New genetic and nano technologies pose environmental risks, but also can be used to build a more sustainable development path, and to remediate the damage we have already done. Transhumanists reject the deep ecological claim that humanity is a cancer on the planet, and argue instead that humanity needs to become more intelligent in its use of technology and management of the ecosystem.
In To Govern Evolution Walter Truett Anderson argued “Today the driving force in evolution is human intelligence…Even our own genetic future is in our hands, guided not by Darwinian abstractions but by science and medical technology and public policy…This is the project of the coming era: to create a social and political order—a global one—commensurate to human power in nature. The project requires a shift from evolutionary meddling to evolutionary governance.”
Human enhancement technologies reinforce this “technogaian” approach. Not only will more people be able to understand the choices we face as emerging technologies boost our collective and individual intelligence, but with life extension we will all feel more responsibility for the consequences of our ecological behavior.
Technogaianism applied to ecosystem management is found in the “reconciliation ecology” movement and writings such as Michael Rosenzweig’s Win-Win Ecology. Rosenzweig boils down his approach to several simple steps. “First, drink deeply from the natural history of the species you want to help. Study their reproductive cycles, their diets, and their behavior. Abstract the essence of their needs from what you observe. Then apply it without worrying whether your redesign of the human landscape will resemble a wilderness. It won’t, so feel free to be outrageously creative.”
One of the most outrageously creative of technogaian thinkers is the science fiction author and cyberpunk ideologist Bruce Sterling. In January of 2000 Sterling returned to his polemicist roots and penned a 4300-word manifesto for a new “Viridian” green political movement. Sterling accepts the urgency of climate change and species depletion. But he believes Green politics to be too Luddite and dour. He calls for a sexy, high-tech, design movement, to make attractive, practical ecological tools. Sterling argues for controls on transnational capital, redirecting militaries to peacekeeping, developing sustainable industries, increasing leisure time, guaranteeing a social wage, expanding global public health and promoting gender equity. The Viridian movement has attracted hundreds of people to participate in its list, and to receive weekly missives from Sterling about exciting ecologically appropriate technologies.
Many researchers in biotech also have ecological motivations. The AgBioWorld Foundation at the Tuskegee Institute has mobilized a global network of biotech scientists to defend biotech crops on humanitarian and ecological grounds. For instance, crops can be genetically engineered which require less agricultural land, pesticides and fertilizer, and provide more essential nutrients.
Nanoecologists have also begun to emerge to propose a wide range of ecological applications of nanotechnology, such as Eric Drexler and Chris Peterson in Unbounding the Future and Doug Mulhall in Our Molecular Future. In its 2003 review of nanotech and AI titled “Future technologies, Today’s Choices” Greenpeace says there is no need for bans on nanotech, or even new regulatory structures, and that “new technologies...are also an integral part of our solutions to environmental problems, including renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind and wave power, and waste treatment technologies such as mechanical-biological treatment.”
While transhumanists and deep ecologists profoundly disagree about population control (transhumanists want more people, and deep ecologists want less) the most certain path to lower fertility is a high-tech society with individual rights and a strong democratic state. Industrializing liberal democracies reduce childhood mortality, and provide women with education, employment opportunities and publicly financed family planning, giving them the means and incentives to control their fertility. Affluent liberal democracies ensure the well-being of the elderly through social security systems so they don’t need large numbers of children as their pension plan. The ecoLuddite population control plan is starvation and disease.
The TechnoGaian Case for Emerging Technologies and Human Enhancement
The Radical Environmentalist Argument Against Our Right to Human Enhancement Technologies