Wizards and Prophets, Ecomodernists and Environmentalists Feat: Charles C Man‪n‬

Just as the political spectrum is divided between left and right, thinking on environmental problem solving is similarly split into two rival camps exemplified by the archetypes of the Wizard and the Prophet. Award winning science writer Charles Mann explores these archetypes as personified by the father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug and the intellectual godfather of the environmental movement, William Vogt.

Crudely put wizards are foremost humanists who eschew limits believeing that our growing population and appetites can be accommodated by the wise application of decoupling technology. Prophets are foremost environmentalists who believe that carrying capacity is limited and that humans must remain within natural energy flows or risk ecosystem and civilizational collapse.

Understanding the origins of one's opponents ideological beliefs and values goes a long way to depersonalizing a sometimes ugly debate and perhaps finding a small patch of common ground.

Prophets who have contributed some impressive advances in natural resource stewardship such as water conservation must wrestle with an ugly history of malthusian ideas which at their worst have justified horrific campaigns of coercive population control. Despite the success of technofixes that fed billions and averted famines wizards must temper their scientific rationalism with a sociologic understanding of the dark sides of modernization such as enclosures of the commons.

This conversation challenged my cognitive biases more then I was expecting. I hope it does the same for you.