World on the Edge is a response to questions of how much time is left before our global civilization unravels and how do we save it. Lester R. Brown’s writings have attracted the attention of notable individuals including John Beddington the chief science advisor to the U.K. government and overseas to former U.S President Bill Clinton. Reading how to prevent environmental and economic collapse has enhanced my ability to be more perceptive to issues that had previously not impacted my daily thought process.
Browns chapter titled Feeding Eight Billion explained the ongoing issue of the world food output gradually losing momentum since the golden age dating from 1950 to 1973 (Brown,165) . To improve this, fresh thinking on how to raise cropland productivity needs to develop. Examples of this include breeding crops that are more tolerant of drought and cold, raise land productivity where soil moisture permits, and increasing land tenure (Brown,168). Water shortage is another issue in constraining food production growth. From a young age we are taught to shut the faucet off while brushing teeth to conserve water supply but the issue is much larger. Because I am no longer an adolescent, I can take on more responsibilities to conserve water supply to make a difference. To raise irrigation efficiency I could encourage the use of low pressure sprinkler systems to reduce water use by 30% (Brown,170).
The second lesson taught by Brown was that of the rising tide and environmental refugees. This immediately effects areas including New York and Miami. Being from Connecticut the possibilities of environmental refugees could have a direct effect on my state which borders New York. The CT real estate markets will go up with the relocation of refugees fleeing from New York. If the Rising sea levels cannot be maintained cities will have to start building barriers that will block the rising tides. This alternative would have a substantial cost (Brown,75).
Global warming and its effects is a well-known environmental issue but climate instability was a concept I had never heard of. Climate instability is becoming the new norm, according to Brown. The time when we could use climate trends of the recent past as a guide for future climate conditions is now history; we are moving into a stage of unpredictability (Brown,45). The first though that came to mind was how the Farmer’s Almanac is becoming irrelevant and will be a thing of the past. More importantly, climate instability has a downward effect on world agriculture. One would think with all of the technology the world has this could be avoided but that is not the case. Lacking the ability to predict climates can cause grain yields to fall, issues with photosynthesis, and the decimation of harvest with high temperatures. All of which contribute to the production of the world’s food supply. To put this in perspective imagine a day the local meteorologist says it will be a nice sunny day but it rains and your biggest concern is your hair. Now imagine being a farmer anticipating a day of much needed rain but encounters a heat wave that destroys most of your crops. The cultivation of these crops is a means of life, financially for farmers and nourishment for others.
The fourth lesson taught in the readings was the correlation of poverty and agriculture. Brown’s concepts are constant trickle-down effect pertaining to several diverse topics. Poverty has many faces, such as hunger, illiteracy, and low life expectancy. Though I have some knowledge on poverty I had never related it to agriculture. Since those living in poverty spend a large share of their income on food, higher food prices expands the population of those living in poverty. The effect of rising food prices dramatically expands the number of unemployed as well as the malnourished. Improving the world’s agriculture and decreasing the prices of food could potentially reduce the amount of people struggling living off of less than $1.25 a day (Brown,152).
The final lesson I had taken away pertains to stabilizing population. I had never viewed the Chinese ideas of encouraging small family’s as a positive action. However this helped china move up the economic ladder. Due to this shift of encouraging small families the number of Chinese living in extreme poverty dropped from 683 million in 1990 to 208 million in 2005. The stabilization of population improved the food security and minimized state failure. Being exposed to this concept allowed me to be more open to this concept and helped me better understand the Chinese motives (Brown,153).
Relating to Lester R. Brown’s book World on the Edge, my studies at Eastern Connecticut State University has had an impact on my ethical implications in the context of the future and my own personal development. Much of the criteria from the reading I found to relate to a winter session course I had taken; Environmental Science and Society (Wilson). This course challenged me to analyze issues with human population, why America over consumes as a country, and agriculture (Eathorne). The ideas that Brown explains are one of endless views on such topics. One particular article that I had come across in the same course entitled The Cheeseburger Footprint explained how greenhouse gasses are not only emitted through means of transportation but during the makings of something as simple as a cheeseburger (Films). One simple cheeseburger could potentially eliminate the ozone layer. I have to admit that I would have not had the basic Knowledge that allowed me to further discuss this criteria if I hadn’t taken a Botany course at Johnson and Wales University here I was taught about the importance of agriculture from more narrow aspect (Dennis).
Women Studies and Medical anthropology exposed me to the action of sterilization as a form of population control and genital mutilation (Bergstrom-Lynch and Kenny). Both of which I had never heard of previously but are also controversial (Chili). A book that I am Currently Reading: Half the Sky has certainly evolved my personal outlook on turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide (Kristof and WuDunn) . I strongly recommend this book to everyone it is extremely moving.
Overall my entire college experience I have been extremely fortunate to be exposed to a variety of different opinions and have been challenged to open my eyes to concepts that have changed my perspective. I can say that I am a different person now from when I was an 18 year old freshman. My values and ethics have transformed. Professors have provided me with course materials and discussions that enable me to be more accepting of different people and situations. Before this liberal arts course I hadn’t put this into perspective how my experiences have truly impacted who I am as a person and prepared me for what is to come (Stoloff).
Bergstrom-Lynch, C. (Spring 2014). Intro to Women’s Studies. Eastern Connecticut State University
Brown, L. . World on the edge. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., print.
Chili. (1972). El Caso Schneider: La operacion Alfa. Santiago de Chile: Empresa Editora Nacional Quimantú, Departamento de Difusión.
Dennis, J. (Fall 2009). Introduction to Botany .Johnson and Wales University.
Eathorne, R. (2014). Annual editions: Environment 13/14. New York: Dushkin/McGraw Hill.
Films for the Humanities & Sciences (Firm), Films Media Group., & National Geographic Television & Film. (2009). Six Degrees could change the world. New York, N.Y: Films Media Group.
Kenny, M (Fall 2012).Medical Anthropology. Eastern Connecticut State University
Kristof, Nicholas D. , and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Knopf, print.
Stoloff, D.L. (Spring 2014). Liberal Arts Capstone Colloquium. Eastern Connecticut State University.
Wachter, J., Yogo, M., & National Bureau of Economic Research. (2010). Why do household portfolio shares rise in wealth?. Cambridge, Mass: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Wilson. (Wintersession 2014). Environmental Science and Society. Eastern Connecticut State University.