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Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities,…

Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops,… (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Stewart Brand

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2311150,068 (4.07)6
Title:Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, Radical Science, and Geoengineering Are Necessa
Authors:Stewart Brand
Info:Atlantic (2010), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Lifetime reading
Tags:environment, environmentalism, politics, genetic engineering, nuclear energy, urbanisation, cities, wilderness, geoengineering, read in 2012

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Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand (2009)




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I loved this book for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the thing I loved best about it is how Brand examined his convictions and compared them to the latest and best factual evidence he could find and changed his mind. And that's what science means to me, that continual re-evaluation of things we think we know. The ability to change one's belief system so profoundly at Brand's age is a thing of beauty, and I admire him for it.

I found the subjects he covers in this book to be very interesting. His arguments are convincing. I was already pretty pro-gene manipulation before reading this, but I had retained my knee-jerk 1970s ere bias against nuclear power. It's one of those perception bending books. No doubt some of Brand's positions will need to be re-thought in the future, but he's up for that. I had never really thought about cities and how they work, so that part was fresh for me, too.

I loved the concept that we really don't need to plan for things that last a thousand thousand years (nuclear waste storage, f'rinstance), but rather we should trust future generations a little more. We need to come up with a perfectly safe and doable hundred year plan, and let engineers engineer new and better solutions between now and then. Technology will step up to that plate. It's hubris to think that we know better than our children's children's children will.

The more you know, the less you fear. Highly recommended. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
A man after my own heart. I'd love to chomp down on GM vegie burgers while working the controls of a nuclear power station. No, no sarcasm: I really do think that Stewart is on the right path here. He flays various environmental organisations for their backward views and shows them to be packed full of pathetically irrational and hypocritical ideologues. ( )
  seabear | Jan 9, 2013 |
Ambientalismo pragmatico e contro i luoghi comuni per uscire dalla fase ideologica dell'ecologismo conservatore ed inaugurare una nuova fase, quella dell'antropocene consapevole e responsabile.
Disponibile anche nella traduzione italiana per Codice Edizioni
  cmnit | May 16, 2011 |
All too often we read books that take positions we already agree with. There's nothing wrong with that. It's nice, sometimes, to hear one's convictions explained elegantly and eloquently, and perhaps to learn about new evidence in support of those positions. Other times we read books about this or that field about which we have no position. We just want to learn more, and that's okay, too. Other times, however, we read a book about something we care passionately about—we all ought to care about Stewart Brand's concerns in Whole Earth Discipline, the health of the earth and the flourishing of humanity—and that book makes us radically reconsider all our positions. I agreed with Brand going in about the desirability, from a green perspective among many others, of dense cities. Given what we now know about climate change, I had been opening my mind to the necessity of nuclear power, and Brand convinced me, even in the aftermath of Fukushima, that the necessity is there, and also the possibility of doing it in ways that, if not entirely risk-free, are safer and more ecologically sound than, for example, the burning of coal, from which the world currently gets most of its energy. I have done a full 180 on transgenic engineering and now agree with Brand that first-world Greens, in their opposition to GE foods, are responsible for many unnecessary deaths in the third world. In short, Brand has shaken up my world view, and that's always good fun. Now, to get on-line and see what some of his opponents have to say . . . .
2 vote dcozy | Apr 2, 2011 |
Many of us who grew up with the Whole Earth Catalog hold a special reverence for its founder and editor Steward Brand. Trained as an ecologist, this book is his Ecopragmatist Manifesto. He takes surprising positions on several issues long considered sacred to environmentalists. These well-researched and well-presented ideas include:

+ Climate change is happening faster than previously predicted. Bolder solutions are required encompassing mitigation, adaptation, and amelioration.
+ Cities are Green: “you need a little bit less of everything for each person.” Compact and dense habitation decreases commuting distances, infrastructure size, and resources required for living. Cities significantly increase the carrying capacity of the world. Squatters live in vibrant communities; they walk everywhere, obtain food locally, and recycle everything
+ “Cities accelerate innovation; they cure overpopulation, and while they are becoming the Greenest thing that humanity does for the planet, they have a long way to go.” Increasing cell phone use connects people instantly across strata. Urban living leads families to plan for fewer children.
+ “Coal plants are factories of death. Coal is responsible for as much atmospheric carbon dioxide as all the other fossil fuels combined.” OK, no surprises there, but Brand goes on to advocate “New Nukes” as the solution: “Nukes are Green; new Nukes are even more so.”
+ Nuclear waste can be safely handled, stored and disposed of. Consider a 175-year long planning horizon initially, and expect replanning during that time. Nuclear waste is minuscule in size—one Coke-can’s worth per person-lifetime of nuclear generated electricity. Coal waste is massive—68 tons of solids and 77 tons of carbon dioxide per person-life of coal-generated electric. Use the WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant as a model for nuclear waste disposal.
+ “Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction.” Shift thinking from the Absolute Evils of: safety, cost, waste storage, and proliferation, to considering alternatives measured by: baseload, footprint, portfolio, and government-scale. “Reactor safety is a problem already solved.”
+ “Nuclear energy has done more to eliminate existing nuclear weapons from the world than any other activity.” Create an international fuel bank to safely provide nuclear fuel to countries so they have no need to develop nuclear-refining capabilities. Move forward with the GNEP, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
+ “The problem is not that nuclear is expensive. The problem is that coal is cheap.” Tax carbon, rationalize subsidies, and streamline licensing for Nuclear Power. Develop microreactors to reduce capital costs and locate generation near consumers.
+ “I daresay the environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering that with any other thing we’ve been wrong about. We’ve starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment, and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool.” Genetic Engineering provides a safe and laser-focused tool to: increase crop yield, increase nutritional value, increase shelf-life, reduce the need for pesticides, and reduce toxins.
+ “Microbes run the world, it’s that simple.”
+ “Ecological balance is too important for sentiment. It requires science.”

Because these ideas represent the best and most recent thinking from Stewart Brand they deserve our attention. Because they represent significant shifts from traditional environmental thinking, they deserve our scrutiny. ( )
2 vote lbeaumont | Oct 26, 2010 |
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With a combination of scientific rigor and passionate advocacy, Brand shows exactly where the sources of environmental dilemmas lie and offers a bold and inventive set of policies and solutions for creating a more sustainable society.

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