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Green Dragon: Stewart Brand

David Tebbutt gets to know this profound thinker, iconoclast and provocateur.

Stewart Brand is a man who discovers paradigms, figures out how to shift them and then does it. Being born in 1938 gave him a certain advantage. While the sixties generation was still finding its feet, he’d already found his. Mind you, it didn’t stop him dropping acid (legally) and hanging out with the Grateful Dead and early hippies. He also secured an ecology degree from Stanford, became a US army officer and participated in the 1968 “mother of all demos”, when Douglas Engelbart introduced things like the mouse, teleconferencing, shared workspaces, word processing, an outliner, hypertext, windows and many other computing aspects that took another 20 to 30 years to become popular.

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David Tebbutt gets to know this profound thinker, iconoclast and provocateur.

Stewart Brand is a man who discovers paradigms, figures out how to shift them and then does it. Being born in 1938 gave him a certain advantage. While the sixties generation was still finding its feet, he’d already found his. Mind you, it didn’t stop him dropping acid (legally) and hanging out with the Grateful Dead and early hippies. He also secured an ecology degree from Stanford, became a US army officer and participated in the 1968 “mother of all demos”, when Douglas Engelbart introduced things like the mouse, teleconferencing, shared workspaces, word processing, an outliner, hypertext, windows and many other computing aspects that took another 20 to 30 years to become popular.

Brand has a talent for being in the right place at the right time – if you discount his childhood, that is. He grew up in Rockford, Illinois, the child of an advertising copy writer and a liberal arts graduate. He feared nuclear annihilation and loved nature. In fact, he still talks about the conservation pledge he took as a 10-year-old “to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country – its air, soil and minerals; its forests, waters and wildlife”.

Life in Rockford wasn’t all bad; but the bright lights of California and New York soon beckoned. There Brand fell in with some curious bedfellows in the arts and computer fields as he flitted around his bohemian world, taking it all in before bursting forth with some event of his own.

In 1966 Brand jumbled together people from all his different communities into a giant three-day “happening” called the Trips Festival in San Francisco. Where else? That same year he could be seen sporting (and selling) badges asking: “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” The following year the ATS-3 satellite took exactly that picture, which quickly became a catalyst for the global ecology movement. For the first time we could see how we’re all bound together on spaceship Earth.

His next milestone was creating the Whole Earth Catalog (tools for self-reliance) in 1968, with the satellite picture on the cover. Six years later he launched Co-Evolution Quarterly, which later became Whole Earth Magazine. In 1984 Brand and Larry Brilliant created a pioneering public online community called the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link – the WELL. Brand also ran the first Hacker’s Conference, bringing together the first three generations of computer hackers. And, still in the same year, he wrote the Whole Earth Software Catalog, for which he pulled the largest ever advance for a paperback, $1.3 million. Such was the pace of software development that the book was out of date as soon as it was published.

He’s sidestepped that particular problem with his 2009 book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by providing a website for live updates. Brand’s not ashamed to change his mind in the light of fresh evidence, but his espousal of nuclear power, genetic modification, dense cities and geo-engineering in this book has caused many a shock among his fellow eco-travellers. However, he argues his cases carefully and still leaves you to decide what to accept or reject. This is one of his talents: identifying where we’re headed, suggesting ways of getting there and then letting us get on with it while he scoots off to his next project.

Brand splits most of his working time between two organisations he co-founded: The Long Now Foundation, of which he’s president, and the Global Business Network (GBN), a future-looking consultancy where he mainly reviews books. Part of The Long Now plan is a clock that will tick once a year for 10,000 years. A 1/50th scale prototype is in London’s Science Museum; though the real thing will be hidden in a Texas mountain. The Texas clock is a symbol of the need to think in terms of humanity’s whole future rather than just the next quarter, year or lifetime. Just as Brand challenged us with the whole Earth picture all those years ago, he’s again pushing us into a broader view of our existence and a greater sense of our responsibilities.

Over the years, Brand has befriended a heck of a lot of well-known and influential friends. Their lives are intertwined through many of his projects (not all of them reported here). And this is another thing that bugs some of the eco-folk; they believe he’s sold out to his rich mates. He told Blue & Green Tomorrow: “The eco-folk rap is a bum rap, but no surprise.”

When asked what drives him, he said: “I suppose the goal is ‘better world’, whatever that means. Lately, I’ve been thinking it means ‘more options for everybody’.”

As for his approach, he says: “The method is pretty much opportunism. Try a variety of things, pursue the few that work, keep moving.”

A bit like nature really.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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