An Ecomodernist Manifesto
April 17, 2015 2:27 AM   Subscribe

To say that the Earth is a human planet becomes truer every day. Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands. Many earth scientists express this by stating that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene. 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.
posted by ob1quixote (10 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Anthropocene Myth.
posted by still bill at 3:33 AM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's refreshing to see a pro-conservation piece that doesn't outright distort the facts or make wildly unjustified predictions for the future. Thanks!
posted by pixelrevolt at 3:45 AM on April 17, 2015

The manifesto seems thoughtful and reasonable, but making plans for an entire epoch is kind of grandiloquent, as is the whole Anthropocene thing. Surely these are historical terms; you don't announce that we're going into a new epoch. To me it has a horrible tinge of us actually being kind of cocky about the whole thing.
posted by Segundus at 4:49 AM on April 17, 2015

Intensifying many human activities β€” particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement β€” so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts.

I think that this is very true. Almost all of the land (both public and private) that is being either actively or passively restored to greater ecological function was previously farmed, ranched, or logged, but intensified land use and technological improvements over the past four decades has allowed that land to come out of production. Across much of the US, that totals to a crazy amount of acreage -- all the rolling forests you see flying over the northeast were once farms, for example, and out here in the west there are a gazillion acres of land that were formerly logged and/or used as grazing for sheep and cattle that are now either fallow, enrolled in CRP or other conservation programs, or are being managed in lower-intensity ways by a public agency.

This is possible because farm yields are now multiples higher than they used to be (requiring both high tech management and extensive environmental BMPs), logging is far more restricted in area (thanks in large part of overcutting for many decades), and of restrictings imposed by national law such as the ESA, Clean Water Act, etc.

But the intensification and scientific management of production has not been matched with a commensurate densification and management of settlement. Land that was at one time under production (usually agriculture, because people prefer to both farm and live on fairly flat ground) is now low-density housing, and it is a lot more expensive to allow housing to revert to other ecological uses than it is to stop logging or stop farming. It's tract house sprawl in some places, and in a lot of ecologically fragile area it is trophy homes and ranchettes pushing ever outwards (and of course bringing huge problems as the fire regime changes in the west).

The realities of climate change and other anthropocene impacts will eventually require changes to how the US handles settlement and transportation, more I think than it will change how and where we farm or log (drought in California excepted, of course).
posted by Dip Flash at 6:14 AM on April 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I'm kind of a lefty biology-minded person and I don't like "the Anthropocene" either. But it's a term of science: it's not necessary to attribute causes, it simply points to the fact that the natural world is being rearranged in a rapid and dramatic way. Whether it "lets Capitalism off the hook" is irrelevant, and suggesting that's a problem, to me, is part of a pattern of denial.
posted by sneebler at 6:15 AM on April 17, 2015

Funny that this is being posted on the same day that the shadowy Trans Pacific Partnership, which seems to be a step away from this concept, is finally making the mainstream news.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:02 AM on April 17, 2015

The implication is that humanity as a unit is capable of conscious decisions, and of causing positive or at least stabilizing changes to geosystems. I see no indications that this is true.
posted by feralscientist at 8:55 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

By geological standards "A good Anthropocene" requires that the mass extinction be global in extent and at least 50% of all species. We probably need to lay down a thicker layer of persistent radio isotopes as well just to leave a sharp boundary marker. You can't be too careful. In this game you want a start at least a new epoch, not just an age.
posted by Long Way To Go at 9:04 PM on April 17, 2015

Anyhow, there's some interesting discussion and more links in this parallel discussion of the relevant manifesto at AndThenThere'sPhysics, a UK-oriented blog mainly about the physics of climate science.
posted by sneebler at 5:47 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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