Environmentalist Trend-Setter Sets New Trends:

Stewart Brand was an early environmental leader, publishing the Whole Earth Catalog, "the bible for the counterculture and the back-to-the-land movement," and pushing environmental responsibility. Now, however, Brand is an environmental heretic who favors nuclear power, and agricultural biotechnology, and dismisses environmental fears about "sprawling megacities" and population growth.

John Tierney profiles Brand in today's NYT.

Mr. Brand predicts that his heresies will become accepted in the next decade as the scientific minority in the environmental movement persuades the romantic majority. He still considers himself a member of both factions, just as in the days of the Merry Pranksters, but he's been shifting toward the minority.

"My trend has been toward more rational and less romantic as the decades go by," he says. "I keep seeing the harm done by religious romanticism, the terrible conservatism of romanticism, the ingrained pessimism of romanticism. It builds in a certain immunity to the scientific frame of mind."

UPDATE: A few commenters ask why I believe Brand is an outlier. While there are certainly many who care about environmental problems who share his views, particularly in the scientific community, I think it clear that his positions are not "mainstream" positions in the environmental movement, as represented by the major environmental activist groups and popular environmental publications. To my knowledge, no major environmental organization is publicly and outspokenly in favor of either nuclear power or agricultural biotechnology. For instance, those groups that do the most biotech work are quite critical, and consistently make claims that are at odds with the scientific consensus (as represented by the National Academy of Sciences reports on the subject). In the case of nuclear power, I think there are reasons for ambivalence, including its high cost (which, admittedly, is due in part to the regulatory regime), but I think here, too, many groups stray from responsible critiques to knee-jerk opposition.