How we will win: Why I'm running, part two

1. As ecomodernists

In the summer of 2014, I helped bring together a small group of environmental scientists and scholars to co-author “An Ecomodernist Manifesto.

The essay, published on Earth Day, 2015, argued that lifting all humans out of poverty and saving the environment required dense and livable cities, growing more food on less land, and nuclear power.

The essay received overwhelmingly positive attention, even from those who disagreed with much of its content.

But our goal — and, indeed, the goal of anyone writing a manifesto — was action — not mere recognition.

Eventually, we hoped, activists, policymakers, and political candidates would pick up the agenda, and implement it, so that our dream of nature and prosperity for all became a reality.

In the two and half years since, the ecomodernist identity has spread throughout the world. It seems like every day I see a tweet or Facebook post from someone who identifies as ecomodernist.

But no elected official or candidate for political office has either identified as an ecomodernist or run on an ecomodernist platform — until now. 

In response to the crisis facing nuclear, I founded Environmental Progress in January 2016, to take action to defend nuclear. 

Since then, we’ve saved nuclear plants in Illinois, New York, South Korea, France, and Connecticut equivalent and prevented pollution from rising the equivalent of adding 20 million cars to the road.

In part one, I described why I was running for government on a reform agenda as an Independent. 

Today, I am happy to announce that I am also running as an ecomodernist.

What is an ecomodernist? To many people, it simply means someone in favor of tall cities, intensified agriculture, and nuclear power.

But ecomodernism is also a defense of lower-case “L” liberalism: the rule of law, rising freedom, rising prosperity, pluralism, and tolerance.

As such, I intend to run for office, win, and govern, in ways that are consistent with those values.

In my statement, on stage at the New York Times Climate Tech event, where I announced my candidacy, and in the San Francisco Chronicle, I made my commitment clear.

…”Shellenberger said he would create a “citizens’ jury” to decide the fate of both Diablo Canyon and Southern California’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which shut down in 2012. 

“I feel pretty confident that the public, once they weigh the evidence, will want to keep Diablo Canyon open and restart San Onofre,” he said. “But if they don’t, I’ll respect the will of the people.”

After the atomic humanist victory in South Korea, I argued that nuclear would only survive and thrive if it had popular support. 

The good news is that people change their minds when confronted with the facts about nuclear power. Which is why my candidacy will not only be ecomodernist, it will also be evidence-based.  

2. With an Evidence-Based Rather than Interest-Based Platform

What does ecomodernism have to say about issues that don’t have to do with energy and the environment, such as education, and health care? 

Over the next few weeks, I intend to publish a substantive, evidence-based policy platform that covers the major issues facing California.

Like “An Ecomodernist Manifesto,” it will be based not on what interest groups want but rather a deep consideration of the best available scientific evidence.

I’m interested, for example, in learning what the teachers union and charter school advocates want. 

But I’m not going to build my platform around positions those groups already have.

As such, my policy agenda will include the same level of analytical rigor that I bring  to all of my writing and speaking, from “An Ecomodernist Manifesto,” to my recent TEDx Berlin talk on “Why I changed my mind about nuclear power.”

Being evidence-based isn’t enough, however. We are still subjective creatures who make decisions based on our values and underlying beliefs.

So while research can help us understand, for example, the relationship between class size and student performance, it can’t tell how to fairly distribute education funding.

Nor can research tell us how strict zoning, criminal justice, and environmental laws should be implemented.

What matters is that everyone in the political debate have some recognition of what constitutes “evidence” and what constitutes “values.” 

To what extent are our disagreements about different interpretations of, say, the relative safety of nuclear power? And to what extent are they about the desirability of having cheap, centralized power?

Left and Right — currently ossified, and dogmatic — might never agree on some issues, such as the appropriate level of taxation and government spending. 

But on other issues, such as energy and schools, we might find surprising amount of agreement on both evidence and values.

After we publish our preliminary platform, I will invite written responses from various viewpoints — Left, Right, and unclassifiable — which I will publish on to open up the debate. 

I want to hear from progressives and conservatives, socialists and libertarians; from contributors to Jacobinand National Review; from mainstream thinkers and those on the margins. 

As a political candidate, I will follow the facts wherever they lead — and change my mind accordingly — just as I have done as an energy analyst and environmentalist.

My agenda will thus evolve over the course of my campaign — in response to new evidence and persuasive arguments, not to interest groups.

3. By *Fighting* for the Dream

Achieving ecomodernism is California, the United States, and most anywhere else requires reforming governments, which around the world have become corrupted by parasitical interest groups.

Whatever you think about nuclear power, health care, and education reform, almost everybody is against the gross levels of corruption that have inundated our public institutions.

As we pursue a new approach to developing a new, ecomodernist policy agenda — one that covers more than energy and the environment — we will launch our crusade to clean up California.

I am not going to wait to become governor to take action. I am going to demand the other candidates take a stand on whether they support my calls to:

  • Break up the corrupt CPUC and release dozens of secret emails from Governor Brown’s office;
  • Investigate the $1,200 every California has paid since 2015 in higher gasoline prices;
  • End the secrecy and Impose transparency on all government contracts.

I’ll be using all of the tools available to demand that Newsom and the other candidates embrace this reform agenda or defend the corrupt system they helped build.

In the end, our apparent ideological polarization and the corruption of state government are two manifestations of the same phenomenon: our ways of thinking, campaigning, and governing, are outmoded. 

It’s time for a change.

We are building the California dream — we must also go fight for it.


Michael Shellenberger