In the Anthropocene, Can Wisdom Overcome Instinct?
by David Ropeik in Big Think
It is true and encouraging that, if applied with wisdom, a range of incredible technological tools can help us live in more sustainable ways; cleaner energy (nuclear as well as renewables), biotechnology to increase food production in ways that use less land and do far less environmental damage, all sorts of technologies that allow each unit of economic production to cause less and less environmental damage.
But the Ecomodernist case rests on the shaky belief that we can act ‘with wisdom’. This presumes that we can use our conscious brains to overcome the far more powerful subconscious animal instincts that compel consumption in the name of comfort and safety. It presumes that we can use conscious reason to prioritize the long-term greater global good over the deeply embedded instinct to care more about the now and the local and ourselves.
The Ecomodernist Manifesto offers a wise argument that technology can help us live more sustainably and in many ways improve human and environmental well being. But given the intrinsic limits on the ability of the human animal to ‘act with wisdom’, the best life on earth overall can probably hope for in the future is a less bad Anthropocene, rather than an Epoch that historians will look back on and call good, or great.