Ecomodernists without permission

The Ecomodernist Society of Finland just made its first trip to visit the other Ecomodernists “out there” in the wider world. More precisely, Rauli (who is writing this from his perspective), Vice-chair of the board and Lauri, the foreign relations specialist of the board, flew to London to participate in a few Ecomodernist events there. The speakers at those events were some of the authors of the Ecomodernist Manifesto, like Michael Schellenberger, (the President of the Breakthrough Institute, BTI), Ted Nordhaus (chairman of the board of BTI), and Mark Lynas, a well-known environmental activist and author. A big thank you for both the crew at BTI for inviting us, and for Kirsty from Energy for Humanity for hosting me at her home.

What would they say?

It was all a little bit exciting. The thing is, we had had no prior contact, or at least not outside some twitter-traffic, with these guys. And they were the actual originators of “Ecomodernism” as a name and as a framework for this fresh way of environmental thinking and acting. And what had we done? We had founded the Ecomodernist Society of Finland on our own, out of the blue, only two months after the Manifesto was published. We had done it without asking for permission, one might dare to say.

So you would not be wrong to think that I felt some nervous, if anticipating, tingling in my stomach when we headed to the first event. What would they say?

Well, the thing is, they could not have done much better. With the first warm handshake with Michael, his first words to me were: “Guys. Thank you for founding the Ecomodernists in Finland. And thank you for not asking for permission.”

All the semi-prepared explanations vanished from my mind with a single breeze. All that was left was a feeling of warm relief and an answer: “Thank you for saying just that.”

And the relief was not just from personal excitement. With that single comment, many pieces fell into place in my mind. These are good, smart people. They want to take Ecomodernism in the same direction that I thought it should, and could, go. And they wanted to do it in a way that I felt very comfortable with. The same way I would have gone.

The thing is, we should not feel the need to ask for permission when we do something we believe (and what the evidence suggests) to be a good thing. Too many good and positive things are left undone while people wonder if they should ask for someone’s permission to do it. Too many good things get bogged down in hesitation, or worse yet, are suffocated with cynicism.

But while saying that, we should communicate more on what we are up to. That way we might get some much needed help, surprising synergies, or we could end up helping others with their similar goals and projects. This can only be achieved if we actively and openly communicate with each other. During our visit to London, the channels for that communication were opened.

Opening the communication channels between ecomodernists at the local pub Hat&Tun
Opening the communication channels between ecomodernists at the local pub Hat&Tun

Getting our nickname

During the events and meetings that we participated in during that day, our society managed to get a new nickname for itself. In addition to being the Ecomodernist Society of Finland, quite possibly one of the first – if not the first – association of its kind, we also became, with Michael’s and the others’ help, the “Ecomodernists without permission.” It was something that resonated nicely. It was a story that stuck.

I think there should be much more Ecomodernists without permission in the future, all around the world. They will have their differences of opinion in some matters. We will face many messy problems, and we will often come up with messy solutions for them. Some things will work somewhere, and some things will work somewhere else. These need to be figured out not by one-size-fits-all attitude, but on a case-by-case basis. It will be important not to get bogged down, wondering if one should ask permission for doing something. Time spent wondering is time lost making it happen. But it will be equally important to communicate with others, ask for and give help, and to be ready to learn more, develop, and if evidence and facts so suggests, change one’s mind.

Even if we need different solutions depending on the situation, a few things should be clear to all Ecomodernists. Those solutions need to be based on evidence. Not personal preference, political ideology or other belief. And when thinking about all the solutions or tools, what always needs to be kept in mind is the actual goal.

That goal is to have a better, more prosperous earth for all of nature, us humans included. To put it even more shortly, the goal is to have a better Anthropocene.

Personally, I hope that these are two things amongst many that all those Ecomodernists around the world – with and without permission – can have in common.

I believe this is the beginning of a great journey with many possibilities and occasions for joy, surprise and learning. It is one for me already, and I hope many more will join it.

Rauli Partanen
Co-founder and vice-chair of the board

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