Classic environmentalism wants to restore things to their pristine condition, untouched by man. But a new kind of environmentalism thinks that man should actively take the lead in steering “spaceship earth.”
More and more environmentalists and scientists talk about the planet as a complex system, one that human beings must aggressively monitor, manage and sometimes reengineer. Kind of like a spaceship.
This is a sharp departure from traditional “green” philosophy. The more orthodox way of viewing nature is as something that must be protected from human beings — not managed by them. And many environmentalists have reservations about possible unintended consequences of well-meaning efforts. No one wants a world that requires constant intervention to fix problems caused by previous interventions.
At the same time, “we’re in a position where we have to take a more interventionist role and a more managerial role,” says Emma Marris, author of “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.” “The easy answer used to be to turn back time and make it look like it used to. Before was always better. Before is no longer an option.”
Although Marris is speaking about restoration ecology — how to manage forests and other natural systems — this interventionist approach can be applied to the planet more broadly. In his book “The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans,” environmental activist Mark Lynas writes, “Nature no longer runs the Earth. We do. It is our choice what happens from here.”
Read the whole article for examples of this “ecopragmatism,” which depends on technology to give us a better environment.
How is this different from not being an environmentalist? Doesn’t this describe the “dominion” over nature that the Bible describes and that human beings have been carrying out for millennia? It seems different mainly in its utopian trust in human capabilities, which nature has been humbling for a long time.