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Is ecological civilization possible in the modern world?

By Evaggelos Vallianatos - posted Monday, 24 November 2014

I visited China in late October 2014. I was full of hope that China would do the right thing by supporting its ancient rural culture.

I know the temptations of this age are often irresistible. The hubris of the missionaries of modernity has no limits. They shamelessly advertise the so-called superiority of the modern age.

Apologists cite the modern discoveries of science, as if science did not exist in previous ages. Their praises of modernity are selective, however. They remain silent that the modern age hatched nuclear bombs: holocaust weapons, annihilating all life. And while they admit that burning fossil fuels is warming the Earth, they take only modest steps in reigning in the monster of pollution.


In early November 2014, the president of China, Xi Jinping, and the president of the US, Barack Obama, promised to reduce their countries' global warming gases.

Admirable as these first steps are, they are not enough. China and the US, the world's largest economies and the world's largest polluters, should embrace solar power and non-polluting technologies.

The word "ecology" must enter the vocabulary of policy makers. Ecology must signify the absence of pollution. Start this transition by rethinking industrialized agriculture.

I am speaking here as a Greek. I grew up in Greece but, even more important than my birth, is my education. I am steeped in the literature, science, and philosophy of ancient Greece.

The other reality is that I have lived in America for most of my life. My university studies included science and history. In fact, I did postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. I then worked for twenty-seven years on Capitol Hill and the US Environmental Protection Agency – America's political and environmental government.

That experience shattered my illusions on the benefits of modernity. It taught me the limitations of government, science, and industrialization. In fact, I was thunder-struck how medieval and feudal institutions of power are still alive and well. Companies wearing the clothes of economics and science are the new monarchs of governments and societies.


I lived the drama of the so-called industrialized countries. Despite countless scientific studies showing the dangers of polluted water, polluted air, and contaminated land for growing food, states, companies, and industrialized farmers continue to exploit and pollute the land, the air, and water of the planet. It's as if the Earth is a dumping ground.

And what about the thousands of scientists and physicians of the world? Why do they put up with this decades-long vandalism of the natural world, including environmental disease striking humans? Physicians treat millions of humans succumbing to environmental disease and death. Why don't they say enough with this pollution and slaughter?

Cancer is killing one in two men and one in three women. Cancer and neurological diseases are striking children at alarming rates.

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About the Author

Evaggelos Vallianatos is the author of several books, including Poison Spring (Bloomsbury Press, 2014).

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