EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
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Released 2013

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Breaking New Ground: A Personal History

Lester R. Brown

Lester Brown traces his life from a small farm in rural southern New Jersey through his personal evolution into the world's foremost authority on global environmental issues. The first in his family to graduate from elementary school, he reveals what inspired him—and the millions of those who have read his books—to become environmentally active.

 

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Lester R. Brown, whom the Washington Post praised as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers,” built his understanding of global environmental issues from the ground up. Brown spent his childhood working on the family’s small farm. His entrepreneurial skills surfaced early. Even while excelling in school, he launched with his younger brother a tomato-growing operation that by 1958 was producing 1.5 million pounds of tomatoes.

Later, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Brown emphasized the need for systemic thinking. In 1963 he did the first global food supply and demand projections to the end of the century. While on a brief assignment in India in 1965, he pieced together the clues that led him to sound the alarm on an impending famine there. His urgent warning to the U.S. and Indian governments set in motion the largest food rescue effort in history, helping to save millions of lives. This experience led India to adopt new agricultural practices, which he helped to shape.

Brown went on to advise governments internationally and to found the Worldwatch and Earth Policy institutes, two major nonprofit environmental research organizations. Both brilliant and articulate, through his many books he has brought to the fore the interconnections among such issues as overpopulation, climate change, and water shortages and their effect on food security. His 1995 book, Who Will Feed China?, led to a broad restructuring of China’s agricultural policy. Never one to focus only on the problem, Brown always proposes pragmatic, employable solutions to stave off the unfolding ecological crises that endanger our future.

EARLY KUDOS

“This is a much-needed testament and historical document from one of the great environmentalists of our time.” –Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Harvard University

“Having been a fan of Lester Brown’s past work, I was anxious to read his personal memoir – and it didn’t disappoint. Breaking New Ground is fascinating in that it delves deeply into who Lester Brown is, of course as an environmental leader and great thinker, but more importantly, as a human being.  Just as he has in the past, Lester continues to inspire us with his brilliant thoughts and ideas, and in his memoir, he isn’t afraid to also show us his heart.” —Ted Turner

“Lester Brown is one of humanity’s great eco-warriors, constantly updating the state of the planet while ceaselessly seeking solutions and a path to sustainability. Breaking New Ground is an inspirational story of what one person is capable of achieving.  Every aspiring activist will find much to learn from Lester Brown’s life story.”  —David Suzuki

"This is the life story of a true American hero . . .  as a scientist and public intellectual dedicated to the cause of sustainability Lester Brown is in a class by himself."  —David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor, Oberlin College.  

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