Ecomodernism in the New Year

Industrial Agriculture, GMO Labels, and the Formal Anthropocene

Responding to the Pope's climate encyclical in Nature, Breakthrough senior fellow Dan Sarewitz gives us all a New Years Resolution: "constructive engagement is the key to climate action," writes Sarewitz. Ditto all other political action. Here's to 2016, a year of debate, engagement, and ecomodernist progress!


Campbell's Foods kicked off the new year by breaking with most of their peers in the food industry to endorse mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods.

At his blog, 'Manifesto' coauthor Mark Lynas argues in favor of labeling genetically modified (GM) foods. It's a controversial position, especially from an adamant GM proponent like Lynas, but I think it's compelling:

This once again reinforces the psychology point I have made repeatedly about labeling: identifying the presence of GMOs in food products does not make people feel they are more risky, it makes people feel they are safer. Freedom of choice dissipates fear and exposes the anti-GMO conspiracy theorists for the deluded fools they are. GMOs should be ‘out and proud’, shouting about how they are reducing pesticides, making farming more sustainable and improving food security in developing countries.

Let's see more, not less, ecomodernist debate in 2016.


Lynas can also be found recently at the Alliance for Science blog, covering a new paper in Nature Climate Change which finds that high-yield industrial agriculture could lower total greenhouse emissions. It's a major tradeoff worth understanding and measuring well: industrial agriculture can require higher fossil energy consumption for tractors and fertilizers and the like, but higher yields and lower land intensity can achieve efficiencies that ultimately reduce total emissions.


In that vein, here's Breakthrough's director of conservation Linus Blomqvist explaining the environmental benefits of industrial farming at


A new paper published in Science summarizes the evidence for the Anthropocene: the concept that the Earth has moved to a new epoch wherein humans are a major global force on natural systems. Breakthrough senior fellow and 'Manifesto' coauthor Erle Ellis is a coauthor of the new paper, and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group, which has been charged with deciding whether and when the Anthropocene began. See what the New York Times, Big Think, and the BBC had to say about the paper.


MIT Tech Review's Richard Martin featured one of Breakthrough's newest senior fellows Steve Fuller in his recommended reads, highlighting Fuller's "upwinger/downwinger" framework that I wrote about last month.


MIT professor and Breakthrough senior fellow Richard Lester has a phenomenal essay in Issues in Science and Technology on a nuclear innovation pathway for the United States.


'Manifesto' coauthor and Breakthrough senior fellow Barry Brook turns out to be in the top 1% of researchers on ecology and environment. Congratulations Barry!


I've got a brief note about one of Barry's papers from last year describing why nuclear power can be so crucial to plans to rapidly decarbonize power systems. Head over to Ensia to read it.


Amy and Julie took New York over the holidays, and the rest of us are the beneficiaries of their left-meets-right-meets-ecomodernism trip:

A Conservative and a Liberal Make a Book Outline

Amy: Let’s write a book.

Julie: Nobody reads.

Amy: *cries*

Julie: *Sighs* Fine. Let’s make an outline. *Pulls out Waldorf stationery*

Amy: We can talk about clean energy, moms changing the world, hungry children *Cries*

Julie: Okay, fine. People read. *Writes on Waldorf stationery: Nobody will read this fucking book.*

Amy: *Cries*


We've got just about a month left before the application deadline for Breakthrough Generation. If you know any scholars with research that can improve an ecomodern understanding of the world, please pass along the opportunity!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons