Saturday, April 28, 2012

Keith Kloor, environmental modernist

This is an interesting article. The main point is similar to my "green Keynesianism" piece of a few months ago, except it lacks the geopolitical component.

I freely admit to having started out in the environmental movement as what Kloor would regard as a "green traditionalist," but I've morphed towards his "green modernism."

I think there's actually a natural progression in human cognition between the two, a kind of Maslovian hierarchy: It's only natural, upon discovering how destructive industrialization and capitalism can be, to reject them, at least for a period. That's of course what my students generally do. But if one retains an open mind and starts thinking about other issues, particularly (in my case) democracy and geopolitics, one might come back around again to a more comprehensive perspective.

I don't think anyone can be called a "finished" or complete environmental thinker until one has integrated some plausible theory of how to maintain democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, in the transition to the world beyond our current climate and energy crisis. That would seem to require, at least in the present situation, the continuing economic and military predominance of the west. Which requires economic growth and technological development.

How did I think my way to being a green modernist? Being British, I've read my Orwell very well. That doesn't hurt. Twentieth century history in general is also necessary, especially economic history. And it was helpful to have spent a fairly long spell in uniform.

But, at the same juncture, if you haven't properly studied ecological economics, and this author hasn't, how can you safely reject all its components?

PS: Kloor has his own blog at

Interesting reading, but a little too journalistic for my taste. For instance, he riffs on Jim Lovelock's recent pronouncement of the delay or postponement of warming, but doesn't dig into the details at all. You'd have to read modeling studies for that, and if you did, you'd realize where Lovelock was coming from, and what he was really trying to say.

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