Highlights from Stewart Brand and Winona LaDuke Debate

A Spirited Exchange on Technology and the Environment

Last week, on July 21, Earth Island Journal hosted a debate here at the   David Brower Center about how technological advancements can be balanced   with environmental protection. On one side we had Stewart Brand,  publisher of the iconic Whole Earth Catalog and author of the book, Whole Earth Discipline, which argues – in sometimes strident tones –  that environmentalists need to reconsider their opposition to nuclear   power, genetically modified foods, and geoengineering of the planet’s   atmosphere. On the other side we had prominent Indigenous leader Winona   LaDuke, who has been an eloquent spokeswoman (and tireless activist) for   the importance of traditional knowledge, especially when it comes to   food production.  Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation’s environment   correspondent, served as moderator.

The discussion was part of Earth Island Journal’s commitment to   fostering dialogue among environmentalists on issues that elude easy   answers. In the last two years, the magazine has hosted debates on the   environmental consequences (and ecological benefits) of meat-eating;  whether we should build large scale solar energy plants in wilderness   areas; the tradeoffs between investing solely in mass transit versus   also encouraging electric vehicles; and whether natural gas can serve as   a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy economy. The idea behind these   debates is to encourage discussions that will help create a smarter,  sharper green movement. As I wrote in an Editor’s Letter when we started   the series: “Disagreements, engaged in without embarrassment, reveal a   strategic sophistication. They are a sign of maturity. Only a movement   that has the self-confidence to disagree with itself has the chance of   fulfilling its aspiration. It is, perhaps, part of the alchemy that   transforms the fringe into the cutting edge.”

In that sense, last week’s debate was a huge success. Brand – who demonstrated real courage in appearing before an unsympathetic Berkeley, CA, audience – raised some provocative points about what he dubbed   greens’ technological paranoia. In a thoughtful rebuttal, LaDuke   encouraged a new humility in humans’ relationship with other living   things. The two didn’t end up agreeing on much – and that’s OK. The   audience left wiser for just having heard the exchange.

Below are some of the highlights of the debate, including a passionate   audience member’s question/statement from actor-activist Peter Coyote. I   hope you enjoy the debate as much as I did.

Special thanks to the staff at the Earth Island-sponsored Sacred Land Film project for recording and editing the debate.

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