Oliver Morton




Decisions and arguments are often presented and encouraged to be seen as dichotomies. One or the other. Right or wrong, good or bad, THIS not THAT is the problem.  This makes discourse easier, it makes an argument easier when you can outright object against someone else’s. It’s quite productive at times….and it can also be destructive.  Destructive in the sense that it can limit the nuances of ambitious strategies to complex problems. This is particularly difficult in regards to debates that affect billions of people, often played out in the media.

Of course one such conversation where this is glaringly true is climate change and what we should do about it.  I’m not bringing this up because I don’t think there are clear actions that should be taken like the reduction of CO2 or investments in renewable energies. But as you’ll hear in the conversation today, these too are often portrayed as singular debates or solutions to much more complex variables in play. One of those being The cultural ‘image’ for a lack of better word, of a healthy Earth and what that looks like, however is simplistic and quite frankly, stunted. This is because the image that many people carry along with them of what a responsible future for Earth’s looks like, is based on what they assume it looked like in the recent past.  This is understandable to some extent, assuming you can point to a period in time in our past in which that ideal environment and current collection of global cultural achievements co existed (the instant global communication, billions of humans, a food supply to feed them etc).  Not that our current cultural achievements and the resulting Global environment could even be untangled from each other at this point…. But enough of that for a moment.

Today’s conversation on Night White Skies is with Oliver Morton discussing his recent book ‘The Planet Remade, How Geoengineering Could Change the World’ . In doing so, we have a discussion that goes beyond current & future technological abilities for geoengineering but also discuss the events of the last century and a half that have shaped our perception of climate change and to what extent humanity has been shaping the planet beyond those of pollutants. More importantly, Oliver Morton delivers in his book both a history as well as an outline for shaping our future that doesn’t fall along in an argument of either or.  The political, technological and as he might say ‘emotional’ past is much too complex to engage in such an argumentative technique if we want to move forward.


Oliver Morton is The Economist‘s briefings editor. Before coming to The Economist as energy and environment editor in 2009, he was the chief news and features editor of Nature, the international scientific journal. He is the author of ‘The Planet Remade, How Geoengineering Could Change the World’, “Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet”, a study of photosynthesis, its meanings and its implications, and “Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination and the Birth of a World”.


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