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Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, Radical Science, and Geoengineering are Necessary Paperback – 1 Oct 2010


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Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, Radical Science, and Geoengineering are Necessary + The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy
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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: 12.9 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 333,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'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

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By M. Paine on 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 By Ashtar Command on 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Kettle on 13 Sept. 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 By Nick on 3 Jan. 2011
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.

Recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 gooseberries). It is almost worthwhile getting for the recommended reading section alone. Brand is an iconclast. I have heard of environmentalists being in favour of nuclear energy before, but not of slum cities or genetically engineered food. He regards himself as an eco-pragmistist, who looks to science to steer himself between two ideological positions: one, a deep green perspective that distrusts capitalism, western style consumerism and techno-fixes; the other, a reactionary refusal to believe environmental concerns are anything other than a green-socialist plot. It's the first book I've recommended to my friends on social networking sites. I thought two of the chapters, "Romantics, Scientists and Engineers" and "It's all Gardening" were slightly weaker than the others, but overall I thought it was excellent.

However when I raised the subject of GM food on one social network, it was the behaviour of the seed corporations (one in particular) that was most often objected to. This aspect was not entirely glossed over, but nor was it spelt out. Possibly this was because the author wanted to discuss the potential benefits of the technology rather than getting bogged down in the behaviour of over-powerful corporations, but arguably this is a weakness in the book. OTOH, one forum member suggested the author was some sort of contratrian or corporate paid stooge; it is clear he is not.
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