BREAKING NEW GROUND:
A Personal History
In January 1964, U.S. News & World Report featured an article “Why Hunger is to be the World’s No. 1 Problem,” based on a book, Man, Land and Food, by Lester R. Brown, a young unknown analyst at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The article said, “For the first time, a careful study of world food supplies has been matched with the facts of expanding world population.” It was this groundbreaking study that launched his career as “one of great pioneer environmentalists.”
In Breaking New Ground: A Personal History (W.W. Norton & Company) Brown recounts his life story as a founder of the global environmental movement. He recognized the process of globalization well before the term existed and helped define sustainable development. Brown spent his life analyzing the state of the planet through an interdisciplinary lens. The first in his family to graduate from elementary school, he reveals what inspired him-and the millions who have read his books-to become environmentally active.
Brown, whom the Washington Post praised as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers,” built his understanding of the environment from the ground up. His entrepreneurial skills surfaced early during his youth working on the family’s farm in southern New Jersey. 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.
While on a brief assignment for the USDA in India in 1965, he pieced together the early clues of an impending famine. His urgent warning to the U.S. and Indian governments set in motion the largest food rescue effort in history, saving millions of lives. This near miss by India led it to adopt new agricultural policies that he helped to shape.
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