Monday, April 25, 2005

Reply to "Environmental Heresies" by Stewart Brand.

Reply to "Environmental Heresies" by Stewart Brand.

Stweart Brand the well known founder of The Whole Earth Catalogue has written an essay that boggles the mind in which he supports what he terms as four well known "environmental heresies."

Brand's essay currently may be found at

"Follow the money" is still a good rule of thumb, and the only way to determine if Brand has been co-opted by corporate America is to know where he is getting his money. Either that or he is just getting senile.

Logic is severely lacking in the essay, so no matter what Brand's past credibility, his arguments in this essay are sorely without credibility.

First, his polarization of the environmentally concerned into "romantics" and "scientists" is an old trick of rhetoric which has nothing to do with reality, but a lot to do with selling a pitch. He wants to create a dynamic tension that gets your attention without being itself subject to much evaluation. Here the polarity is intended to get the reader uncritically to say "Oh yeah, I must be a romantic, so because I really honor science I had better listen to Brand who says he is speaking for science." By using this trick he wants the reader to bypass the real life complexities of the people in the environmental movements. For example, there are plenty of romantic scientists, fascist scientists, lazy scientists, fair scientists, bought-and-paid-for scientists, etc., within the group of scientists. And of course just because you aren't a scientist doesn't mean you are a romantic as Brand would pigeon-hole you in order to stimulate your self-doubt.

Population growth as a world wide figure is still growing. What he is talking about is the reduced *rate* of growth. This of course has always been known to be in the cards. No species in the history of the world has ever continued population growth indefinitely. Exponential, geometrical growth has always been followed by plateau or decline. The questions are always when is the turnaround and what will cause it, famine of food sources by overuse, environmental disaster, etc.? So Brand's population discussion of the decreased rate is much ado about nothing. The questions of land use ownership and policy making and the fair distribution of the products of the land have always been and remain the crucial issues in population growth. Brand's discussion of population amounts to nothing more than claptrap for his essay.

It has always been the case that people in rural areas are more conservative, patriarchal, and fundamentalist. That is nothing new since it seems to be the generalized pattern since the dawn of history. Why is Brand acting like this is new information? Why did it take a person from India to clue Brand into this when the history of elections in the USA clearly demonstrate this fact. Obviously taking Brand's view that cities are good for liberalizing people he seems to be advocating for a sort of reverse Chinese cultural revolution of bringing people to the cities. The bias of encouraging population movement to the cities as the cure to village conservatism and patriarchy is just absurd on Brand's part. Why not advocate exporting education and equal civil rights from the cities to the rural areas?

Since when are the Amish to be the control group for sensible environmentalism? The Amish are an example of those same patriarchal conservative fundamentalists of rural life whom Brand was just criticizing in his previous paragraphs. If village patriarchists are embracing genetically modified organisms, then why is that an argument in favor of GMOs? His embrace of GMOs as the cure to protect native species is just the kind of short sighted logic which Monsanto is hoping to see adopted by
pseudo-environmentalists. Shame on Brand.

And "Let's Go Nuclear"? Wowie zowie, what has Brand been smoking? (That's a humorous ad hominem.) The idea that so-called "fruitful engagement" with the nuclear energy industry is somehow more feasible, as well as ultimately more fruitful, than "fruitful engagement" with the fossil fuel industry has no basis in logic or fact. The claim that the storage of radioactive waste has been solved (as he says is now "a surmountable problem") is pure poppycock. What can be said for such a "big lie" when it appears in rhetoric other than that it is a big lie? Generally behind such big lies is either money, religion, or some other power seeking purpose. It is not a good tactic in debate to attack the motives of one's opponent, but to me the exception is when the "big lie" is trotted out on display, then one must at least raise the question of motive. Do people know where Brand's Global Business Network gets its money? I don't know but it warrants looking into.

The fantasy of "hybrid" nuclear power plants as equivalent to hybrid vehicles is really laughable as a reason to embrace nuclear power at this stage. Contrary to Brand's claim that the auto industry has been embraced by environmentalists, no one in the environmental movement that I know ever embraced the auto industry's SUVs and gas guzzlers along the way to supporting the creation of hybrid vehicles, which are only seen as an interim step not a final form of vehicle. As I see it, the auto industry remains an object of loathing, and of self-loathing for all of us who recognize our addiction to it, for most environmentalists.

Brand's essay is so worthless and so corporate and industry biased that I can only marvel how his perspective has changed.