Ecomodernist metaphors: what they reveal and what they hide

  • Umberto Mario SconfienzaEmail author
Articles with Attitude


The article analyzes two metaphors for representing ecomodernism, i.e., the idea that humans should use technology to decouple the effects that human activities have on the environment from the environment. As metaphors are powerful representation tools, their study contributes to understand how and why a specific environmental ideology can be pushed on the frontline of political action. The two metaphors are (i) a rocket traveling through the atmosphere (Bostrom, Glob Policy 4(1):15–31, 2013; Karlsson, Anthropocene Rev 3(1):23–32, 2016) and (ii) a truck driver moving past an emerging multi-vehicles pile-up (Szerszynski, Environ Human 7(1):239–244, 2015). While, at a first look, they seem quite similar, their differences reveal their authors’ profound disagreement over the ecomodernist project. On the other hand, the similarities hide important aspects of the ecomodernist project which are not considered in either of the two metaphors. Both ecomodernist metaphors conceal ideological commitments, normative presuppositions, and assumptions about the physical and the social world.


Ecomodernism Metaphor Framing Environment 


Funding information

This study is financially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) through the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” (EXC 243).


  1. Alcott B (2005) Jevons’ paradox. Ecol Econ 54(1):9–21. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asafu-Adjaye et al (2015) An Ecomodernist manifesto. Available at: Accessed 16 April 2018
  3. Bettencourt LMA, Lobo J, Helbing D, Kuhnert C, West GB (2007) Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104(17):7301–7306. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bostrom N (2013) Existential risk prevention as global priority. Glob Policy 4(1):15–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Collard R-C, Dempsey J, Sundberg J (2015) The moderns’ amnesia in two registers. Environ Human 7(1):227–232. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Daly HE (1991) Steady-state economics. Island Press, Washington, D.CGoogle Scholar
  7. Foster JB (2017) The long ecological revolution. Mon Rev 69(6):1. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Harvey D (2004) The ‘new’ imperialism: accumulation by dispossession. Socialist Register 63–87Google Scholar
  9. Kallis G (2011) In defence of degrowth. Ecol Econ 70(5):873–880. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kallis G (2017) In defense of degrowth: opinions and manifestos. Vansintjan A (ed) Uneven Earth PressGoogle Scholar
  11. Karlsson R (2016) Three metaphors for sustainability in the Anthropocene. Anthropocene Rev 3(1):23–32. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lakoff G (1996) Moral politics: what conservatives know that liberals don’t. Univ. of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  13. Monbiot G (2015) Meet the ecomodernists: ignorant of history and paradoxically old fashioned. The Guardian, 24 Sept 2015. Accessed Mar 2019
  14. Szerszynski B (2015) Getting hitched and unhitched with the ecomodernists. Environ Human 7(1):239–244. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. West G (2017) Scale. Orion Publishing Group, LimitedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cluster of Excellence “Normative Orders”Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

Personalised recommendations