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I don't know if Steward Brands' world view is entirely correct but I do believe it is close to the mark and thoughtfully presented. Whole Earth Discipline attempts to create a big-picture view of the state of the world and the direction society needs to take if we want to protect ourselves and the environment. With 7 billion people on a planet with limited resources, the challenge is huge. I wish more people would read this book. Unfortunately, too many people may not be open-minded enough to consider Brands' arguments. Those who do not believe in global warming, or don't care, probably won't get past the first paragraph. Those who have committed their time and energy to some environmental causes may find his ideas unpalatable, even threatening. Everyone should read this book then explain why Brand is right or why he is wrong. His ideas deserve attention and debate.Highly recommended.
Must read by a master - well researched, and interpreted from S.B's rich context. He has the intellectual depth and the integrity to recognize some of his previous conclusions were incorrect - and the persistence to be open to newer more nuanced emerging realities. That 's rare to find, in my experience, get it. Read it, even though it is deep and slow going..
Stewart Brand's beliefs, bona fides, and biases derive from being a Stanford graduate biologist, an Army paratrooper and infantry instructor, the co-founder, editor and publisher of Whole Earth Catalogs over a thirty-year period as well as CoEvolution Quarterly, founder of The Well, the Global Business Network, the Long Now Foundation, and a lifelong environmentalist. These activities have put him in contact with a wide and diverse legion of intellectuals, scientists, historians, writers, teachers, business people, politicians. He served on the staff of the first Jerry Brown administration. He is also a product of having lived primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area (he lives on a tugboat in Sausalito) but has spent many summers living with various Native American is book is about the dangers to humans from global warming and climate change and what we can do to handle it. I find the most important chapters to be about urbanization, nuclear power, and genetic engineering. A theme throughout the book is that we must control irrational fear and rely on scientists to show us the challenges, and engineers to design the solutions. There is also the acknowledgement that only government has the power to mandate necessary warming and climate change is controversial with the mainstream public but less so in the scientific community. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in 2001 that the world is warming and that most of the warming over the previous fifty years is attributable to human activities. No scientific body of national or international standing has dissented.URBANIZATIONBrand is an urban enthusiast--the world is urbanizing at a rapid rate and this is very good. Urbanization offers more efficient use of resources and infrastructure costs. He sees great hope for urbanization, including huge, fast-growing slums whose inhabitants pragmatically solve social problems. He notes that Mumbai, seventeen million people, half slums, creates one-sixth of India's gross domestic product. He visualizes city farms, thirty-story buildings on a city block, the upper stories growing hydroponic veggies, the lower levels with fish and chickens eating the plant waste. The infrastructure efficiencies of urban density are irrefutable. Soon, eighty percent of humans will live on three percent of the CLEAR ENERGYChapter Four, New Nukes, opens with a quote: "With climate change, those who know the most are the most frightened. With nuclear power, those who know the most are the least frightened." Brand is in both groups. His epiphany on nuclear power happened because of a visit to Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository. He and his Long Now Foundation cohorts discussed the whys: why should we store nuclear waste in a place designed for ten thousand years when we will likely be finding new ways to use that waste for energy within a hundred? Why should we assume that humans will stay the same for the next ten thousand years?Brand and physicist friend, Amory Lovins, disagree on almost all of the nuclear issues but he thinks Amory will come around when local mini-reactors are available, negating the need for long transmission e grid requires baseload, dependable, substantial power. Wind and solar generation are presently only intermittent, so cannot dependably contribute to baseload. But the sun is much more intense up high and orbiting solar stations could contribute to baseload. Power will be microwaved down to rectennas. Japan is planning a one-gigawatt space solar reactor. A California utility claims it will have a twenty-megawatt solar farm in orbit in e next issue is footprint. Land-based solar and wind power require huge spaces, fifty to two hundred square miles to produce as much power as a nuclear plant that needs about a third of a square baseload and footprint, he adds portfolio, the premise that climate change is so serious we must do all we can to minimize its impact. Regarding energy efficiency and conservation, Brand and Lovins are on the same page. Efficiency and conservation provide the greatest benefit at the least cost at the fastest speed.A fourth primary consideration is government. "You can't get decent grid power without decent government power."Fourth generation nuclear power is cleaner and it is safer. There are reactor designs in the works and some are being built that are far advanced from those in use today. As far as cost, Brand notes that "the problem is not that nuclear is expensive. The problem is that coal is cheap."James Lovelock, the ninety-one year old scientist who gave us the Gaia hypothesis, presents the paradox of energy policy: "We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear--the one safe, available energy source--now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."But, wait. In an interview dated 1-26-09 with Democratic Underground, Lovelock was asked: Do you still advocate nuclear power as a solution to climate change? His answer: "It is a way for the UK to solve its energy problems, but it is not a global cure for climate change. It is too late for emissions reduction measures."Brand's final point on the nuclear issue is that five out of six people live in countries now fast developing, nearly six billion poor people who will demand grid electricity--and where that power comes from will decide the NETIC ENGINEERINGGenetic engineering is a way to combat food shortages and climate change. It allows leaving more land and offers as proof of the safety of GE foods "the most massive dietary experiment in history," the fact that since1996 nearly everyone in the USA, "the test group," has eaten vast quantities of GE corn, canola and soybeans while Europeans, "the control group," have refrained from eating any at all. The proof is that there is no discernible health difference between the test group and the control er Ravens, one of the world's leading botanists, says that nothing has so hurt our world, causing more extinction of species and more instability of ecological systems than the agriculture system that feeds over six billion humans.I am skeptical of Brand's assertion that gmo farmers practice no-till, while organic farmers plow. I don't know any big organic farmers but all the little guys I know do not plow. As much as possible, they respect the soil community, disrupt it minimally, use previous plant residue and mulch to build soil and reduce weeds. From Edward Faulkner's book, Plowman's Folly, to Rodale, to the present, the trend in organic circles has been to let the soil community do the heavy THOUGHTSThe future of our species is in question. Our instincts have served us well but now threaten the livability of our is too easy to stay stuck in yesterday's priorities. We better figure out--unemotionally--what we should do if we are to survive the next fifty is is not a dress rehearsal. This could in fact be our final performance if we do it wrong.Warning: reading this book may cause you to find most of the hot issues of the day to be really petty.
As I have not yet finished this book, I can't quite write a full review; but I think it is a very thought provoking and absorbing read. I'd known that Brand had changed some of his opinions, since his 'Whole Earth Catalog' involvement, such as his well known current endorsement of nuclear energy, as replacement for fossil fuels, but am amazed at his ideas on the future of cities. Regardless of whether one agrees with his solutions, and propositions, the book makes one think deeply about the future, about how we need to be adaptable, innovative, and willing to change our minds about intrenched practices and assumptions. The book is erll written and easy to understand, enlightening, even exciting a read.
I would characterize myself as ecologically responsible but not as someone who understands the issues and challenges facing us with the depth needed to be comfortable reacting to what is seen on tv and read in periodicals. My desire to bolster my knowledge has been latent within me my entire life. Stewart Brand came to a talk in Lincoln a couple of years ago and my mother-in-law got me a signed copy of this book. I saw it as an opportunity to gain a foundational understanding so that I could see beyond the superficial rhetoric we are presented. I had my own opinions and (mis)understandings and this book was exactly what I needed. The broad treatment of topics is thorough and, I believe, adequately presents multiple viewpoints while still advocating for specific actions and approaches.I really appreciate Brand's open-minded approach and willingness to put something out there with the knowledge that his (and your positions) are likely to change as new information and facts become available. This resonates with me and my approach.We all need to follow his lead and work on being foxes instead of hedgehogs when it comes to confronting the crises that are looming. I for one am re-energized to get involved in the conversation and continue my personal education.
This quote, attributed to J M Keynes", sums up this erudite ewart Brand sees that cities are the greenest way to live and willsolve the population problem, that nuclear power is the best hopefor carbon free energy and that gene engineering is a suitabletechnology for food production and ecosystem restoration. These areall contrary to the usual environmentalist's and is very enthused about the growth of cities and sees these as thefoundries of innovation and behavioral changes that will slow populationgrowth, even likely reerse it as we are seeing in much of the developedworld. The data supporting this view is compelling. Less compellingis the view that cities are greener. Old European style cities and shantytowns probably are. But are modern cities with high energy concrete buildingsreally greener, and what about the sprawl of edge cities like Los Angeles?I would certainly like to have seen some data supporting this. If cities areteh way to go, especially megacities, then this will overturn the conceptof 'eat local' as this will be impossible city-wide. Only vertical urbanfarms will allow that to happen, a concept that is still mostlyconceptual, but could have a hugely beneficial impact on ecosystems.I have to applaud him on his nuclear stance too. Greens have had a knee-jerknegative reaction to nuclear power, but Brand yses the situation well. Iparticularly liked his exposition of not trying to manage 10,000 year scenariosbut rather short term 100-200 year ones which keep options open for futuresocieties. Of all the issues that have bothered me about nuclear power, thestorage of waste has been the most problematic, but this approach is rational andnuanced and makes a great deal of and is also in favor of genetic engineering. Of all his ideas, I sincerely hopethat this one is taken on board by the environmentalists. The irrationality overthis technology needs to be addressed as it has huge potential to improveall aspects of life this ly, Brand eshews the idea of a static, pristine ecology and explains howecologies are constantly changing and furthermore, that man has terraformed earthfor tens of thousands of years. This is a perspective that should be embraced bythe environmental movement as it prescribes different policy options and more flexibleones than simple conservation.I hope this book is very widely read, as it offers a lot of potential meetingpoints between environmentalists and those pursuing development. But most importantly,it demands using science to inform actions, rather than idealism. This is somethingwe seem to have lost and we need to regain in our civilization.