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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"The best way for doubters to control a new technology is to embrace it, lest it remain in the hands of enthusiasts"

This surprising quote comes from Stewart Brand who founded the Whole Earth Catalog. In a prescient article in MIT's magazine Technology Review, Brand predicts that environmentalists will reverse their position on four core issues: population growth, urbanization, genetically engineered organisms and nuclear power.

Brand notes that two powerful forces drive the environmental movement: romanticism and science, which are often at loggerheads. "The romantics identify with natural systems; the scientists study natural systems. The romantics are moralistic, rebellious against the perceived dominant authority. . . They hate to admit mistakes or change directions. The scientists are ethicalistic, rebellious against any perceived dominant paradigm and combative against each other. For them, admitting mistakes is what science is."

1. Worldwide birth rates are falling rapidly. About 1/3 of countries have birthrates below replacement level. In fact the growth rate peaked in 1968.

2. The advantage to moving people to large urban areas is that it permits trees and wildlife to return.

3. Biotechnology should be embraced. It has been rejected by environmentalists more because it came from the corporate community than because of inherent dangers. Floridization was rejected by the right but embraced by the left. Had the positions been reversed with genetically modified plants the opposition would have been diametrically the opposite.

4. Nuclear power is the only solution to global warming. Radical conservation, alternative forms of energy amount to only a minor portion of what's needed. Storage of nuclear waste is a surmountable problem.

Read the entire article. Fascinating reading.
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