Decoupling from the biosphere in a disintegrating world might sound like a good idea; researcher Lauren Holt explores why this might not be the case in terms of ethics and existential risk.
Scientific and technological advancements have made many wonderful things possible for humankind. As these continue to develop, civilization may evolve to a stage of technological maturity where humanity could, not merely survive, but flourish under the harshest possible environmental conditions, including those off-planet. Even now, aided by seedbanks and underground bunkers, small pockets of humans have never been better prepared to survive a severe environmental global catastrophe through decoupling from the biosphere. This paper explores the moral desirability of extensive technologically-separated civilizations and, if they are achieved, what our relationship might be to the remaining ecological environment.
The paper begins by exploring several visions of techno-adaptation and their appeal before laying out the moral arguments in their favour. I then explore the ways that an extensive technologically mediated, or highly-separated relationship with the biosphere is inherently risky and is likely to endanger an independently functioning biosphere — which has its own intrinsic value. I conclude that humanity should preserve the independence of natural processes and achieving material decoupling cannot justify eroding or damaging the remaining biosphere. Thus, given a choice, cutting the human-biosphere ‘umbilical cord’ is morally undesirable unless done in the service of reducing negative impacts on the biosphere.