A laser-guided bomb.

An F-15E releases a laser-guided bomb.

(Photo: USAF)

Imagining the Ecomodernist Death Ray

We need green military technology to kill one another sustainably.

You probably have never read the 2015, "An Ecomodernist Manifesto." Good for you! That missed experience leaves you a little more brain space to recall who won the 1967 World Series, which brothers played sax and drums on "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" (Maceo and Melvin Parker), and who wrote the trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable (if you guessed Samuel Beckett, congratulations). Having a finite brain, I maintain only a sustainable body of knowledge.

So why even bring up a hoary old movement that seldom enters the news cycle? Who cares about a manifesto written at the end of President Barack Obama's last term?

Our political culture rolls the dice on climate change, with a strategy of doing absolutely nothing, and ecomodernism provides the rhetorical inspiration for inaction. We ought to trot out the manifesto on sweltering hot days just to pay homage to the authors of a document that uplifts us with the rallying cry that “future help is on the way.” If ecomodernists have become the de facto architects of environmental policy, shouldn't we spend a couple of minutes considering their virtues?

With an economy growing with clean, safe nuclear energy, carbon capture, GMOs, and desalination we need a fighting force keeping pace—with space lasers, magnifying glasses the size of football stadiums, solar drones, and clean nukes.

Ecomodernism is sort of the love child of Ayn Rand and John Muir, or the mutant offspring of Rachel Carson and Tony Robbins, or even, god forbid, the living flesh melded from Emily Dickinson and John D. Rockefeller. If you attempt to intertwine the most predatory icons of free market thinking with random champions of pristine woods, you come up with a utopia of unlimited luxury and unspoiled nature. This is the best "have your cake and eat it too" philosophy ever. The ecomodernists even have a word to describe this unlikely splicing of mass consumption and ecologism—"decoupling."

Decoupling (take a deep breath) means that economic growth and the fate of the natural world can—by virtue of future technical achievements—be entirely separated. The rabid faith in free markets, future technology, and human expansion drives the economic fundamentalism of ecomodernists. You can have a hypertrophied economy the size of fucking Betelgeuse juxtaposed with flourishing redwood forests and twittering finches (carefully cultivated by human designs)—or so the ecomodernists tell us. It's like thinking that you can eat 20,000 daily calories of bacon, butter, and ice cream (while sitting on the couch all day flicking through YouTube shorts) and be as shredded as Bruce Lee—you merely have to decouple your diet and lifestyle from your health.

This wonderful world bursts forth from a foundation of three great shibboleths—clean, safe nuclear energy, desalination, and carbon capture. Oh, and GMO driven industrial farming—four shibboleths. In ecomodernist fantasies we can just keep doing what we are doing—burning coal, fracking, drilling, etc. and be confident that a befouled world can be saved by future innovations. Count me in! Who doesn't want a world crammed with cheap stuff—a mandate for greed decoupled from consequences?

The one tiny issue that the ecomodernists have yet to consider is decoupled military spending and warfare. If the economy can be decoupled from the environment, then so too, we need to imagine a future utopia in which we can blow up cities and eviscerate enemy civilians while preserving the sanctity of nature. I spent a full 12 minutes on The Breakthrough Institute website and did not see a single blog comment on green military hardware. I should mention that The Breakthrough Institute is the flagship of ecomodernism—the place to read a hundred or more bits about decoupling. It might be that there are musings about environmentally responsible weapons of mass destruction at The Breakthrough, and I just failed to find them. You would think that ecomodernists have thought about such things—obviously, in an infinite growth economy there will be infinite military spending. Or, I should say, continued infinite military spending.

The ecomodernist weltanschauung appears to embrace the idea that any technological invention that can be imagined will inevitably come to fruition. If this is correct, why are ecomodernists unable to imagine the future of clean weaponry? Even a less than shining light—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)—imagined Jewish space lasers. A weapon that can vaporize people and property from a remote orbit in space has to be far more deferential to ecosystems than the usual fighter bomber delivered explosives. In the spirit of decoupling we need space lasers from all spiritual denominations—not just Jewish ones.

Every evil child knows about the pleasures of committing ant genocide with a magnifying glass. This solar driven means of mass death should be a natural idea for ecomodernist thinkers. Think of the James Webb telescope built, not to explore remote galaxies shortly after the big bang, but designed to redirect and concentrate deadly sunbeams to crush those enemy strongholds that advocate growth-impeding ideology. Modern warfare since Guernica has centered on bombing civilian populations to a pulp. In an ecomodernist world, we ought to obliterate unwanted people with the most sustainable technology that money can buy.

What about solar powered robotic drones armed with razor sharp titanium blades? How about clean nuclear bombs? It is rumored that the nuclear industry funds The Breakthrough Institute—that makes nuclear warfare into an ecomodernist prerogative.

In a world full of free markets, war, and genocide we cannot continue to destroy human life on industrial scales with old-fashioned fossil fuel driven armies. The U.S. military uses, annually, more fossil fuels than the country of Portugal. That is fine for now, but we will need an even bigger military in the future—a fighting force with the exponential potential to match capitalist expansion. With an economy growing with clean, safe nuclear energy, carbon capture, GMOs, and desalination we need a fighting force keeping pace—with space lasers, magnifying glasses the size of football stadiums, solar drones, and clean nukes.

Ecomodernists talk about building a "good Anthropocene"—an Anthropocene bursting to the gills with gadgets, fashion, entertainment, 70-hour work weeks, and fast cars. We can't have all the stuff we need to keep the emptiness of the Anthropocene at bay, unless we can force the Global South to hand over the extracted rare materials we need to make an ass kicking, rocking Anthropocene. We need The Breakthrough Institute to grow a pair and say the quiet part out loud.

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