Monday, September 17, 2007

Stewart Brand, Nuclear Power, and Military Contracts

We've known for more than ten years, thanks to Wired magazine and other sources, that Stewart Brand, founder of Whole Earth Catalog and Co-Evolution Quarterly, had become an advocate of nuclear power. But last week's Economist magazine had a revealing interview with Brand where he tries to rationalize the Big Oil and military-contractor business he does via the Global Business Network.

Now, Brand says some correct things about how wrong Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome were on neo-Malthusian limits, and suggests the same may be true for genetic engineering and nuclear power. I can buy some of his points, but nuclear power remains too closely aligned to nuclear weapons to ever be made safe. When he tries to point out how energy companies are changing, and how the military is better organized than many corporations, I can agree with him in part. But Brand forgets to mention that Royal Dutch Shell, however much it "transforms", still has a primary business of pumping oil out of the ground. The military, however much it may organize itself well along some fronts, still has a primary purpose of global power projection in the service of empire, and by the way, it kills people and makes things go boom in the process.

How embarrassing that this old Deadhead Merry Prankster has stooped so low.


Greeley's Ghost said...

Brand either used to or still does work out early mornings with a military-style trainer in the Marin headlands. Long story.
But hey, let's not rule out nuclear power. It has been the most efficient generator since the day it was conceived. Sure, there's a waste disposal issue, but is it any worse in the aggregate than emissions over the past 150 years? Hmmm.
And by the way, if the friggin' French can do it safely, why not the U.S.? Or maybe France has Iranian engineers running their plants.
This is a case for OGBC.

Loring Wirbel said...

OGBC is gone for good, sadly. I keep an open mind on nuclear power, but the real issue is centralized vs decentralized structure, in addition to safety and proliferation issues. Good analogy to vegetarianism -- as my daughter says, if the health or animal-safety issues of vegetarianism don't win you over, the energy-efficiency issues should (she's right, but I still love steak). The best coverage of all this is a HUGE piece Matthew Wald of NY Times did on energy sources' efficiency in the Sept-Oct Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. My main gripe with Brand is not that he loves nukes, but that he refuses to admit what a sellout he's become for his major clients at GBN. If you're gonna be a whore, hang out a red light.

Brian said...

Centralized v. decentralized structure isn't unimportant, but living downstream from Hanford and watching how thoroughly fubar'd that operation is, I have to say the issue of waste handling is highly troubling, the french notwithstanding.