The Future of Environmentalism

  • Posted by howies
  • 19 January 2010

Stewart Brand TED talk

I don't know about you, but all the complicated talk about climate change and it's potentially terrifying consequences is a bit overwhelming and gets my mind in a pickle.

To remedy this I went to a lecture by Stewart Brand and Brian Eno as part of Bristol's fabulous 'Festival of Ideas.' Stewart Brand has been at the forfront of Environmentalism since the 60's in America. He says that he wants to foster an 'un-idealistic, practical view about how to get things done'.  He was the guy who got NASA to first publish images of Earth from the Apollo Space missions which changed our view of our planet forever. And for the computer nerds, you might like to know that he was there at the inception of the internet, developing a way of linking environmentalists via a system called 'The Wall'. He has faith in human beings to do the right thing when given the opportunities and feels that the appropriate tools are key to this. He optimistically believes that we can create a world we believe in.

Watch his video on TED to judge for yourself. I learnt much from the talk I went, and I would like to share with you the information that is still ringing loud in my ears now, how does this information sit with you?

1. How do we frame a problem in a way that it's solvable? (apparently engineers do this alot!)

2. Instead of refraining from things, we need to do more things.

3. There is a movement for 'open-source genetic engineering' so farmers everywhere can use it to modify their crops as they have done through breeding for generations. This could potentially stop world food sources being controlled by controversial giants such as Monsanto (one of the biggest fears of anti-GM campaigners). There is a book called 'Mendel in the Kitchen' by an American couple who write about combining the best of organic growing principles and GM technology.

4. He believes that there is currently a regular mis-use of the precautionary principle. Many things have un-intended consequences both positive and negative and it is best that we keep an eye out for both.

5. The new 3rd generation of nuclear power generators have the options to be small modular reactors, that can de-centralize power supplies, even a floating barge in Russia. Uranium supplies are from stable countries such as Australia and Canada.  Third generation reactors can use the waste from first and second generation as fuel. Amusingly, 10% of America's nuclear fuel comes from old soviet weapons, how's that for recycling?! New methods of uranium processing are being developed to prevent any waste from the process being used in weapons. 

He didn't have time to talk much about his positive views on mass migration into cities and population growth, which is a shame.

If you went to the talk or have heard him in his video, let me (Amy) know what you think? He made me question my opinions, has he done the same for you?