I’ve been reading — very slowly, as I feel drugged each time I try to pick it up — a book that utterly infuriates me, Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.
By the way, the paperback version has a much more in-your-face subtitle:
“Why dense cities, nuclear power, transgenic crops, restored wildlands and geoengineering are necessary.” Ye gods!
In fact, that subtitle reads like a quick summary of Agenda 21, though at least in my hardback version, Agenda 21 is not once mentioned in the Index.
Throughout my reading, I am noticing my reactions, and how they trigger rock-hard, rock-solid “beliefs” that I didn’t even know I had. I thought I was open, expanding, willing to consider whatever comes into my purview. I’m discovering that I’m a bigot. Just like before. It’s humbling. And: I still tend to side with the passion and principles of Winona La Duke and as well as commentator Peter Coyote, though my hat’s off to Stewart Brand for his way of sincerely questioning shibboleths, and for provoking me to look long and hard at my own unquestioned assumptions about what is and is not true or real. Especially, I appreciate his statement in the first video below:
“One of the things I’ve learned is to be carefully about overinterpreting intentions. Most people do things for reason they are confident are good reasons. There is very little malevolence behind new technologies.”
But then, of course, Winona LaDuke points out that the inventor of geoengineering was Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb. Huh? Not malevolent?
Note that this debate took place within months of the ignition of the ongoing Fukushima nightmare.
A Spirited Exchange on Technology and the Environment
July 26, 2011
BY JASON MARK – JULY 26, 2011
Last week, on July 21, Earth Island Journal hosted a debate here at the David Brower Center about how technological advancements can be balanced with environmental protection. On one side we had Stewart Brand, publisher of the iconic Whole Earth Catalog and author of the book, Whole Earth Discipline, which argues – in sometimes strident tones – that environmentalists need to reconsider their opposition to nuclear power, genetically modified foods, and geoengineering of the planet’s atmosphere. On the other side we had prominent Indigenous leader Winona LaDuke, who has been an eloquent spokeswoman (and tireless activist) for the importance of traditional knowledge, especially when it comes to food production. Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation’s environment correspondent, served as moderator.
The discussion was part of Earth Island Journal’s commitment to fostering dialogue among environmentalists on issues that elude easy answers. In the last two years, the magazine has hosted debates on the environmental consequences (and ecological benefits) of meat-eating; whether we should build large scale solar energy plants in wilderness areas; the tradeoffs between investing solely in mass transit versus also encouraging electric vehicles; and whether natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy economy. The idea behind these debates is to encourage discussions that will help create a smarter, sharper green movement. As I wrote in an Editor’s Letterwhen we started the series: “Disagreements, engaged in without embarrassment, reveal a strategic sophistication. They are a sign of maturity. Only a movement that has the self-confidence to disagree with itself has the chance of fulfilling its aspiration. It is, perhaps, part of the alchemy that transforms the fringe into the cutting edge.”
In that sense, last week’s debate was a huge success. Brand – who demonstrated real courage in appearing before an unsympathetic Berkeley, CA, audience – raised some provocative points about what he dubbed greens’ technological paranoia. In a thoughtful rebuttal, LaDuke encouraged a new humility in humans’ relationship with other living things. The two didn’t end up agreeing on much – and that’s OK. The audience left wiser for just having heard the exchange.
Below are some of the highlights of the debate, including a passionate audience member’s question/statement from actor-activist Peter Coyote. I hope you enjoy the debate as much as I did.
Special thanks to the staff at the Earth Island-sponsored Sacred Land Film project for recording and editing the debate.
Jason Mark, Editor, Earth Island Journal
Jason Mark is a writer-farmer with a deep background in environmental politics. In addition to his work in the Earth Island Journal, his writings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, The Progressive, Utne Reader, Orion, Gastronomica, Grist.org, Alternet.org, E magazine, and Yes! He is a co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots and also co-author with Kevin Danaher of Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power. When not writing and editing, he co-manages Alemany Farm, San Francisco’s largest food production site.