Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't Let Endgame Obsessions Take You Out of the Game

You can find the comment in the Moot to which this postlet is responding easily enough I suppose, but although it was a comment premised in real political concerns they seemed to me less a provocation to useful action than an occasion to indulge in fantasies the details of which I didn't much want to highlight in the blog proper. Both the underlying concerns and the phenomenon I think I was observing in the commenter (I could be wrong) deserve attention, though, so I'm upgrading and adapting my response to post here too:
Yes, I'm well aware of and do take seriously energy and resource descent arguments. I also know that the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture was to an important and terribly under-reported extent really a matter of imposing non-resilient monoculture, costly petro-dependent automation, mostly terrain-indifferent in ways that catastrophically exacerbate topsoil erosion, vast irrigation systems depleting aquifers, and ever amplifying high-energy input intensive petrochemical fertilizers-insecticides yielding ever-lower outputs on what were family farms: in short, yet another mostly false and facile futurological "miracle," this time creating the unspeakable crime of factory slaughter farms and unsustainable Big Ag -- but of course who cares because it's momentarily profitable to incumbent elites.

You probably don't know this if you are coming upon me randomly and unawares online, but I have been teaching classes in varieties of environmentalist discourse, politics, and subcultures to undergraduates in the Bay Area, both at SFAI and at UC Berkeley, for nearly a decade. I alternate the organization of my annual undergraduate STS critical theory course between environmental formations one year and p2p-media formations the next. These are all issues that matter to me enormously as well.

All that said, I do discern in some men (yes, so far always men) who are drawn to this area of concern a distressing almost disasterbatory thrill at contemplating collapse and post-collapse narratives in which they figure as the manly (at last!) protagonist licensed to shoot his gun in the midst of an apocalyptic technicolor carnage.

The crises of industrially farmed topsoil depletion, depleting and salinating aquifers, of course carbon pollution more generally, and overpopulation demand relocalization and organicization of much of our agricultural production and delivery system, invite the expansion of permacultural companion planting, integrated plant management, tree planting, but also demonstrate the need to fund a shift from urban food deserts to urban organic local farmers markets. All this, but also we must educate, agitate, organize to enable huge public investments not only in solar rooftops and wind-turbine/tidal turbine fields and subsidies/incentives for energy-efficient residential refurbishment via porches, attic fans, geothermal pumps, but to facilitate the shift from budgetary/zoning priorities for car culture (no, "driverless cars" will not save you, futurological noises to the contrary notwithstanding) to pedestrian malls, bike lanes, urban and continental rail -- no more idiotic, pharaohnic airports! And -- last here but certainly not least -- also require the planetary empowerment of women and girls and the provision of universal access to healthcare including family planning. Of course, these are all very good and important efforts to get involved in -- and the work will invigorate and sustain you, connecting you to human needs right now while also building a world that works better now to what comes next. I simply don't think the blood-soaked end-game preoccupation is much help to anybody, least of all you yourself. And I do mean that kindly.

No comments: