Teachers of Green, Part Two

Yesterday’s blog featured California, Al Gore, and scientific researchers as teachers of green. Today, I want to expand this and include one of the earliest of environmentalists, Stuart Brand. Brand authored a popular and influential book entitled The Whole Earth Catalog. A Thirtiest Anniversary Edition of the Whole Earth Catalog was published recently.

Brand was featured in an article today in the New York Times entitled An Early Environmentalist, Embracing New ‘Heresies’. You can read about these ‘new heresies’ in Technology Review.

In these articles, Brand outlines and predicts that scientists’ views on a number of issues will become mainstream because of a number of factors, among them the realization of the effects of greenhouse gases on global warming and climate change. He points to changes in our acceptance of population growth, urbani­zation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power. You’ll find reading the two pieces that I’ve cited here interesting and illuminating.

Brand speaks of two views on the environment, a romantic one and a science one. One is the majority view; the other the minority view. Scientists are often not heard, and when they are, people will accept or reject their findings to fit their own “romantic view.” I found this to be a helpful notion in light of our current debate over global warming. The scientific view is that global warming is happening and research supports the idea that it is most likely the result of the greenhouse gas emissions.

I also found his discussion of population growth enlightening. Years ago, especially before the year 2000, population growth was predicted to grow exponentially. The scientific view now is that the Earth’s (human) population growth is leveling off, and in many countries birthrates are in “free-fall” according to Brand (countries such as Japan, Italy, Gremany, Russia–this means a birth rate of less than 2.1 per woman). And Brand points out that the reason the birth rate has dropped (it really started dropping in the 1960’s) is that people moved to “town.” He says that in the country children are an asset, in the city, a liability. Brand points out that we have reached the tipping point in that 50% of the world’s population live in cities and in 20 years or so, it will be greater than 60%.

Brand also adds his name to others such as James Lovelock as supporting the use of nuclear energy over coal produced energy. I wrote in an earlier blog entry about Lovelock. As Brand points out, such environmental luminaries as Lovelock tend to shock the “radical environmentalists” when they advocate policies that include nuclear energy. Lovelock and Brand are not on their “best dressed” list.

What are your views on population growth? Urbanization? The use of genetic engineering? Renewed interest in using nuclear energy? Reading Brand’s views on these will be food for thought.

So, I add Stuart Brand to our growing list of Teachers of Green. Who would you add? Would very much like to have you add some names and ideas.

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University