Oil Spills and the Unexpected in a Synthetic Age

When U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans in January to greatly expand offshore drilling to ninety percent of the U.S. coastline, the condemnation of the move was immediate, vocal, and bi-partisan. The governors of the majority of coastal states – including Republican governors in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and South Carolina – immediately objected to …

Gene Drives and the Hijacking of Origins

Over the last thirty years, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have struggled to gain the confidence of consumers.  In the European Union, many member states have maintained virtual moratoria on their use in agriculture. Even in the less precautionary U.S., where only the weakest of labeling laws have ever made it through Congress, surveys show that …

The Ethics of a Global Sunshade

Earlier this month, a major international conference on climate engineering* (also known as ‘geoengineering’) wrapped up in Berlin attracting headlines around the world. Next week, I’m travelling to a smaller academic meeting on the ethics and governance of climate engineering research. Next year, two outdoor tests of climate modification technologies are scheduled to begin. The …

When Humans Design Climate

Last week an article appeared in Forbes magazine bearing the title “As Humans Fumble Climate Challenge, Interest Grows in Geoengineering.” The article reports that during an appearance at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. David Keith, one of North America’s foremost advocates for research into geoengineering, observed that in recent months serious discussion of geoengineering “really is …