Whole earth discipline An ecopragmatist manifesto

Stewart Brand

Book - 2009

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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New York : Viking 2009.
Physical Description
325 p. ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Stewart Brand (-)
  • Scale, scope, stakes, speed
  • City planet
  • Urban promise
  • New nukes
  • Green genes
  • Gene dreams
  • Romantics, scientists, engineers
  • It's all gardening
  • Planet craft.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Many excellent environmental books make their way onto the pubic square with little fanfare, but surely trumpets and Tweets will herald Brand's jolting manifesto. Trained as a biologist and spectacularly well read and traveled, Brand is the entrepreneurial mastermind behind the Whole Earth Catalog, Wired magazine, and the Global Business Network. He now brings all his knowledge and creativity to the complex problems of climate change. Designating himself an ecopragmatist, he argues agilely that we must become "benevolent ecosystem engineers" and expand our definition of infrastructure to include both river and bridge. Nuclear power is the answer to our energy needs, Brand avers, and explains why at length, then does the same as he advocates for genetic engineering. Urbanization is the greenest form of human life, says Brand, and he even celebrates the ecology of the squatter cities that ring the planet's megalopolises. Here, Brand declares, human ingenuity triumphs; waste is eradicated, and opportunities arise. Brand's reasoning is lucid if disturbing, his perspective genuinely global and realistic. Drawing on his own fascinating experiences and writing with both finesse and moxie, Brand calls for responsible science instead of sentiment and fear, "planet craft" instead of politics. Loaded with information and paradigm-altering thought, Brand's mettlesome manifesto is a book to wrestle with, a power tool for change. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Brand is known for publishing The Whole Earth Catalog, beginning in the 1960s, but he has been active in a number of fields related to environmentalism ever since and has unimpeachable environmentalist credentials. Here, he argues against the conventional wisdom of most environmentalists, i.e., that the current steady migration to large cities is good for the environment, that nuclear power needs to be a major part of our future energy plans; and that genetically engineered organisms should be used, not banned. His arguments for these propositions are all strong, and do not rely solely on his opinions. Brand believes that global warming and some other environmental problems are serious. These issues are so serious, in fact, that the mitigation plans being proposed by the world's political leaders will not resolve them. Brand takes an engineering approach in trying to find the best way to address an environmental problem. The last part of the book considers a number of different cases where people in many parts of the world are doing just that. The work has adequate scholarly apparatus and is easily understandable. A must read for informed citizens. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. Copyright 2010 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Climate change. Urbanization. Biotechnology. Whole Earth cataloger Brand says we must rethink green politics to address these issues effectively. Definitely consider: ecopragmatism is hot. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Brand, now a senior citizen, is best known as the editor of the counterculture classics Whole Earth Catalog (1968–85) and CoEvolution Quarterly. An ecologist by training, he has also written books and articles about the environment. His latest is a personal call to citizens and organizations to make every possible effort at managing further climate change. Brand makes a strong case for taking a pragmatic approach—beyond environmentalism—keeping some of our technological civilization alive while reducing our net carbon emissions to a minimum. The methods he promotes include urban density, vertical farms, nuclear power plants, and biotechnology. Referring to scientist James Lovelock's statements that climate change cannot be halted now and will turn many habitable regions into parched wasteland, Brand outlines visionary and risky geoengineering projects that may be deployed to mitigate global warming. VERDICT Despite the occasional flippant comment, Brand's tough but constructive projection of our near future on this overheating planet is essential reading for all. [Six-city tour; see Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/09.]—David R. Conn, Surrey P.L., B.C. [Page 137]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Brand, co-author of the seminal 1969 Whole Earth Catalog, compiles reflections and lessons learned from more than 40 years as an environmentalist in this clumsy yet compelling attempt to inspire practicable solutions to climate change. Brand haphazardly organizes his "manifesto" into chapters that address environmental stewardship opportunities, exhorting environmentalists to "become fearless about following science"; his iconoclastic proposals include transitioning to nuclear energy and ecosystem engineering. Brand believes environmentalists must embrace nuclear energy expansion and other inevitable technological advances, and refreshingly suggests a shift in the environmentalists' dogmatic approach to combating climate change. Rejecting the inflexible message so common in the Green movement, he describes a process of reasonable debate and experimentation. Brand's fresh perspective, approachable writing style and manifest wisdom ultimately convince the reader that the future is not an abyss to be feared but an opportunity for innovative problem solvers to embrace enthusiastically. (Oct.) [Page 56]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Discussing the ways in which climate change will affect the next half century, the National Book Award-winning author of The Clock of the Long Now explores such topics as the green potential of cities, the virtues of nuclear engineering, and the sustainability of genetically modified crops.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Discusses the ways in which climate change will affect the next half century and explores such topics as the green potential of cities, the virtues of nuclear engineering, and the sustainability of genetically modified crops.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An icon of the environmental movement outlines a provocative approach for reclaiming our planet According to Stewart Brand, a lifelong environmentalist who sees everything in terms of solvable design problems, three profound transformations are under way on Earth right now. Climate change is real and is pushing us toward managing the planet as a whole. Urbanization?half the world?s population now lives in cities, and eighty percent will by midcentury?is altering humanity?s land impact and wealth. And biotechnology is becoming the world?s dominant engineering tool. In light of these changes, Brand suggests that environmentalists are going to have to reverse some longheld opinions and embrace tools that they have traditionally distrusted. Only a radical rethinking of traditional green pieties will allow us to forestall the cataclysmic deterioration of the earth?s resources.Whole Earth Discipline shatters a number of myths and presents counterintuitive observations on why cities are actually greener than countryside, how nuclear power is the future of energy, and why genetic engineering is the key to crop and land management. With a combination of scientific rigor and passionate advocacy, Brand shows us exactly where the sources of our dilemmas lie and offers a bold and inventive set of policies and solutions for creating a more sustainable society. In the end, says Brand, the environmental movement must become newly responsive to fast-moving science and take up the tools and discipline of engineering. We have to learn how to manage the planet?s global-scale natural infrastructure with as light a touch as possible and as much intervention as necessary.