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Access to Tools: Stewart Brand on Synthetic Biology

Interviewed in Newsweek on his latest book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, Stewart Brand stands up against some of the most sacred cows of the mainstream environmental movement. The visionary behind the Whole Earth Catalog, early online community the Well, and the Long Now Foundation, who lives on a biodiesel- and solar-powered houseboat in Sausalito, calls for a techno-green renaissance that embraces nuclear power as well as genetic engineering. An excerpt:

Environmental debates are undoubtedly heated. Do you think good science ends up the victim? Good science wound up a victim in a serious way with genetically engineered food crops. The next generation, known as synthetic biology, has learned the lesson that efforts were not made to get really good public understanding and permission to go ahead with new technology.

The story describes Brand as making “a U-turn” into much of the received wisdom of the ’70s counterculture he helped flourish, but Brand’s position now seems consistent with what he’s stood for since that first Catalog — “access to tools.” Now, as that little blue ball faces threats that few foresaw¬† 1969, we need that access — and an open-minded attitude — more than ever


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