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Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, Radical Science, and Geoengineering are Necessary [Paperback]

Stewart Brand
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2010
The green movement used to protect the earth from mankind; now they need to protect mankind from the earth. In Whole Earth Discipline, Stewart Brand argues that in order to do this, they urgently need to abandon much conventional environmental wisdom, and embrace new science and engineering. Cities are actually greener than the countryside, he argues, and urbanization should be encouraged; we must invest massively in nuclear energy; and genetic engineering has the potential to stimulate a second 'Green Revolution'. Combining rigorous thinking and blazing advocacy, this is a powerful and persuasive challenge, and a wake-up call to everyone who cares about the future of our Earth.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184354816X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843548164
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 295,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Now the new style of environmentalism has a worthy prophet, Stewart Brand, and a bible, Whole Earth Discipline.' Financial Times

About the Author

Stewart Brand trained originally as an ecologist. His legendary Whole Earth Catalogue won the US National Book Award in 1972. Brand, whose previous books include The Media Lab, How Buildings Learn, and The Clock of the Long Now, is president and cofounder of the Long Now Foundation and co-founder of the Global Business Network.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars yes, but... 23 Mar 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I did broadly change my mind as a result of reading this book about the potential advantages of progressive urbanisation - inevitable in any case - GM/GE organisms and nuclear power; the `main news' part of the book. Brand successfully includes these as possible solutions to the ecological crisis, part of the package needed. In this way his approach is refreshingly solution-orientated, identifying what is required as an engineering, problem-solving approach, in contrast to the tragic and pessimistic `decay narrative' of the romantic wing of environmentalism.

However there are serious lacks. Presumably because he is American, he does not imagine any alternative to corporate capitalism. He talks of `managing the commons' without recognising that one of the main thrusts of capitalism, for over four hundred years, is the privatisation of the commons for profit, more recently expropriating its intellectual property and patenting its DNA! He is clearly a technophile, but berates rather than understands the justified suspicion of science when it is in the service of this corporate capitalism. Western technological science co-arose with capitalism, is at best co-dependent with it, perhaps simply a product of it.

He fails to provide, therefore, any political economic context for his thesis or, for that matter, much cultural perspective. The future he imagines of successfully combating climate change could be either a utopia or a dystopia, depending whether the technical solutions are accompanied by a shift in values - or not....

Nevertheless he convincingly argues that the environmental movement will also have to shift its ground.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whole Earth Intelligence 13 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This extraordinary book should be read by all politicians and anyone concerned with our future. It is refreshing on many topics, and challenging to our preconceptions. It gives ground for hope, and tackles basic problems and concerns head on , without recourse to special arcane language. It questions so much, and proposes from a position of knowledge. One of the most refreshing books I have encountered. An unequivocal Five Star rating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be open minded and read this book 3 Jan 2011
By Nick
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading this book, borrowed from my local library. As soon as I finished it I bought the e-book version for my Kindle. It's a book I want to keep - I can say that about very few books I read these days.

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this. Now. 6 Feb 2010
Stewart Brands book on climate change, urbanization and biotechnology seems the only clear voice in the current climate change debate. Read it and see how the inventor of the pre-internet, the Whole Earth Catalogue, and one of the founders of the Long Now Foundation has remained well-informed, well connected and strikingly objective throughout the last 40 years, giving his clear view on what we should be doing to make sure humankind doesn't evaporate.

A scary, intelligent and uplifting read. Be ready to be converted and have your views changed - this man knows what he's talking about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Green heresy 29 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Whole Earth Discipline" by Steward Brand is a Green book, but it's written from a distinctly heretical perspective. Brand argues in favour of urbanization, Third World development, nuclear power and Frankenfood.

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...
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36 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, poor thinking 27 July 2010
There's nothing wrong with writing a book that champions your own particular views about how to tackle a problem, but if you genuinely value reason and open-mindedness - as Stewart Brand claims he does - then it behoves you to take contrary views seriously and to address the drawbacks of your favoured options. This Brand spectacularly fails to do. Fallacies, half-truths, and non-sequiturs leap out on virtually every page of this book, though many of them are concealed by Brand's exceptional writing skills. Maybe it wouldn't matter if the issues he's discussing weren't so important - sadly, the result of this book will probably be to make many people think that our environmental problems have already been largely solved by the experts, so that we can just carry on as before enjoying Brand's brand of caring Californian consumerism.

Here's a brief summary of his argument. The world is becoming urbanised, which is good. A lot of western environmentalists think peasant agriculture is soulful and organic, but actually rural life is hopeless. In fact, Brand comes close to arguing that rural PEOPLE are hopeless. You get famines in the country, but not in the city. That obviously can't be because it's harder to grow food in the country, but Brand doesn't stop to ask himself whether there may be economic forces at work that impoverish rural people to the benefit of urban (and rural) elites, because he's too busy painting a picture of life in urban slums as, well, soulful and organic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Textbook in disguise
Very insightful book. I think most people who align themselves to green matra's should buy this just as much as people who wish to learn more about current sustainability... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Frank London, UK
4.0 out of 5 stars Brand successfully challenges you to take on board new perspectives
I enjoyed Brand's analysis of the nuclear industry even though I still do not trust that industry to be transparent. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Eric Cowin
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
Stewart Brand was at the forefront of the environmental movement and continues to be incredibly active for a man now in his 70's. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Gerry Gaughan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, worth getting just for the further reading suggestions
This is one of the best books I've read for a long time. It is full of great quotes and interesting titbits (my favourite being that kiwi fruits were selectively bred from... Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2012 by Mr. K. E. Varney
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking study of what we need to do
US ecologist Stewart Brand has written an extraordinary and thoughtful book on climate change, urbanisation and biotechnology. Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2011 by William Podmore
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Clearly faced with a challenge as difficult as climate change, environmentalists like me need to examine whether some of our beliefs stand in the way of making progress. Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2010 by Trois
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
There's a surprising amount of hope in this book, compared to any other books I've read on climate change and environmental issues - the suggested survival strategy seems not only... Read more
Published on 29 May 2010 by Meri Mcnamara
4.0 out of 5 stars It ain't all doom!
This is one for reference. The book is the most optimistic view I have read from an ecologist.
Published on 16 Mar 2010 by Stan Ford
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