- You'll save an extra 5% on Books purchased from Amazon.ca, now through July 29th. No code necessary, discount applied at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)
Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, RestoredWildlands, and Geoeng ineering Are Necessary Paperback – Sep 28 2010
Special Offers and Product Promotions
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"After spreading the gospel of self-sufficiency with his inimitable Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart Brand now embraces science and engineering as the disciplines that will see us through the fast-approaching crisis of global warming. Brand's new book is like the man himself: smart, practical, wise and full of goodwill." -- Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb
"Stewart Brand defines iconoclastic, and has now raised the bar with the most important work of his lifetime, likely one of the most original and important books of the century. As the title connotes, the writing is about disciplined thinking. Shibboleths, ideological cant, and green fetishes are put to the side with the clarity and expertise gained by years of research and forethought, a mindbending exploration of what humankind can and must do to retain the mantle of civilization. The highest compliment one can give a book is 'it changed my mind.' It changed mine and I am grateful." -- Paul Hawken
"If you care about future of the planet or about the contest between dispassionate discourse and crusading zeal, read this book from cover to cover and get ready to join the fierce debate it will spark." -- Paul Romer
"Orthodoxy is the enemy of invention. Despair an insult to the imagination. In this extraordinary manifesto, Stewart Brand charts a way forward that shatters conventional thinking, and yet leaves one brimming with hope. It has been years since I have read a book that in so many ways changed the way I think about so many fundamental issues." -- Wade Davis
"Stewart Brand's timely and down to Earth new book gives me hope that his wisdom will help us prevent the Earth system breaking as the economic system has done. The last things we need are more theoretical models or visionary hi-tech. This book is truly important and a joy to read. It is a practical guide to damage limitation and a sustainable retreat to a far more efficient society." -- James Lovelock --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"After spreading the gospel of self-sufficiency with his inimitable Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart Brand now embraces science and engineering as the disciplines that will see us through the fast-approaching crisis of global warming. Brand's new book is like the man himself: smart, practical, wise and full of goodwill." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Buy this book. I originally found it in a bargain bin, and it deserves so much more than that.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Is this it?" I asked.
Soros shrugged --- a very calm reaction from an investor who might have seen his portfolio shrink by hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of minutes.
I lost much less that day, but I had a different reaction --- panic. The thing to do, I concluded, was to trade my beloved Classic 6 in Manhattan for a self-sustaining house in the country. Ten acres would suffice, as long as they had decent water, land suitable for a large garden and enough sunlight for the solar panels.
I bought a URL for the web site I planned to launch: [...]. This was no back-to-the-land hippie retreat. I would be stepping into the smart future: small town/rural purity (Woodsmoke) with the 21st century benefits of a fast Internet (Broadband) and Amazon.com's free shipping.
Given all that, you will understand that I was quite stunned to read "Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto" --- by Stewart Brand, creator of the 1960s and 1970s classic, the "Whole Earth Catalog" --- and discover that the last place its author would have me go is back to the land.
In these pages, Stewart Brand lays out a mind-blowing vision for the planet's salvation: migration to the cities, power generated by mini-nuclear reactors, healthier crops through genetic engineering.
This may well be the most important book I'll read this year. Certainly, it's the most aggressively optimistic book that's also closely reported --- Brand's a student who shows his work. Granted, a lot of it is technical. Skip those pages. Just read with a pencil. Mark what seems important and/or drives you crazy. Start reading more science news --- Brand recommends NewScientist --- and keep an open mind. That is, get ready to abandon your own long-held views. And be just as ready to disagree with Brand.
The book starts with climate change --- not as a phenomenon to debate with those who don't believe it's real, but as a factor in warfare, which has historically often followed changes in climate. In the past, "wholesale carnage was common, and so was cannibalism." But in the last three centuries, historians have found, only about 3% of the world's population dies in warfare. And in our own century, war has become absolutely humane --- we now kill only enough of the enemy to guarantee victory.
But what if we experienced severe climate change? "Humanity would revert to its norm of constant battles for diminishing resources," Brand writes. "Peace lovers would be killed and eaten by war lovers."
Now that he has your attention --- and with that image, he certainly has mine --- Brand makes his case for a Green movement that is smart about science. In other words, based on facts, not emotion. Rachel Carson, he notes, was a hero for her anti-pesticide book, "Silent Spring". But after DD was banned worldwide, malaria took off in Africa, possibly killing 20-30 million children. So he wishes us to consider the direct --- and indirect --- consequences of:
-- "We're now excessively carbon-loading the atmosphere toward inferno."
-- "Cellphones are the fastest global diffusion of any technology in human history."
-- For the next three decades, the world will be demographically split: in the global north, old cities full of old people; in the global south, new cities full of young people.
-- "A white roof saves the building's tenant 20% in cooling costs."
-- Because of its nuclear plants, France exports power to coal-burning countries.
But the big phenomenon for Brand, in his new way of thinking, is this: "The takeoff of cities is the dominant economic event of the first half of this century." And when we met in New York for a short interview, that's where we started.
You see more and more people moving to cities. Why do you applaud that?
Cities innovate faster as they grow bigger. They create enormous problems, but they also create solutions faster. Cities seem to know how to get out of their own way.
What's driving the attraction of cities?
Globally, the evolution of cell phones. Once people in the bush have smart phones, people can see the wealth creation in cities.
Won't this lead to more urban gridlock?
People don't move from the country to the capital cities. They go to the nearest city.
Okay, climate change. Care to predict the year when, if we haven't taken radical steps, it becomes just too late to save the planet for humans life?
No, because you can't find a hard edge.
I used to think rising sea level was not significant. You can, after all, walk back from water. Then I realized most of the wealth and productivity and expensive real estate is on the coasts. In San Francisco, real estate along the shore is susceptible to inches. So rising water is more serious to those people than drought. Very simply, the rich will say: "Stop this!"
And for those who don't live on the coasts?
Ten years of drought would have an effect. At 15 years you realize it's not going away. And once drought stays, the area does die.
In either scenario, climate is the story.
It's the ongoing story: What does climate change mean to us?
But people don't want to hear it. Why?
People turn away from news that confuses them. And these problems resist easy understanding. There's much to disagree about on almost point. Like: every year, carbon comes out of the atmosphere. Does it go to oceans or continents?
You mention the good that would follow if we all painted our roofs white. Give me five more things that we can, as individuals, do to retard climate change.
In my "Whole Earth" days, that would be my focus. Now I don't think about painting your roof white, I think about painting whole cities white.
Can you see that time?
Soon enough, I can see streets that will be embedded with solar cells.
And our power coming from mini-nuclear plants?
Micro-reactors are game changers. China is talking about building 400.
This conversation unsettles me. On one hand, you speak of urgency. On the other, you're very calm. Why aren't you screaming?
I'm a biologist. That comes with a kind of fatalism.
Working out the ideas for this book, when do you realize you were making a break with your past?
As I was pursuing urbanization, I realized there was a nest of good news in what had been treated as bad news. As a journalist, this is what you look for --- suddenly I had a story. And my changed sense of "green" is a piece of that story. That's one advantage of being 70 and having been in the public eye for 40 years.
So is "Whole Earth Discipline" a repudiation of the "Whole Earth Catalog"?
The "Catalog" was not, as some thought, counter-culture. It was counter-counter culture. It matched the passion of the hippie movement with reasoned responses. "Discipline" is the same game.
A lot of people have looked into squatter cities and shanty towns, but Brand does a better job of showing how they are part of an organic and evolutionary and even in some ways positive, optimistic process than most others I've read. There has been a lot of shouting on all sides of the debate on nuclear energy -- this is a really good attempt to get the pros and cons on the table in rational discourse and (mostly) dispense with the flame wars. Same goes for the discussions of genetically engineered crops and geo-engineering. We desperately need a much higher quality public dialog on all these subjects, and this book is a real contribution toward putting all these issues on the table in a discussable format. Stewart is right -- the time for allowing ideology and sentimentality to stand in front of what science is telling us is over, and we are going to be forced as a society to make some difficult decisions relating to the future of our climate and the management of our ecosystems. It is going to require massive involvement and a high level of innovation on the part of many actors, and it is going to require a lot of people to stretch their thinking and give up old prejudices. I don't know if Stewart is right about all the assertions in this book, but the nice thing is, neither does he, and he knows that and comes right out and says so. Loosely held opinions strongly stated. The service of this book is to unwedge the conversation, steer between Pollyanna and Chicken Little, and focus on the important issues that are surely coming our way.
His warnings are dire, but hopeful. His advice is strongly worded, but entirely justified. If you are looking for a rational voice in the debate about climate change, genetically modified organisms, the overpopulation "problem" and other issues whose specter is now cast over the future of our species, you must read this book.
It is rare to find a book that is balanced, informative and wholly engaging -- this is one of them.
In his opinion, only modernization and high tech can save humanity from climate change and its consequences. The book also contains more traditionally Green chapters on land management, wildlife preservation, etc. The bottom line is the same, however: if we want better land management, perhaps we need GE crops. If we want to preserve large wilderness preserves, we need to urbanize and make sure to develop eco-friendly technology. If we want to control population numbers, we need higher standards of living.
Brand's support for nuclear power and GE (or GM) crops will be particularly hard to swallow even for moderate Greens. Apart from Brand himself, I think James Lovelock is the only well-known Green who supports nuclear power. Interestingly, Paul Ehrlich seems to be positive to GM crops. Otherwise, opposition to both nuclear power and GM crops are almost defining features of the Green movement.
One thing is for sure. If Brand's eco-pragmatism turns out to be another failed strategy, we're in for a really rough ride...
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Business & Investing > Economics > Environmental Economics
- Books > Business & Investing > Economics > Natural Resources
- Books > Business & Investing > Economics > Sustainable Development
- Books > Professional & Technical > Accounting & Finance > Economics > Natural Resources
- Books > Professional & Technical > Accounting & Finance > Economics > Sustainable Development
- Books > Science & Math > Earth Sciences > Ecology
- Books > Science & Math > Environment > Conservation
- Books > Science & Math > Nature & Ecology > Conservation
- Books > Science & Math > Nature & Ecology > Environment > Conservation
- Books > Science & Math > Nature & Ecology > Reference
- Books > Science & Math > Technology > Futurology