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As if the “give us the money instead” plea titled the “Death of Environmentalism” written for a claque of Environmental Grant Makers wasn’t enough of a verification of how lame the Big Green bureaucrats, their funders AND the report’s authors who wish to merely replace the losing team with themselves are; we now have an even more ludicrous State of Gaia analysis popping up from Stewart Brand.
Brand was the erstwhile publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog back in that ancient era of the back-to-the-land movement. He later shifted his musings to the Internet with “The Well” which he aggrandizes as “the first electronic community.”
Now, in his late sixties, Brand weighs in pimping Nuclear Power as the solution to Climate Change; waxes on about the benefits of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) even calling on the creation of GMOs that would kill off “invasive” species, such as zebra mussels, whose only “crime” is to colonize other habitats when the opportunity is provided (given our own specie’s deadly expansion, one can’t get much more Anthropocentric than that!) and he dismisses the notion that there even is a problem with what Earth First! co-founder Howie Wolke calls the Human Outbreak in his own treatise responding to the afore-mentioned “Death of Environmentalism.” Going for a perverse Grand Slam, Brand concludes that if there even is any problem related to humans breeding beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity, then the solution is more urbanization!
What on the blue-green planet is going on here?
Right off the bat, Brand uses a false analogy to justify his call for the “mainstream of the environmental movement (to) reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbani-zation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.” Brand claims that environmentalists once fully embraced Smokey the Bear’s pro-timber jihad against wildfire and have now come to their senses and support fire’s use as another management tool.
Not only was this Fire as the Great Satan policy that of the federal land managers and never that of the forest activist community, the “new” use of fire as a management tool is driven mainly by the goal of “protecting” industry’s source of fiber and humans’ residences built in or adjacent-to fire-dependent ecosystems. As long as fighting/allowing or using fire as a management tool and defense of property issue, rather than accommodating fire’s inextricable role in life on the planet, is the starting point; not a whole lot has yet changed. Industry and foresters salivate over the opportunity to log any recently burned forest. Yet, a burned forest is STILL a living forest. Adopt that paradigm and maybe one can claim that a transformation has begun. How did these forests ever get along before foresters? Again, just when did enviros embrace Smokey?
Similar shaky reasoning underpins Brand’s assertion that human population is in the midst of a decline. While citing but five countries (out of 193) that are currently reproducing at less than the 2.1 children per woman replacement rate, he extrapolates a “fierce” decrease in overall human numbers and claims it is already underway! And, incredibly, that increased urbanization is the reason we’re irreversibly on our way to LESS humans as I write and you read this. That the five lamented population-shedding countries are Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Russia speaks volumes.
Under Brand’s equation, more megalopolises like the 37 million citizen Mexico City are the solution to the Human Outbreak. For Brand, even the over one billion illegal urban squatters on the planet are somehow doing rural ecosystems a service. I can hardly imagine a more unlivable sci-fi future. (Don’t get me wrong. As a wild ecosystems defender, I and my buddies have no problem with people clustering in cities and leaving the wild Earth to other species and only visiting, leaving no trace of that visit. Our usual self-congratulatory comment when hiking in some stunning, remote place is: “There are about 6.3 billion people on this planet and we’re here!”)
I’m undecided as to just how we shed our over-consuming, over-the-carrying-capacity numbers. I imagine as articulated often by my buddies Mike Roselle and Steve Spahr that Nature will go the virus route with us and population will indeed drop off “fiercely.” Again, I’m not sure if that’s how, though I do feel the draw-down a question of when, not if. But I have no doubt that increased urbanization won’t do the trick.
Our Ecological Footprint
Brand doesn’t address consumption THE issue in the population question, if not all four issues he presents as resolvable if us “romantic” enviros could just “admit mistakes or change direction.” Where does he think these expanding urban areas, these “humanedominant human habitats” will get their resources? And what level of consumption will drive the level of resource extraction obviously centered on formerly wild places?
A good friend recently took one of those Ecological Footprint tests. It queries one’s consumption habits and then extrapolates how many Earths’ worth of resources it would take if the entire global population consumed at the same rate. My buddy is a vegetarian; lives off-the-grid (not even solar panels); doesn’t even have running water; works for minimum wage and drives very little, working in the collective where he lives. His result? It would take three Earths if all of 6.3 billion on us lived the same, frugal by American standards lifestyle.
The Sun Rises in the West
Perhaps the scale of Brand’s fuzzy thinking can be grasped by noting whom he gives credit for hybrid cars: “Years ago, environmentalists hated cars and wanted to ban them. Then physicist Amory Lovins came along, saw that the automobile was the perfect leverage point for large-scale energy conservation, and set about designing and promoting drastically more efficient cars. Gas-electric hybrid vehicles are now on the road, performing public good.”
That’s gotta be news to the good engineers at Honda and Toyota. As one long-time eco-defender noted, “The sun rose in the Far East, Stewart Brand didn’t see the light but heard Amory crowing.”
Brand also gives another of his echo chamber a nod; defending turncoat Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, a commercial fish farmer who now is a Big Timber spokesman most noted for calling Ancient Forest clearcut extraction in British Columbia “sustainable.”
Brand whines that Moore has “been privately anathematized by other environmentalists” without presenting the other side at all.
Here’s what a few folks who have had to deal with Moore have to say:
“Dr. Patrick Moore may be a good marine biologist and a former founder of Greenpeace but he is presently paid by the timber industry to deliberately mislead the public and politicians about the acceptability of aggressive logging practices.”
Dr. Leonie Jacobs
University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, 1996
“Personally, each time I read something by this megalomaniacal crackpot I get the urge to hurl. Now he’s peddling his propaganda and lies in the United States.”
Western Canada Wilderness Committee
“He’s taken a job schlepping for the stumpmakers”
A fellow co-founder of Greenpeace and City TV Reporter
Brand does observe that all these issues are trumped by the issue of Global Climate Change. Agreed. But, Brand’s solution to it is to move from a fossil fuel-dependent society and embrace the Nuclear Option. He goes so far as to state that “the storage of radioactive waste is a surmountable problem.” Yet, there is no credible science behind that dreamy notion even though he fully idolizes scientists and dismisses “romantics” at every turn. He goes far over the top and calls Nuclear power plants “clean,” “high yield” and “low cost.” (Yup. And it’ll be so cheap there will be no metersBrand views nuclear somewhat like George Bush pronounces it with some exotic lexicon only they and their sycophants can embrace as real.)
Conservation is far cheaper, safer and quicker to achieve than ANY other energy source. Conservation, like consumption, is not even mentioned in Brand’s saving-the-planet-without-giving-up-the-American-lifestyle quixotic treatise.
This “moralistic, rebellious romantic” back-to-the-lander once took Stewart Brand’s (and Ken Kesey’s) advice and bought a woodstove raved about in the Whole Earth catalog — turned out to be a cheap, inefficient tin can responsible for many house fires. In fact, most products I bought because of their promotion in Whole Earth tuned out to be inferior, though the prose interspersed with the ads was exquisite; some of it has aged quite well. Stewart Brand’s latest sales pitch though calls for some far more expensive, dangerous but, with a bit of luck and Gaia’s likely intervention; improbable fixes.
MICHAEL DONNELLY, now urbanized in Salem, Oregon has back-to-the-land roots; has solarized six cabins; helped build two small hydro-electric systems; helped restore over 100 buildings; built a Planned Parenthood clinic; has planted and grown thousands of trees; established Preserves in three states and has successfully sued the government over forest mismanagement in his life-long “romantic” efforts to off-set human impacts on his favorite planet.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org