by Barry Brook, coauthor of An Ecomodernist Manifesto
Intensifying resource use can decouple environmental impacts from human development. There are many successful examples of intensification and decoupling.
For instance, large swathes of North America and Europe have reverted to forest, after substitutions and technology-driven enhancements in agricultural productivity led to the abandonment of marginal farmland.
This trend might be further enhanced by the adoption of vertical farms and bio-engineered crops. Emerging plasma-arc torch technology can almost completely recycle and recover materials from solid waste.
There are also many instances where decoupling has not (yet) occurred, or where technological progress has enabled increasingly destructive environmental practices. Examples include the ongoing clearance of primary rainforest for biofuel production and the link between growing national wealth and net environmental impact. This has fueled critiques of the “techno-fix.”
Ecomodernists admit that technology itself is not a panacea, but we do hold that its judicious application and associated knowledge transfer can be incredibly effective. The alternative, “power down” solutions have proven to have limited social and political traction.