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Rewiring the Mind or the Planet?

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMay 25, 2010 8:45 PM


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I have a modest proposal: let's get Paul Ehrlich and Stewart Brand on tour. If we want to have a real debate on how to address climate change, decarbonize energy, feed the world, etc., let's get these two icons of environmentalism together, on the same stage, at college campuses, town halls, and YMCA's. Because Ehrlich and Brand, each who helped popularize environmentalism when the movement was in its early 1970s heyday, now offer two very different paths to sustainability. Ehrlich, in a recent PloS Biology essay, says overconsumption is dooming the human race and the earth. The larger problem, though, he argues, is that we're like addicts who can't stop the self-destruction. So we need help. To that end, Ehlrich lays out the rationale for an intiative called the Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior. In PloS, he writes:

The admittedly ambitious aim is to change human behavior to avoid a collapse of global civilization.

That is indeed ambitious. What we're talking about here is a re-engineering of the human mind. Whereas Stuart Brand, in his new book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, advocates a re-engineering of the earth to make it more habitable for ourselves. To that end, Brand offers four "environmental heresies," which he laid out in this July 2009 TED talk. What I like most about Ehrlich's Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior project is that it intends

to generate a global discussion of the human predicament, what people desire, and what goals are possible to achieve in a sustainable society.

So let's have that discussion. A great way to fuel it would be to bring two of the biggest legends in environmentalism together on a speaking tour, where they can debate their respective approaches to sustainability.

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