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Ecomodernism: Technology, Politics and The Climate Crisis




Ecomodernism: Technology, Politics and The Climate Crisis

Jonathan Symons

ISBN: 978-1-509-53119-6 July 2019 Polity 224 Pages


Is climate catastrophe inevitable? In a world of extreme inequality, rising nationalism and mounting carbon emissions, the future looks gloomy. Yet one group of environmentalists, the ‘ecomodernists’, are optimistic. They argue that technological innovation and universal human development hold the keys to an ecologically vibrant future. However, this perspective, which advocates fighting climate change with all available technologies – including nuclear power, synthetic biology and others not yet invented – is deeply controversial because it rejects the Green movement’s calls for greater harmony with nature.

In this book, Jonathan Symons offers a qualified defence of the ecomodernist vision. Ecomodernism, he explains, is neither as radical or reactionary as its critics claim, but belongs in the social democratic tradition, promoting a third way between laissez-faire and anti-capitalism. Critiquing and extending ecomodernist ideas, Symons argues that states should defend against climate threats through transformative investments in technological innovation. A good Anthropocene is still possible – but only if we double down on science and humanism to push beyond the limits to growth.

  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The Thirty Years Crisis
  • Chapter 2: Ecomodernism and its Critics
  • Chapter 3: Assessing the Technological Challenge
  • Chapter 4: The Politics of Low-Carbon Innovation
  • Chapter 5: Human Flourishing Amid Climate Harms
  • Chapter 6: Global Social Democracy and Geoengineering Justice
  • Conclusion: Climate and its Metaphors
  • Bibliography

‘A valuable and timely contribution to the study of environmentalism. Given the seriousness of global climate change, this book provides a window into how ecomodernism fits within the broader framework of contemporary environmental thought.’
Jennifer Moore Bernstein, University of Southern California

‘This book is a much-needed corrective to the misconception of ecomodernism as neoliberal techno-optimism. Symons locates ecomodernism firmly within the tradition and logic of social democracy by advancing its most urgent, practical argument – that state-directed low-carbon innovation must be at the heart of our climate response.’
Steve Rayner, University of Oxford