Steward Brand’s Long, Strange Trip

Steward Model’s Lengthy, Unusual Journey

The Many Lives of Stewart Model
By John Markoff

In 1966, Stewart Model was an impresario of Bay Space counterculture. Because the host of an extravaganza of music and psychedelic simulation known as the Journeys Competition, he was, in accordance with John Markoff’s “Complete Earth,” “shirtless, with a big Indian pendant round his neck … and carrying a black prime hat capped with a outstanding feather.” 4 a long time later, Model had change into a enterprise marketing consultant. At a gathering with the Nuclear Energy Institute, he promoted the virtues and inevitability of nuclear energy. He additionally wrote a ebook endorsing genetically modified organisms, geoengineering and concrete density.

Tracing the connection between these two Stewart Manufacturers, and what the gap they cowl would possibly say in regards to the American environmental motion, is Markoff’s difficult process. A former New York Instances know-how author who has explored the intersection of the counterculture and computing in earlier work, Markoff now focuses on Model’s unpredictable path as a “quixotic mental troubadour,” a “provocateur” and, in Model’s personal phrases, an “eco-pragmatist.”

Now 83, Model has a outstanding aptitude for selling concepts, convening folks and throwing memorable spectacles. The Journeys Competition was a three-day, drug-infused dance social gathering that helped launch the Grateful Lifeless and introduced the hippie motion to a broader world. In 1984 Model presided over the primary pc hackers’ convention. A yr later, he created an early Bay Space on-line web group.

In 1968, Model and his first spouse, Lois Jennings, used cash from his household for his signature challenge, the Complete Earth Catalog. The eclectic publication was a competition in print. On oversize, illustrated pages, it mixed instruction manuals for commune-dwellers and “suburban guerrillas” with contact info for ordering early REI gear and bulk pure meals. Alongside multimedia gear promotions had been summaries of environmental books, and guides to pure childbirth, therapeutic massage and numerous New Age wonders. Did the Catalog make sense? No, however that was its genius — it didn’t must reconcile enthusiasm for technological innovation with reverence for back-to-the-land residing. The 1971 version gained a Nationwide E book Award in modern affairs and offered over one million copies.

Usually historians or biographers lament their lack of entry to the internal ideas of their topics, or detailed data of their actions. “Complete Earth” attracts on greater than 70 private interviews that Markoff performed with Model, in addition to his intensive private journals and correspondence. Markoff recounts Model’s go to to a intercourse employee in Paris, his Tolkien-infused goals, his memory of parachute jumps and street journey adventures. At instances, studying “Complete Earth” looks like being the sober particular person at a psychedelic social gathering. “For some time he grew to become the mountain,” Markoff writes of 1 LSD journey Model skilled within the mid-Sixties whereas visiting the land of the Navajo Nation. “Later he returned to the hogan and made espresso and walked bare across the range, waving the cheese he was holding as if conducting an imaginary orchestra.”

The ebook presents much less, nonetheless, of a crucial perspective on Model’s life and work. Markoff goals to light up tensions in how environmentalism associated to science and know-how, however he struggles to position Model’s contributions successfully within the context of the complicated broader motion. Perhaps that’s as a result of, in the long run, Model rode a sequence of waves, however didn’t create them.

Take a marketing campaign Model launched into in 1966, based mostly on a revelation he had (inevitably) after an LSD journey. Model determined {that a} {photograph} of the Earth from area would possibly, effectively, blow folks’s minds. He printed buttons asking, “Why haven’t we seen {a photograph} of the entire Earth but?” Sporting a blue sandwich board that requested the identical query in Day-Glo crimson, Model distributed the buttons at universities within the Bay Space and the Northeast. Some made their means into the palms of scientists at NASA. Ultimately, after all, NASA did launch extraordinary pictures, together with the well-known Earthrise picture and coloration footage of the Earth floating in area. One of many pictures gave the Complete Earth Catalog its title and canopy picture.

It’s a terrific story, and captures Model’s knack for efficiency artwork, however Markoff reaches for extra, crediting Model with a “seismic shift in our considering.” He argues that the “single image of the entire Earth” prompted a brand new concept of a “unified planetary tradition.” But international environmentalism began lengthy earlier than, because of the horrors of World Warfare II, the terrifying energy of nuclear weapons and a rising consciousness of the interconnected nature of the planet’s sources. When Model was passing out buttons, writers like Kenneth Boulding and Barbara Ward had been publishing influential works articulating a holistic perspective on human beings as vacationers on “Spaceship Earth.” And when Markoff writes in regards to the American environmental motion, he doesn’t actually join the Bay Space counterculture Model stands for to the breakthroughs in Washington, D.C., that led to the passage of the foundational Nineteen Seventies legal guidelines defending clear air, clear water and endangered species.

In his late 60s and 70s, Model turned on his earlier self. He determined that many countercultural objections to know-how and science had been blind to the necessity for financial development. He got here to see the rejection of nuclear energy as downright harmful due to the affect of fossil fuels on local weather change. In his journal, Model listed the place he thought he’d failed, together with “medication, communes, religious follow, New Left politics, photo voltaic water heaters, domes, small farms, free faculties, free intercourse, on and on.” He concluded, “My unhealthy.” Markoff may need pushed for extra perception into Model’s shift in values. In our hyper-online materialist world, do the ’70s actually don’t have anything to show us?

Model’s penchant for spectacle has not too long ago centered on a clock designed to maintain time for 10,000 years. When it’s prepared, the clock is to be put in in a mountain on land owned by Jeff Bezos in West Texas. Model and his collaborators hope that the clock will encourage humanity to assume long-term, on the time scale of civilization. A go to would require a pilgrimage hike into the mountains, the place guests can assist energy the mechanism.

By itself, the clock is not going to remedy something. But when it blows our minds for an on the spot, or opens them for the following millenniums, it will likely be a becoming Model legacy.

Source link