Lester Russell Brown is an American environmental thinker and analyst who founded the famous Earth Policy Institute, a non-profit research institute in Washington. Lester was brought up in a farm which had neither running water nor electricity. He was an avid reader and a farming enthusiast who encouraged his brother to start a tomato business which eventually grew as one of the largest in New Jersey. He got a degree in agricultural science from Rutgers University. It was during his six-month stay in rural India, as part of the International Farm Youth Exchange Program, that he became aware of issues like the intimate connection of food and population. To do something substantial, Lester knew he would need the help of FAS or Foreign Agricultural Service. He decided to get a degree in agricultural economics and joined FAS in the Asia branch. Soon after, he also earned the degree in public administration and four years later, he published his revolutionary work Man, Land and Food. Lester’s analysis earned him the attention of Orville Freeman, the Secretary of Agriculture, who asked him to find a solution to the problem. All through his career, Brown has emphasized on the geopolitical effects of the ever-increasing price of grains. His main concern has been the acute shortage of food in poor countries
Childhood & Early Life
Brown was born on 28th March, 1934, in Bridgetown in New Jersey. During his growing years, he witnessed World War II and would borrow old newspapers to read about the war.
Being a voracious reader, he would read everything including biographies of famous personalities. Both his parents were farmers, and he was the first one in the family to earn a college degree.
In his early years, he worked in the farm, and being an entrepreneur by nature, encouraged his younger brother Carl to start new businesses. By year 1951, their tomato business became one of the largest in New Jersey.
He pursued a course in agricultural science from ‘Rutgers University’ and in 1955 successfully obtained a degree. Later in the same year, he was part of the ‘International Farm Youth Exchange Program’, and spent six months in rural India, where he first encountered the issue of population and food.
He decided to join ‘US Department of Agriculture’s ‘Foreign Agricultural Services’, but he needed a degree of agricultural economics. He earned the degree from ‘University of Maryland’ within a short span of nine months.
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Brown joined FAS, in 1959, as an international agricultural analyst in the Asia branch. A year later, he took a leave of nine months to obtain a Master’s degree in Public Administration from ‘Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration’.
In the year 1963, he published his most celebrated work ‘Man, Land and Food’. It was the most comprehensive study of population, land resources and food till the end of century.
The story featured in ‘U.S. News & World Report’ and grabbed the attention of Orville Freeman, then Secretary of Agriculture who invited him to be part of his staff and asked him to find a solution to the problem he helped bring to limelight.
In his tenure, as a resident specialist of global issues, he advised the department on various issues including agricultural policies to be adopted overseas.
In the year 1960, Brown left the government job and established the Overseas Development Council.
From the years 1966-69, Brown chaired ‘International Agricultural Development Service’, whose main aim was to increase food production in developing countries.
In 1974, Brown founded ‘Worldwatch Institute’ with a grant from ‘Rockefeller Brothers Fund’. The sole purpose of this institute was to analyze environmental issues which inflicted people globally.
In 1986, his personal papers were requested by the Library of Congress, as it was noted that his writings have influenced thoughts surrounding world population and food on a global scale.
In the year 1995, he wrote ‘Who will Feed China?’, raising concerns about impact on food prices across the globe due to rising grain import by the developing nations such as China.
In 2001, he left the institute and founded ‘Earth Policy Institute’, which aimed to develop plans to save the planet and civilization.
At the age of 79, Brown wrote his autobiography ‘Breaking New Ground’, which according to him is not only a memoir, but his way of looking back to some ideas and thoughts that have shaped his life.
In 2015, at the age of 81, he closed the ‘Earth Policy Institute’ after stepping down from his post.
Brown has co-authored several books concerning environment issues and food scarcity. In his role as a pioneering environmentalist he has founded ‘Earth Policy Institute’ which was established with the goal of promoting sustainable environment.
Awards & Achievements
In the year 1991, Brown won the Humanist of the Year Award, given by the ‘American Humanist Association’. The same year, he won the ‘Delphi International Cooperation Award’.
In 1993, he got the Certificate of Special Recognition from Association of American Geographers. The following year, he received the ‘J. Sterling Morton Arbor Day’ award.
In 2010, he was included in the prestigious ‘Earth Hall of Fame’ in Kyoto