A source book for American culture in the 1960s and 1970s: “suggested reading” from the Last Whole Earth Catalog, from Thoreau to James Baldwin. The Whole Earth Catalog was a cultural touchstone of the 1960s and 1970s. The iconic cover image of the Earth viewed from space made it one of the most recognizable books on bookstore shelves. Between 1968 and 1971, almost two million copies of its various editions were sold, and not just to commune-dwellers and hippies. Millions of mainstream readers turned to the Whole Earth Catalog for practical advice and intellectual stimulation, finding everything from a review of Buckminster Fuller to recommendations for juicers. This book offers selections from eighty texts from the nearly 1,000 items of “suggested reading” in the Last Whole Earth Catalog. After an introduction that provides background information on the catalog and its founder, Stewart Brand (interesting fact: Brand got his organizational skills from a stint in the Army), the book presents the texts arranged in nine sections that echo the sections of the Whole Earth Catalog itself. Enlightening juxtapositions abound. For example, “Understanding Whole Systems” maps the holistic terrain with writings by authors from Aldo Leopold to Herbert Simon; “Land Use” features selections from Thoreau's Walden and a report from the United Nations on new energy sources; “Craft” offers excerpts from The Book of Tea and The Illustrated Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book; “Community” includes Margaret Mead and James Baldwin's odd-couple collaboration, A Rap on Race. Together, these texts offer a sourcebook for the Whole Earth culture of the 1960s and 1970s in all its infinite variety.
Told by one of our greatest chroniclers of technology and society, the definitive biography of iconic serial visionary Stewart Brand, from the Merry Pranksters and the generation-defining Whole Earth Catalog to the marriage of environmental consciousness and hacker capitalism and the rise of a new planetary culture—the story behind so many other stories Stewart Brand has long been famous if you know who he is, but for many people outside the counterculture, early computing, or the environmental movement, he is perhaps best known for his famous mantra “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” Steve Jobs’s endorsement of these words as his code to live by is fitting; Brand has played many roles, but one of the most important is as a model for how to live. The contradictions are striking: A blond-haired WASP with a modest family inheritance, Brand went to Exeter and Stanford and was an army veteran, but in California in the 1960s he became an artist and a photographer in the thick of the LSD revolution. While tripping on acid on the roof of his building, he envisioned how valuable it would be for humans to see a photograph of the planet they shared from space, an image that in the end landed on the cover of his Whole Earth Catalog, the defining publication of the counterculture. He married a Native American woman and was committed to protecting indigenous culture, which connected to a broader environmentalist mission that has been a through line of his life. At the same time, he has outraged purists because of his pragmatic embrace of useful technologies, including nuclear power, in the fight against climate change. The famous tagline promise of his catalog was “Access to Tools”; with rare exceptions he rejected politics for a focus on direct power. It was no wonder, then, that he was early to the promise of the computer revolution and helped define it for the wider world. Brand's life can be hard to fit onto one screen. John Markoff, also a great chronicler of tech culture, has done something extraordinary in unfolding the rich, twisting story of Brand’s life against its proper landscape. As Markoff makes marvelously clear, the streams of individualism, respect for science, environmentalism, and Eastern and indigenous thought that flow through Brand’s entire life form a powerful gestalt, a California state of mind that has a hegemonic power to this day. His way of thinking embraces a true planetary consciousness that may be the best hope we humans collectively have.
For many, it was more than a publication: it was a way of life. The Whole Earth Catalog billed itself as "Access to Tools, " and it grew from a Bay Area blip to a national phenomenon catering to hippies, do-it-yourselfers, and anyone interested in self-sufficiency independent of mainstream America (now known as "living off the grid"). In recovering the history of the Catalog's unique brand of environmentalism, historian Kirk recounts how Stewart Brand and the Point Foundation promoted a philosophy of pragmatic environmentalism that celebrated technological achievement, human ingenuity, and sustainable living. Kirk shows us that Whole Earth was more than a mere counterculture fad. At a time when many of these ideas were seen as heretical to a predominantly wilderness-based movement, it became a critical forum for environmental alternatives and a model for how complicated ecological ideas could be presented in a hopeful and even humorous way.--From publisher description.