Tomorrow’s World text Joseph Wade
What other factors motivate creativity? In your book you identify the ‘developing world’ as being highly innovative. Why is this? Poverty can be a great motivator, if people see an opportunity to get the hell out of it. Cellphones and moving from villages to cities have recently become avenues out of poverty.
Stewart Brand lives on a tugboat in San Francisco Bay that’s fitted with solar panels and runs on biofuel. It’s a fitting residence for a man who has helped define the environmental movement since his book The Whole EarthCatalogwas published back in 1968. Like a solarpowered house boat, the ideas and information listed in the book seem fairly commonplace now, but back in the day, and for the first time ever, the book provided the information required to lead an alternative (hippy) lifestyle. Apple founder Steve Jobs described the book in 2005: “There was an amazing publication called TheWhole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation.... It was like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google existed.”
Stewart Brand describes how a new atitude o nuclear energy might just save Earth
Brand’s new book, The Whole Earth Discipline: An Eco Pragmatist’s Manifesto, seeks to redefine environmentalism by (humanely) butchering some of the sacred cows of the movement, such as resistance to using nuclear power and growing genetically modified crops. Its predictions offer an optimistic, less apocalyptic future for humanity. Dazed mailed him to find out more...
dazed & confused: When did you first become interested in environmentalism? stewart brand: Around 1948 there was a fishing and hunting magazine called OutdoorLife, which promoted something called ‘The Conservation Pledge’. I adopted it and have lived up to it ever since.
Do you feel like the hippie mindset helped engender innovation? The first segment of American society to accept hippies were business people, because the hippie movement was honest. That’s one reason so many hippies went into business. Another was that many got experience selling dope and then went legit. Early computer hackers and netheads had a counter-culture mindset.
How would you compare the strengths of the ‘developing’ versus the ‘developed’ world? What are the global trends determining the relationship between the two? There are new huge cities full of young people in the developing world versus somewhat static old cities full of old people in the developed world. Nuclear power and transgenic crops are moving most rapidly in the developing world, because the need is greatest there.
What is your opinion of the current environmental debate, which seems to sometimes pit corporations against environmental groups such as Greenpeace? Many Greens have a leftward bent that makes them pick more fights with corporations than is helpful. Likewise some corporations like to demonise environmentalists; it’s usually a mistake.
Most environmental groups don’t agree with nuclear power and prefer sustainable energy. Why do you disagree? Once I got alarmed by the prospect of ‘abrupt’ climate change, I looked into carbon-free nuclear energy and discovered that environmental groups had been exaggerating its dangers and cost, while ignoring the huge damage caused by burning coal for electricity.
When it comes to global warming you mention geo-engineering, using sulphur to cool the earth. Do you see this as a real solution? It’s not a permanent solution, but it may be necessary to buy some time while the onerous process of eliminating excess greenhouse gases gets worked out.
Should we be worried about GM food? No. Americans have been chowing on the stuff for over a decade now with zero harm. I expect that by the end of this decade GM vegetables and DIY biotech techniques will be coming to the garden sheds of England too.
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