Environmentalists should embrace nuclear power, dense cities and genetically engineered crops if they hope to avoid the coming climate apocalypse. That's Stewart Brand's message in his new book, "Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary," now out in an expanded paperback edition from Penguin Books.

Brand, founder of the groundbreaking “Whole Earth Catalog,” argues that current efforts to mitigate climate change are nowhere near enough, and that climate change is going to get dramatically worse over the next 20 years, at which time the world could devolve into chaos and conflict as people compete for scarce resources like food, water and energy.

If we hope to reverse this, Brand believes that most of the modern thinking about environmental causes needs to go out the window.

Take nuclear power, for example. Brand writes that producing nuclear power requires less space, produces less waste, and can be ready sooner than solar power or any other sustainable energy source.

But isn't nuclear waste toxic? Aren't nuclear power plants dangerous? Brand disputes those long-held environmental beliefs. Nuclear waste is bad, sure, but Brand says that it's more compact, more controllable, and less of an immediate threat than the billions of pounds of greenhouse gases emitted every year by coal plants. And it doesn't need to be stored for 10,000 years, as goes the conventional wisdom. Brand writes that it needs to be stored for only 100 or 200 years, by which time our descendants will have a better idea what to do with it. It might even prove to be an energy resource of its own by then.

As for safety, Brand argues that the current nuclear power industry has solved the safety problems that created Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Brand even says the nuclear power industry would never allow another accident, because a single event would destroy the entire nuclear industry.

Brand also believes that more people should move to cities rather than away from them. Cities are more efficient, create wealth, and speed up innovation. They also create a stable population and a community that keeps people stronger and more vital. Villages and rural living, meanwhile, breed ignorance and do not use resources efficiently.

Then there's GMO food. Most environmentalists decry GMO crops, but Brand says they have always existed. "Consider the kiwi," he writes. The famous fruit was created by "selective breeding of the Chinese gooseberry." If this achievement had been created in a lab, it would not be the popular food it is today.

GMO foods offer other benefits, Brand writes. They can be more resistant to disease, weeds and pests; they produce greater crop yields with less fertilizer and water; and they require less farmland to produce. Meanwhile, Brand cites a U.N. report that found no evidence of any injurious effects to the environment or to people from eating GMO food.

Throughout the book, Brand argues his points well and backs them up with meticulous research. Few of his assertions are likely to be popular with the environmental movement, but his courage in saying them needs to be applauded and his alternative viewpoint needs to be taken seriously and examined in depth. Some people might be willing to write off his theses just because they're different, but the environment needs a devil's advocate, and Brand seems more than willing to take on that role.

This new paperback edition contains a detailed afterword, correcting and expanding information from last year's hardcover. You can also visit www.sbnotes.com, where Brand is posting detailed annotations, making the book's research a living document that you can use to further research these topics.

Book review: 'Whole Earth Discipline'
Pro-nuke, pro-GMO, pro-cities: Steward Brand tackles the Earth's climate crisis.