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1. Stewart Brand criticizes his fellow environmentalists because they
1) have changed radically.
2) want to re-examine fundamental ideas.
3) stick to old environmental problems.
2. Stewart Brand is convinced that new technologies
1) can help to solve the problem of global warming.
2) don’t make sense anymore.
3) are harmful to the environment.
3. At present the attitude to nuclear power generation is
1) mainly negative.
2) constantly changing.
3) mostly positive.
4. Stewart Brand blames environmentalists for using science
1) to oppose growing transgenic crops in Africa.
2) to prove global climate change.
3) only when it matches their ideas.
5. New technologies in agriculture
1) allow to grow organic food.
2) cause air pollution.
3) are more productive.
6. Air pollution from coal burning is
1) less than pollution from nuclear reactors.
2) absolutely irreversible.
3) greater in the USA than in China.
7. A future breakthrough in nuclear technology refers to
1) the possibility of recycling the spent nuclear fuel.
2) the new ways of spent nuclear-waste storage.
3) the borehole technology.
1 – 3
2 – 1
3 – 2
4 – 3
5 – 3
6 – 2
7 – 1
Reader’s Digest: In your new book, you criticize your fellow environmentalists, using such words as ‘outdated’ and ‘too tradition-bound.’ Why?
Stewart Brand: To understand why I’m critical, you have to remember that at the beginning of the environmental movement, back in the 1970s, the green credo was built on three ‘antis’: anti-nuclear power, anti-genetically engineered crops, and anti-densely populated cities. But the world has changed radically. Today we’re faced with the threat of catastrophic global warming; and the application of technology is our only chance to reverse this greenhouse devastation. As a result, some fundamental green ideas have to be re-examined and rethought.
RD: Let’s be specific: Which ideas are you talking about?
Stewart Brand: Take, for example, the once sacrosanct ideas that nuclear power and genetically engineered crops are bad. That simply doesn’t make sense anymore. We now have a number of exciting and maturing technologies to address the challenge of climate change, including advances in nuclear power generation and the creation of genetically engineered crops that use less energy and less water.
RD: So, how would you describe the current state of the environmental movement?
Stewart Brand: There’s a battle going on right now. A fair number of people are gradually going from being antinuclear to being cautiously pronuclear. Of course, many greens, especially in Europe, are still against transgenic crops. But I’ve talked to others who are not as worked up about technologies like synthetic biology. In short, everything is in flux. For instance, in the past, nobody wanted to talk about finding ways to make coal less dirty. But now that our backs are against the wall, we’ve got to look at every possible way of making energy cleaner.
RD: You’ve said that the opposition among greens to the genetic management of agriculture is the biggest mistake the environmental movement has ever made. Do you still stand by that sweeping statement?
Stewart Brand: Absolutely. We did active harm, especially in Africa by promoting a form of antiscience. We told people in the developing world, ‘Pay no attention to the scientists who say that transgenic crops are not only okay but also more productive, more sustainable, and actually good for the environment.’ And we had no right to say that. After all, we are the people who base our arguments regarding global climate change on scientific data, and yet when the science didn’t suit our preconceived notions, we abandoned science. That’s not good.
RD: What’s been the reaction to your proposals on genetically modified food?
Stewart Brand: Well, I’m a little surprised that food activists haven’t come over to my way of thinking. The local growing of organic food is absolutely fantastic in a country where the major nutrition problem is obesity. However, that’s not the major nutrition problem in most of the world. What’s needed is volume. The second green revolution is in the next set of good technologies in agriculture. Not only of higher yield, lower cost, cheaper food, better distribution, but also environmentally green in terms of climate.
RD: Let’s talk about nuclear energy, which you now advocate. How practical is that? It creates all that dangerous waste, and we have no way to dispose of it.
Stewart Brand: Air pollution from coal burning is estimated to cause 30,000 deaths a year from lung disease in the USA and 350,000 deaths in China. A one-gigawatt coal plant produces seven million tons of carbon dioxide, all of which immediately goes into the atmosphere, where no one can control it. Using a nuclear reactor to generate one gigawatt a year requires only about 20 tons of nuclear fuel. It’s true that nuclear reactors create 20 tons of nuclear waste, but they create absolutely zero carbon dioxide.
RD: That still doesn’t address the question of what we do with all the spent nuclear waste.
Stewart Brand: Right now, that nuclear waste is carefully monitored by the government. By contrast, the millions of tons of carbon dioxide that go into the atmosphere from a coal plant are neither controlled nor retrievable. One new thing in spent nuclear-waste storage that’s come along is the so-called borehole technology. The idea is you dig a borehole three miles deep. You can drop spent fuel rods down the borehole, pour in some concrete, and forget about the whole thing. And then there’s a breakthrough in nuclear technology that’s just over the horizon. I mean fourth-generation reactors that can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel.