One strand of my writing on this blog and elsewhere has been a critical engagement with ‘ecomodernism’. This is the doctrine that both poverty and environmental perils can be redressed by market integration, technological fixes and agricultural ‘improvement’ – in short by ‘modernization’.
You’ll find quite a number of posts on this site looking critically at these claims in their various dimensions, which are grouped under the ‘ecomodernism’ category in the menu to the right (I used to call the doctrine ‘eco-panglossianism’ but switched to ‘ecomodernism’ for reasons explained here). My writing on this topic has culminated in five main outputs: there are more indirect treatments in an article in the refereed academic periodical The Journal of Consumer Culture entitled ‘Kings and commoners: agroecology meets consumer culture’ and an article in The Land magazine entitled ‘The dearth of grass’. And then there are three essays confronting ecomodernist claims more directly – one entitled ‘Dark thoughts on ecomodernism’ which was published on the Dark Mountain website here, and then ‘Ecomodernism – a reply to my critics’ available on this site and on Resilience.org here. I’ve also published an essay ‘Growth, climate change and the war of numbers’ about the ecomodernism debate at Statistics Views. George Monbiot has written a great article critiquing ecomodernism, which draws in part on my essays. The ecomodernists of the Breakthrough Institute wrote a critique of George’s article focused on the nature of small farm productivity – my response to it is here.
There are several left-wing variants on the general ecomodernism theme, such as Leigh Phillips’ book Austerity Ecology and the ‘accelerationism’ of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams. I’ve written about Srnicek and Williams here and about Phillips in various places, most notably in my essay ‘From growth economics to home economics: towards a peasant socialism’, available here.
The Dark Mountain piece in particular gained a lot of positive responses, but also some negative ones – mostly on Twitter, where debate tends perhaps by necessity to degenerate into dismissive one-liners, although I’ve found that certain ecomodernists scarcely rise above dismissive one-liners regardless of the medium they employ. Still, I’m sure there are people who broadly identify with the ecomodernist position with whom it’s possible to have a civil and informative debate. As described in my blog post On the iconography of my scythe, I’m not planning to write much more that engages directly with ecomodernism, but as also described therein, I’d nevertheless be interested in reading a constructive critique of my two essays on ecomodernism that eschews the dismissive one-liners in favour of real analysis. So, it’s over to you ‘ecomodernists’ – please tell me, politely and rationally, what I’ve got wrong. I’m sure there are things I can learn from you.
Addendum: A couple of more recent engagements with these themes are in my posts Back to the future and Of bad science and BAD SCIENCE: the angry farmer meets the angry chef.