Breakthrough Journal - Requests for Submission

Issue 14: Ecomodern Justice?
Editors: Joyashree Roy and Christopher Foreman

The editors of the upcoming issue of the Breakthrough Journal invite submissions. Instructions appear below.

Breakthrough Journal has published some of the most influential long-form writing on the environment over the last decade. It is an in-house publication of the Breakthrough Institute and has helped to launch the ecomodernist movement — a school of thought that embraces technology and modernization as solutions to environmental challenges.

This issue of the Breakthrough Journal will be dedicated to exploring the intersection of social justice and ecomodernism, titled “Ecomodern Justice?”

We undertake this effort mindful of both the accomplishments and drawbacks of “environmental justice.” Embraced by activists, academics, and policymakers for decades, the framework of environmental justice has successfully placed the needs and aspirations of low-income and minority communities on the national policy agenda of the United States and many other countries, and has helped to prime the subsequent global plea for “climate justice.” However, it has often been too focused on local NIMBY disputes, coalition-serving rhetoric, and community outrage at the expense of offering practical policy measures capable of addressing deep social inequities within the context of environmental policy-making.

In the American context, the term “environmental justice” conjures an ongoing battle against the perceived hazards of industrial processes (for example, manufacturing, transport, storage, and disposal) and the systems that have imposed them, or allowed them to be imposed, on the politically and economically vulnerable, especially communities of color. As such, environmental justice is largely defensive, focused on inequitable exposure to risk. Overt harm is being done or threatened and must be stopped.

An ecomodern justice agenda, by contrast, might be focused more on equitable benefits rather than inequitable risks. Viewed from a global perspective, modernity has brought improvements in living standards, human rights, and democratic inclusion, and critics of modernization too often judge it against either romanticized conceptions of the past or utopian visions of the future. At the same time, modernity has also marked a continuation, if not expansion, of the violence, oppression, inequity, and subjugation that go as far back as we have been human. Ecomodern justice might emphasize the need for historically disadvantaged communities around the world to enjoy greater access to the infrastructure and technologies that have transformed human societies in the modern era, as well as emerging technologies, rather than disparities in exposure to the risks these technologies have imposed.

As a work-in-progress, “ecomodern justice" will evolve less through academic theorizing than in response to manifest opportunities and problems in specific spheres of policy, pursuing interventions that are simultaneously Earth-sparing, technologically-innovating, and poverty-alleviating or opportunity-enhancing.

We dare to hope that debate about which variety of ecomodern justice to prioritize will be robust and range well beyond the borders of any one country. Should it be restorative, transitional, or intergenerational? How should it address ethnic or cultural differences? Should it be fully egalitarian or aim for adequate floors below which no one can fall? Should strategy be universalistic, aiming to pull the disadvantaged along in coalitions of submerged distinction? Where might means-testing and benefit-eligibility determination come into play? And perhaps most profoundly, how deeply can democratic participation penetrate in an endeavor so strongly anchored in cutting-edge scientific and technical matters?

We hope that this issue of the Breakthrough Journal will help open an ongoing conversation about what ecomodern justice might mean and what it might look like in the world.

Instructions for submission:

Please send a pitch to Kenton de Kirby at

Pitches should specify the topic, core argument or perspective, and relevance to “ecomodern justice” of the proposed essay.

Pitches are due by May 3rd.

Once pitches are approved, draft essays will be due by June 4th. Essays will be between 2,500 to 7,000 words.