The environmental movement has never been short on noble goals. Preserving wild spaces, cleaning up the oceans, protecting watersheds, neutralizing acid rain, saving endangered species — all laudable. But today, one ecological problem outweighs all others: global warming. Restoring the Everglades, protecting the Headwaters redwoods, or saving the Illinois mud turtle won't matter if climate change plunges the planet into chaos. It's high time for greens to unite around the urgent need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Just one problem. Winning the war on global warming requires slaughtering some of environmentalism's sacred cows. We can afford to ignore neither the carbon-free electricity supplied by nuclear energy nor the transformational potential of genetic engineering. We need to take advantage of the energy efficiencies offered by urban density. We must accept that the world's fastest-growing economies won't forgo a higher standard of living in the name of climate science — and that, on the way up, countries like India and China might actually help devise the solutions the planet so desperately needs.
Some will reject this approach as dangerously single-minded: The environment is threatened on many fronts, and all of them need attention. So argues Alex Steffen. That may be true, but global warming threatens to overwhelm any progress made on other issues. The planet is already heating up, and the point of no return may be only decades away. So combating greenhouse gases must be our top priority, even if that means embracing the unthinkable. Here, then, are 10 tenets of the new environmental apostasy.“
We don't need a War on Carbon. We need a new prosperity that can be shared by all while still respecting a multitude of real ecological limits — not just atmospheric gas concentrations, but topsoil depth, water supplies, toxic chemical concentrations, and the health of ecosystems, including the diversity of life they depend upon.
We can build a future in which technology, design, smart incentives, and wise policies make it possible to deliver a high quality of life at lower ecological cost. But that brighter, greener future is attainable only if we embrace the problems we face in all their complexity. To do otherwise is tantamount to clear-cutting the very future we're trying to secure.
This techno-futurist, hipster-libertarian, self-consciously contrarian shtick was fresh and interesting … back in 1996, when Wired was founded. Since then, it has congealed into a set of knee-jerk mannerisms and affectations. It has lost its edge. At this point it just makes me yawn.
It's telling that the best thing in the issue is written by Alex Steffen, proprietor of Worldchanging. It's clear at this point that the cultural energy that once infused Wired, and the techno-go-go culture it represented, has now moved on. You want creativity, entrepreneurial energy, and innovative thinking? Look to the bright green movement, which is, judging by this issue, about 10 steps ahead of Wired on this stuff.