Debate: Does The World Need Nuclear?


Solar, wind, and hydropower is on the lips of every environmentalist shouting it to the masses since the Gulf Oil Spill, but what about nuclear? Nuclear energy is starting to gain momentum as government officials look for new sources of energy. Now as you can see in this debate between Stewart Brand and Mark Jacobson, nuclear now has even die-hard environmentalists reconsidering it. In this first-ever TED debate, Stewart Brand and Mark Z. Jacobson square off over the pros and cons. A discussion that’ll make you think — and might even change your mind


Stewart Brand: Futurist

8497_254x191Founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, cofounder of the Well and the Long Now Foundation, writer, editor and game designer, Stewart Brand has helped to define the collaborative, data-sharing, forward-thinking world we live in now. 

Since the 1960s, he has maintained that — given access to the information we need — humanity can make the world a better place. One of his early accomplishments: helping to persuade NASA to release the first photo of the Earth from space. The iconic Big Blue Marble became the cover for his Whole Earth Catalog, a massive compendium of resources and facts he thought people might like to know. And we did: the 1972 edition sold 1.5 million copies. In 1987, he wrote The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT; in 1994, How Buildings Learn. Currently Brand is working with computer scientist Danny Hillis to build the Clock of the Long Now, a 10,000-year timepiece; his Long Now Foundation also runs a number of spinoff projects, including the Rosetta Project, cataloguing the world’s languages, and the Long Bets website. He’s also busy with the Global Business Network (part of the Monitor Group), helping businesses plan for the near and way-far future.

His newest book is

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.

“…between 1968 and 1972, two communities began to mingle within blocks of the Whole Earth Catalog offices in Menlo Park. One, centered around the Stanford Research Institute and composed primarily of engineers, was devoted to the ongoing pursuit of increased human-computer integration. The other, clustered around the Catalog and the countercultural communities it served, focused on the pursuit of individual and collective transformation in a New Communalist vein. Stewart Brand positioned himself between these worlds and, in a variety of ways, brokered their encounter.”

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, by Fre

Mark Z. Jacobson: Civil and environmental engineer

176724_254x191Mark Z. Jacobson’s research looks at the causes and effects of vastly complex processes — the physics and chemistry of our atmosphere. He and his team at Stanford have pioneered new atmospheric research and analysis techniques that give a picture of the current state of our atmosphere, show what pollution from aerosols, ethanol, agriculture, and ultraviolet radiation are doing to it, and predict how these might affect the climate.

Jacobson developed the first interactive model showing the combined effects of gas, aerosols and radiative air-pollution on weather systems. He also discovered that black carbon — the main component of soot particles — may be the second-leading cause of global warming after carbon dioxide.

Jacobson’s group developed the world’s first wind map based on data at the height of modern wind turbines — serving as the scientific justification for major wind farm proposals in recent years.

“A large-scale wind, water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world’s needs, significantly benefiting climate, air quality, water quality, ecology and energy security … [T]he obstacles are primarily political, not technical.”

Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, in Scientific American

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