Feb 122011
Fall 1969 cover
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Stewart Brand is a rare breed of environmentalist: in his own words, “an ecologist by training, a futurist by profession, and a hacker (lazy engineer) at heart.” In the 60s, Brand campaigned against nuclear power and staged a “Hunger Show” to dramatize the global famine predicted by his mentor, Paul Ehrlich, but he also began printing a decidedly pro-technology handbook for saving the planet. Whole Earth Catalog, first published in 1968, was premised on the notion that given the right information, tools, and awareness, people could—and would—create a more sustainable world. It was, many have said, the beginning of environmentalism.

Since that time, Brand’s own views on core “green issues,” from atomic energy to genetic engineering, have shifted under the weight of scientific evidence. Rather than quietly backpedal, Brand has now issued a bold challenge to the very movement he helped create: Can you forsake ideology for the good of the planet? Whole Earth Discipline contains every reason why they should: 300 pages of data, anecdotes, and arguments that illustrate, in withering detail, the scale of ecological problems we face today, and the utter inability of faith-based environmentalism alone to fix them. Seed editor Maywa Montenegro recently caught up with the 70-year-old Brand, ahead of a multi-city book tour.

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