Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"The Sun" Interviews Stewart Brand

I was absolutely delighted to read this lengthy interview of Stewart Brand in my September 2011 subscription issue of "The Sun". Brand was a forefather to the environmental movement of the 60's and 70's. He knows his subjects, is a realist, and is not afraid of taking a stance. He has plenty to say about agriculture and favors scientific use of GMO's citing important advancements which have been made to date. He makes as much sense as anyone I've read and so it led me to check out his 2009 book Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, at my local library yesterday.

You probably already know that one of Brand's controversial stances is his strong endorsement of nuclear energy. In this interview, he describes his 2001 trip to Yucca Mountain and his belief that storage of nuclear waste there would be safe. (He must be disappointed this week.) He is somewhat of a technological optimist, stating that the environmentalist stance has long been one of heroic despair and that it is time to move on from that view that we are in a tragedy that cannot be fixed.

In my opinion, reading the whole thing would be worth your buying the magazine this month.---KM

Since I also often notice hypocrisy in foodies, by that I mean those who spend their time leisurely while pretending to know how others should be growing their food to eat, I enjoyed this statement from Brand, who supports GMO's:
Artisanal farming and slow food are really good only in areas where the biggest nutritional problem is obesity. In most of the world you have nutritional issues like not getting enough vitamin A, and the dominant lifestyle is still subsistence agriculture, which has been romanticized by some environmentalists as the right way to live. Indeed many of us tried it in the sixties. By and large it sucked. [Laughs] Few people lasted three winters, because it was so damn hard.

Here are a few predictions that he makes:
I think we have thirty years before we face disaster: Europe, North America, and China becoming unable to grow food, mega wildfires, melting glaciers.


I believe we will see a peak population of between 8 and 9 billion. Then it will go down. ... Everything depends on the rate at which climate change lowers the planet's human carrying capacity. If it lowers capacity to less than 8 or 9 billion, then we are looking at serious resource wars and loss of life.


I'm expecting that we'll attempt to dim the sun because we're realizing that we're not going to slow down the production of greenhouse gases fast enough.

For more, the following is the TED talk that Brand gave to the U.S. State Department prior to his book release in 2009. [At 13:00 begins the part about GMO's.] One of his big subjects is the implication of this world's growing cities and what that means, quite an important subject.

Next, is his most recent TED talk, produced in June 2010, a debate on nuclear energy:

Brand's BIO @ TED