This article was written by Rick Maltese for the winter issue of Toronto Waterfront Magazine
Ecomodernists are also called ecopragmatists. They embrace the idea that many of the world’s worst problems can be solved with technology and human ingenuity. They recognize that much of the damage that has been done to the oceans, the air, the weather is caused by humans and that the tipping points leading to tragedies such as mass extinctions are happening already. Emergency measures need to take place. The truth is that everything is connected and such reality permits their philosophical outlook to embody a diverse range of topics from ocean acidity, genetically modified organisms, energy sources, air pollution, climate change, economics, transportation, population, health, well being etc.
Respect for the wonders of nature is fundamental to ecomodernism. The Ecomodernist Manifesto is a document that pays tribute to nature. It was created by a group of scientists, researchers and scholars but most of all environmentalists outlining the philosophy of ecomodernism. It is also in essence a policy paper about what is needed to save the planet. Learning what the cost of choosing one technology over another is the kind of situation for which ecomodernists concern themselves. The matter of how much time we have to save ourselves from the point of no return is a driving force for the solutions they pursue.
When it comes to predicting the future of civilization most people assume doomsday scenarios won’t affect them personally and won’t happen in their lifetime. Many people want to believe answers exist for how to reverse climate change. Ecomodernists believe the task of reversing climate change is a moral necessity not a topic for debate. However they recognize how much we have selfishly abused our only home and seek solutions that separate humans and their activities from interfering with nature as much as possible. That is why cities are seen as the best way to assemble humans. This cooperative exists naturally with bees and ant colonies. Their extraordinary ability to thrive is due to the systematic and self governing instincts that nature predestined them to carry out performing specific tasks from each member of their community.
An example of an ecomodernist activity might be to demystify those who are afraid of anything that uses genetic modification. They might explain a safe procedure to eliminate the Zika virus. The mosquito virus that can harm babies in the womb. By altering a gene in the male Egyptae mosquito they are able to prevent the Zika virus from spreading by impregnating the females to lay eggs that never mature from the larvae stage. The misconception is that these Mosquitos will mate other species and cause a disruption to the ecological balance. But the gene altering technique improves on the insecticide approach because it targets just one species so that there is no danger to the dozens of other species never mind what chemicals do to humans.
Some critics have expressed that Ecomodernism is naive from the point of view that not all countries have the same priorities. When citizens of the past needed sweeping reform they were occasionally rescued by leaders preaching populist sentiments. Raising the minimum wage or improving the working conditions are examples. But more challenging topics such as the so-called dangers of nuclear energy, for instance, in Japan. After the Fukushima meltdowns that have proven to be far less serious than were generally stated, support is minimal due to fears of radioactive substances. A number of agencies and scientists have stated that far more harm was done from disruptions to people’s lives due to evacuations than any exposure to trace amounts of radioactive Cesium or Iodine.
Ecomodernism provides a philosophical point of view that, like all systems, are not flawless. Yet, considering the times we live in, there is a pressing need for a fast track approach to deal with preventing potentially irreversible tipping points such as species extinction and loss of human life. Now, in an age when knowledge is more often entertainment value for the middle class than it is serious ammunition for change, we need the analysis and techno-savvy of special interest groups like ecomodernists who embrace knowledge and value engineering and science so that those with less knowledge and awareness can be given the arguments for what technologies are the best choices. Many other problems exist that require a rational and logical argument to counter the politics and corrupt regimes and situations where the average citizen is not educated on the important issues.
The thinking behind Ecomodernism comes at a time when deniers who are motivated by personal gain are allowing a civilization to collapse. H. G. Wells stated that “Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.” If civilization is a process then rather than leave it up to chance for the outcome let’s try to affect the outcome in a prosperous and productive way. If that means becoming more educated so that we can make more informed decisions then so be it.