Introduction to The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog

By Howard Rheingold
If you want to maintain independence in the era of large institutions and think fresh thoughts in the age of mass media, you are going to need good tools. Since 1968, Whole Earth Catalogs have transformed the world, one person at a time, by introducing world-changers to world-changing tools.

Whole Earth is a network of experts who find, evaluate, and share tools and ideas. Over the past twenty-five years, we have coevolved a worldwide community of information hunters and gatherers. This community now focuses upon what we need to know to build our own practical utopias in the 1990s and beyond.

The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog integrates the best tools from the past twenty-five years with the best tools for the next twenty-five years, including old Whole Earth Catalog standards such as environmental restoration, community-building, whole systems thinking, and medical self-care as well as new categories of resources such as backyard biodiversity, electronic mail, eco-tourism, and green investing.

Watersheds are still important. Ancient forests are still important. Technology policies and cheap telecommunication software are important too, these days. Some people who are trying to take the world in their hands are out in the rainforests. Many world-changers are in cities and suburbs; they have tools and lore to share, too. Others are in cyberspace. Here are the field reports, recommendations, and reviews from the ethnobotanists in the Amazon and the cybernauts of the Internet.

Given the tools we show you here, you (or your family, village, community) have the power to influence the thoughts and beliefs of others. The price of computing power has dropped so far since the first Whole Earth Catalog that we have entered the era of desktop everything: desktop publishing, desktop audio, desktop video. Book publishing, radio and television production, and music distribution used to require buildings full of heavy machinery. Communications capabilities that once were reserved for government or corporate elites now reside on tens of millions of citizens' desktops.

Here are the tools for producing knowledge, reporting and broadcasting the news as you see it, and creating communities according to your own values and ideals. Here we point to what you need to know to design, print, and bind books, and how to distribute them. Here's how to set up a computer bulletin-board system and link it to the world's interconnected computer networks, and why a librarian, a political activist, an environmental scientist, might want to do so. Here's how to equip your own digital audio studio, press your own CDs, distribute your own media; how to turn a desktop computer into a television editing console; how to create and publish a zine, build a pirate radio station, set up a village satellite uplink, organize a street-theater troupe.

New tools are not necessarily high-technology. Part of what you need to know to protect your privacy today involves knowing how to use your Social Security number (and how not to use it). Good information about sex in the AIDS era, good information about substance abuse that neither demonizes nor glorifies drugs, information about how to organize a grassroots political movement, information about birth and death, parenting, preserving and restoring ecosystems, are all appropriate to the zeitgeist of the third millennium. And none of this information is about high technology.

We're still talking about the environment, but now that we aren't alone in that concern, our job is to cut through the glut of environmental books, magazines, organizations, and to continue to point out the best and the most effective. We're talking about new ways to revitalize corporations, ways to install more sustainable home energy systems, ways for citizens to protect their privacy in the face of invasive technologies. We're still talking about home schooling, but we're also talking about transforming schools and lifelong education. We're still committed to helping people think and act independently. We still believe we're learning how to steer spaceship Earth.

The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog is published by Harper San Francisco. You can order it via Visa/MC for $30 postpaid, plus $2.18 sales tax for California residents, from the Point Foundation: 800/938 6657. Or send a check to P.O. Box 38, Sausalito, CA 94966.

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