An Engineer, an Economist, and an Ecomodernist Walk Into a Bar and Order a Free Lunch . . .

With the political-economic road to an ecological civilization seemingly blocked for now, too many of our allies are following detour signs toward dubious industrial and post-industrial fixes. The mother of invention is the quest for new markets, and, as Thorstein Veblen once quipped, it’s invention that’s the mother of necessity.

Where’s the “Eco” in Ecomodernism?

Ecomodernism is the idea that we can harness technology to decouple society from the natural world. For these techno-optimists, to reject the promise of GMOs, nuclear, and geo-engineering is to be hopelessly romantic, anti-modern, and even misanthropic. An ecological future, for them, is about cranking up the gears of modernity and rejecting a politics of limits.

Saving George Monbiot

George has been almost a lone voice in the mainstream British media putting the case thoughtfully and iconoclastically for radical, egalitarian and environmental alternatives to a status quo that’s so fawningly celebrated by the majority of his journalistic colleagues. But when it comes to his recent article enthusing about the advent of artificial meat as the welcome death knell for livestock farming…George, you’re scaring me, man.

Back to the Future

But first let me venture a working definition of the creed for anyone who’s lived thus far in blessed innocence of it: ecomodernism typically combines overenthusiasm for a handful of technologies as putative solutions to contemporary problems (typically nuclear power and GM crops), underenthusiasm for any social orders other than capitalist modernity, a fetishisation of both humanity and nature as surpassing splendours each in their separate spheres, questionable evidence-selection to support the preceding points, and high disdain for those who take a different view.

Of Bad Science and Bad SCIENCE: The Angry Farmer Meets the Angry Chef

Despite the rather toxic debate we’ve got into recently concerning the status of experts in the wake of Michael Gove and Charlie Gard, this doesn’t seem a great historical moment to be extolling scientific progress, the cult of the expert and ‘development’ as virtues. In fact, I think books like Mr Angry’s are part of the problem. Which makes me kind of…angry.

Of Holism, Particularism and Photosynthesis

Anyway, where I want to go in this piece ultimately is some mildly philosophical thoughts on nature and farming, and on holism and reductionism, and the links between these two dualities – thoughts with some upbeat implications for a small farm future. But first I’m going to have to take you through another ecomodernist vale of tears. So for those of a nervous disposition – be warned.