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There's no going back to nature

We are not in -- nor about to be in -- a world with a small human population living simply and leaving nature alone. The future belongs to proactive environmentalists who use information and technology to make ecosystems

Some futurists say we are entering the "environmental century," and this will probably turn out to be right for a lot of reasons -- some good and some bad. The good news is, more and more people are beginning to understand that a healthy environment is essential to everything we do. The bad news is, we're likely to have an ample enough supply of nasty problems to keep the environment on everybody's mind for a long time to come.

This doesn't mean the future is going to be terrible -- far from it. It only means that there will be tough challenges, things for people and societies to work on and learn about. And it doesn't mean, either, that environmentalism -- at least all the varieties of it that we hear about today -- will be a potent force in this global civilization. Don't look for a great surge toward Green parties, or a worldwide burst of enthusiasm for deep ecology or bioregionalism. That back-to-nature sort of environmentalism seems to be enjoying a certain vogue at the moment, but actually the future will likely belong to what I call proactive environmentalists -- people who are able to use information and technology, who don't mind living in this world as it is, and who are unafraid to engage in the hands-on management of ecosystems.

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It's really amazing -- especially in a society said to have reached the end of ideology almost 40 years ago -- that the various strains of back-to-nature environmentalism such as deep ecology, bioregionalism, ecofeminism, and neo-Luddism have congealed so quickly into what any student of politics would recognize immediately as another ideology. It certainly has all the earmarks of one -- a philosophy, a political movement, and enough jargon to gag a Washington speechwriter. Its dogma includes opposition to "anthropocentric" -- i.e., human-centered -- thought or action, a hands-off approach to nature, a deep suspicion of all things technological, a passion for the primitive, and a desire to get back to some kind of decentralized world in which people live and work within their bioregions, preferably with native plants and animals.

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