This is a slightly edited post from last Friday. I mostly just hated the old title. Thanks for reading. – Amy
My family has been strange about this blog. I’m not sure the more conservative side has even looked at it (they will not approve since we’re connected to the coal industry) and the liberal side seems agitated. My mother-in-law, who is a very anti-gmo, traditional environmentalist is supportive but stated firmly that I would NOT be changing her mind. She also mentioned something about “those people” but I’m not sure who she meant exactly. My cousins think that my pro-gmo position means I feed my kids Twinkies and Pop Tarts. Others were encouraging , except for being put off by the “Manifesto” thing. Karl Marx may have ruined that word forever.
My sister-in-law had a very strong, but honest, negative reaction to what I’m doing and warned me that I was naive, that I wasn’t saying anything new, and that I was possibly being used. She rattled off some documentaries that I should watch and suggested I may not be qualified to write about environmental issues. [Perhaps not but I’m passionately interested and WordPress is free.]
From the comments everyone has made, I realize they don’t understand what EcoModernism actually is and isn’t. [I’ve done a terrible job explaining, although some family members admitted that they haven’t actually looked at the blog so The Elevator Speech might help them understand.] My family thinks I’ve stumbled into something radical, possibly sinister, and worst of all, potentially right-wing. My sister-in-law’s suggestion that I watch The Corporation made me realize that they may think I’m being used by nuclear energy corporate interests or the irrationally dreaded Monsanto to promote some weird techno-utopia.
I want to reassure my family that EcoModernism is far from radical. There is nothing radical about a doctrine that promotes a clean energy technology that could dramatically lower CO2 with the least amount of land use. Yes, there are a lot of fears and myths to unpack around nuclear energy, especially in the shadow of Fukushima. I’ve gotten a fair amount of grief over the years for my risk aversion so my family has to know I would never get behind a scenario that I thought would endanger my kids. [Full disclosure: I’m a bad environmentalist because I’d probably let the planet explode before I’d sacrifice my kids.] I think we have to measure the risks of plodding along with our current system of burning fossil fuels which kills thousands (or more) a year verses the true risks presented by moving to zero-carbon nuclear energy. We also have to look realistically at renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Are they truly clean energy if they involve toxic manufacturing or if they threaten biodiversity by requiring huge chunks of land? They may be fantastic technologies but can they provide enough energy for 11 billion people?
I want to explore all of this in the months ahead but there is nothing radical about nuclear energy (438 reactors are used for electricity around the world) or with looking at the whole picture when it comes to our energy sources. What clean energy source positively impacts the most people with the least amount environmental damage? We can’t keep dismissing nuclear because of fears that may be unfounded. We at least owe it to ourselves to understand the balance of risk. As far as corporate interests, please ask yourself, who benefits from scaring people away from nuclear energy?
The EcoModernist position on GMOs is also far from radical. What is radical is opposing a safe technology that can be used for humanitarian purposes as in the case of Golden Rice or bananas in Uganda. There is nothing sinister about saving a quarter of a million children who go blind or die from vitamin A deficiency every year. It is also not radical to modify rice to survive flood or possibly drought. In many parts of the world, one major rain event could mean the difference between eating and not eating. Using GMOs to increase crop yield is not radical. My sister-in-law pointed out the issue of populations who are forced to clear cut the rain forest to farm and then are forced to clear cut more when the soil is degraded. She very precisely made my point for me. Using technology to help those populations grow more food on less land is exactly the EcoModernist approach.
And no, this does not mean I’ve been brainwashed by Monsanto. All GMOs are not made by Monsanto and Monsanto is not just a GMO company. [The Monsanto issue is way too much to sort out in this already long post so I’ll save that for another day. Or just read this.] Supporting a particular technology does not make me a radical or a corporate stooge. It also doesn’t make me anti-vegetable or pro-Pop Tart. Again, ask yourself, who exactly benefits from making people scared of GMOs? Maybe we can at least agree that there are corporate interests involved on both sides of the debate.
My family does not need to worry that I’ve gone off the ideological deep end. As a Humanist, I still share their liberal values. EcoModernism is not right-wing or left-wing but it has the audacity to suggest that environmentalism could be a joint venture between the two. I guess that part is the most radical idea of all.
[I worked on this post yesterday and then read Mark Lynas’ remarks this morning that he made at a conference in the UK. He is much more eloquent and explains EcoModernism without bringing sisters into the discussion.]