The Earth Guy and the Science Guy

posted in: Science | 0

The New York Times Sunday magazine “Green Mind” special featured interviews with two exceptional individuals who are leaders of the modern green movement.

Steven Chu is a Nobel-prize winning physicist. Stewart Brand founded one of the most beloved “catalogs” of all time, “The Whole Earth Catalog“.

Clearly, these accomplishments reflect their creativity, perseverance and love of the natural world. But what I find most inspirational about these two men is that they have been consistently proactive, not reactive, throughout their careers. They are not against things, they are for a green future.

Both Chu and Brand advocate practical solutions to particularly difficult-to-solve problems. “The most important thing is making sure that your home is properly insulated, that your leaky doors and windows are fixed” says Chu. They clearly enjoy implementing new ideas and technology that have environmental benefits. They do not ask if a technology is good or bad, cool or not but whether or not it is appropriate for the task at hand. “The romantic nature-is-perfect approach is just horse exhaust”, says Brand, choosing his words carefully.

These are thoughtful men that we are fortunate to have as leaders of a community-based, science-based movement. They are not reluctant to engage with established institutions (for example, the government of the United States of America) to move the world’s people forward. It is through their efforts and those like them that we finally will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, make our cities more efficient and establish a more ecological way of farming.

(Full disclosure: I am associated with the Joint Bioenergy Institute, a DOE-funded Bioenergy Research Center that Secretary Chu supported when he was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I also have had the pleasure of meeting Stewart and reading a few advance chapters of his new book “Whole Earth Discipline”, which I highly recommend.)

Follow Pamela Ronald:
Pamela Ronald is Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis, where she studies the role that genes play in a plant’s response to its environment. Her research focuses on the genetics of rice. With her husband, she co-wrote Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food. She writes a blog of the same name.