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Technogaianism (a portmanteau word combining "techno-" for technology and "gaian" for Gaia philosophy) is a bright green environmentalist stance of active support for the research, development and use of emerging and future technologies to help restore Earth's environment. Technogaians argue that developing safe, clean, alternative technology should be an important goal of environmentalists.[1]

Theory Edit

This point of view is different from the default position of radical environmentalists and a common opinion that all technology necessarily degrades the environment, and that environmental restoration can therefore occur only with reduced reliance on technology. Technogaians argue that technology gets cleaner and more efficient with time. They would also point to such things as hydrogen fuel cells to demonstrate that developments do not have to come at the environment's expense. More directly, they argue that such things as nanotechnology and biotechnology can directly reverse environmental degradation. Molecular nanotechnology, for example, could convert garbage in landfills into useful materials and products, while biotechnology could lead to novel microbes that devour hazardous waste.[1]

While many environmentalists still contend that most technology is detrimental to the environment, technogaians point out that it has been in humanity's best interests to exploit the environment mercilessly until fairly recently.[citation needed] This sort of behaviour follows accurately to current understandings of evolutionary systems, in that when new factors (such as foreign species or mutant subspecies) are introduced into an ecosystem, they tend to maximise their own resource consumption until either, a) they reach an equilibrium beyond which they cannot continue unmitigated growth, or b) they become extinct. In these models, it is completely impossible for such a factor to totally destroy its host environment, though they may precipitate major ecological transformation before their ultimate eradication. Technogaians believe humanity has currently reached just such a threshold, and that the only way for human civilization to continue advancing is to accept the tenets of technogaianism and limit future exploitive exhaustion of natural resources and minimize further unsustainable development or face the widespread, ongoing mass extinction of species.[2] Furthermore, technogaians argue that only science and technology can help humanity be aware of, and possibly develop counter-measures for, risks to civilization, humans and planet Earth such as a possible impact event.[1]

One controversial example of technogaian practice is an artificial closed ecological system used to test if and how people could live and work in a closed biosphere, while carrying out scientific experiments. It is in some cases used to explore the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization, and also allows the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth's.[3] The most advanced technogaian proposal is the "terraforming" of a planet, moon, or other body by deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, or ecology to be similar to those of Earth in order to make it habitable by humans.[4]

Sociologist James Hughes mentions Walter Truett Anderson, author of To Govern Evolution: Further Adventures of the Political Animal, as an example of a technogaian political philosopher;[5] argues that technogaianism applied to environmental management is found in the reconciliation ecology writings such as Michael Rosenzweig's Win-Win Ecology: How The Earth's Species Can Survive In The Midst of Human Enterprise;[2] and considers Bruce Sterling's Viridian design movement to be an exemplary technogaian initiative.[6][1]


Ecosocialist critics of technogaianism argue that the idea that technological progress will solve ecological problems is popular because it deludes people into hoping that it will prevent them from having to seriously question and change their individual and collective way of life. The development of technology, or of some technical fields at the expense of others, only sustains the capitalist system and feeds profit. Technological fixes to ecological problems are thus rejected by eco-socialists. Saral Sarkar has updated the thesis of 1970s 'limits to growth' to exemplify the limits of new capitalist technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, which require large amounts of energy to split molecules to obtain hydrogen.[7]

Joel Kovel notes that "events in nature are reciprocal and multi-determined" and can therefore not be predictably "fixed"; socially, technologies cannot solve social problems because they are not "mechanical". He posits an eco-socialist analysis, developed from Marx, that patterns of production and social organisation are more important then the forms of technology used within a given configuration of society. Under capitalism, he suggests that technology "has been the sine qua non of growth" - thus he believes that, even in a world with hypothetical "free energy", the effect would be to lower the cost of automobile production, leading to the massive overproduction of vehicles, "collapsing infrastructure", chronic resource depletion and the "paving over" of the "remainder of nature".[8]

In the modern world, Kovel considers the supposed efficiency of new post-industrial commodities is a "plain illusion", as miniaturized components involve many substances and are therefore non-recyclable (and, theoretically, only simple substances could be retrieved by burning out-of-date equipment, releasing more pollutants). He is quick to warn "environmental liberals" against over-selling the virtues of renewable energies that cannot meet the mass energy consumption of the era; although he would still support renewable energy projects, he believes it is more important to restructure societies to reduce energy use before relying on renewable energy technologies alone.[8]

Related environmental ethical schools and movementsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Hughes, James (2004). Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-4198-1. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rosenzweig, Michael (2005). Win-Win Ecology: How The Earth's Species Can Survive In The Midst of Human Enterprise. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0195156048. 
  3. Gitelson, I. I.; Lisovsky, G. M.; and MacElroy, R. D. (2003). Manmade Closed Ecological Systems. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-29998-5. 
  4. Zubrin, Robert, The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must, pp. 248-249, Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1996, ISBN 0-684-83550-9
  5. Anderson, Walter Truett (1987). To Govern Evolution: Further Adventures of the Political Animal. Harcourt. ISBN 0151904839. 
  6. Sterling, Bruce (2001). "Viridian: The Manifesto of January 3, 2000". Retrieved on 2007-01-28.
  7. Sarkar, S., Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism?: A Critical Analysis of Humanity's Fundamental Choices, 1999 (London:Zed Books)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kovel, J., The Enemy of Nature, 2002.

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