Environment Education

with Chris Summerville

How to build a more just world and save the planet....We should all heed Brown's advice."—Bill Clinton
In this updated edition of the landmark Plan B, Lester Brown outlines a survival strategy for our early twenty-first-century civilization. The world faces many environmental trends of disruption and decline, including rising temperatures and spreading water shortage. In addition to these looming threats, we face the peaking of oil, annual population growth of 70 million, a widening global economic divide, and a growing list of failing states. The scale and complexity of issues facing our fast-forward world have no precedent

With Plan A, business as usual, we have neglected these issues overly long. In Plan B 3.0, Lester R. Brown warns that the only effective response now is a World War II-type mobilization like that in the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This page provides an outline of a one-semester course I conducted at the Global College-Japan Center with third-year (Junior) students enrolled in the Long Island University study abroad program between 2008-2010 using Lester Brown's seminal work Plan B. 3.0-Mobilizing to Save Civilization (Earth Policy Institute). It includes discussion questions, supplementary readings and a treasure trove of links intended to assist the students in reaching an understanding of the intricate connections that exist between the environmental and social problems we are confronting today and to develop a systemic and critical thinking approach to the process of seeking solutions.

Global Issues and the Environment (2 credits)



"Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth and capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth." Lester Brown


Although we are constantly exposed to global and environmental issues in the media, they are often presented as isolated problems peculiar to the place and time in which they are occurring. Governments or world bodies such as the UN then propose short-term 'solutions' and these decisions are hailed or criticized by the press before they move on to the next crisis or event.

At this time when the entire planet is threatened by the effects of climate change, this class proposes that it is essential that we go beyond treating the 'symptoms' of our present growth-oriented global economic model. Instead, by making the connections and noting the systemic patterns that become evident in the process of our study, we will seek to understand the holistic root causes of the global challenges our civilization is presently facing in ever-increasing numbers.

We will attempt to do this by constantly reflecting on and critically evaluating the impact of our own consumer-driven lifestyles and considering how the decisions we make contribute to such large-scale issues as poverty, food and energy insecurity and environmental degradation. The environment - our natural support system upon which the total human infrastructure depends - will thus be the foundation upon which all our other considerations are based.

We will be aided in our exploration by our textbook, Plan B 3.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester Brown, articles and podcasts presented by such cutting edge groups as 'The Worldwatch Institute', 'Redefining Progress' 'New Economics Foundation' and 'International Institute for Sustainable Development' and by videos such as '11th Hour', 'The Future of Food' and 'Inconvenient Truth'.

Student involvement is essential to this course as it is your ideas, realizations and actions that may come out of this course which will help to guide the next generation towards a more sustainable paradigm.

You will be assigned weekly readings and will be asked to do a number of internet-based activities based on various aspects of our daily lifestyle. You will also be expected to reflect upon and research how a number of the issues addressed in our textbook are manifest both in the countries you have previously studied in as well as here in Japan. 


Evaluation criteria:

This is a 2-credit class and therefore we will meet 12 times for two and a half hours each week for a total of 30 hours. Students are expected to complete 2 hours of outside study for each contact hour which translates into 5 hours a week for a total of 60 hours. This time should be spent completing the assigned textbook and supplementary readings and conducting research for your weekly response papers, which will form the basis of our classroom discussion.

You are expected to complete 20 pages of formal writing. This requirement will be met by writing ten, two page responses to the discussion and reflection questions given out in the previous week. These responses should make evident that you have critically reflected on the readings and conducted further research on key points by including quotes and statistics to support your point of view.

Since this is a course that more than most pertains to the quality of your future life, I would like to make up to 50% of class-time student-based where you are the ones who are guiding the class discussion based on your readings, research, personal experiences and observations. It is therefore essential that students attend each class and come fully prepared to share their findings. Absences consisting of 20% of the total class time will result in a complete loss of credit.


Course Goals:

  • To assist students in reaching a holistic understanding of the global challenges our civilization is presently facing and the connections between them.
  • To provide students with an academic grounding for their future studies in the field of global and environmental issues.
  • To engage students in a critical evaluation of how our present lifestyles are connected to the global and environmental problems we are facing today. 
  • To expose students to the practical alternatives being proposed by various organizations and thinkers which are often not covered by the mainstream media.


Students will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Preparation and preparedness- Papers must be submitted on time and homework assignments should be organized in such a form that they can be shared with the class.
  • Participation-Amount and content of feedback given to others
  • Growing grasp of the systemic patterns that emerge as the course proceeds made evident in your oral feedback during discussion, written homework and papers.

Class Discussion and Reflection Questions

Chapter 1Entering a New World

Chapter 2Deteriorating Oil and Food Security
Chapter 3Rising Temperatures and Rising Seas

Chapter 4-  Emerging Water Shortages
Chapter 5-  Natural Systems Under Stress
Chapter 6-  Early Signs of Decline

Chapter 7-  Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Population
Chapter 8-  Restoring the Earth
Chapter 9-  Feeding Eight Billion Well
Chapter 10- Designing Cities for People
Chapter 11- Raising Energy Efficiency
Chapter 12- Turning to Renewable Energy

Chapter 13-
The Great Mobilization

Supplementary Readings for Lester R. Brown's Plan B 3.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization


Chapter 1. Entering a New World:

1. Visions of Green by Bryan Walsh

2. Taboo Talk in Green Business: Buy Less Stuff by Joel Makower


4. Making a Life: Redefining Success and Rediscovering Joy by John Ivanko & Lisa


5. Bridging the Green Divide-Van Jones on Jobs, Jail and Environmental Justice by

     David Kupfer


Chapter 2. Deteriorating Oil and Food Security

1. Why Our Food is so Dependent on Oil by Norman Church

2. Food needs 'fundamental rethink' by Mark Kinver

3. Heat may spark world food crisis by James Morgan

4. Why Global Warming Portends a Food Crisis by Bryan Walsh


Chapter 3. Rising Temperatures and Rising Seas

1. Billions Face Climate Change Risk (BBC Report)

2. Developing Cities and Pollution, Rich, Poor and Climate Change, All About: Rural Communities (3 articles) by Rachel Oliver

3. Trials begin of a technique used by Amazon Indians that takes CO2 and locks it safely into soil by Geoffrey Lean

4. Poll of international experts by The Independent reveals consensus that CO2 cuts have failed - and their growing support for technological intervention by Steve Connor

5. Climate Change Crisis 'Catastrophic' by Hilary Whiteman


Chapter 4. Emerging Water Shortages

1. Water - another global 'crisis'? by Richard Black

2. It's raining GDP by Sunita Narain

3. Peace in the pipeline by Aaron Wolf, Annika Kramer, Alexander Carius and Geoffrey Dabelko

4. Is Water the New Oil? by Juliette Jowit

5. Ban Ki Moon Water shortages are likely to be trigger for wars, says UN chief

    by Leo Lewis


Chapter 5. Natural Systems Under Stress

1. Nature loss 'dwarfs bank crisis' by Richard Black

2. Biodiversity 'fundamental' to economics by Sigmar Gabriel

3. Nature loss 'to hurt global poor' by Richard Black

4. Mammals facing extinction threat by Richard Black

5. Bleak forecast on fishery stocks by James Morgan


Chapter 6. Early Signs of Decline

1. The Hungry Billion by Sue Horton and Bjorn Lomborg

2. Fight against HIV/AIDS must address the vulnerability of women (UNDP Report)

3. Population: The elephant in the room by John Feeney

4. Global Crisis to Strike by 2030 by Christine McGourty

5. Globalization and the Corrupt States: Legalizing some criminal activities would

reduce profits and curb the corruption by Branko Milanovic

6. UNDP examines priority areas for tackling corruption in Asia-Pacific  (UNDP Report)


Chapter 7. Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Population

1. Toward Universal Education: Making a Promise and Keeping it by Gene B. Sperling

2. The Payoff From Women's Rights by Isobel Coleman

3. The Challenge of Global Health by Laurie Garrett


    by Sarah Haddock, Karen Hardee, Jill Gay, Piotr Macie, J Pawlak and Christina


5. Stop the Dumping!: How EU agricultural subsidies are damaging livelihoods in the

developing world (Oxfam Briefing Paper)

6. Subsidies 'Harvest of Misery' By Jimmy Carter


Chapter 8. Restoring the Earth

1. Setting out Obama's green agenda by Peter Seligmann

2. Eco Tipping Points: How a Vicious Cycle can become Virtuous by Amanda Suutari

    and Gerald Marten

3. EcoTipping Point Reverses Deforestation in Thailand by Gerald Marten and Amanda


4. Return of the Johad by Gerald Marten and Amanda Suutari


Chapter 9. Feeding Eight Billion Well

1. Eco-farming 'helps world's poor' by Mark Kinver

2. Local Produce vs. Global Trade by Adam Dean

3. UN Says New Agricultural 'Revolution' in Asia Could Lift Over 200 Million Out of

Poverty (UNESCAP Report)

4. Dear Mr. Next President -- Food, Food, Food by Michael Pollan

5. Table for Six Billion, Please by David Kupfer (Interview with Judy Wicks)


Chapter 10. Designing Cities for People

1. URBAN ECOLOGY: Emerging specialty puts focus on the 'green' way cities could 

be by Amanda Suutari

2. The Best City In The World? Making a solid case for better urban planning by

     Donella Meadows

3. Ecocities of Tomorrow: An Interview with Richard Register by Jesse Fox

4. Cities and Biodiversity: Bonn Call for Action Mayor's Conference, 2008

5. How green are Japan's urbanites? by Tomoko Otake and Eriko Arita


Chapter 11. Raising Energy Efficiency

1. Energy Efficiency

2. Japan's 'Top Runner' Program (The Energy Conservation Center, Japan Report)

3. UN: Tackling climate change will boost - not destroy - jobs by Juliette Jowit

4. UK unveils CO2 footprint standard by Mark Kinver

5. The tough problem of plastics by Dan Parkinson


Chapter 12. Turning to Renewable Energy

1. Building a Secure Energy Future (Brookings Report)

2. The 10 Big Energy Myths by Chris Goodall

3. Can U.S. Go 'Green' Even When Oil Prices Drop? by Linton Weeks

4. New Energy Economy Emerging in the United States by Lester R. Brown

5. The End of an Era: Closing the Door on Building New Coal-fired Power Plants in America by Jonathan G. Dorn

6. The Flawed Economics of Nuclear Power by Lester R. Brown

 Chapter 13. The Great Mobilization

1. Companies 'need green directors' by Richard Black

2. Proud, Concerned and Hopeful by Nia Robinson

3. We Can't Drill Our Way Out of Our Energy Problems by Van Jones

4. Environment: Twisted As Unnaturally as the Banks by Julio Godoy

5. The New Facts of Life by Fritjof Capra




Resources for In-Class Discussion & Papers

General Resources

Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues that Affect Us All: There are over 550 articles on this site, mostly written by Anup Shah, the website founder. The issues discussed range from trade, poverty and globalization, to human rights, geopolitics, the environment, and much more. Spread over these articles, there are over 7,000 links to external articles, web sites, reports and analysis to help provide credence to the arguments made on this web site.

Earth Policy Institute: The Earth Policy Institute (EPI) was founded in 2001 by Lester Brown, the founder and former president of the Worldwatch Institute, to provide a plan of a sustainable future along with a roadmap of how to get from here to there. EPI works at the global level simply because no country can fully implement a Plan B economy in isolation.

EarthTrends: A comprehensive online database, maintained by the World Resources Institute, that focuses on the environmental, social, and economic trends that shape our world.

Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.

Redefining Progress: The nation's leading public policy think tank dedicated to smart economics. We find solutions that ensure a sustainable and equitable world for future generations.  

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): The world's oldest and largest global environmental network - a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries.

The Eco-Tipping Points Project: EcoTipping Points are levers for restoring sustainability to our imperiled environment - small actions that tip the balance from decline to restoration by tapping the inborn power of nature and human societies to heal themselves. Many environmental and social problems are so complex and overwhelming it's hard to know where to begin. But pioneering communities around the world are showing what it takes to succeed. The EcoTipping Points Project is dedicated to making the stories and their lessons known through the media, workshops, and direct collaboration with community groups.

Friends of the Earth International -Publications- Reports on Agrofuels, Climate Justice and Energy, Forests and Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Economic Justice.           

The New Economics Foundation: nef (the new economics foundation) is an independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being. We aim to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues. We work in partnership and put people and the planet first.

Small Planet Institute: Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe founded the Small Planet Institute in 2001 to further an historic transition: a worldwide shift from the dominant, failing notion of democracy - as something done to us or for us - toward democracy as a rewarding way of life: a culture in which citizens infuse the values of inclusion, fairness and mutual accountability into all dimensions of public life. We call this Living Democracy.

 Earth Island Institute: For more than 20 years, Earth Island Journal has provided readers with cutting-edge environmental reporting and commentary from around the world.

International Institute for Sustainable Development: IISD is in the business of promoting change towards sustainable development. As a policy research institute dedicated to effective communication of our findings, we engage decision-makers in government, business, NGOs and other sectors in the development and implementation of policies that are simultaneously beneficial to the global economy, the global environment and to social well-being.

Bioneers: Founder Kenny Ausubel coined the term Bioneers in 1990 to describe an emerging culture. Bioneers are social and scientific innovators from all walks of life and disciplines who have peered deep into the heart of living systems to understand how nature operates, and to mimic "nature's operating instructions" to serve human ends without harming the web of life. Nature's principles-kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis and cycles of continuous creation absent of waste-can also serve as metaphoric guideposts for organizing an equitable, compassionate and democratic society.            

Rocky Mountain Institute For more than 25 years, RMI has been dedicated to publishing game-changing analyses of energy and resource issues. Representing critical thought leadership from Amory Lovins and other RMI practitioners, this link provides direct access to the institute's libraries, published contributions, and current work.

United Nations Environment Program: Global Environment  Outlook: The fourth Global Environment Outlook: environment for development (GEO-4) assessment is a comprehensive and authoritative UN report on environment, development and human well-being, providing incisive analysis and information for decision making.


Institute for Global Environmental Strategies: (IGES) is a research institute that conducts pragmatic and innovative strategic policy research to support sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.

 A 2006 'Time Magazine' Special on Asia's Environment (About 10 articles, covering China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam.) A good introduction to some of the key environmental /social issues facing Asia today.

JAPAN SPECIFIC: A wide array of articles and short blogs about a vast array of environmental topics: Japan for Sustainability  and search under -Japan- in http:www.treehugger.com  and you will know more than most about what is going on with regards to environmental policy and issues in Japan.

CHINA SPECIFIC: An award winning ten-part series from the New York Times titled 'Choking on Growth'

INDIA SPECIFIC: Centre for Science and Environment     The Energy and Resources Institute       Greenpeace, India