Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand's books include as The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT (1987), How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built (1994), The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility (1999), and, most recently, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.

From his Q & A with James Mustich of the Barnes & Noble Review:

James Mustich: Your last book, The Clock of the Long Now, which explored the ideas between the world's slowest computer, was subtitled Time and Responsibility. Your new book, Whole Earth Discipline, engages both of those themes, albeit in less theoretical ways. An "eco-pragmatist manifesto," it is equally concerned with responsibility and time, but far more urgently.

Stewart Brand: I have two jobs. I work for Global Business Network, where we do strategic planning for large organizations, like governmental departments and corporations and so on. That's half of my time, and I'm paid. The other half of my time I work for the Long Now Foundation, where I'm not paid. My work there led to my book, The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility.

The book I just finished, Whole Earth Discipline, draws on the Global Business Network a lot more than it does Long Now, because it is really immersed in clear and present problems; it's full of very strong opinions on issues that are quite controversial. While the issues may have some of the same frames of thinking that Long Now has been engendering, I play down the Long Now aspect in the new book, in part because one of our rules at Long Now is we take no sides. That's how you keep an organization alive over centuries: you don't get in fights, because even if you win most of them, you only have to lose one, and then it's over. So it would be foolhardy for me to act as though the President of the Long Now Foundation is espousing these opinions. As the President of the Long Now, I have an interest in good information on all sides of the issues, but do not express a strong view. As somebody trained as a biologist years ago, and who has worked in the environment in various ways for a half-a-century, I have very strong opinions, and that's who wrote the book.

I draw on the Global Business Network experience because we got involved early in looking at climate issues for the Secretary of Defense's office, and that was part of what alerted me to the greater level of seriousness of those problems. Likewise with nuclear --we've been a little bit involved in some studies that gave me another perspective on that than I got from my fellow environmentalists. So the frame of reference...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue