dw2

3 March 2021

The Viridian Manifesto: 4+2 Questions

Filed under: climate change, Events, green — Tags: , , — David Wood @ 2:32 pm

“Viridian” is an unusual word. I had to look it up in Wikipedia to check its meaning.

A few clicks took me to the page “Viridian design movement”, which is worth quoting in its entirety:

The Viridian Design Movement was an aesthetic movement focused on concepts from bright green environmentalism. The name was chosen to refer to a shade of green that does not quite look natural, indicating that the movement was about innovative design and technology, in contrast with the “leaf green” of traditional environmentalism.

The movement tied together environmental design, techno-progressivism, and global citizenship. It was founded in 1998 by Bruce Sterling, a postcyberpunk science fiction author. Sterling always remained the central figure in the movement, with Alex Steffen perhaps the next best-known. Steffen, Jamais Cascio, and Jon Lebkowsky, along with some other frequent contributors to Sterling’s Viridian notes, formed the Worldchanging blog. Sterling wrote the introduction to Worldchanging’s book (Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century), which (according to Ross Robertson) is considered the definitive volume on bright green thinking.

Sterling formally closed the Viridian movement in 2008, saying there was no need to continue its work now that bright green environmentalism had emerged.

One more click reaches the original Viridian Manifesto, bearing the date 3rd January 2000, authored by Bruce Sterling. It’s a fascinating document. Here are some excerpts:

The central issue as the new millennium dawns is technocultural. There are of course other, more traditional, better-developed issues for humankind. Cranky fundamentalism festers here and there; the left is out of ideas while the right is delusional; income disparities have become absurdly huge; these things are obvious to all. However, the human race has repeatedly proven that we can prosper cheerfully with ludicrous, corrupt and demeaning forms of religion, politics and commerce. By stark contrast, no civilization can survive the physical destruction of its resource base. It is very clear that the material infrastructure of the twentieth century is not sustainable. This is the issue at hand.

We have a worldwide environmental problem…

The stark fact that our atmosphere is visibly declining is of no apparent economic interest except to insurance firms, who will simply make up their lack by gouging ratepayers and exporting externalized costs onto the general population.

With business hopeless and government stymied, we are basically left with cultural activism. The tools at hand are art, design, engineering, and basic science: human artifice, cultural and technical innovation…

The task at hand is therefore basically an act of social engineering. Society must become Green, and it must be a variety of Green that society will eagerly consume. What is required is not a natural Green, or a spiritual Green, or a primitivist Green, or a blood-and-soil romantic Green.

These flavours of Green have been tried, and have proven to have insufficient appeal. We can regret this failure if we like. If the semi-forgotten Energy Crisis of the 1970s had provoked a wiser and more energetic response, we would not now be facing a weather crisis. But the past’s well-meaning attempts were insufficient, and are now part of the legacy of a dying century.

The world needs a new, unnatural, seductive, mediated, glamorous Green. A Viridian Green, if you will…

I said that was the original viridian manifesto. The reason I started looking into the history was that I’ve been asked to help with the organisation of a “Viridian Conference” taking place on the 16th and 17th of this month, March 2021. And that conference is based around the provocations in a new Viridian Manifesto, authored this time by the French Transhumanist Association (l’AFT, also known as “Technoprog”).

This new manifesto exists both in French and in English. Correspondingly, of the two days of the Viridian Conference, the presentations and discussions will be in French on the 16th of March, and in English on the 17th of March. Attendees are welcome to sign up for either day – or both. Follow the registration links online.

The new manifesto sets out its scope in its opening paragraphs:

Technoprogressive transhumanists consider that it is essential to change our behaviour collectively and individually in order to stop global warming, the loss of biodiversity, and the consumption of non-renewable resources…

A “viridian” option, which is to say, one that is ecological, technological, and non-destructive to humanity, presupposes radical transitions…

The change necessary, such that any change is for the better, requires broad technological progress and profound societal shifts…

It goes on to list recommendations grouped under the following headings:

  • Collective research
  • Renewable energy
  • Reuse and remediation
  • Collective reflections and decisions

The conference on the 16th and 17th of March will contain presentations and interactive workshops designed to “deepen the Viridian declaration”, as well as to “develop transhumanist thinking on environmental issues”.

I’m roughly halfway through drafting my own proposed slides for the event, which currently have the title “Superdemocracy as the key enabler of a viridian future”.

As part of my research, I started doing some online searches. These searches have opened my eyes to what was a bigger history to the particular “veridian” idea than I had expected.

** To move forward, I propose that people interested in the conference consider four primary questions. **

First, which parts of the (new) viridian manifesto do you most like?

(If you had to summarise its most important and unique features in a couple of sentences, what would they be?)

Second, which parts (if any) of the manifesto do you disagree with?

(Are any of its recommendations misplaced or even dangerous?)

Third, which important topics are missing from the manifesto, that should be included?

(My own answer to this question involves the words “economics” and “politics”.)

Fourth, what are priorities for next steps to make progress with the recommendations in the manifesto?

(The answers to this mainly depend on how you answered the previous questions.)

And to help stimulate thinking, here are two more questions, that may well feature at the conference:

What should be learned from the experience of the original Viridian Manifesto?

(Was the sense of urgency in the 2000 manifesto misplaced? Was it wrong in its assessment of the capabilities of business and politics? And what are the key developments within “Bright Green Environmentalism” subsequent to 2008?)

What practical examples (that is, not just theories) back up ideas pro or con parts of the manifesto?

(Your feedback is welcome here!)

1 Comment »

  1. I will read it later and offer my opinions then but I think any reasonable transhumanifesto needs a commitment to achieving at least 5% of GDP on R&D and a massive rise in public spending

    Comment by Joshua — 3 March 2021 @ 8:43 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: