Technology As Our Planet’s Last Best Hope

Fred Pearce, writing for Yale e360:

The modernists wear their environmentalism with pride, but are pro-nuclear, pro-genetically modified crops, pro-megadams, pro-urbanization and pro-geoengineering of the planet to stave off climate change. They say they embrace these technologies not to conquer nature, like old-style 20th century modernists, but to give nature room. If we can do our business in a smaller part of the planet — through smarter, greener and more efficient technologies — then nature can have the rest.

It’s hard to argue with that, but as Pearce goes on to point out, the line between modernists and “mainstream”—I would say “traditional”—environmentalists isn’t always that clear. He suggests that a healthy debate between the two would be illuminating, forcing us to question what we want and how we’ll get it. 

I think there’s a third, unaddressed dimension here, one that doesn’t make for great copy but is an inevitability with such black-and-white cases: the reality will turn out to be something grayer. Perhaps I’m too much of a pragmatist, but I like to draw on both traditional and modern environmentalism. A bit of Thoreauvian inspiration to guide our Jobsian innovations.

Thanks to the support of readers like you, Per Square Mile remains independent and ad-free.

If you enjoy what you read, please consider supporting the site with a donation.

opening times