Steward Brand and the new nuke news

Ever since I first stumbled across issue number 57 of the Whole Earth Review many years ago, I’ve been a fan of Stewart Brand and his philosophy of access to tools and ideas. Among many other things, he’s been leading the Long Now Foundation for some years now, and their site of free seminar podcasts rivals TED in its extent and impact.

One of the recent seminars on the site is by Brand himself as he talks up his latest book, Whole Earth Discipline. I highly recommend listening to it. He gives a good summary of one of the major tenets of the book: coal is killing us, and nuclear energy is the only thing that can possibly fill its shoes. Wind, solar, and hydro can help daddy hold the tools, but they won’t come close to meeting the global demand for energy.

Fortunately, there are two good pieces of news. One is that long-term exposure to low levels of radiation doesn’t appear to be nearly as unhealthy as we once thought. The other is that better and safer nuclear technologies are on the way. Coincidentally, Wired magazine just ran an article on the potential of thorium fission. Let’s hope it works, because the alternatives are looking increasingly grim.

As Brand summed up in his talk, the original Whole Earth Catalog from 1968 began with the statement “We are as gods, so we may as well get good at it.” His new book begins with something more emphatic: “We are as gods, and we HAVE to get good at it.”

[Brand’s talk first spotted chez Jon Udell]

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