For decades, there has been, and continues to be, a split in the "ecology" movement. This divide has on one side the techno-utopians who feel that humanity's negative impacts on the Earth’s ecosphere can be corrected with new technology (wind/solar/nuclear/biofuel power, carbon capture, carbon-offsets, terraforming, etc.) that will allow us to continue our growth-based, capitalist society and lifestyles largely untouched. On the other side you have techno-dystopians who contend that humanity, due to our technological ingenuity, has grown more and more out of balance with the natural world since at least the Agricultural Revolution about 10,000 years ago (taking more than we give back to the Earth).
Techno-dystopians contend that our growth-based civilization has now led to the near-complete collapse of all of Earth's life-systems and that there are no technological solutions to this predicament. Technology can only delay the inevitable paying of the piper for the cost of our uncontrolled destruction of the natural world (resource depletion, habitat destruction, species extinction, pollution, and, ultimately, human-caused climate change). We cannot continue to grow endlessly in a closed ecosphere.
Both types of “ecologists” in this debate agree on the surface that we must do away with fossil fuels to survive, but the techno-utopians often focus on ways to extend the use of fossil fuels, which is a very lucrative, but highly dangerous orientation. They often push ridiculous schemes like biomass as a “green” energy source, when it is actually just another type of carbon fuel belching CO2 into the atmosphere. Another idea promoted widely by the techno-utopians is carbon swaps which is well proven to be smoke and mirrors meant to justify the burning of more fossil fuels. Debunking these and other dangerous ideas is relatively easy. However, the billionaires and their apologists who champion these profitable but dubious technological fixes are in power, not because of the efficacy of their ideas, but because of their capture of the political process due to the unlimited power of money in politics today.
The techno-utopians have not yet wrapped their heads around the fact that we will not be able to replace most of the energy that we currently obtain through the burning of fossil fuels with other sources. (Here is but one of many reasons why: Is There Enough Metal To Replace Oil?). Their final technological cure for the terminal illness of unlimited growth is nuclear power. However, we have not been able to figure out what we will do with the waste material of nuclear power generation. We already have millions of tons of nuclear waste material temporarily and dangerously stored around the world that even small amounts of, once released, will kill most life on Earth. This material will remain this dangerous for thousands of years and is already a ticking time bomb that we have planted for future generations. Continuing down this path is suicide and may already be that. The techno-utopians continue to grasp at straws as they spin wild fantasies about nuclear fusion saving us from our unsustainable ways. This decades-old fantasy remains a siren singing us to shipwreck. (See Nuclear Fusion: Don’t Believe the Hype!)
Despite the techno-utopians’ well-marketed schemes, we will, voluntarily or involuntarily, all soon live in societies that have a LOT less energy to use. Human societies and economic activity will shrink substantially this century. Either we will thoughtfully degrow our economy and prioritize the needs of people over the profits of multinational corporations, or we will stay on our current path ignoring the multitude of warnings of imminent catastrophe, hit the wall of the Earth's carrying capacity, and face complete civilizational collapse and mass extinction. Our best-case scenario is to navigate our way to local, small-scale, super-efficient economic spheres where the necessities of life are produced by the same people who consume them, and in which all materials are recycled and reused. We must find a way to live sustainably on the Earth immediately, or the Earth will evict us.
The Green Party is the only worldwide, political movement advocating for the voluntary degrowth of human society that might lead us out of the dangerous territory that we find ourselves in. The rapid, global expansion of this hopeful movement can reroute us to a sustainable future by overcoming the amassed power and momentum of international capital and the technological domination of the natural world. We are the evolutionary impulse that might guide humanity through to a sustainable future. The first step is to realize that there is no way to save our high-energy, high-tech, high-stress society and the next step is to join together on a path that leaves enough for future generations. The Green Party is that path.
By Nathan Kline, 01/11/2023