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Stewart Brand on 'Environmental Heresies'

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the good-piece dept.

Science 762

FleaPlus writes "The MIT Technology Review has an article predicting where the mainstream of the environmental movement may likely reverse its collective stance in the next ten years. The four areas discussed are population growth, urbanization, genetically-engineered organisms, and nuclear power. The article is written by Stewart Brand, known for creating the Whole Earth Catalog, the WELL online community, and the Long Now Foundation. Brand also has some interesting comments regarding the sometimes-conflicting interaction between romantics and scientists in the environmental movement. There's an online debate between Brand and former DOE official Joseph Romm on TR Blogs." Frankly, unless humanity decides to undergo a massive collective personality change of not being consumption-focused, I don't see much other way around these particular issues. What we all need is an Arthur to keep us depressed and sleeping in darkened rooms to lower energy consumption.

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Nuclear Energy (1, Interesting)

Nazi Pope (878657) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336526)

Nuclear Power


I am an environmentalist. And I hate Nuclear energy. But it is not because of
its inherent dangers. It is not because of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. It
is because Nuclear energy is not the solution.


Why not?


Uranium deposits are shrinking at an alarming rate. In a few decades time,
the cheap U ores would have run out, and the remaining deposits would absorb
more energy to extract a gram of U than that gram can ever hope give back.


Over reliance on Nuclear energy can easily turn us away from looking at
real
alternatives. That's my gripe with Newkiller. Not some quasi-religious
aversion.



Re:Nuclear Energy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336559)

You are not an environmentalist, or you would know that the few decades time is if the entire world switched over the Nuclear all at once for 100% of it's energy needs. Obviously this is stupid, and Nuclear energy has it's place as an alternative to coal mainly.

Re:Nuclear Energy (4, Informative)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336589)

You are not an environmentalist, or you would know that the few decades time is if the entire world switched over the Nuclear all at once for 100% of it's energy needs

And also it assumes that we do no reprocessing, and we make no use of thorium. There's enough thorium on Earth to keep the breeder reactors running for... well, as near forever as you need it to be.

Re:Nuclear Energy (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336596)

a few decades? that's plenty of time to supplement light/sweet oil production which will start declining in about five years. That gives us plenty of time to develop smarter ways of getting energy

Re:Nuclear Energy (5, Insightful)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336616)

The problem I have is that there aren't any good replacements, nothing renewable comes close to the energy return of fossil fuels or nuclear (at current production).

Re:Nuclear Energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336624)

If you took the time research your position on nuclear energy, you would see that uranium is not the only element that is favorable for nuclear power. Let's not forget that fusion and fission reactors can feed from each other, in effect, recycling each other's waste products.

Re:Nuclear Energy (5, Insightful)

fireduck (197000) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336640)

one can make similar arguments about oil deposits. in fact, for years, people have been claiming that we'll run out of oil in 20 years, and every 20 years, we still have oil to burn. why? because technology advances. oil reserves that were not economical or feasible to pump from 20 years ago are now very viable. we've got these nifty steam injection techniques that can extract from oil sands which have oil concentrations that are far below what previously would have been considered justification for even installing a well.

I'm sure the same could apply to uranium. What isn't viable today to process, could well be quite viable in 20 years if we approached the problem head on.

Catholic Mods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336658)

I see that some catholic mods are deliberately trying to mod this down just because of the posters login name. This is an abuse of mod power. Come on mods. Get a hold of yourselves.

Re:Catholic Mods (1)

Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336768)

I'm fairly sure that they're modding him down for the idiotic content of his post. It is lacking any sound argument from the facts, and unduely simplifies the nuclear power source issue.

Re:Nuclear Energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336682)

It will be interesting to see whether the media will pick up on Chernobyl's anniversary tomorrow. There is an article in the Guardian [guardian.co.uk] and some interesting things on the BBC [bbc.co.uk] for UK minded folks.

Re:Nuclear Energy (1)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336731)

The only problem I see with Nuclear power is what to do with the waste. It seems to me that we should build the plants next to Yucca Mountain type facilities and use the national grid to transmit power to everywhere. Also it should be illegal to transmit power over the border or at the very least tax the hell out of it to provide an incentive to sell it domestically.

Re:Nuclear Energy (3, Insightful)

Kedyn's Crow (566552) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336732)

Uranium deposits are shrinking at an alarming rate. In a few decades time, the cheap U ores would have run out, and the remaining deposits would absorb more energy to extract a gram of U than that gram can ever hope give back.

Alright, since I don't know the current figures on Uranium deposits/Uranium consumption
I'll accept that that might be true. However even if all Nuclear power gave us was another
two decades woundn't that buy us time to transition from an oil infrastucture to an
infrastucture based on some kind of alternative energy?

Re:Nuclear Energy (5, Interesting)

amightywind (691887) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336744)

In a few decades time, the cheap U ores would have run out, and the remaining deposits would absorb more energy to extract a gram of U than that gram can ever hope give back.

Over reliance on Nuclear energy can easily turn us away from looking at real alternatives. That's my gripe with Newkiller. Not some quasi-religious aversion.

And what are those real alternatives pray tell? Not solar power, wind power, conservation - that rickety tripod of enviromentalist dogma. Your statement that Uranium availability is in decline is absurd. The same Chicken Little arguments were used by environmentalists in the '70's about oil, and came to nothing. Uranium is still in plentiful supply on the Earth's surface and, for the very long term, in asteroids.

It is good to see environmental pseudo-science challenged in articles like this.

Soooooo (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336531)

"I don't much other way around this particular issue."

Do they even READ these things before accepting them?

Re:Soooooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336574)

Do they even READ these things before accepting them?

The next sentence is also missing a word, so I'm thinking maybe they don't.

...and sleeping darkened rooms.

Re:Soooooo (1)

pestie (141370) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336701)

That sentence no verb!

Re:Soooooo (2, Insightful)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336838)

You must be new here :)

Re:Soooooo (2, Funny)

kclittle (625128) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336857)

The correct response would have been, "You must new here! :)"

Mother Nature kicks ass! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336532)

Or maybe we need more "The Day After Tomorrow" scenarios.

What about the sun burning out? (0, Offtopic)

Dishwasha (125561) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336539)

Frankly, unless it decides to undergo a massive collective personality change of not being consumption-focused, I don't see much other way around this particular issue.

Depressed? Marvin! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336546)

don't you mean marvin? the paranoid android?

Re:Depressed? Marvin! (1)

mackil (668039) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336843)

He wasn't paranoid, just depressed... "the end of the world... big suprise... It will probably all end in a huge explosion and still leave me behind... typical."

Is Hemos drunk? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336551)

I'm sorry, can we get some editors in here capable of forming coherent thoughts? Specifically, how can we, the readers of Slashdot, get the current batch of editors sacked?

Re:Is Hemos drunk? (2, Insightful)

n1ywb (555767) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336621)

Start your own news portal and steal all of slashdots readership. Good luck.

Re:Is Hemos drunk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336785)

However note, a side-effect of stealing all of Slashdot's readership is a constantly slashdotted site...

Short Version (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336555)

The more radical the "radical environmentalist" is, the more unfounded BS they tend to spout.

Great (-1, Troll)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336565)

More environmental forecasting by someone who knows nothing about environmental forecasting. What qualifications/experience does Brand have to make such grandiose predictions.

Clue for Mr Brand : Eating muesli and flogging organically grown tat to gullible, guilt-ridden ex-hippies does not automatically make you an expert on the latest developments in climate modelling.

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336655)

Stewart Brand got his biology degree from Stanford in 1960. He founded The Whole Earth Catalogue and cofounded The Well, the first electronic community. His books include the The Media Lab, How Buildings Learn, and The Clock of the Long Now. Today, he works primarily with Global Business Network and The Long Now Foundation.

From TFA!

Re:RTFA (2, Interesting)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336684)

I know who Stewart Brand is. I want to know what among his experience means we should believe a single word he has to say on the Environment?

Or maybe Mr Brand believes a science degree and a few moderately succesful books immediately qualifies him as an expert in anything he cares to to turn his mind to (I believe affliction is usually known as EricRaymondism.)

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336680)

Well, (from TFA) he has a degree in biology, and was involved in a Pentagon study on climate change. Oh, and he just got an article published in the Technology Review. You might have heard of it.

Also, eating muesli and selling organically grown tat (what's that?) doesn't disqualify someone from being an expert on these things, so quit the ad hominems.

What are YOUR qualifications by the way? Good Slashdot karma?

Re:Great (0)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336704)

disqualify someone from being an expert on these things
No. The fact he has never studied any of these things is what disqualifies him.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336786)

So you're accusing the person of preparing a report for Congress on climate change without researching the topic?

Re:Great (1, Flamebait)

yotto (590067) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336789)

The fact he has never studied any of these things is what disqualifies him.

Kind of like how Bush isn't qualified to be commander in chief?

Goodbye, Excellenet Karma

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336730)

What are YOUR qualifications by the way?
I have relevant qualifications, incidentally. Email me, and I'll tell you what they are.

OP

Kudos... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336572)

Most incoherently written story ever.

Pragmatism (5, Interesting)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336590)

I'm glad someone has taken the time to lay this out. It has long been very frustrating to see environmentalist romantics fly in the face of reason in railing against genetically-modified plants as a possible solution to population pressures, or arguing against nuclear power as a clean energy source.

Increasing demand for power and other resources isn't going away. Time to suck it up and deal with imperfect solutions.

Re:Pragmatism (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336668)

Well, it's about time the biotech companies started providing the plants they keep promising, instead of just creating ones designed to sell more of their own pesticides.

Or, if we distributed the food we already have more fairly, we wouldn't even need genetically modified plants.

Re:Pragmatism (1, Insightful)

Wirr (157970) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336767)

fly in the face of reason in railing against genetically-modified plants

Flying in the face of reason ?
What problems do GM plants solve ? There already is a worldwide surplus of food.
Food is no problem whatsoever in industrialized nations - and in the third world the problem is distribution and greed not a lack of GM crops, which DO cost a premium to get hold of in the first place.

So tell me please - which problem das GM solve ? The problem of having nothing to worry about ? The problem of having no unproven and potentialy dangerous technology about ?

Re:Pragmatism (4, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336854)

So tell me please - which problem das GM solve ?

The problem of dumping gallons of fertilizer and pesticide on each square foot of land?

The ideal purpose of GM (ie, when its not some company using it to sell farmers their "special" chemicals like the roundup-ready series) is not to create more food per acre, its to use less resources doing it.

Additionally in regions where there is a distribution problem, imagine being able to grow food in town, despite the poor land quality.

Re:Pragmatism (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336782)

Environmental romantics == hippies?

Re:Pragmatism (2, Insightful)

bigberk (547360) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336802)

Increasing demand for power and other resources isn't going away.
Wow, it's interesting to watch the same mistakes in reasoning over and over again. A lot of the increase in demand for power and resources is artifically created. In other words, increase in demand for resource is not a necessity; it is a situation that exists due to the business environment.

With increased government levvies, and education on future impacts of piggish consumption, overall demand can actually decrease. But such is not good for business at all, so it is violently opposed (including government lobbies)

Re:Pragmatism (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336827)

Flying in the face of reason?

Well, let's see: GM food--an attempt to take our food supply, which is already dangerously genetically uniform, and make it even more genetically uniform--which, if science is our guide, makes it more vulnerable to pandemic. Yes, short term yields should be great. However, food supplies should be STABLE, not boom-and-bust.

Then there's nuclear (fission) power. Yes, it's clean and safe, relative to, say, coal. But there's the waste disposal issue. It hasn't been solved. Yes, I agree, nuclear is the only way to meet our increasing energy needs in the short term. Yet decreasing our energy consumption seems to be not only a workable solution, but even cleaner than nuclear. Science tells us to choose the cleaner option--use less energy.

Not that I think what you're suggesting isn't where the world is HEADING (there's a lot of money to be made in "sucking it up", perhaps coincidentally), but I think it'll result in a planet that is supporting an unsustainable population with an extremely fragile food supply and an ever-increasing amount of radioactive waste needing to be stored in the few remaining unpopulated areas.

As opposed to a sustainable population with a stable food supply and some relatively minor waste disposal problems, which is a solution only a "romantic" could embrace.

Re:Pragmatism (0, Troll)

dangitman (862676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336833)

It has long been very frustrating to see environmentalist romantics fly in the face of reason in railing against genetically-modified plants as a possible solution to population pressures, or arguing against nuclear power as a clean energy source.

How does this fly in the face of reason? Nobody has yet demonstrated how genetically-modified crops will reduce population pressures. No-one has found a way to make nuclear energy 'clean' yet. You still have to do something about mining the uranium, and disposing of the waste.

Those who are claiming that biotechnology and nuclear power are some sort of magical solution to these problems are generally just marketing their industry's product. Real scientists, and others using reason and logic, realize that the issues aren't as simple as the "solutions" the marketers are pushing.

For once, I would like to see the advocates of these solutions, explain their reasoning. For some reason, details or explanations are rarely forthcoming, and important problems are ignored. Instead, we see a lot of bashing and stereotyping of environmentalists, combined with exagerration of the effectiveness of the industry-proposed solutions.

Why is there so little science and fact used by those who claim that these are the obvious solutions?

Re:Pragmatism (2, Insightful)

Blue Stone (582566) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336869)

I don't see what's unreasonable about opposing genetically modified plants which can essentially corrupt the natural, millions-of-years-old gene pool - y'know ... life on this planet - for some fairly mean ends. With generally unknown and potentially catastrophic results.

The limiting factor for population will not be food, but water supply, which is all ready scarce in many areas of the world.

Even if we were to solve this particular issue, however, this is not a good argument for limitless population growth and endless invention to deal with the inevitable consequences that accrue from there being billions of hairless apes walking around this planet, sucking up resources, squeezing out other species, which we actually depend on in this interdependent world, and shitting out various forms of waste and toxins in our desire for a way of life that is at best out of kilter and insensitive to the natural world, and at worst deeply hostile to it (generally for reasons of pure selfishness).

How about we deal with the pressing situation by limiting and managing our populations, our impact on the world, our drain and demand on the limited resources that exist and living in harmony with all the other countless billions of other species (which we depend on directly or indirectly to one extent or another)?

How's that for an "imperfect solution"?

Or is it merely inconventient?

Bah, why bother? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336592)

Seriously, why bother? The biggest polluting country in the world has a decidedly environmentally-unfriendly government running things, and it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.

I mean, seriously, why bother? 150,000 people are dying a year from environmental change. It's obvious drastic action needed to be taken YEARS ago. What the heck is the point?

And don't give me any talk about how we need to do it for our kids or whatnot. Forget about it. Unless you're arming yourself for a revolution, you haven't done enough to protect your kids from the dangers of environmental change.

We might as well just let ourselves get killed off and have the next sentient species come into power. We did better than the dinosaurs. Maybe the next guys will do better than us.

Heh, or maybe liquified humans will be driving the hovercars of tomorrow.

Re:Bah, why bother? (5, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336620)

We did better than the dinosaurs.

Animal life came out of the oceans some 500 million years ago. For over half that time the land was dominated by dinosaurs. For perhaps 100,000 years the land has been dominated by humanity.

Yeah, we've done well.

Re:Bah, why bother? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336738)

By 'well', do you mean using up the earth's resources to the point of our own extinction?
Dinos: "we died off after 300 Million years"
Joe Bob: "ha! We can beet that!"

Re:Bah, why bother? (1, Interesting)

halivar (535827) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336796)

The biggest polluting country in the world has a decidedly environmentally-unfriendly government running things, and it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.

You mean Australia? The only reason the US is tagged as the world's biggest polluter is because the Kyoto protocol excludes greenhouse emissions from land-clearing [gaiaguys.net] .

Re:Bah, why bother? (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336828)

Warning: my post somewhat oversimplifies things, the point is that other countries have won special considerations in the Kyoto protocol that do not apply to the United States for various reasons. "World's biggest polluter" becomes a subjective title when the political definition of "pollution" keeps changing.

Massive collective personality change - NOT! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336600)

I think this is part of the environmental religious focus. Man is inheritably evil and unnatural. We are as natural as any other animal. I think our consumption focus leads to progress. There are too many of us to go back to some agrarian past. We will need to use technology to sustain the population levels expected while we minimize our footprint. It won't be the undeveloped countries that to this. It will be the evil high-technology consumerist cultures that will develop the new technologies needed. The stinking hippie mankind-haters have no solutions other than a time machine to take us back to a past that never existed.

Wrong Stewart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336602)

Whoops, I thought it was Martha Stewart releasing a new tree hugging hippy catalog.

Reversing? I doubt it (2, Insightful)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336608)

The whole concept behind the environmental movement is that humans are unable to live symbiotically with Nature. No matter where we go, we act more as parasites that strip our host of life than as beneficial citizens of Nature.

1) Population growth: Humans are the problem. Despite the shrinking birth rate, this does not bode badly for Nature which will theoretically revive itself once we are not sucking nutrients out of the ground and burning it into the sky and water.

2) Urbanization: Cities are the largest contributors to localized pollution. Air quality, sewage overflows, and general griminess ooze from cities. I don't see how environmentalists could come around to see how cities are beneficial to the environment.

3) Genetically-engineered organisms: Knee jerk reactions defines the environmental movement. If they haven't listened to real science thus far, what will convince them otherwise?

4) Nuclear power: Ethical scientists have already converged on this as a plausible renewable energy source. Too bad the environmentalists haven't.

These are issues that are bugs so far up the asses of environmentalists that it is hard to believe that they could change their minds about them. I find it more likely that this one guy came to his senses and sees conservation as a constant management of the environment rather than as political capital. The problem is that the anomie of distancing himself from his old friends is too powerful and he finds himself trying to continue associating himself and his ideas with theirs.

Huh? (-1)

null etc. (524767) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336611)

No global warming as #1 on the list?

RTFA bozo.... (1)

YankeeInExile (577704) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336648)

... including the last paragraph on the second page that begins

Now we come to the most profound environmental problem of all, the one that trumps everything: global climate change.

Re:Huh? (1)

wes33 (698200) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336653)

from the FA:

Now we come to the most profound environmental problem of all, the one that trumps everything: global climate change

I actually don't understand your comment

Pretend global warming is real... (2, Interesting)

stankulp (69949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336711)

...by sort of admitting other environmental hoaxes but proclaiming that global warming is the exception "that trumps all others."

That's the entire intent of this article.

But it is becoming more and more obvious that the global warming emperor has no clothes.

Urbanization (2, Insightful)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336613)

In the article, Brand writes:

The environmentalist aesthetic is to love villages and despise cities.

as part of his observation that urbanization is slowing population growth (which he contends is slowing growth).

Actually, my observation is exactly the opposite. I seem to hear more sympathy for packing everyone together than for spreading them out in the modern environmentalist rhetoric. That's why "sprawl" has become a cuss-word among this bunch.

For another example, look at the current opinion of Walmart. Just today I heard an NPR story [npr.org] about Walmart that criticized them for their environmental impact (pollution and rainwater runoff from their parking lots, plus the extra air pollution from people driving there, I guess).

I guess my point is that the "environmental movement" is a little conflicted; they apparently either like or dislike centralization and efficiencies of scale, depending on the context.

Re:Urbanization (3, Insightful)

pestie (141370) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336726)

I guess my point is that the "environmental movement" is a little conflicted; they apparently either like or dislike centralization and efficiencies of scale, depending on the context.

That could have something to do with the fact that such things are positive in some contexts and negative in others.

Re:Urbanization (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336777)

Yes, but enviros should love Walmart, which squeezes every penny to get the most out of it.

Money is basically a proxy for resource consumption. A company that conserves money through economies of scale should be good for the environment on balance.

Re:Urbanization (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336845)

Most strong environmentalists are inherently distrustful of corporations, and this distrust grows as the size of the corporation increases. Make yourself the largest company in the world, and you become the least trusted. They will convince themselves that no matter what the corporation does, no matter how many good deeds it performs, no matter how much good it may do, there's something dark and sinister lurking in the shadows, waiting for the moment when it can strike to do the most damage. Just look at the rumors that have been growing about Google and its dark plans and interests.

Re:Urbanization (2, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336771)

The enviromental movement is about as conflicted as it is possible for a movement to be, because half of it is controlled by fucktards who believe whatever they are told.

Note I said half. There are quite a few intelligent people in the enviromental movement. People who go 'Hey, recycling paper doesn't actually seem to accomplish anything' (Penn and Teller did a great story on recycling on Bullshit!.) and 'You know, nuclear power seems like the best form of power as long as we make it safe, like the French have. And unlike the French, we have huge open spaces in this country we're not using.'.

These people, sadly, are completely ignored, in favor of morons protesting nuclear plant instead of coal mines, and the completely absurd PETA.

Re:Urbanization (4, Insightful)

psin psycle (118560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336783)

Sprawl....

There are good things and bad things about packing people together. There are good ways and bad ways to do it. The city sprawl that most environmentalists would be talking about is where everyone lives in their huge house in the suburbs with their chemical fertilized lawns and their SUV's driving downtown to work every day. This is very wasteful way to 'pack people together'. Small city in Canada called Calgary has more land mass than most larger cities, with fewer people. Lots of crop land was destroyed to sprawl people out in the city. Now all this land is lawn or highway instead of farm. This increases the per-person ecological footprint.

The kind of packing people together that is better is where most people live in Apartment Buildings/Condos near to where they work, they don't have lawns or SUVs and they are able to walk to work and to the grocery store. This reduces the per-person ecological footprint.

Re:Urbanization (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336832)

The kind of packing people together that is better is where most people live in Apartment Buildings/Condos near to where they work, they don't have lawns or SUVs and they are able to walk to work and to the grocery store. This reduces the per-person ecological footprint.

That's exactly the attitude that I've observed. But, as Brand points out, many in the environmental movement like villages. And I suppose the grocery stores in these high-density areas will be supplied from simple farmers who ride their horse-drawn carts into town on market day. Yeah, right...

Not everybody wants to live like a gerbil in a cage, packed in with hundreds of other gerbils. The reason that people buy big houses with lawns and SUV's is that it's a more enjoyable lifestyle.

Re:Urbanization (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336795)

Wal-Mart was mainly criticized by communities for building new stores, and then leaving the older ones vacant and abandoned so that competitors could not buy the older buildings and use them. The waste and downright negligence to a community in this sense is what got everyone so angry.

Re:Urbanization (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336868)

Wal-Mart was mainly criticized by communities for building new stores, and then leaving the older ones vacant and abandoned so that competitors could not buy the older buildings and use them.

I have to call BS on this statement. Around here, every time Walmart tries to build a store in a new town, they get massive organized opposition, even when there's no existing store that they're replacing.

Unions and competitors hate Walmart, because they tend to win the market battle whereever they go. And the main reason they win is that consumers prefer to shop there.

Re:Urbanization (1)

unconfused1 (173222) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336801)

To be certain the environmental movement is a bit conflicted, and much does seem tempermental.

But concerning centralization and efficiencies of scale...of course the context matters. If you have a 'fuel' that powers 10'000 automobiles that creates 300ppm sulfur pollution, but then we retrofit all those autos with clean fuel cells. However the plan to make the 'clean fuel' cells causes 5'000'000ppm of sulfur pollution in the same time-scale.

So...the pollution isn't 'spread out' where those autos are driven, but the overall pollution is now worse than it was before.

So, context and approach to the problem do matter. The overall results need to be looked at, as well as some redistribution of pollution that just needs to be rejected as a solution off the cuff.

Re:Urbanization (2, Insightful)

stlhawkeye (868951) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336831)

I guess my point is that the "environmental movement" is a little conflicted; they apparently either like or dislike centralization and efficiencies of scale, depending on the context.

That's because environmentalism, as a political movement, is based on anti-corporatism, not on pro-environmentalism. They'll embrace whatever particular idea they have to at the moment to blast the Very Big Corporation of America.

Your rank-and-file environmentalist is typically hostile to big corporations (so am I), but the movement as a political force is based on a pseudosocialist backlash against the evils and irresponsibility of big business. They have a point, too, but it's wrapped up in hiking boots and granola bars and sold as a platform meant to save humanity from itself.

I can live with the spin, but the problem is that legitimate environmental issues (and legitimate solutions) are being ignored in favor of trumped-up nonsense and hand-wringing in the media to keep people afraid and nervous.

My other beef with the politico-environmentalists is that they dramatically overstate the danger of various health-shattered aspects of life in our society, and dramatically exaggerate how bad off the planet is. To listen to their press releases, you'd think we live on a gigantic ball of oil and grease surrounded by a black haze of car exhaust and soot. Far from it. A lot of progress has been made, and there's a lot more to come.

I don't think that politico-environmentalists are interested in saving the environment or humanity as much as they are interested in screwing a corporate interests. I don't see them embracing solutions that, while not ideal, are steps in the right direction, simply on the grounds that these solutions end up generating revenue for somebody, and therefor they must be bad. There's this antithetical interaction that they see, where the Good of Nature/Humanity is pitteded against the Evils of Consumption, Wealth, and Technology.

It might sucker in naive college kids but it just convinces me that, even if they're right about a number of the issues they've taken up, I have trouble taking anything they say seriously. When the Bush administration engages in the same kind of doomsday fearmongering, we get our shorts in a bunch over paralyzing people with fear and coercing them into voting Republican to save us from gay marriage and terrorism. The apolcalyptic prophecies politico-environmentalism get dumped into a similar category for me.

The only lasting solution would be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336636)

The only lasting solution would be a fusion reactor. Too bad the oil companies would never make profits on it, because then they might acutally encourage fusion reasearch. Right now, the massive oil companies are fighting fusion reactors with ever penny they earn.

GM crops (5, Insightful)

Yusaku Godai (546058) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336650)

This is one issue that's always bugged the hell out of me about the wackier spectrum of environmentalists.
GM crops have the potential, hell, they're *necessary* for a great number of third world countries to be able to grow enough food to feed their people. And these guys are trying to stop that for the sake of nonsensical political motivations.
Then they go about using scare tactics, calling it "frankenfoods" and whatnot, as if there's something horrific about it. Excuse me, but we've been genetically modifying our crops for millenia. We've just gotten more sophisticated about it.

Re:GM crops (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336717)

I read this article in dead tree form some weeks ago.

One of the choice bits was Brand's assertion that left wing opposition to GM foods is a mirror image of right wing opposition to water flouridization. The right doesn't like flourdization because it comes from the government. The left doesn't like GM foods because they come from industry.

Re:GM crops (3, Interesting)

cherokee158 (701472) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336737)

The real danger of genetically engineered ANYTHING is that you risk creating a monoculture, which could make an entire food crop or species vulnerable to rapid extinction under adverse conditions.

The more specialized a species becomes, the more it needs a tightly defined environment in which to exist. If anything happens to change its environment...and it will...it can have catastrophic consequences.

Engineered plants and animals can also overwhelm other wildlife in the same niches of the ecosystem, despite precautions, and throw the entire ecosystem out of balance. (In much the same way that non-native animals introduced to closed ecosystems can have very disruptive results...witness the Cane toad plague in Australia)

Mother nature has spent millenia sorting out which species are best adapted to survive on our planet, and she does so without prejudice. Can you say the same for a profit-minded food corporation?

Re:GM crops (1)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336804)

you contradict yourself.
"The more specialized a species becomes, the more it needs a tightly defined environment in which to exist. If anything happens to change its environment...and it will...it can have catastrophic consequences."
GM crops create MORE diverse plant that survive is more adverse, varied conditions. Now, if people only plant one kind of plant, that is monoculture. Like they had in the potato famine. Of course, that was before GM crops.. You can't blame monocultures on GM crops.

Re:GM crops (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336794)

Being from a third-world country myself, I can tell you the problem we have with American companies' GM foods:
They are specifically engineerd so that you can only use them once. So if you plant a patch of GM corn, you cannot use the seeds of the plants to grow new corn. They just don't grow. So now you have to buy the corn from the company every year, thereafter. And, worse, if the GM corn cross-polinate a field next-door, half that crop cannot reproduce anymore either.
So the American companies are not in it to save millions of people from starvation, but to build a nice little business to keep third word countires impoverished forever.
Americans are not concerned about starvation. I'll illustrate:
On Sept. 11 2001 about 3500 people died in New York. On that same day 44000 children died in Africa of hunger. Is there a war on hunger? NO.

Re:GM crops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336808)

GM crops have the potential, hell, they're *necessary* for a great number of third world countries to be able to grow enough food to feed their people.

The problem is that GM crops are subject to "vendor lock-in", are sold by abusive companies, and aren't sustainable in the long-run. Read more [supanet.com] .

Insightful? What complete bollocks! (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336846)

GM crops make a negligible difference to third world countries. The yields on GM crops are only marginally better than for regular crops, the difference is only significant for those huge agribusinesses who have tens of thousands of acres of the stuff.

It's war, corruption, disease and import tariffs which decimate the farming populations of third world countries. What they need is good stable government and fair trade with the developed world, not GM crops.

It seems to me that (2, Interesting)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336659)

If it's not the illogical people that are against nuclear power, and don't understand things like "real life", it's the rich people with more money than sense.

There have been numerous stories about wind-power stations, or water-power stations being denied permission to be built, because rich people don't want to ruin their view of the ocean from their homes on the ocean. Damnit.

-Jesse

Department of dangerous generalizations: (1, Informative)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336669)

The romantics are moralistic, rebellious against the perceived dominant power, and combative against any who appear to stray from the true path. They hate to admit mistakes or change direction. The scientists are ethicalistic, rebellious against any perceived dominant paradigm, and combative against each other. For them, admitting mistakes is what science is.
Thomas Kuhn [amazon.com] debunks at least the latter half of this thesis.
Regardless of where you fall on the Social Security kerfluffle, there is one lovely bit of silver lining; here we see a leader thinking outside the box of his term.
Now, what we need is some intellectual judo to throw this outburst of leadership into other (possibly more) useful directions.
Folks, they never put seatbelts into cars until the likes of Ralph Nader proved that safety sells.
Hybrid cars, not these <expletive> SUVs (that Jesus surely would've eschewed) are what we should endorse.[1]
Focus on the facts, not the hormones. Disagree agreeably, compassionately, and, above all, think. Live in the now, but consider the longer term, please. While I like TFA in general, I wonder whether the polarization of the camps into granola heads/propeller heads that this sort of article can engender is helpful.
You will not be charged for this pep talk.

[1]For the record, I bought a PT Cruiser because the Honda model lacked cargo room when last I shopped.

Mod parent Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336781)

Mentions Thomas Kuhn. This reeks of intellectual discourse, something that surely has no place whatsoever on /.

Re:Mod parent Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336864)

Wow. Quoting TFA, offering a useful link, some serious thought, and called a troll.
Ya got mo' irony than a steel mill, an shi'.

Re:Department of dangerous generalizations: (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336790)

The important thing is to get this out there. Over the last ten years or so, the debate has become generally less one of ideologies and one of facts as people become less satisfied with the entrenched positions of either the hard-core left or right, and have gone looking for real information. Pushing an intelligent discussion is an admirable goal, and if this assists in it, even by getting people up to investigate an idea in order to disprove it, they learn more about it and can hopefully advance the debate with their own ideas and interpretations.

Environmental package deal (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336689)

My problem with a lot of environmental thought is its all tied up in a package of garbage ideas. Efficiency good, but technology bad. Walmart is EVIL! SUVs are EVIL! Globalism is evil! What's wrong with the Nature Conservancy approach? Buy up the land while trying to respect property rights. Look for approaches that make economic sense to the locals so they are sustainable. Be more efficient without hating SUVs or even nuclear power. Why does it all have to be tied to some lefty anti-capitalist, anti-globalist worldview?

Re:Environmental package deal (1)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336773)

What's wrong with the Nature Conservancy approach? Buy up the land while trying to respect property rights. Look for approaches that make economic sense to the locals so they are sustainable. Be more efficient without hating SUVs or even nuclear power. Why does it all have to be tied to some lefty anti-capitalist, anti-globalist worldview?

You just answered your own retorical question. Obviously it doesn't have to be, you just formulated an environmental position that made sense to you. Now all you have to do is convince the rest of the world of the validity of your position. ;-)

Nuclear vs. Coal (5, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336708)

Too bad that people don't realise that coal based energy production is much more hazardous to inveroment...furthermore, it's not only about what people typically understand as pollution, but also also radioactive "waste"! (typical nuclear plant doesn't release them to biosphere; typical coal plant releases some amount of it - radioactive elements that were in its fuel) And meanwhile almost 100% of electricity here comes from coal, and worst of all, 2/3 of it is brown coal :/ And probably public will block construction of nuclear power plant, that is planned in the next ~10/15 years...

Re:Nuclear vs. Coal (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336778)

I'm with you the whole way...but 100% of electricity doesn't come from Coal. 70% comes from Fossil Fuels, most of that coal.

We get much more radiation from natural sources like Radon, or our bodies, than we get from coal or nuclear power.
http://www.epa.gov/radiation/docs/ionize/4 02-f-98- 010.htm
http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~rer/rerhtml /rer_22.h tml

I'll trust an environmentalist over industry (4, Insightful)

bigberk (547360) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336715)

In the past few years I've woken up to the power of this thing called money, as a driving force in human motivation (at least in societies where material wealth is valued over social relationships). Money makes people say anything and do anything, for their personal gain. It's really a very powerful force, and it trumps logic, common sense, and in many cases, morals.

Certainly, some environmentalists have financial motives but the majority do not. When scientists are concerned about global climate change, they are publishing these warnings in the hope of drawing attention to what they genuinely perceive as a serious problem. Ditto for polution concerns, supplies of natural resources, biological diversity and ecosystem damage. These are FACTS.

In contrast, the news releases from industry which make their way across television and newspaper spread absolute lies. Examples:
  • there is no global climate change (flies in the face of 90%+ of scientific opinion)
  • business can continue as usual without worrying about environmental factors (a hope, for short term business as usual)
  • the economy can survive $100 oil
  • nuclear is the solution to our energy needs
Here's the important point: a lot of scientists work for industry. So they have a distinct bias. In many cases they are providing reports for their employer. So next time you run into a scientific report, check the source... not all scientists are funded equally.

Re:I'll trust an environmentalist over industry (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336757)

" some environmentalists have financial motives but the majority do not"

Still , it doesn't make them right.
A lot of hard-core religious types have no financial motives but are driven by an internal set of beliefs, which they consider to be beyond realm of argument.
Does this fact mean that we should be listening to their nonsense ?

Re:I'll trust an environmentalist over industry (1)

kokoloko (836827) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336815)

How is this relevant to the Brand article?

Re:I'll trust an environmentalist over industry (2, Insightful)

jnd3 (116181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336822)

The fact of the matter is that there is intrinsic bias in any research funding, regardless of whether it comes from industrial or environmental concerns. Face it, neither side is truly objective about the whole thing, which really is the whole point of science, isn't it?

I predict... (0, Troll)

keoghp (457883) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336721)

That one day all Slashdotters will love windows, decry open source and accept spam.

GMO rice that removes herbicides (5, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336739)

This article [sciencenews.org] describes a GMO rice that is herbicide resistant. Scientists spliced in a human enzyme that is very effective at crunching toxins to create rice that can withstand a wider variety of weed-killers. This lets farmers rotate their weedkillers to reduce the chance that the weeds evolve resistance.

The GMO rice provides two other important environmental benefits. First, the new enzyme is so efficient at detoxifying the herbicide that the resulting rice is relatively herbicide free (non-modified rice contains 20X more residual herbicide). Second, the GMO rice extracts herbicide from the soil, meaning less herbicide in run-off.

h2g2 Geek Cred dropping (3, Informative)

KMitchell (223623) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336740)

What we all need is an Arthur to keep us depressed and sleeping darkened rooms.

Unless the odd grammar above somehow changes the meaning of the sentence, I think Marvin was who you were going for there...


As long as I'm nitpicking, when I think of "an Arthur" I think of http://www.thetick.ws/car8.html

Environmentalism Has Become a Safehouse for Marx (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336761)

Enviromentalists need to stop relying on guilt. They also need to start putting people ahead of their ideaologies. Banning DDT has killed tons of people, for example.

They also are home to people who are more anti-capitalism than pro-environment even though wealth creation will help protect the environment in the long run.

Re:Environmentalism Has Become a Safehouse for Mar (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336840)

"killed TONS of people"?!

Do you mean one dozen over-weight americans or several dozen non-americans?!

Off topic, on Brand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12336764)

I think Stewart Brand has a lot to teach us. He had a knack for being the spark, the catalyst for many significant (though fringe) innovations in our cultural milleau. I wish he would take some time away from his long now (huh, 10,000 years is long?) and long bets (the intellectual pissing contest that shows off not how many interesting predictions you can make, but how much money you have) and write down some of his insights about how to make things happen, since that is what he is gifted at.

Or, Stewart, maybe you are reading and can point us to some recommended reading on this? TIA.

Radical conservation (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336769)

"radical conservation in energy transmission and use"

He says this like it's an insignificant thing. It's not. We literally throw away approximately 60% of the energy used to produce electricity as "waste heat". And this is at the power station itself (including nuclear)!

We then go on to use most of the 40% of the energy we have actually transmitted to produce more heat. It's not what could be classed as clever.

Changing this single inefficiency in our energy generation sector would do the job. It's not even particularly radical, the solution is a couple of hundred years old, it's just that until very recently it's been cheaper to just pump in more oil, gas or coal.

Environmental orthodoxy (4, Insightful)

karvind (833059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336780)

Yep, yep, probably, and maybe. These are the environmental orthodoxies I've always felt most uncomfortable with, and Brand has captured why with concise, forceful arguments.

On population, he points out that global population is close to leveling off and is declining precipitously in many countries. Why? Mostly it is the unprecedented worldwide migration from rural villages to cities, where having lots of children is less of an advantage. If those concerned with sustainability get out ahead of this trend and help guide it, it could be an environmental blessing. Cities put people close together, reducing their collective energy use. They free up rural areas for wildlife and wilderness (if protections are put in place).

Regarding biotech: There's truth to this, though it's slightly facile. It does, after all, matter that GM has been developed by giant corporations and has been used primarily for their benefit. But the idea that the technology itself is intrinsically bad ... that doesn't make much sense to me. As Brand says, the proper reaction for greens ought to be to appropriate the technology and use it for their ends, particularly since, embrace or no embrace, it's gonna spread. Open-source biotech seems like a promising way for GM to do some environmental good. Brand offers some scenarios.

Ultimately, I suspect that urbanization, GM crops, and nuclear power are inevitable. If all we do is stand on the sidelines shouting "no, no, no!" the process will proceed without us, guided by the worst actors. The smartest thing that those of us concerned about the health of humanity and the planet can do is get involved and try to steer toward an outcome that is equitable and sustainable.

Unless Humanity Awakens. (1)

torpor (458) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336800)

This will never happen. Every single attempt to create a global consciousness is shot down/abused/misused/pilloried by every single other attempt at creating a global human consciousness.

Too many global human consciousnesses, fighting each other, pathetically. We need a Grand Uniter.

Aliens?

Hopefully Nuclear Power (5, Insightful)

MichaelPenne (605299) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336848)

will be the first thing reversed.

It's high time the top brass of the environmental movement admit that stopping Nuclear power was a mistake that has lead to greater devastation of the environment by coal plants [climateark.org] .

Even the nuclear waste issue pales in comparison to the the ecological damage coal plants have caused and will keep causing until we replace them (finally) with much cleaner nuclear technologies like Pebble Bed. [mit.edu] Coal of course has it's own waste issues. [energyjustice.net]

The anti-nuclear power movement has been one of the best examples of the law of unintended consequences in our times.

Cognitive dissonance,anyone? (3, Insightful)

codyk (857932) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336856)

From TFA:

"Their answer is "Not much," because they know from their own work how robust wild ecologies are in defending against new genes, no matter how exotic"

"The second greatest cause of extinctions is coming from invasive species, where no solution is in sight. Kudzu takes over the American South, brown tree snakes take over Guam . . ."

So why is kudzu a problem if wild ecologies are so good at defending against new genes?

It takes a village, not! (2, Interesting)

amightywind (691887) | more than 9 years ago | (#12336872)

My mind got changed on the subject a few years ago by an Indian acquaintance who told me that in Indian villages the women obeyed their husbands and family elders, pounded grain, and sang. But, the acquaintance explained, when Indian women immigrated to cities, they got jobs, started businesses, and demanded their children be educated.

When I read this I thought of Hillary Clinton's memorable tome, "It Takes a Village". In retrospect it was about a prescient as Bill Gates' "The Road Ahead". Did she get anything right?

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