When my favourite thinkers publicly disagree with one another I regard it as a sign of a progressing debate.

I was not surprised that George Monbiot chose to speak against Ecomodernism. I have been reading his work for ten years or more. However the tone and substance of the critique left me not merely surprised but dismayed.

I expressed as much via Twitter, and George asked “what exactly did I get wrong?”. I offered to write him my thoughts and promptly did so.

I received no response; in itself no problem at all. However I was further let down when the same post subsequently re-ran at his own blog, now labeling the Ecomodernists “brutal”.

Thus I have decided to publish a modified version of my correspondence. I am glad some of the authors have already pushed back  on the evidence. As someone who knows several of the authors I am glad to further respond to an attack that was ill-formed and counter-productive.

What exactly did you get wrong, you asked? Very little in point of fact from what I know. It’s not factual grievances; it’s the lenses applied and your characterisation of the authors and the effort that I take issue with.

I was deeply moved by the document. I wrote about my impressions here, including my criticisms of the exclusion of wind power.

Nothing and no one is above criticism. How refreshing that the Ecomodernists post all commentary including that of their harshest critics. This, truly, sets them apart from environmentalists who prefer to ignore or seek to discredit

I was especially grateful to see a human welfare made central in the challenge, not peripheral.

So I found the tone of your piece a remarkable attack on what is, at the minimum, a profoundly thought provoking document.

The authors have been characterised as arrogant and labelled ignorant. Yet the manifesto says:

 We hope that this statement advances the dialogue about how best to achieve universal human dignity on a biodiverse and thriving planet.

Surely, this (and other similar passages) are an invitation and request for respectful and challenging dialogue? Yet you chose to throw stones.

The document is a Manifesto, not an instruction manual. The authors have been the first to acknowledge they have not captured the full complexity of the world. But they deserve credit for an attempt. It is surely environmentalism that feeds the world rigid, simplistic messages in stark denial of complex realities.

The authors positively encourage interactions, questions and criticism of the document. I have seen responses including a) here is how we see it b) that’s a good point and deserves more thought c) that’s incorrect for this reason.

So I would have been at ease if you were putting forward challenges and questions without characterising the authors as you did.

Take Mike Shellenberger and Peter Teague for example. The last year-and-a-half has seen them in war-ravaged Congo, trying to understand the interface of war, poverty and biodiversity, then under a bridge in Indonesia, capturing the story of people living in the informal economy in an urban setting. As a friend of Mike’s I resent the inference that this work is the product of “remote and confident generalisations by intellectuals”.

Which brings me this statement from your critique:

In areas with little work, low labour productivity isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, as it ensures that large numbers of people are employed, even though the pay is often very poor.

Low-pay, high-labour agriculture in practice. It is the source of 70% of the world’s child labour and a major area of concern for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Click on the image to learn more.

That, to me, reads like a remote and confident generalisation by an intellectual! Poorly paid, low productivity agricultural work is a life of poverty. It is life just above subsistence. At some point, for people to leave a situation of perpetuating poverty, that situation has to end. At that time there are challenges. That forms a case for addressing the challenges, not rejecting the process.

Yet your accusation against the authors of the manifesto was profound and unsettling:

 …the ecomodernists make it clear that they would wish away almost the entire rural population of the developing world.

I find that statement, and the subsequent labeling of them as “brutal”, to be borderline offensive. Was it your intent to make them sound genocidal? Unlike environmentalism, ecomodernism welcomes these people, unconditionally, as part of our human family. They respect the reality that many of these people wish a more modern life for themselves. They have observed that this trend spares land for the return of biodiversity; a desire many of us share.

You have openly lamented that we may be facing a century that sees the end of wild megafauna in Africa. While poaching is abhorrent and destructive you rightly note that the extraordinary range contraction of these beasts is the primary driver of their fate. In your wonderful book Feral you asked the salient question of why we should expect poor Africans to co-exist with dangerous beasts for our benefit. Meanwhile, some Africans existing with dangerous beasts are indeed terrified of them.

The Ecomodernist Manifesto offers a pathway of resolution to these tensions and conflicts. The intensification of agriculture delivers long-term benefits to species conservation, in Africa and elsewhere. This is exactly the trend that makes the rewilding you espouse in Europe not merely conceivable but actually underway. In Africa, the same processes hold the potential to boost incomes, grow cities, spare land, permit habitat to restore and species to regain their hold. This won’t replace established conservation efforts. It will compliment them and make them easier to implement and enforce.

For naming these evidence-based trends and the potential it holds for us all, you attacked these authors. You called them brutal and sought to draw them into a framework that includes the worst of historical colonialism. You said:

 For all its talk of “the liberal principles of democracy, tolerance, and pluralism”, the ecomodernist agenda resonates with a long history of such proposals, from the enclosures in England and the Highland clearances in Scotland, the colonial seizures of land in Kenya and Rhodesia, the Soviet dispossessions and the villagisation in Ethiopia to the current theft of farmland in poor nations by sovereign wealth funds and the rich world’s financiers.

This infers that these individuals are complicit in, ignorant of, or simply don’t care about the human face of the events described above. None of that is true. The Ecomodernist Manifesto may resonate with those events for you. It also reflects a massive body of evidence that modern living involves increased farming productivity, specialisation of labour and a move to cities. Such trends can take place more or less justly, more or less kindly, more or less ethically. What should be of interest is ensuring a firm eye is kept on the justice and human dignity aspects of the profound trends that are underway. Why not issue that as a challenge? I expect the authors of the Manifesto would be up for the discussion. How can we make the growth of cities as just as possible? Can we co-preserve historic cultural diversity and historic biodiveristy in a world of 10 billion souls? These, surely, are questions worth exploring.

Secondly on the land issue, there seems to be a false comparison at play. You referred to distribution of land formerly owned by a tiny elite to a much wider proportion of the population.

I confidently expect that not one of the authors will disagree with you that land concentration in the hands of elites who are indolent in their use of the land is wrong and unhelpful.

The principle of clear agreement will/ought be that productive use of land to grow food is desirable. Reforms needed to achieve that can take inverse forms.

You mention Ethiopia. Here the main problem is too little concentration of ownership thanks to no alienable property rights to trade. People are very much tied to the land and virtual slaves by dint of having no option. The villigisation process you mention may be a complete sham (or it may be a partial success) but if it’s a sham that’s not modernism, it’s injustice. So, too, is a policy void that perpetuates subsistence living and recurrent famine.

In Brazil there is a situation much as you have described stretching back to Portuguese settlement. The problem was not the number of owners per se, but their being too rich to need to care about whether the land was productive or not. Naturally, dispossessed people once possessed will deliver far greater productivity.

This, likewise, needs reform. Both situations are true. If the Manifesto is lacking balance on this point, issue the challenge rather than attacking the authors.

You suggested:

 …there appears to be a crude and unexplored assumption that people working in the formal, urban economy are modern, while those on the outside are not.

The Ecomodernist Manifesto doesn’t define or refer to formal and informal economies. I suggest there would be nothing but praise and respect among the Manifesto’s authors for the informal economies of both rural and urban environments. As I mentioned, Mike went to hear from some such people first hand. I will also assume, confidently, that the authors would hope to see such people integrated into a formal economy, preferably sooner not later, meaning: offered the opportunity to own and have secure tenure of their homes; sanitation; electricity; protection by police forces and fire departments etc.

You make this assertion:

“modernisation” of the kind they celebrate may have liberated many people from bondage, oppression and hard labour, but it has also subjected many to the same forces.

You may be correct in this assertion. Are we to presume that the authors of the manifesto don’t care? Might it be that in fact they care very, very much? What has been the overall trajectory of humanity here? The authors have evidence on their side when they say “Historically large numbers of humans — both in percentage and in absolute terms — are free from insecurity, penury, and servitude.”

Surely the challenge here is to reduce, wherever possible, the bondage and oppression as fully and quickly as possible. That is not served by a retreat from modernity (I argue) but an assiduous focus on justice. If you feel this element is under-represented, I urge you to issue the challenge. I am confident you will find justice for the poor and dispossessed is a foremost concern of the authors

There surely are contradictions within modernism and the modern world. True, the word “inequality” did not, literally, appear in the manifesto. However recall it is the ecomodernists who reject the suggestion that “basic human needs” can be met on as much electricity as an Australian uses in one week. It is the environmentalists fostering inequality with that argument, sometimes over corporate accounts of cold drinks and fine food. The ecomodernists refuse to accept that the poor must and should stay poor. The environmentalists internally and often overtly argue that it needs to be that way until there is a “breakthrough” in renewables. My reading of history is that the past was a remarkably equitable place; nearly everyone was a peasant. Equality is not axiomatically good.

Much may remain irreconcilable for you with ecomodernism. Nonetheless this critique was ill-prepared. Your criticism, properly weighed and measured, can only make this discussion better. I hope that is something I will read in future.


  1. My reading of history is that the past was a remarkably equitable place; nearly everyone as a peasant. Equality is not axiomatically good.

    I hope George engages with your counterpoints. My take is that his discomfort stems from a desire to hang on to the romantic view of peasant life. But let’s see how George defines the edges of disagreement.

    1. I hope so as well but It is hard to get back to a constructive discussion once one party has resorted to demonizing the other.

  2. Privilege is a plate, best served to yourself, with a total disregard for standard risk assessment and the scientific method…

  3. I find that argument about the agricultural job opportunities for the rural poor to be the most loathesome thing from people who claim to want to reduce inequality. You know who works in the fields? Women. Children. And dispensible guys who nobody cares if they have to go out and spray their brinjal 100 times a season without protective gear. It astonishes me that their sepia-toned images of gamboling goats and red barns overrides the facts on this.

  4. Ecomodernism lost with me with support for vertical farming. Given that Havana Cuba is well advanced on urban food growing yet still imports rice perhaps the problem is harder than we think. It has overtones of a religion that wants to appeal to tribal instincts. The case for nuclear can be argued on its merits without appeals to tribalism.

    1. @John Newlands

      I don’t know much about the urban food growing programs in Havana, but I do know that Cuba is a low energy use society that is dependent on imported hydrocarbons. My guess is that whatever they are doing to grow food in cities is not using the kind of energy intensive vertical agriculture envisioned by the ecomodernists.

      Plant growth is highly dependent on the energy balance. They are limited by the amount of energy absorbed and converted in photosynthesis, so without additional artificial sunlight, growth and productivity will not be enhanced with vertical arrangements.

  5. “Over longer time scales we conclude that agricultural intensification has offered conservation benefits in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, we find little evidence that intensification reduces threats to biodiversity on
    shorter time scales. This is almost certainly because intensification works by slowing the rate of future land conversion. The main threat to all species in natural habitats remains the conversion of forests and grasslands to agriculture. It follows that the policies with the greatest potential to deliver conservation benefits are those that reduce the rate of future land conversion, while enhancing the habitat potential of existing agricultural land. In countries where the scope for agricultural transformation is limited, and where the growth of the rural population continues to spur land conversion, the most effective policies are likely to be those that give farmers stronger incentives to invest in
    conservation agriculture. Classically, these include policies that enhance security of land tenure, that improve access to credit, that build infrastructure and the effectiveness of markets. But they also include
    policies that give farmers an incentive to invest in the conservation of species that offer both direct and indirect benefits. Agri-environment schemes have a long history in Europe and North America, and are
    beginning to be applied in Sub-Saharan Africa under the name of payments for ecosystem services. These certainly have considerable potential to enhance the habitat value of farmland.” This from the conclusion of Ben’s cited study. It gives a fuller picture of the potential for cropping and grazing to have improved outcomes. Intensification relates to improved yields on existing lands – and there are many ways of doing this.

    It is not true either that we are succeeding at biological conservation in the west.

    1. “Over longer time scales we conclude that agricultural intensification has offered conservation benefits in Sub-Saharan Africa….This is almost certainly because intensification works by slowing the rate of future land conversion”.

      I.e. with a view to a world of 10 billion people in 2050, with 1 billion of the additional population to be in Africa, this is an essential process. It is not the the exclusion of the other important practices that show benefits over lesser time scales!!! But if we don’t slow, and then halt, land conversion to agriculture, there will be literally no habitat left.

      Note also:”In countries where the scope for agricultural transformation is limited, and where the growth of the rural population continues to spur land conversion…” In sub-Saharan Africa the scope of agricultural transformation is huge. It is some of the least efficient agriculture in the world! Fertility policies, rising incomes and urbanisation all serve to reduce the growth in rural land population.

      I think you are missing the forest for the lack of trees.

      1. Most forests in Africa – about 20% of the landscape and in the high rainfall belts – are communal in one way or another. Management here relies not on vacating the lands but in effective rules for management of the commons. An Iriai – which is here to help and give understanding to people.

        Much of the rest of the continent is rangeland, savanna, desert and mostly on fairly poor and degrades soils. There is a downward ecological spiral here that reduces both biodiversity and productivity – it can be reversed. It is called 5 billion hectares of hope.

        As I said – intensification relates to higher productivity on the same amount of land – and we will perhaps 70% more food by 2050. So intensification is required – on broad acre cropping systems – on small holdings – and especially on grazing lands. The latter provide by far the largest opportunity for both ecological restoration and carbon sequestration.

        None of this happens simply because people want to move to slum squats in the city. It is deliberate design of social institutions, the application of science and technology and economic growth through increasing agricultural productivity and access to markets.

        Nor is the US – or Australia – succeeding in biodiversity conservation.

        I think the savanna grass is greener on this side.

      2. ‘The African dry forests and woodlands cry for attention as they continue to degrade and desertification to set and intensify. Africa is the driest of the world continents with 45% of its landmass falling under dry lands. Furthermore 38% of this land is occupied by hyper-arid or desert land. About 50% of the African population lives in the arid, semi-arid, dry sub-humid and hyper-arid areas.

        A total of 340 million ha of woody vegetation in dryland zones of Africa have become degraded through human activities like; overgrazing, agricultural expansion, overexploitation, and deforestation, in the order of importance. Small-scale farming activities in the dry areas have, in particular, caused the greatest impact on vegetation degradation. Frequent fires and droughts have continued to accelerate degradation of woodlands and dry forests.

        About 482 million ha of drylands in Africa have suffered desertification through several physical factors. Such physical agents of desertification includes, in the order of importance; wind erosion, water erosion, loss of nutrients, salinisation, land compaction and water-logging.

        Very few case studies have been followed for enough time to provide adequate data to enable effective interventions. Methodologies for monitoring extent and impacts of agents of degradation and desertification also vary greatly. Regional and local initiatives geared towards rehabilitation of the degraded vegetations need to be urgently identified and focused support by partners provided.’ http://www.fao.org/docrep/ARTICLE/WFC/XII/0169-B3.htm


        Whatever works,


        1. Using cover crops, green mulch, no-tilling, zero-tilling, looking after the soil and protecting it from sunlight. There’s much sporadic works, in USDA – see their amazing video undercover farmers. African farmers need educating fast about these techniques. But their industry is dominated by companies who don;t want to know or help. Machinery manufacturers promote high hp – see the Agco Future Farm outside Lusaka. They want farmers to buy ploighs and cultivators, implements which will convert their sandy land into desert in ten years. At the moment 75% of the land is untouched bush, and so is well protected. It’s only when the rippers arrive and the soil surface is exposed that deterioration will occur, and we will be doing more damage thanat any previous time to the country, taking away their ability to grow food. Is there anybody interested?

  6. There are two things that the authors of Ecomdernism either ignore or don’t understand:

    1) All production and consumption by humans comes at a cost of loss of natural habitat. All materials come from the natural world. All wastes go to the natural world. Technological intensification increases this loss.

    2) Lands taken out of agriculture do not create more lands for Nature. They create more lands for human growth and development. Lands left for Nature are decreasing globally. Tree farms are not forests. Cattle and sheep are not deer and elk.

    The unavoidable fact is that continuous growth in a world pf finite resources is impossible. It’s time for Ecomodernism folks to tuck in their egos, grow some humility and join the rest of life on this planet.

      1. I read the Jesse H. Ausubel essay – as well as the paper on peak farmland. It is apparent that there is a long way to go.

        Even as developing regions of the world leapfrog into technologies that are more resource efficient and carbon intensive – it is apparent that the demand for resources – including coal and oil – will expand this century. Even with advanced nuclear technology – the demand for copper, aluminium, steel, rare earths, concrete, plastics, etc – will grow substantially.

        With the best technologies – there is not a chance in hell that Australian lifestyles can be achieved in most of the world without increased resource usage is romantic clap trap.

        For instance – even while usage of some resources – although not power plateaued in the US – supply of electricity from coal powered plants increased globally.

        We really do need a better way – and not just wishful thinking.


        1. You are completely correct.

          We also need to think carefully about framing what is good and bad.

          There is nothing inherrently “bad” about using resources. It has consequences, and we need to understand them. So does not using resources.

          The big deal is energy. We know that we can have as much energy as we want for virtually nil impact through advanced nuclear. This is game changing for sustainability thinking. To see the processes of decoupling underway provide a path to watch and follow, and a trend to accelerate where ever possible, that points to an essential end point/stasis/approximate equlibrium in the way we occupy the planet.

          So much will change from here, but those changes can be fantastic.

            1. From the IAEA, contributions to global average radiation dose.

              Nuclear fuel cycle: 0.01%
              Chernobyl Accident: 0.07%
              Bombs: 0.16%

              These are all orders of magnitude less than variations in natural background radiation. As globally significant environmental concerns they are about as far down the list as it is possible to be.

              Contribution from accidents and bombs will, of course, decline over time. Contributions from the nuclear fuel cycle may also decline due to improvements in engineering and technology.

              1. Radioactive isotopes have been realised from nuclear bombs and many power plant releases over the years. This has elevated levels of radioactivity in the oceans – and is seen is especially high levels in the Irish, Baltic and Black Seas. Although we are immerse in ionizing radiation – an increase is presumed to increase cellular damage in living organisms.

                It is quite apparent that active cesium and strontium levels of the Fukushima were hundreds of times at least background levels.

                Yours shows the fallacy of data smoothing.

                1. Yours shows the fallacy of assuming any amount of radiation exposure is unacceptable.

                  Albert Stevens was injected with 130.000 Bq of plutonium which gave him 64000 mSv of radiation over the course of 20 years. He did not get cancer and did not die of exposure related health effects.
                  Stevens’ exposure was about one thousand times as much as the most exposed Japanese citizen would have gotten if there had been no evacuations of the contaminated areas around Fukushima.

                  So yes, man-made radiation exposure is a concern, but it is a small concern next to other far more serious concerns involving our current and future energy supply.

                  The Fukushima radioactive contamination has been guesstimated to eventually kill between 0 and 750 people during the next 70 years, based on analysis of radiation exposure to the Japanese people and by the use of the controversial LNT assumption of radiation health damage down to zero dose.

                  750 people are killed every three months in Europe by coal power plant pollution from coal power plants in Germany alone.

                  Globally, pollution from coal power plants kills about 750 people every 7 hours.

                  Surely, if we are to be actively concerned about the impacts of nuclear power, or even nuclear accidents, then shouldn’t we be going through the roof about the impacts of fossil fuel burning? But we aren’t are we? Why not?

                2. There is about 11,000 Bq 40-K/m^3 in sea water. The radiological risk coefficient for mortality for ingestion of 137-Cs in humans is actually a bit lower than that for 40-K. A bit of common sense please.

                3. There are a whole lot of primordial radionuclides, cosmogenic radionuclides and synthetic radionuclides in the environment. Adding more synthetic radionuclides is probably not a good idea. An amount of additional ionizing radiation is damaging. This is not an assumption – if there is any threshold we are way past it.

                  Saying that it is harmless and that you can eat it for breakfast is both the fallacy of the radioactive banana and not a way to convince the public on advanced nuclear designs.

                  Did I not link this – http://watertechbyrie.com/2015/06/06/safe-cheap-and-abundant-energy-back-to-the-nuclear-energy-future/

                  And we certainly are doing a great deal about particulates and pollutants from diesel engines and coal fired power plants.


                  1. Your claim about a threshold is something you just made up. I’ve yet to see anybody seriously or credibly claiming that we have transgressed some sort of planetary boundary for radiological pollution. In fact in comparison to chemical pollution it’s a non-issue.

                  2. “In contrast to the previous section’s subject, some materials provided to the committee suggest that the LNT model exaggerates the health effects of low levels of ionizing radiation. They say that the risks are lower than predicted by the LNT, that they are nonexistent, or that low doses of radiation may even be beneficial. The committee also does not accept this hypothesis. Instead, the committee concludes that the preponderance of information indicates that there will be some risk, even at low doses.” http://www.nap.edu/read/11340/chapter/2#9

                    Now who should I believe? You or the US National Academies of Science? On the basis of risk aversion… we are way past the no threshold threshold.

                  3. This is a sticky area where you will find equally strong statements from equally credible organisations saying quite the opposite.

                    It is instructive to remember that even accepting LNT holus-bolus, the impact in question is tiny compared to a truck-load of other things.

                    When we end up in arguments about statistical significance and forget to consider ACTUAL significance, stupid decisions will ensue.

                  4. So a few crackpots make a compelling alternative argument? That’s pretty funny. The threshold argument is misunderstood – and utterly irrelevant. The radiological burden is such that any addition of synthetic radionuclides adds to morbidity. The point as well is not average doses but high doses over sometimes large areas. The point as well is not to let it happen in the first place – and modify the fuel cycle to solve the waste problem.

                    No – nuclear accidents are not safe and trying to convince people otherwise is pushing shit uphill. And that will stick.

              2. @quokka,
                Many scientists assume that roughly 25% of premature death comes from background radiation (usual after a long latency just as with smoking). But let’s be careful and take 5%.
                You state that nuclear energy caused an increase in background radiation of 0.08%*)

                With roughly 7billion people on the earth, this background radiation increase creates premature death for
                7 billion * 0.08% * 5% = 280,000 deaths.

                *) I miss Fukushima. Thought that Fukushima emitted comparable amounts though far less immediately harmful as ~97% was blown into the ocean (and all non-airborn flows into the ocean) dispersing it over the globe..

  7. Although I greatly respect the concepts behind the ecomodernist manifesto, I feel it does a poor job of engaging many traditional environmentalists. From my observations the way some of the concepts are explained are likely getting the backs up of people who are instinctively reacting against it, including George Monbiot.

    For example, disengaging from the environment is counter to the “getting back to Nature” ideology that many entertain. City living and isolating ourselves from nature is not how many environmentalists want to see the World, even if “giving nature a break” does make environmental sense. Also the conditional acceptance of fossil fuels as sometimes necessary to alleviate poverty needs far better explanation. It also leaves the document somewhat open to hijacking by fossil fuel interests. Then there is the lack of enthusiasm in consuming less, which again runs counter to the philosophy of many environmentalists.

    Without substantially changing the substance, I wonder if the ecomodernist manifesto could have won over people such as George Monbiot, simply by better explanation and a change of emphasis? The problems looks to be one of communication rather than any major points of difference.

  8. It’s weird that while celebrating the demise of the SA coal industry some are cock-a-hoop at the prospect of offshore oil
    Presumably any oil would be piped onshore at Ceduna or somewhere. I suspect there won’t be economic discoveries which is why we’ll soon need electric transport.

    Note also possible synergies between SA and WA that were recognised back in the 1970s by Rex Connor. Kintyre WA yellowcake will be shipped from Pt Adelaide and BZE suggest an HVDC cable across the Nullarbor. Now oil maybe.

    1. Usual SOP for offshore production is a tanker will pull up near the rig and pump oil onboard via a specialised floating platform.

      1. At 300 km to shore that’s probably right. I suspect BP won’t have any more success than Woodside 12 years ago
        Avowed low-carbonists getting excited over oil discoveries is like anti-monarchists angling for invites to Royal garden parties. I think the key to future liquid fuels (and a couple of small industries like farming and aviation) will be cheap hydrogen from nuclear.

  9. I thought if you keep taking marbles out of a jar without replacing them eventually you’d have lost all your marbles. Apparently this doesn’t apply to SA’s 40 year old Cooper Basin gas field
    By pumping gas to new customers in the northeast when a long standing customer (Adelaide) is to the southwest somehow everybody gets more. Some gas also comes from Victoria from similarly aged fields. According to Figure 2 of
    SA gets 44% of its electricity from gas which I believe enables 33% to come from wind. Note the 17% from coal for which the local variety terminates next year. The report hints that SA may be aiming for 50% wind power say 3 GW capacity X 25% c.f. out of 1.5 GW average demand. Not to worry it now seems near-depleted fields can supply gas indefinitely.

  10. I suppose it’s unlikely that George will respond to your post because if he routinely replied to things like this he’d never get any work done. But since parts of his article that provoked your ire drew upon some of my critiques of ecomodernism, I’m minded to respond to you. Only a brief, one-time response though – I’ve written several detailed replies to ecomodernist counter-critiques and ‘pushed back’ on the evidence of Shellenberger & Nordhaus et al, but had no response from them. Guess we’re all waiting for each other to respond. Well, if anyone wants to critique my analyses of ecomodernism I’m happy to debate with them here:

    http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?p=831 ‘Dark thoughts on ecomodernism’
    http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?p=854 ‘Ecomodernism: a response to my critics’
    http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?p=872 ‘The persistence of the peasantry: further notes on the inverse productivity relationship’
    http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?p=864 ‘On the iconography of my scythe’

    Most of the criticisms you aim at George seem to be based around the fact that he’s a bit rude about the ecomodernists and/or Mike Shellenberger. Since Mike makes a specialty of writing simplistic caricatures of people’s positions on Twitter and then scornfully dismissing them, your protestations leave me for one unmoved. Still, I agree that constructive debate is better than stone-throwing. For me, constructive debate will begin with the acknowledgement that being pro-peasant is not the same as being pro-poverty, and that rural development and building rural infrastructures are worthwhile strategies – indeed possibly more worthwhile than chasing the mirage of urbanization in places that have not urbanized precisely because they’ve been marginalized by the global economy. In this respect, the ecomodernists get the direction of causality between city/wealth and rural/poverty backwards.

    As I’ve argued in the references linked above, and as George also suggested, ecomodernism is basically an enclosure movement. Like previous enclosure movements, its arguments are couched in terms of raising up the rural poor and improving efficiency. And like most of its predecessors, I doubt it’ll be very successful at either.

      1. Well, I have followed two links. At a smidge under 5,000 and 5,500 words respectively, I fear you may be writing to yourself rather than an audience. Looks like some interesting discussion therein and if you seriously expect people to read it please, re-cut them with a whole lot more discipline in the writing. George is not the only one who is busy.

        1. Ha ha, only came across your reply to me just now a couple of years later… Well, my pieces are pretty much the same length as the Ecomodernist Manifesto, which you clearly took the trouble to read. It’s up to you what you want to read, but it’s a bit rich to call for challenging dialogue and then say you’re too busy to read it when it’s offered…and somehow make it my fault! Some more discipline wouldn’t go amiss from you too, Mr Heard!

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