Review: Plan B 3.0–Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Third Edition

5 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe, Complexity & Resilience, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Future, Intelligence (Public), Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Priorities, Security (Including Immigration), Stabilization & Reconstruction, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Plan 3.0The Best and Most Essential Guide, Not the Whole Picture, January 11, 2008

Lester R. Brown

I have followed Lester Brown’s dedication to evaluating the state of our planet for over a decade, and wrote to the Nobel Committee urging them to recognize him, Herman Daly, and Paul Kawkins and the two Lovins instead of Al Gore. They have all done a great deal more of the heavy lifting.

I decided to purchase this book when Medard Gabel, creator of the analog World Game with Buchminster Fuller, gave me a budget for saving the planet that totals no more than $230 billion a year (at a time when we spend $1.3 trillion waging war).

I’ve gone through the book and consider it to be a best in class effort, a seminal work no one else on the planet could have produced. In the author’s chosen area of focus, there is no other book like this one. However, some other books are easier to read and understand, such as High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them, and others do a better job of addressing all ten high-level threats to Humanity and Earth, such as A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

Here are a few highlights:

+ Book is offered free online (but the hard copy is much better deal, easier to work with, mark up and return to as a reference….use the online version to search for specifics.

+ The Introduction is clear and inspiring. This book is loaded with carefully collected facts ably presented.

+ $12 per gallon of fuel in “true costs” externalized and not billed

+ One 25 gallon ethanol tank takes enough grain to feed a person for a year. This means that those in hunger going to double from 600 million to 1.2 billion, as cars compete for grain (which is nuts).

+ Food-oil axis is developing into a triple crisis: oil, food, water. As 50% live in cities, the fuel intensity of food in the face of Peak Oil is becoming a major issue.

+ Stopping the ethanol program dead in its tracks is the single best thing US Government could do, followed my more wind farms and an end to coal plants.

+ Amazon reaching a tipping point, mega-fires are foreseen (as with New York City if its 1920’s water system fails and a firestorm emerges)

+ Western model will not work for China or India (or Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and other Wild Cards)

+ Ice cap is melting fast, gfalciers are melting fast and causing small earthquakes.

+ 600 million refugees expected if sea level rises ten meters (33 feet)

+ Mortality has been reduced, but fertility has not, leaving persistent population issues.

+ 15 of 24 primary ecosystems degraded or pushed beyond their limits.

+ Climate has become more destructive, with 55 weather events costing $1.5 billion or more each since the 1980’s.

+ Great discussion of the ecology of cities, Bioneers would resonate with all the author recommends.

+ Scarcity crossing national boundaries.

+ Excellent notes, heavy reliance on UN and other primary sources.

+ He proposes a budget of $190 billion a year to achieve our social goals and restore the Earth.

+ The only thing missing from this book are some of the positives, for example bacteria as an energy source, healing bacteria, eletrified water as a cleanser needed no other ingredients, the recovery of the Dead Sea with furrows that retain every drop of water.

I am so surprised to find only one review that I wanted to quickly add my praise for this author, while also pointing out three things that a handful of wealthy philanthropists could do tomorrow to execute this vision.

#1 We should all support the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER) as created by the Natural Capital Institute, and encourage colleges and universities around the world to begin loading the “true cost” information for all products and services (e.g. 4000 gallons of water in a designer T-shirt). Delivered to end-users via cell phone query at the point sale, this will dramatically affect markets.

#2 We should ask the 90 major foundations in the USA to host a summit to which all governments, non-governmental organizations, prominent wealthy individuals, and the United Nations are invited. The objective should be to create an online “Range of Gifts” Table that identifies specific contributions that can be made at every cost level, to eradicate the ten high level threats within fifteen years, by harmonizing the twelve policies such that ALL organizations and ALL individuals can opt in on a master budget that is strategically sound, operationally executable, and tactically open to all.

#3 We must absorb the wisdom of C. K. Prahalad, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, and others listed below, and recognize that the only enduring sustainable solutioin lies in educating the five billion poor, who do not have the time or the money to sit in a classroom for 18-22 years. We can create today, using Telelanguage.com, an immediate registry of 100 million volunteers with Internet access, speaking 183 languages among them, who can educate the poor–who are not stupid, just illiterate–one cell call at a time.

I believe that Reuniting America, True Majority, and WISER are reaching critical mass. All we lack now is one well endowed champion who sees that it is our collective intelligence that will solve the world’s problems, and there is no need to run for President. Here are the handful of books I would recommend to Michael Bloomberg if he were to ask me today how to fulfil his vision of political, educational, and philanthropic reform.

Visit Earth Intelligence Network for free public intelligence on the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers. The weekly report “GLOBAL CHALLENGES: The Week in Review,” will appeal to anyone interested in this book and its topic.

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives
Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era
THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest
The Future of Life

Review: Digital Fortress–A Thriller

3 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
Digital Fortress
Amazon Page

3.0 out of 5 stars Marginal Mish-Mash, Annoying to the Intelligence or Digital Professional

October 7, 2007

Dan Brown

This could have been a great book, but the author chose to mix up a kludge of capabilities, fabrications, and red herrings that in the end do nothing other than irritate the intelligence or digital professional looking for a good read.

The “chapters” are 3-6 page vignettes. The book is totally out of touch with reality and I seriously question whether the author actually had help from two “anonymous” NSA employees.

NSA is cash poor–it does not pay well, all of the money goes to beltway bandits that over-charge for single-point technology solutions and outsourced butts in seats.

There is no 5 story crypto vault. Crypto is the LEAST important aspect of what NSA does–pattern analysis and finding links between specific communications devices is 80% of what they do.

NSA does not run clandestine human agents (at least not legally) and it does not do break & entry, that is done by a special CIA unit that is has been my privilege to help on multiple occasions when I was in the clandestine service.

The NSA translation capabilities are largely software, not hardware.

Navy Commanders are in their 30’s and 40’s, not “56” and certainly not also Deputy Directors of NSA, a flag officer position generally held by a civilian while the Director is a three-star flag officer.

Bottom line: this book is flawed on so many levels I explicitly do not recommend it to anyone, professional or casual.

A *much* better story was told by Winn Schartau in the late 1980’s, see his excellent novel (more truth than fiction), Terminal Compromise. Buy it used, it is still on the mark. Other books by Winn Schwartau that are much better than this low-rent pulp are Pearl Harbor Dot Com; Cybershock: Surviving Hackers, Phreakers, Identity Thieves, Internet Terrorists and Weapons of Mass Disruption; and Information Warfare: Second Edition.

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Review: Sun, Wind & Light–Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd Edition

5 Star, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution
Amazon Page
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Mark DeKay and G. Z. Brown

5.0 out of 5 stars Integrated Review of Two Top Books That Mesh Well,

July 10, 2007

UPDATE 24 March 2014: This update applies only to Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies 3rd Edition

HUGE update. Focus is on zero-net energy and carbon neutral design, augmented by energy-plus building design. New material takes it up to over 800 pages. Nine new “bundles” of design strategies are added including topcis such as “neighborhood of light,” “passively cooled buildings” and “responsive envelope.” The book is now in PDF and also in print as a flat spiral bound volume for desktop ease of use. Navigation within this book — which was already superb in the original editions — has been augmented, to include graphic “Navigation by Design Strategy Maps” showing relationships among design strategies in six nexted levels of complexity. HUGH SQUARED: The book is now accompanied by a 62-page spreadsheet and separately, on the publisher’s companion web site, 1400 pages of climate data and analytics on each US climate zone including five in Alaska, all downloadable [this is part of the purchase, download needs access card printed on inside of back cover of the book]. I continue to regard this book as one of the most exciting around and would not be at all surprised if the next edition includes urban farming that also cleans water and removes waste (sort of kidding, but not really).

Although I normally read books in twos and threes on the same topic to gain varied perspectives, this is the first time I am writing a single review encompassing two books. They mesh together so well that I cannot imagine studying this subject without having BOTH in hand.

The two books are Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd Edition and The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design.

Start with the introduction in the Guidebook, which is blessed with a Foreword from Paul Hawken and see especially page 13 where the cost benefits are shown, with 48% energy savings for Gold, 30% for Silver, and 28% for Certified. See also the illustration on page 15 that I have reproduced in the image I am loading for both books: the old decision model was Cost at the top, with Schedule and Quality anchoring the triangle. the new decision model still has cost at the top, but Schedule and Human Health, Safety, & Comfort are on corners of this new pentagon, and the bottom is achored by Quality and Ecology, or what Paul Hawken would call in his books, “true cost” to the Earth and Humanitas.

NOW shift to the Contents and the Detailed Contents of Sun, Wind, & Light. As one reviewer notes, this is a course book. I did not recognize it as such, I saw it as one of the most gifted complete collection of factors to learn and apply that I have ever seen for ANY topic of study. The content and organization of this book is nothing short of Nobel-level “wow.” Finish going through this book.

NOW go back to the first 218 pages of the Handbook, and study the checklists and varied helpful boxes and explanations. The rest of the book (217-459) is case studies of specific buildings, each a few pages, that can be left for last.

At this point, I went into the Glossaries and Bibliographies of both books. Each is distinct, neither supplants the other. They must be taken together. I read Glossaries, and Indices, as content, and use them as a form of “second look” (in extremely complex books, this is actually where I start).

NOW go back to the Case Studies in the Handbook, and read each from the point of view of what “take away” lessons are there for your own building.

Reading these two books was a real treat. Outside my office kitchen is a deck with an 11 point system for attracting birds from bluebirds and bluejays to cardinals, gold finches, two kinds of woodpecker, and a flicker as well as the more common birds. I believe in diversity, and I believe that if we don’t get our act together and start living up to the ideals of Natural Capitalism (see other recommended books below), our world will go sterile and dark before out great-grandchilden can share in the beauty of this planet. These two books are part of the solution, and I am in serious awe of those who made them available to all of us, and at reasonable prices to boot. Well done!!!

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
The Ecology of Commerce
Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications
For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons (Bk Currents)
The Philosophy of Sustainable Design

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Review: Plan B 2.0–Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble

5 Star, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions)

Plan B 2.0Best Single Book for Both General Public and Broadly Read Specialists,

January 25, 2007
Lester R. Brown
It’s a real shame that the publisher did not take the trouble to load the table of contents into the product information section provided by Amazon, because that alone should persuade anyone that gets to this page that the book is a MUST BUY MUST READ MUST SHARE.

Each of the following section titles has six sub-titles that I will not repeat here:
1. Entering a New World
2. Beyond the Oil Peak
3. Emerging Water Shortages
4. Rising Temperatures & Rising Seas
5. Natural Systems Under Stress
6. Early Signs of Decline
7. Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Populations
8. Restoring the Earth
9. Feeding Seven Billion Well
10. Stabilizing Climate
11. Designing Sustainable Cities
12. Building a New Economy
13. Plan B: Building a New Future.

Although an updated version of the first edition published in 2003, this version can be said to be both completely new, and finally ready for public consumption now that Al Gore has put Global Warming on the public mind.

I still prefer J. F. Rischard’s High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them for the general reader, and I still think E. O. Wilson’s The Future of Life is one of the top three in this area, but this book by Lester Brown has the merit of consolidating and structuring detail in a manner I have not seen elsewhere.

I recommend the book be ready in conjunction with books by Herman Daly’s Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics and Paul Hawken’s Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, in part because everyone is now starting to realize that green sustainability is in fact the non-negotiable first step for any business to survive into the next decade–natural capitalism.

Most intriguing to me, and the heart of the book on page 257, is the consolidated Plan B budget totallying $161 billion a year needed to meet all of the goals the author postulates.
BASIC SOCIAL GOALS
12B Universal primary education
04B Adult literacy
06B School lunch in 44 poorest countries
04B Assistant to pregnant women and preschool childen in 44 poorest
07B Reproductive health and family planning
33B Universal health care
02B Closing the condom gap (Bill & Melinda Gates can have this one)

EARTH RESTORATION GOALS
06B Reforesting the earth
24B Protecting topsoil on cropland
09B Restoring rangelands
10B Stabilizing water tables
13B Restoring fisheries
31B Protecting biological diversity

As the author points out on the next page, world military expenditures total $975B a year, with the US alone responsible for $492B (this was published before we all knew of the half trillion dollar cost of the Iraq invasion and occupation). Hence, the $161B a year total is a fraction of the total spent on out-dated military systems, and could be funded by the US alone if we had the right leadership and public consensus.

Personally, and based on other readings, I believe that the author is under-estimating the costs, and avoiding a focus on many other factors including the urgent need to eradicate transnational crime and end inter-state and civil war. This is, however, a superb start and ideally suited as a primer for any level of learning.

Readers interested in seeing a broader perspective that places the ten high-level threats (poverty, infectuous disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities, proliferation, terrorism and transnational crime) in the context of the twelve policies that must be managed as a whole by all nations (agriculture, debt, diplomacy, economy, education, energy, family, immigration, justice, security, society, and water), and that in turn oriented toward the urgency of keeping the eight challengers (Brazil, China, Indonesia, India, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Wild Cards) from repeating our mistakes, can check in at Earth Intelligence Network.

Rescuing are planet and our civilization is going to be a great deal harder than the author suggests, and is going to need a massive awakening by the public as to the “true cost” of all that we are doing wrong. I expect that we will succeed, in part from top down efforts by Al Gore and this author among others, and in part by bottom up efforts where individuals can get from the Internet the “true cost” of any good or service in terms of water content, fuel content, sweatshop labor content, and tax avoidance status. Noami Klein’s books, No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism are recommended in this regard.

Over-all an absolutely superb piece of work that caps the author’s decades of advocacy on behalf of the planet. There is no other person that has been focused on this topic with due diligence year after year.

I believe this author should be recognized, along with Herman Daly and Paul Hawken and Anthony Lovins and others, for their total commitment over decades.

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Review: The World Cafe–Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter (Paperback)

5 Star, Future, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Bridges the Gap From Atlee to Wheatley,

September 25, 2005
Juanita Brown
This remarkable book has a foreword from Margaret Wheatley, genius guru and author of Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World who inspired Robert Buckman’s tremendous work on Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization and it has a review from Tom Atlee, author of The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All and founder of the Co-Intelligence Institute.

As I finished this book and dealt with my teen-ager who at 16 is quite certain that even the great schools of Fairfax County are largely boring and dysfunctional, still teaching by rote and testing memory rather than the ability to discover, it occurred to me that this book is in fact a handbook for both educating the world, and for reforming education. Instead of the current didactic form of instruction (one-way lectures) we should be teaching, at every level, interactive discovery. It’s not what you can remember from the past, but what what you can discover in tandem with others, and apply constructively!

EDIT of 12 Dec 07: Lots has happened since I reviewed this book, and it was a delight to discover that this long buried insight actually found itself manifested in the new non-profit, the Earth Intelligence Network, whose 24 co-founders recognize that we need an EarthGame where we all play ourselves, and that to save the planet, we must educate the five billion poor “one cell call (or conversation) at a time,” something we can do by giving out free cell phones and recruiting 100 million volunteers with Internet access who among them cover the 183 languages we do not speak–that will create infinite wealth (see books at bottom of this review).

As someone who has been trained to be dysfunctional, overly reliant on “command and control” and predictability, I can certainly see how this book would cause discomfort and inspire disbelief among the mandarins of industry and government, but I can also see this book sensibly defines the only path likely to lead to collective intelligence and collective consensus solutions.

Context, hospitable spaces, questions that matter, encouraging everyone’s contribution, cross-pollination of diverse perspectives, listening for patterns, cultivating collective intelligence and insight through dialog instead of debate–this book has it all.

My last annotation in the book is “Wiki!” As smart people like Jock Gill and Howard Rheingold start to think about how to create a global Wiki that enables a World Cafe with a space for every topic, every challenge, every zip code, every neighborhood, I have a strong feeling that “bottom up people power” may at last be in the offing.

Alvin and Heidi Toffler are publishing a new book in April called Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives Knowing their past work, I suspect it will be an epic statement that carries the work of Tom Stewart The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization and Barry Carter Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era to new heights, and that is where I will end this review: the world cafe is about creating wealth and peace through dialog. Done right, there are no limits to our ability to engage one another in conversation, and no limits to the wealth that we might create, the peace we might foster, by so doing.

EDIT of 12 Dec 07: two additional books have had a deep impact on me since this was first written:
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

This book is very serious, very valuable. It is worth reading and it is worth sharing with others. It is part of our “Collective Intelligence” and leads straight to Peace Intelligence and Commercial Intellligence. In the next ten years I plan nothing less than the reduction of the secret budget of $60 billion a year, to $12 billion, with the savings redirected toward national education and connection the five billion poor to knowledge so they can create infinite stabilizing wealth.

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Review: The Da Vinci Code

5 Star, Fiction, Religion & Politics of Religion
Amazon Page
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5.0 out of 5 stars

Uses Fiction to Illuminate Non-Fictional Scenario,

December 7, 2003
Dan Brown
Although I rarely read or review fiction, this book leaped into my consciousness, in part because I just reviewed a book on the Vatican and its use of spies as well as its vulnerability to spies from Italy and Germany, among others, and because I am very interested in the concepts of both institutional corruption vis a vis historical myths, and the alleged infallibility of the pope. More recently, I have taken an interest in religious subversion of national governments and policies, and strongly recommend Stephen Mumford’s “The Life & Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U. S. Population Policy”, which is still available from Amazon via the used book channels.The Da Vinci Code is most interesting, not because of its bashing of Opus Dei, but because it addresses what may be the core injustice in Catholicism (I was raised a Jesuit Catholic in Colombia, with roots in Spain): the concealment of the normal sexuality of Jesus, his marriage, and the fact that until the mid-1800’s, the Church did not dare to claim that the Pope was infallible, and that all that preceded that claim was based merely on a man’s prophecies. Jesus, in other words, can not lay any greater claim to our faith than Mohammed.Most relevant to me, as I consider the need for elevating women to positions of power because they are more intuitive, more integrative, and less confrontational than men, was the book’s discussion of the origins of paganism (not satanic at all, but rather worshiping Mother Earth and specifically the human female mothers from whom life obviously emerged) and the manner in which the Catholic Church deliberately set out to slander Mary Magdalene, making her out to be a whore rather than the spouse of Jesus (from whom issue came), and murdering five million women in a witch-hunt and global psychological operations against women that has been mirrored by Islam in many ways, and that must, if we are to survive, be reversed by thoughtful people willing to think for themselves.

This book, riveting in every way, suggested to me that we the people need to doubt the integrity and intentions of all our institutions, but especially the Catholic Church; and that we need to reverse the centuries of discrimination against women, restore the matriarchal roots of society, and again begin to respect the natural relationship between ourselves and the Earth that we have defiled precisely because we have allowed men to abuse women, and corporations to assume legal manly personalities abusive of governments and the tax-payer.

This is a revolutionary book. If it causes you to question authority and re-think your relationships, you cannot have made a better purchase.

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