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Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,221 ratings  ·  181 reviews
An icon of the environmental movement outlines a provocative approach for reclaiming our planet.

According to Stewart Brand, a lifelong environmentalist who sees everything in terms of solvable design problems, three profound transformations are underway on Earth right now. Climate change is real and is pushing us toward managing the planet as a whole. Urbanization--half t
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published October 15th 2009 by Viking Books (first published 2009)
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Jan Definitely. It might "feel dated" because much of the environmentalist movement has moved towards progressives, who want to "live in harmony with Natu…moreDefinitely. It might "feel dated" because much of the environmentalist movement has moved towards progressives, who want to "live in harmony with Nature". I prefer the American Conservation Coalition, its means and goals. (less)

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Mario the lone bookwolf
Brand offers realistic solutions, focuses on hard science without fatalism or downplaying, shows how to optimize cities with the main focus on technology, alternative tax and subsidy models, and the 2 most essential parts of biotechnology and nuclear energy. Not to forget geoengineering aka terraforming.

He is pro nuclear power and GM crops, 2 topics avoided and hated by the green movement, but essential for a change. Until sustainable energy can produce enough ultimate power, nuclear is needed
Jul 17, 2010 rated it liked it
This book represents Stewart Brand's monumental rethinking of what it means to be an environmentalist, in the face of the challenges facing the 21st century--in particular, global warming and agricultural supply. As such, it is heroic. I don't think I've ever seen anyone say, in print, that while he's been working on the right problems, he had the wrong solutions. I'm not entirely in agreement with his rejection of the environmentalist orthodoxy of the past 50 years, but to see him rethink it is ...more
Sep 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is a tour-de-force of persuasion, using the urgency of climate change to re-examine environmental orthodoxy. Stewart's conclusion: there is no “natural.” Cities are green, nuclear power is green, genetically modified crops are green. “Never mind terraforming Mars,” he says, “We’ve already terraformed earth.” We're just doing it badly. Now, we are faced with a series of planetary-scale engineering problems. Our only way out is forward.

I had already heard the arguments for cities and for
Nov 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Yes, this is the same Stewart Brand who published the Whole Earth Catalog back in 1968. At 70, he’s still going very strong with the work of saving the planet.

I bought this book because I went to hear the author speak, and he was low-key but somehow spell-binding – sort of like the performance that Al Gore pulled off with An Inconvenient Truth. Brand's book is no less impressive than his lecture.

His themes are big:
• The Green movement has become stuck in hopeless romanticism and excessive pess
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
This manifesto is a call for environmentalists to leave behind their romantic ideals and move into the 21st Century. Stewart Brand's zeal and enthusiasm make most of this book a joy to read, and he is the first to admit his past mistakes in his efforts to serve the earth. In particular, he urges rethinking opposition to nuclear power, urbanization, and genetic engineering.

I haven't thought much about urbanization as an environmental boon before this book. I personally am not a fan of the city,
Jul 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
Brand does indeed suggest that he was wrong on several environmental ideas he pushed in the last few decades. What he does not do is consider whether some of his basic concepts are mistaken. For example, beginning with people like Paul Ehrlich we’ve had decades of discussion about the earth’s “carrying capacity”. But each time we surpass the “limit” in population the argument gets reset.

Brand also points out that linear math does not fit the model of the earth but then goes on to argue his point
Leland Beaumont
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Many of us who grew up with the Whole Earth Catalog hold a special reverence for its founder and editor Steward Brand. Trained as an ecologist, this book is his Ecopragmatist Manifesto. He takes surprising positions on several issues long considered sacred to environmentalists. These well-researched and well-presented ideas include:

+ Climate change is happening faster than previously predicted. Bolder solutions are required encompassing mitigation, adaptation, and amelioration.
+ Cities are Gree
I loved this book. Some of the things he said I started off agreeing with (re: nuclear power), some of the things I started off greatly disagreeing with (re: genetic engineering) but he said a lot of things worth considering. I will definitely regard the issue of GE differently, and think of his points, even if I still end up disagreeing. He makes a great argument for rethinking some of environmentalists long-held positions.

The book is placed as an engineers approach to climate-change - the cri
Oct 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Despite a general sympathy for most green endeavor, I've long felt there was some kind of evangelistic sickness as an undercurrent to a lot of what I see. A spread-the-guilt motivation to tell other people what to do (making your guests recycle their paper plates, Mayor Nickles bag tax, etc.). Here is a really exciting book that gives me hope. Stewart Brand has the training, the connections, and the experience to be worth listening to.

Brand points out the inversion of the appropriate Green agen
Mar 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book will be hard to read for any sane person.
If you have high tolerance to opposite opinions some parts could be considered as thought-provoking such as parts discussing
solar vs nuclear power, or cities as perfect and only solution for sustainable future.

But I couldn't continue after author has referred to glyphosate herbicide as to 'magical substance' with no impact on human's health and environment
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eco, transformative
I mostly loved Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Discipline, so let me note its imperfections right off the bat. First, its footnotes are posted on a website, which irritates me. Second, he tends to describe ideas and terms as "delicious" and "delectable," which I also dislike. Finally, this book, which was written at the end of the 2010s, expresses a jaunty tech optimism that I find grating. Brand is enthusiastic about social media, cell phones, and he predicts that our global population will level o ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brand is an ecologist and a kind of reformed super-hippie with deep roots in the environmental movement (and in Jerry Brown's administrations). This book is his attempt to persuade his peers in the environmental community that they've got some things wrong; namely, he argues that nuclear power is good and safe and necessary to address climate change, that genetic engineering is also safe and will save millions of people from starvation while reducing our agricultural footprint, that cities are " ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always leaned a bit towards the doubting side on the environmentalist political and economical philosophy, so of course I relished reading this book. Anything written by someone with a history of environmental support and activism writing a book that, heaven forbid, goes against the grain and points out flaws in what's been the traditional view of the environment and it's place in the economy makes me smile a bit.

I think there is a lot of material in here that helps the book be a bit of a
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
You can either love Stewart Brand or hate him, but you can't ignore him. I am very much in the ❤️camp - he is a tree-loving, science-embracing curmudgeon after my own heart. Though the book is over a decade old, it is a study in how to apply critical thinking to impassioned subjects. A movement needs to be more correct than consistent - when the facts change, what is correct changes. And Stewart Brand lists a number of areas where he was wrong and the facts that he learned that changed his mind. ...more
David Simmons
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Was a very good read. Written in an engaging tone and both informative and easy-to-follow. Some of the evidence underlying Brand's views may have been surpassed or revised since its original printing, but the overall thread of his argument and his treatise to reframe our current tactics for combatting climate change appear to remain sound.

Would recommend as a great book to be included as part of a wider reading list on the role of science in the present-day. Provides some heterodox, yet reasona
Dana Larose
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, nonfiction, 2012
This is more or less the best book I've read in ages. Brand is an old-guard environmentalist and in Whole Earth Discipline, he is calling out the Green/environmental movement on topics they've been (in his opinion) very, very wrong about. The other theme is practical measures that we can take to stave of climate change.

What's great about the book is that it challenged my thinking on a bunch of different topics. Climate change is a danger of the utmost urgency to Brand (and it should be for all o
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a revelation. While I am familiar with the nuclear controversy and geo-engineering and climate change, he did a very good job of simplifying the current knowledge and debunking many misconceptions. I agree with his major conclusions here. His information on genetic engineering was very new to me, and his background as a biologist in touch with the latest leading researchers was very helpful in dispelling unfounded fears, while being honest about founded fears and issues (I need ind ...more
Jun 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
I loved this book for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the thing I loved best about it is how Brand examined his convictions and compared them to the latest and best factual evidence he could find and changed his mind. And that's what science means to me, that continual re-evaluation of things we think we know. The ability to change one's belief system so profoundly at Brand's age is a thing of beauty, and I admire him for it.

I found the subjects he covers in this book to be very interesting. His a
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, current-events
This changed the way I think about important issues. This assumes that our carbon output is linked to global warming, and that we're at a point where we almost cannot stop major bad things from happening. In it, cities, nuclear, GMO and GE are the good guys. I was very hesitant about even listening to the argument for GMO, but it was well thought out. There are a few holes, but it's mostly good - as long as it's used for the right reasons. I'm not convinced that we won't use GMO and GE for thing ...more
Eduardo Santiago
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Nukes are good, GM is good. Yeah, I was already sold on that. But slums, a Good Thing? Who knew?!

This is an important book. Let me repeat: this is an important book. Brand takes on sacred cows in a way that almost makes me, a hacker by nature, weep with joy. The ecological movement is depressingly shrill on all sides, (much) more heat than light. Brand sheds much-needed light on the topic by being realistic, being open to new data, being willing to admit one's past errors and move on based on ne
Jamie Maltman
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a spectacular book from an ecologist who loves our Earth very much and wants to see us face global warming head on, using every tool at our disposal.

But he doesn't approach it as a Green ideologue, instead offering the subtitle: an ecopragmatist approach. We can't afford ideology anymore (if we ever could). We have to find cost-effective holistic solutions or we face catastrophic repurcussions. The Earth can deal with it, but it will be tough on humanity.

Whatever your thoughts on urbaniz
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book by Stewart Brand, which confronts (in large part) the Environmental Movement's stance on (1) nuclear power, (2) genetically modified food/crops, (3) urbanization, and (4) geoengineering. At the outset, I only really agreed with his perspectives on nuclear power (that it is a good thing). However, after reading his sections, which were heavily laden with footnotes, references, and figures, I started to realize that the blind reaction to GM foods, urbanization and geoengineering wer ...more
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame, takes on global warming, poverty, the irrationalities of the green movement, and a whole lot more. As always, he's thought-provoking and persuasive. I especially loved his defense of genetically modified crops. The green movement's opposition to GM foods is scientifically ridiculous, morally inexcusable, and blocks a potent weapon in the fight against poverty and hunger around the world. Brand makes a very good case for all of that here. I wanted to ch ...more
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
I'm part of the choir, so his basic message (science is good, engineering is necessary, humans are part of nature, and our current methods are unsustainable) appeals.

However, his approach turns me off. The book appears to be written for business types -- VCs, donors, etc -- and is structured as a big aggregation of short snippets of observation, advertisement, and debate. This means the numbers float by out of context without being unified into a rigorously structured argument. Moreover, some o
Nov 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
Influenced by Ayn Rand - something I didn’t know until after I finished the book. He offers a non-conformist view of environmentalists. His ideas are thought provoking.

“As for footprint, Gwyneth Cravens points out that ‘A nuclear plant producing 1,000 megawatts takes up a third of a square mile. A wind farm would have to cover 200 square miles to obtain the same result, and a solar array over 50 square miles’....

“Nuclear waste is miniscule in size--one coke can’s worth per person-lifetime of el
Aaron Michaux
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Stewart Brand has an important message for the environmental movement -- a message founded in science and engineering and that I agree with. However, he ruins his prose with hyperbole and slapdash referencing. To be fair, I tried and failed to verify some of his extraordinary claims. This makes "Whole Earth Discipline" more tabloid than academic: generally an exciting read, but sometimes repetitive and annoying. Nonetheless, his core message is an important one, and so Brand is worth reading for ...more
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a MUST READ for anyone who considers themselves an environmentalist. Brand, a veteran of the birth of the modern movement of the early 70s, breaks down all preconceptions about what it's going to take to keep our post-climate change earth liveable. Controversial issues are illuminated with precision; myths are addressed and then dismissed in favor of good science and smart solutions. Seriously, this book could save the world. ...more
Jim Wilson
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Stewart Brand at his most controversial and provacative. One of the original green thinkers who in this book talks about the value of nuclear energy, gmo architecture and urban slums as a driver for creativity and economic development. Inteeresting take on population growth and a nice explanation of geo-engineering. Agree or disagree it causes the reader to examine his/her own ideas.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-read
The book is 10 years old; lots of research and statistics included need updating and re-checking.
That being said, it is one of the most comprehensive and inspiring books I read this year.
There are books that put a smile on your face, there are some that make your heart sing or ache; this is one of those that electrify your brain.
Bill Reese
Feb 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
a fascinating re-examination of urbanization, genetic engineering, next generation nuclear power, geo-engineering and traditional environmental movement type thinking. if you find this stuff interesting you should read this book.
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Stewart Brand was a pioneer in the environmental movement in the 60s – his Whole Earth Catalog became the Bible for sustainable living, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide. Brand is President of The Long Now Foundation and chairs the foundation's Seminars About Long-term Thinking. ...more

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“California was a great place to get over mysticism in the 1960s and 1970s. Such an endless parade of gurus and mystics came through, peddling their wares, that they canceled each other out. They couldn't compete with the drugs, and the drugs canceled each other out as well. Fervent visions, shared to excess, became clanking clichés. All that was left was daily reality, with its endless negotiation, devoid of absolutes, but alive with surprises.” 1 likes
“The scale of forces, this time, is planetary; the scope is centuries; the stakes are what we call civilization; and it is all taking place at the headlong speed of self-accelerating human technologies and climatic turbulence. Talk of “saving the planet” is overstated, however. Earth will be fine, no matter what; so will life. It is humans who are in trouble. But since we got ourselves into this fix, we should be able to get ourselves out of it.” 1 likes
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