Sunday, May 23, 2010

two books

This book changed my mind.
It got me to reconsider my gut feeling against nuclear energy and genetically engineered food by looking at the facts.

I'd almost become a luddite, rejecting all (or most) technology as essentially problematic and creating more problems than it solves. But our society is not about to give up its inventions and return to a simpler era. We need technology to solve the problems that technology has created.

While nuclear power generation has its dangers, Stewart Brand argues that they are far less than the dangers posed by the massive amounts of pollution created by coal burning power plants. And nuclear is safe until there is an accident, whereas coal power plants are unsafe even when they are running perfectly.

Brand also examines closely the objections to genetically modified foods and argues that genetic alteration is something that happens haphazardly all the time in nature, and that by intentionally creating varieties with specific traits we can optimize yields, and minimize the use of pesticides. Less land will need to be in in cultivation, and fewer crops will fail.

I still have reservations about whether the use of genetically modified seed will give too much power to the corporations (like Monsanto) that develop the seed. However Brand gives examples of situations where smaller organizations were able to develop genetically engineered solutions to local agricultural problems successfully.

I'm reading this book, Life, Inc., which Adam read first. We came across the author on the radio, giving talks on the influence that corporations have taken over our every-day life.

I'm only in Chapter two but I'd like to share a few excerpts:

"The American Revolution was less a revolt by colonists against Britain than by small businessmen against the chartered multinational corporation writing her laws."

"Leading industrialists funded public schools--at once gifts to the working class and powerful tools for growing a more docile labor force. They ...sought to produce 'mediocre intellects and ensure docile citizens' and...modeled public schools after factories, in which the raw product [the children] are to be shaped and fashioned...according to the specifications laid down."

"The rise of factory made products and a rail system to transport them meant that consumers no longer knew exactly where their goods came from, or more important, the people who made them. The "brand" emerged to serve that function, to put a fact on the oats, beverages, and automobiles we bought...."

"The more individualized consumers became--the more separated in their own suburban homes, isolated from their communities and totally self-reliant--the more stuff they would need to buy. Independence from one another meant increasing dependence on the companies that served us."

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