A group of scholars, scientists and activists have penned an Ecomodernist Manifesto in which they set out conditions for the achievement of a “good or even great” Anthropocene. (The term Anthropocene is used to refer to the current era, which started approximately 10,000 years ago when human activities began to have a significant impact on Earth’s ecosystems.) The authors state that humans should use their growing social, economic and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilise the climate and protect the natural world.
Ecomodernists believe that by intensifying human activities in fields such as urbanisation, nuclear energy and agriculture, we will be able to disconnect or decouple environmental degradation from economic growth. This belief stems from a firm trust in technology and growth as solutions to human and environmental problems.
One concern about the approach of the Ecomodernists is the lack of urgency with which they address environmental issues such as climate change. The Manifesto states that problems affecting humans directly — such as lack of access to potable water — should be addressed first. This approach fails to take into account the fact that climate change is already having a significant impact.
Population also is not adequately addressed. The authors acknowledge that past societies had less of an impact on the environment due to their smaller populations, but fail to address the many problems caused by our continuing population growth. In addition, while acknowledging that decoupling may only happen through a combination of technological and demographic changes, the authors offer only technology as a solution to environmental problems.
The Manifesto is an interesting and thought-provoking document, but it must be viewed with a critical eye.