Listen to the introductory remarks from last week's Battle of Ideas satellite in Amsterdam
We are living longer, healthier and richer lifes than ever before. These trends have already spread to billions of people in poorer countries. But are the costs of all this progress beginning to outweigh the benefits? Greens worry that the Earth cannot sustain our desire for more, more, more. Do their worries halt progress?
Some believe that environmental concerns have gone too far, putting a brake on growth, especially in poor countries. Are the world’s poor only allowed to experience ‘sustainable’ development? Lately, a new brand of greens is emerging. These so-called ‘eco-modernists’ believe the planet can be ecologically vibrant even with many billions more people living a good life - if only we would use our scientific knowledge to steward the world’s resources. But can science also tell us what kind of balance is desirable between allowing humanity to flourish while preserving the natural world? Maybe in the end, most people simply do not care that much about nature. And what is a good life anyway?
Has the modern idea of progress outlived its usefulness? Do we need new ways of understanding progress, or is it environmentalism that needs an overhaul? And what role do greens play in this debate? Do they want to halt progress, or simply to redefine it? Or might their redefinition be another way of halting development? Is progress ultimately a myth?
editor, spiked; columnist, Big Issue; contributor, Spectator
researcher, writer and journalist; columnist, De Groene Amsterdammer; author, De geluksmachine (The Happiness Machine)
chairman, Breakthrough Institute
campaigns director, Greenpeace Netherlands
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