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The planet technopolitana Idea

The inexorable push for progress, that is  progress in the improvement of human life,
has accelerated in the twentieth and early twenty first centuries.

The 'environmental movement' has developed as a  push back against the bad consequences of  such progress.
Only so far....

There will soon be more air conditioners in the world [1 billion] than there were people when the
air conditioner was first developed around 1900.

We want more. We want more people out of poverty. 'Enough' in terms of human
prosperity, better health and longevity -- these ideals have no upward limit.

To try to write about this, I invented Bill Rutland.

RUTLAND was an American writer who came to maturity in the mid 1920s.
He had already written on the voracious clearing of the American forest
 -- clearing 'wilderness' was progress.

He did so faced by two pulls.

Progress versus  preservation.

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In the 1920s, the American forester, Aldo Leopold, was evoking the need to preserve

Yet the economy in the Depression had to grow back to alleviate poverty.
We need to cut trees, we need a lumber industry, we need the jobs &
the land for 'development'.

How do we reconcile, Rutland wondered, the good side of progress with the bad?

His Planet Technopolitana column was his way of trying to see earth.

On the light and sunny side, progress led to prosperity for humans and harmony with nature.

On the dark side of Planet
that same progress led to human difficulty, overpopulation and pollution.

He called this Growing Up in the Fog of Progress.


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The sky was the limit. Or was it?      

In first years of his Planet Technopolitana  column ideas that had been rarified science a few decades past,conveyance of electricity, extracting of oil, the internal combustion engine,
diseases combated by
mico-biological techniques and new chemistry -- these became common place.


They underpinned progress and economic growth, or were supposed to.


Rutland critiqued them, wrote about their benefits and
downside, notably pollution, the turning of humans into cogs
in the wheel of mass production,
wild claims about new drug products, the damage to nature.


The success of Planet Technopolitana, his column, lay in its balance.
He praised progress and he picked holes in the assumptions of good.

In 1938 his attitude changed.
Hitler was on a rampage. The US sat in its
isolationist cocoon.
Britain, about which he had written a good deal, had to
arm. It had to take seriously the prospect
 of loosing out in a race to exploit
the atom, the high speed plane,
 radio waves for detection, later know as radar.

Instead of being quizzical about progress,
there had to be a progress race with Germany.

From this emerged the  hiring of an Underground Scientist.
That person was the complicated Nathalie Armstrong.

Two Armstrong-Rutland narratives are completed:





Tales from Technopolitana

Two stories, one the sequel to the other,
The Underground Scientist


Two timeframes in each, 1938-1946


2016- present








The setting for the Nathalie Armstrong -- Rutland relations.

[Note: two of the first post-World War II Nobel Prizes were
Penicillin development & Uranium Fission development.

In neither case was a woman closely concerned given the prize,
although the British X-ray crystallographer, Dorothy Hodgkin
later received it.

No American received the prize. As Rutland noted, in its way
this did not mater. The USA virtually owned both penicillin and
uranium fission technologies.]

Rutland and Nathalie Armstrong are the central figures in the
two Technopolitana novels.

It was in going to look along the river behind his house in
County Mayo, that I failed to meet Spy Nielsen and
did meet Francine Olnay.

Wrapped up in a towel, old raincoat and wearing gum boots,
she had been swimming. In mid-October.

'Fashion models do odd things,' she said.
She showed me the manuscripts.

Once we were younger....
Even now we are not so old.
Francis Gladstone made one of the first films on pollution and threats to the environment
for the BBC -- for Horizon in 1967. Ideas for more coverage of the environment
were, he recalls, scorned. This was probably due to his inadequate proposal writing.
If that last statement, drips with weak irony, it is a fact that most televion
has been keener to emphasize the prettiness of nature
over threats to that prettiness.

From the mid sixties till mid 1980s he made documentary
films on various topics related to science -- and its downside.
Now, as of 2019, he is not unusual in seeing threats to the planet as lacking in coherent solutions,
or even the will to find solutions.
The Technopolitana idea explores, in a modest way, how we can see these problems,
whether story telling can help.
We worry about the downside to progress.
And we are riders of its Ferris wheel, unable to get off or stop the motor.

Not much more than half a century ago we were desperate for what became
the antibiotic drugs. Now we are worried about excess of them.

Jo Elwyn Jones is his partner in many ways.


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