Sunday, April 24, 2005

Environmental Heresies

Stewart Brand ("Whole Earth Catalog") changes his mind:Environmental Heresies

Big cities are cool! Genetically modified food is tasty! Nukes are nifty!

Reminds me of the Woody Allen movie "Sleeper," where Woody Allen has been frozen for a hundred years, and when he awakens he learns that cigarettes, steaks, and hot fudge sundaes are considered health foods.

When I briefly took "Contemporary Problems" in high school, the oh-wow teaching team hammered us on the population population (the textbook said we were going soylent green by 1979), the evils of big cities, and the coming ice age. Because the class reeked of hippy millenarianism, I dropped it and have had a Penn and Teller -like skeptical outlook on environmentalists ever since (not to mention a life long aversion to the stench of patchouli).

Jack Nottingham, inventor of the boffers featured in Stewarts Brand's Whole Earth Catalog, got interested in global cooling back in the 70s and came to some interesting conclusions. Jack, an autodidact of the highest order, was a long hair inventor of solar powered devices that could easily boil a kettle of water or burn your house down in 5 minutes or less. Jack's conclusion was that there was a whole lot about weather and climate we didn't know about, and we were still in an empirical pre-paradigm state, much like geology was up until the middle of the 20th century. By the late 80s Jack confidently felt that my car wasn't to blame for global warming: the numbers didn't quite add up. Besides, he liked to point out that people settled on the Shetlands and the interior of Greenland and grew crops, and that the Romans cultivated vineyards and made wine in England. They don't any more because it's too damn cold. There had also been a mini-ice age in Europe in the middle ages that had a crippling effect on the economy. Weather and climate cycles have come come and gone long before humans.

Still, it's great to know how far ahead of my time I was when I dropped Contemporary Problems.

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