A Green Vision of Technology

How Ecomodernists Foresee Room for Nature

There is a new environmental agenda out there. One that is inimical to many traditional conservationists, but which is picking up kudos and converts. It calls itself environmental modernism — which for many is an oxymoron. Wasn’t the environmentalism of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Greenpeace’s warriors against industrial whaling and the nuclear industry, and efforts to preserve the world’s last wild lands, meant to be the antithesis of the modern industrial world?

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The Ethics of Ecological Modernization

Embracing Creative Destruction

The concluding panel at the Breakthrough Dialogue raised questions about the doomsday narratives embedded in current conversations of mankind’s ecological impacts, and pointed to an alternative set of ecologically modern ethics that might succeed the “small-is-beautiful,” anti-consumerist, and technologically skeptical values of traditional environmentalism.

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How Natural Gas Can Help the Climate

Beyond the Fracking Wars

Environmentalists are facing a conundrum. Reducing greenhouse gas levels is urgent, although the greenies are remiss to accept natural gas as a viable vehicle, releasing 45 percent fewer carbon emissions than coal. Despite the possibilities, its imperfections remain a sore point among ecologists. 

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On Geoengineering

Oliver Morton Reflects on the Breakthrough Dialogue, Geoengineering, and Climate Change

I recently had the great pleasure of attending this year's Breakthrough Dialogue at Cavallo Point, an event at which the Breakthrough Institute brought together kindred spirits of disparate views to hash out some of the many issues that that Institute takes an interest in. On the basis of this Economist special report I was invited to talk about nuclear power, but in the many fruitful interstices of the meeting found myself talking about geoengineering quite a lot, because this is the sort of crowd where that sort of discussion makes sense, and because I am working on a book on the subject.

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Wicked Problems

Might Our Biggest Challenges Be Just Too Tough To Solve?

There’s wicked, like the Wicked Witch. Wicked, as in evil.

There’s wicked, like “It’s WICKED hot!” Wicked, urban slang for ‘very’.

And then there are Wicked Problems; like the European financial crisis, or like the epidemic of obesity, or like climate change. Wicked, as in so huge, so complex, so tangled in conflicts over values and so profoundly the result of inherent human nature, that these problems might not be solvable at all, and the best we can hope to do is cope with them and minimize the harm they do.

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Wicked Questions

How do we create an urgent politics that is not apocalyptic?

Can we advocate greater effort to break cycles of poverty, alienation, and despair even as we acknowledge that our lives, including the lives of the very poor, have vastly improved with increased wealth, modern medicine, and better infrastructure? Can we acknowledge that the new environmental risks that our prosperity has created are serious and must be dealt with, while acknowledging that they are unlikely to result in the end of human civilization? In short, can we imagine a non-apocalyptic politics that is neither Cornucopian nor Panglossian?

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Two days of focused conversation in service of a mission larger than anyone in the room: new thought for a new politics for a new century.

Every year Breakthrough's extended tribe of fellows, families, and friends descend on Northern California to have a single, extended conversation about a big topic, from modernizing liberalism to overcoming wicked problems.

I’ve found the interactions at Breakthrough Dialogue tremendously stimulating. No matter how convinced of my opinions I’ve been when I arrived, the Dialogue has made me feel that I should think things through again.

– Kathleen Higgins

With so much on the line for our environmental future, it is disturbing how rare it is to actually hear any new ideas. Agree or disagree with whatever you hear at Breakthrough Dialogue, no matter: you're unlikely to hear it anywhere else! Best discussion in town.

Paul Robbins

Only at Breakthrough Dialogue are you guaranteed to get into fascinating conversations with any random person you tap on the shoulder!

- Josh Trutt