CHAPTER 3 – Finding Plan B

The date was August 11, 2004. Little did I suspect that the events of this day would change the future course of my life. I awoke early and opened the tent flaps to enjoy sunny skies and the smell of the ocean nearby. It was my last day of a week-long adventure in Alaska. Much as I had enjoyed it, I was looking forward to the comforts of civilization in Petersburg, and more of such back home. But first there was the chore of packing up all my gear. I tackled it with enthusiasm.

Back in Petersburg, there was plenty of free time to explore the town before catching a plane home. I spent the greater part of the afternoon in the town’s only bookstore. I wanted to know more about local history, especially the role that Alaska played during WWII. About mid-afternoon, I came across a book called “Plan B” (2). The letters were large and red, and the image was mostly of gathering clouds near a storm. I didn’t know the author, Lester R. Brown, but I was captivated by the subtitle: “Rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble”. The words were wisely chosen, not overstated. I read the summary on the back cover and the Contents page, and I knew that I had to buy this book and read it right away. I put aside other materials and read the entire 222 pages as I flew to Seattle, Chicago and Madison all through that night.

A friend was at the airport to greet me and drive me home. He was inquisitive and pressed me with many questions about the trip. I found myself unable to tell him just about the trip, for I had to include Plan B in my story. It had become more important to me than the entire trip to Alaska!

My friend persisted with his questions. Why should any book, even “Plan B”, affect me so much, he wanted to know? I answered that its author, Lester Brown, appeared to have deep insights on a global scale. I had been in China just 2 months before, and I had been amazed by the prosperity of the city-dwellers and by the persistent droughts in the northeast. Right in the first chapter of his book, however, Dr. Brown explains that there are 1.3 billion people in China, with 300 million sheep and goats. The latter, mostly in the western and northern provinces, are destroying the land’s protective vegetation. Then, the wind removes the soil and converts the rangeland into desert. His words clearly explained what I had seen and had not fully understood. Even more important, his answer to Plan A (or business as usual) is a worldwide mobilization to stabilize population and climate before these issues spiral out of control. Plan B is a workable blueprint that can be enacted now. As I read it, I recalled the words of Chief Seattle in 1854: “The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. ”

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