Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Ken Burn’s new film The Dust Bowl, a two-part, four-hour documentary airs on PBS November 18 and 19, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings). The film chronicles this 1930s environmental catastrophe that destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains. It is based on Timothy Egan’s 2006 National Book Award winning The Worst Hard Times, a history of the Dust Bowl, and includes interviews with twenty-six survivors and seldom seen movie footage.
On an ironically hot 106-degree July afternoon, the staff at Earth Policy Institute attended a special preview screening of the film sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The screening was followed by a panel discussion featuring Lester Brown, Tim Egan, and Clay Pope, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and a sixth generation Oklahoma farmer. The panel was moderated by Ann Yonkers, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Executive Director.
Since news of the extent and degree of the Midwestern American drought was just reaching mass media, the discussion was both lively and at times a bit frightening. The audience had many questions for the panelists.
Lester spoke of the food unrest that lay ahead, of overpumping aquifers, and of moving down the food chain, topics that are discussed in his new book Full Planet, Empty Plates. Tim spoke about the people he met while writing his book, the factors that led to the Dust Bowl, and how we are making similar mistakes with soil erosion and overplowing. Clay gave a firsthand account of the effects of the drought in his home state and discussed other challenges farmers are now facing in the wake of climate change.
Those of us fortunate to be at the screening are now looking forward to seeing the documentary in its entirety. Burns believes the film should be taken as a cautionary tale for more contemporary environmental issues. A preview is available at pbs.org/dustbowl.
For information on dust bowls forming in other countries, see Chapter 3 of World on the Edge: Eroding Soils and Expanding Deserts, and the Plan B Updates: Dust Bowl Threatening China’s Future and Deserts Advancing, Civilization Retreating.
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
After the arrival of Full Planet, Empty Plates on bookstore shelves last week, Earth Policy Institute hosted a party to celebrate its official release. We invited friends, family, reporters, and other environmental gurus to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the heart of Dupont Circle. Along with good food and drink, Lester gave a brief talk on the main points of the book and answered questions from the attendees. It was a wonderful gathering to commend Lester and the EPI team on another great accomplishment.
The party came after months of researching, fact checking, and editing and weeks of promotion that included a mail promo and teleconference. The researchers also developed two summary presentations to go along with the book, which have been viewed over 10,000 times thus far and are available for free downloading.
Friday was also the end of a busy week for Lester. First he was in New York City where he was interviewed on the Leonard Lopate show and later with Matt Miller on Rewind Bloomberg TV. Then he was off to Columbus, Ohio where he joined other environmental leaders for EcoSummit. He was the plenary speaker on Wednesday and a panelist for the Food Security and Climate Change Forum on Thursday. The week rounded out with the release of his interview on Yahoo Finance.
We are thrilled that people are so excited about the new book and are loving all the action on Twitter.
The Globalist tweeted: What we're reading: Lester Brown's "Full Planet, Empty Plates." Cogent and fact-based as ever. @earthpolicy
Journalist Dennis Dimick tweeted: "Full Planet, Empty Plates" by @EarthPolicy: I gave one to my @JMU college student @claudiaeleni http://www.earth-policy.org/books/fpep/fpep_presentation #foodsecurity #educate
Sean Ono Lennon tweeted: Land and Food will be 'Oil' of tomorrow. Read up! Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity By Lester Brown.
News of Lester’s latest book has also reached other important outlets like the Daily Beast and Mother Earth News. Permaculture Australia and EcoWatch have shared the summary presentations on their websites.
We think the release of the book couldn’t have come at a better time. With the extent of the Great Drought of 2012 still being reported on daily and the effects of climate change being felt more than ever before, Full Planet, Empty Plates is a quick, yet important read for the times.
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