variants of "socialism"

6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them


Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

Charles and Karen McFaddenMovements of Resistance to Movements for System Change

Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement


Charles and Karen McFadden, “The Shape of Water” as an Antidote to the Age of Trump 

Charles McFadden, Decolonizing the U.S. & Canada: The People United for a More Just Sustainable Future

Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.


William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class


George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP


Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018



1.7 The dynamics of capitalism as a system and the limits of single issue reforms

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

3.1 The challenge of a moribund economic system

3.7 Public banking: A cornerstone of a green social democracy

4.7 Economics and culture

6.5 Using the non-market economy as an opportunity to begin moving beyond capitalism


1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

4.3 Culture in historical perspective

5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems


2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies to all work posted on this website except that which appears with authors whose last name is other than McFadden, in which case standard copyright should be assumed to apply.