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Is the Decisive Issue in Geoengineering Debates Really One of Representation of Nature? Gaia Against (or With?) Prometheus?

Sébastien Dutreuil


Geoengineering has long been considered a science fiction solution designed by climate wizards – physicists – who inherited Cold War-era tinkering in the shadows with their demiurgic designs. Presented in this way, these Promethean solutions are likely to be rejected by a large majority of the public. The most common reaction to these techniques is thus rejection, based on the feeling that they are based on a pathological conception of nature, the Earth and the relationship that humans must maintain with it. But important, albeit recent, developments seem to change how these techniques are presented, and could thus change the degree and mode of adherence to them, without changing anything about what these techniques are and the dangers they represent. This paper analyses two discourses in favour of the deployment of geoengineering techniques: the Promethean discourse and the Gaian or Earth system discourse. Both hinge on radically opposed conceptions of nature and of the Earth which leads me to question the idea, however classically accepted, that what is at stake in the geoengineering debate is first and foremost a question of the representation of nature.

Aix-Marseille University, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Centre Gilles Gaston Granger, Aix-en-Provence, France. For Correspondence: <> I would like to warmly thank Laurent Bopp, Régis Briday, Amy Dahan, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, Hélène Guillemot, Marion Lemoine and Timothy Lenton for their review of this text and for the fascinating and useful discussions we had on it.


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