The End of Doom

Slate Says "Upwing" With The End of Doom by Ronald Bailey

Forget Right and Left: Are You an Upwinger or a Downwinger?


Ronald Bailey

Slate has published a joint review of my book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century and Leigh Phillips' book, Austerity Ecology and the Collapse Porn Addicts. Phillips is one of those rarest of creatures; a Leftist who still believes in progress and human ingenuity. The review is by Alex Trembath from the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental think-tank based in California.

From the review:

Two remarkable books that came out this year—Austerity Ecology & the Collapse Porn Addicts by Leigh Phillips and The End of Doom by Ronald Bailey—each makes the case that growth, technology, and accelerated modernization can solve the twin global problems of poverty and environmental devastation. The twist is that Phillips and Bailey argue from diametrically opposed left and right positions. …

Bailey, a scholar and columnist at the libertarian Reason magazine, makes a similar case. An update to his 1993 book Eco-Scam, End of Doom counters 50 years of apocalyptic environmentalist rhetoric on pesticides, GMOs, fossil fuels, and other hallmarks of modernity. Along the way, he regularly chides environmentalists and big-government bureaucrats for slowing the advance of promising technologies.

Bailey writes that not only are the risks of advanced technologies massively overhyped by nominal lefty spokespeople like Vandana Shiva and Bill McKibben, but said technologies in fact have the consistent and demonstrable effect of lifting people out of poverty and saving more room for nature. …

On GMOs, nuclear power, energy consumption, and industrial activity, Phillips the socialist and Bailey the libertarian agree. But for their positions on the role of government, they have written nearly the same book. How can this be?

The two authors do not fit neatly into political categories. Phillips excoriates his fellow leftists for abandoning their historical faith in progress, technology, and institutions. According to Austerity Ecology, the anti-technology "small-is-beautiful" ideology of the modern left feeds right into the anti-government right of the latter 20th century. This is an evolution of the progressive movement that Phillips harshly rejects. Bailey, likewise, contrasts sharply with past conservative ideas of Malthus, Thomas Jefferson, and other anti-modernists. …

Left and right have been around for centuries. But they've never actually been the most relevant ideological divide. Rather, humanity has always been tugged between the proponents and skeptics of progress. In his recent work, University of Warwick's Steve Fuller has borrowed a 40-year-old distinction between "up-wingers" and "down-wingers" to advocate a proactionary principle, a deliberate contrast to environmentalism's hallowed precautionary principle.

Go here to read the full review.

Did I mention that The End of Doom makes an excellent holiday gift? You can't have too many copies!