Ecomodernism & decoupling

This week Jeremy Williams reviewed the new report from the US-based Breakthrough Institute called “Nature Unbound: Decoupling for Conservation”. The Breakthrough Institute founded in 2003 has been influential in leading  “a positive, optimistic paradigm called ecomodernism, which embraces modernity to leave more room for nature and expand human prosperity. Breakthrough advances the ecomodernist paradigm in three main ways: research, communications, and network-building. Its research is designed to illuminate pathways to “decouple” the link between human development and environmental destruction”.

Their previous An Ecomodernist Manifesto published in April 2015 outlined a path forward to use humanity’s powers to create a good Anthropocene. It continues to stir dialogue and debate. Here is an extract from the Manifesto:

A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world. These two ideals can no longer be reconciled. Natural systems will not, as a general rule, be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being. 

Intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts. These socioeconomic and technological processes are central to economic modernization and environmental protection. Together they allow people to mitigate climate change, to spare nature, and to alleviate global poverty.

One thought on “Ecomodernism & decoupling”


    Our best strategy is still managed degrowth to a steady state economy. However, degrowth alone is not likely, on its own, to deliver the 4.9 % annual emissions reduction that is needed to stabilise atmospheric CO2 at 450 ppm by 2050 (itself a frighteningly high level): economic growth makes the task harder: 7% p.a. would be needed if growth were a mere 1.4%3.
    What does this mean for us?
    1) We should continue to lobby for disinvestment from fossil fuels. This disinvestment needs to be matched by a strategy of re-investment in local renewable energy production, low-carbon transport, energy conservation and stewardship of the land.
    2) We should encourage our public bodies, to adopt an economic policy that rejects the endless pursuit of aggregate growth, instead focussing on real local prosperity based on conserving resources, building resilience, and investing in the replacement economy. Perhaps we should offer a (symbolic) prize to the first local or national government that actually does this.
    3) Campaign against fracking and other “unconventional fossil fuels”, which will lead to an increase in GHG emissions since they will add to rather than substitute for other fossil fuels.
    4) Get a grip on food and energy waste, via policy and practice changes, targeting government, commercial bodies such as supermarkets, and big institutions such as Universities and hospitals.


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