Monday, May 31, 2010


I love books that change me. Reading Stewart Brand's 'Whole Earth Discipline' did that last week, and I feel invigorated. I love the way this man thinks, and how brilliantly he writes about his intelligent ideas. Once founder and editor of the famed 'Whole Earth Catalogues', Stewart Brand is also largely credited with planting the seeds of the USA environmental movement of the 70's through his button campaign demanding to see NASA's pictures of the Earth after the 1969 moon mission. For me, he has always been a person to watch. He has a knack of being on the button.

Many serious environmentalists and Earth-Lovers felt a range of negative emotions, from disappointment to fury, when about five years ago, Stewart Brand wrote articles and gave interviews that seemed to champion the very 'Evils' that 'green' activists have long rallied against. Very controversially, he started to say that urbanisation is good, cities are green and world population is mostly likely to decline, not explode. Even worse, he started to say nuclear power is green and that genetic engineering offers valuable technologies for a greener world. Brand transformed himself unapologetically, from Saviour to Judas. I admire his bravery in much the same way as I relished Bob Dylan going electric.

Still, I wasn't sure I wanted to read 'Whole Earth Discipline' when I first saw the reviews, but I am delighted that I did. It is not that I have been fully convinced by Stewart Brand's new arguments about what's 'green'. It is that he reminded me to think for myself and to freely change my mind when appropriate, when times change, when there's new information and new ways.

There's a crucial aim at stake: to sustain human civilisation on Earth. For a long future, for our children and their future generations; that means sustaining the ecosystems and species that sustain us as well. We go hand in hand, and we all need substantial change, right now.

We're stuck in old ways. We don't understand today's science. We're romantic when we need to be pragmatic. We're not visionary enough. We're anti-intellectual. We fight before we listen and understand. We're pessimistic, and we don't trust. We hold onto the old; scared to change our minds and be different in case we lose some kind of credibility. Sometimes, because of this, we may stand in the way of what might help us. That has to change fast. We have to change. Fast. Climate change is already here.