Doomsday-Sayers

Ecomodern Dispatches

“Historically, our fascination with the End has flourished at moments of political insecurity and rapid technological change,” writes Evan Osnos in a recent feature on “elite survivalism” for The New Yorker. We are, it is safe to say, certainly in the midst of all of the above. Not only has the US been downgraded from a full to a “flawed” democracy, but the Doomsday Clock has struck once again, moving us 30 seconds closer to midnight as a result of “humanity’s most pressing threats: nuclear weapons and climate change.”

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How Much Does Material Consumption Matter for the Environment?

Can we reduce environmental impact even as countries grow wealthier? Is consumption inherently tied to impact? These are core environmental questions facing us today, hinging on the notion of “dematerialization,” or the reduction of the amount of raw materials needed to make useful products. If we can dematerialize the economy, the argument goes, we might also be able to mitigate our impact on the environment.

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Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

Ecomodern Dispatches

Whatever the upheavals of 2017, environmentalism doesn’t look to be engaging its many existential crises any time soon.

As Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Olivier De Schutter, and Ricardo Salvador insist in Civil Eats, the collective issues of “the good food movement” have simply become all the more high-stakes, and the need for coalition-building among progressives all the greater. “It is not so much confrontational as pragmatic to say that it really is us against the plutocracy and its apologists,” they conclude.

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Energy Innovation, Back in the Game

By Emma Brush and Alex Trembath

Energy innovation is the new old game in town, and some of our favorite players are back in the ring.

Last Monday, for instance, one year after the formation of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, Bill Gates and co. announced the launch of the group’s formal initiative Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), a fund that will invest $1 billion in commercializing advanced clean energy technologies starting next year.

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Science Versus Politics

Ecomodern Dispatches

If the core feature of the Anthropocene “is a tangle of what we consider natural and what we don’t, nature not ended but morphed,” as Robert Sullivan comments in a recent New York Times review—if the divide between nature and culture, in other words, may be discarded, once and for all—then the same should be said of the study of these two objects, now more than ever.

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The Future of Food

Towards a Sustainable Food System for a Planet with 9 Billion People

Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have been converting forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems to farmland. While climate change, air and water pollution, and a range of other environmental challenges frequently get the headlines, food production without question represents the single largest human impact upon the environment. Land for crops takes up 12% of Earth’s ice-free land. Add pasture and that percentage climbs to 36%. The long-term conversion of land for agriculture has brought enormous losses to ecosystems and wildlife populations already. The climate impacts are also considerable—15% of global greenhouse emissions come from the agricultural sector. With global food demand expected to grow as much as 70% by 2050, those impacts threaten to grow substantially.

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The Clean Energy Train

Ecomodern Dispatches

If a majority of Americans think the country is “on the wrong track,” as The Economist reports, and if the country is veering off its democratic rails, as an upcoming study covered by The New York Times suggests, what room for hope and optimism remains in this brave new world?

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What Is To Be Done?

Trump and Ecomodernism

This is the space where I am supposed to write about what a Trump Presidency might portend for climate, energy and the environment.  At present, I don’t believe I can in good faith do so.

Our view at Breakthrough remains that macro-economic conditions, technological change, and public investment in innovation and infrastructure are the primary determinants of global emissions. At least insofar as climate change is concerned, a Trump Presidency may not be much worse than a Clinton Presidency would have been, for the simple reason that explicit climate policy has had little impact upon the trajectory of emissions pretty much anywhere in the world.

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Trump and the Environment: A Round-Up

Ecomodern Dispatches

By Alex Trembath and Emma Brush

Well, that was surprising.

Last week, those of us working in the energy and environment space joined the rest of the world in adjusting to the unexpected election of Donald Trump. Environmental forecasting is always hard, and perhaps only more so in pursuit of predicting what a Trump Administration’s environmental policies will look like.

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