Saturday, October 10, 2015
This manifesto by a diverse group of intellectuals is a perfect example of the Faustian drive toward development, modernity and progress based on a an exuberant belief, dare I say faith, in technology. What it lacks is Goethe's nuanced realization that development has a flip side, a tragic side filled with tension, duality, and ambiguity. The authors of this document ask us to embrace a form of "moral reasoning" ,intoning that a "good anthropocene means "intensifying many human activities- particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry and settlement- so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world,(this) is the key to de-coupling human development from environmental impacts." In a sort of anti-perma-culture approach they hope to separate, rather than harmonize, the human, mostly urban world, from the "natural world". Enamored with the Promethian promise of nuclear power and industrial food production, I wonder what they would think of this Cuban model, as explained by the University of British Colombia?: "In 2006, the WWF declared Cuba to be the only sustainable nation based on ecological footprint and human development index. The majority of food grown in Cuba is produced without chemicals. Good bugs fight bad bugs in the fields. Their soils – like their communities – are teeming with life….Today, Cuba’s agricultural cooperatives provide 80 percent of the food produced in Cuba and her system of urban agriculture is a model for the world." These "modernists" of the Breakthrough Institute see a world held back only by technical issues, they don't see class conflict, alienation, or injustice and their view of history is a simple rising arc of progress and development. In other words, what they miss entirely is the sphere of the Political. In this sense they are more post-modern. What they might want to consider is the technical prowess of Nazi Germany as it industrialized mass slaughter. Technology might be neutral, but human culture is not.