This one caught my attention, I consider it a dangerous step by the ‘Neo-Greens’. It may establish another breakthrough moment like the seminal paper ‘Death of environmentalism’ considered by some to be as important as Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’. But this one is asking us to decouple ourselves from nature. And that if we don’t, we will end up destroying nature. Really?
It’s ‘An Eco-modernist Manifesto’ from the Breakthrough Insitute’s It’s got an impressive list of authors, including Stewart Brand. The free pdf can be downloaded at at this site.
Here are some excerpts summarizing this 32page paper:
“…we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.
Intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts.
Natural systems will not, as a general rule, be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being. A good Anthropocene (age of the humans) demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.
Despite frequent assertions starting in the 1970s of fundamental “limits to growth,” there is still remarkably little evidence that human population and economic expansion will outstrip the capacity to grow food or procure critical material resources in the foreseeable future.
There remain, however, serious long-term environmental threats to human well-being, such as anthropogenic climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and ocean acidification.
In fact, early human populations with much less advanced technologies had far larger individual land footprints than societies have today.
Extensive human transformations of the environment continued throughout the Holocene period: as much as three- quarters of all deforestation globally occurred before the Industrial Revolution.
Urbanization, agricultural intensification, nuclear power, aquaculture, and desalination are all processes with a demonstrated potential to reduce human demands on the environment, allowing more room for non-human species. Suburbanization, low-yield farming, and many forms of renewable energy production, in contrast, generally require more land and resources and leave less room for nature.
Whether it’s a local indigenous community or a foreign corporation that benefits, it is the continued dependence of humans on natural environments that is the problem for the conservation of nature. Absent profound technological change there is no credible path to meaningful climate mitigation.
Along with decoupling humankind’s material needs from nature, establishing an enduring commitment to preserve wilderness, biodiversity, and a mosaic of beautiful landscapes will require a deeper emotional connection to them…”
Fred’s counter position to this eco-manifesto:
In their opening statement: ‘Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands’, the authors conveniently leave out the word ‘nature’. What is earth if it is not nature? This is a false dichotomy.
But there’s a statement on page 18: “Humans should seek to liberate the environment from the economy…” this gives me pause! Are they right? Instead of putting an economic price on the environment’s resources, we should totally decouple from it. I agree! Putting a higher price on carbon or any other resource is going to create unintended consequences, and only be good for Wall Street (as Europe has proved). Decoupling ourselves from nature would leave it alone. But can we do this? Is decoupling ourselves from the environment a good thing? My right brain/heart + gut say ‘no’, my left brain says ‘yes’.
One of the base premises is ‘decoupling . Separating ourselves from nature. They say we are part of nature, yet they say we need to decouple ourselves from it… sounds almost like a GMO thing: stopping all seed germination is a good thing for capitalism… Monsanto should hire these guys as their PR wizards.
One of the BIG issues in our footprints on earth are the chemical toxics we are unleashing – but the manifesto makes no mention of it!!? They say we need to isolate ourselves and be SEPARATE from nature?? what?? So, we humans are BETTER than nature? We don’t even understand nature… we don’t know even simple things in nature: like how a tree works… this is counter to many, many wise people, elders, shamans, mystics over the centuries.
These are the ‘neo-greens’ that say we need to invest in MORE TECHNOLOGY to make things better. It’s an all-in-one bet – with human life on this planet at stake. Most of the authors are all scientists. Enough already! Their premise is not intuitive – there’s something deeply wrong here. I wonder what Wendell Berry and others would say to this.
Like the climate skeptics, they are cherry-picking their data + points. example : ‘While the total amount of nitrogen pollution is rising, the amount used per unit of production has declined significantly in developed nations.’ How about putting methane or water vapor up there.
To me, the whole idea of ‘giving up on our immersion within nature’ and ‘decoupling’ ourselves is unrealistic and nonsensical. We ARE nature, we came from it and we exist because of it. I think we are signing our own death spiral warrant when we engage this way. It’s sort of geo-engineering – let’s call it ‘anthropocene- engineering’
I hope this is not a seminal paper as ‘Death of Environmentalism’
An interesting counter position from the de-growth people (Richard Heinberg, Paul Krugman, etc) can be found at: