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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Geo-Engineering" Broken Record

An exchange of comments on an older piece of mine on the futurological greenwashing advocacy of "Geo-Engineering" over at the World Future Society reminds me that one simply replays the same points over and over and over again until, presumably, either we win or the petro-plutocrats destroy the world.

Arthur W declares:
Geo engineering is a way to control global warming by various process like carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management. But it is not just gardening and needs a transparent and safe methods so that it can be implemented in a proper way. If the safety can not be ensured and the funds not maintained properly then it is a total waste of time and money.
I respond, possibly for the bazillionth time:
is a way to control global warming by various process[es]...
These are "various process[es]" that happen not to refer to anything in actual reality, and none of which are "demonstrated" to be "way[s] to control global warming" in the least. That matters.
If the safety can not be ensured and the funds not maintained properly then it is a total waste of time and money.
Of course, ensuring safety and maintaining funds requires political processes. And yet, the failure of precisely such political processes is inevitably the premise on which most geo-engineering discourse depends. Of course, present-day representative and legislative politics have been and sometimes seem permanently unequal to the problems of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. What education, agitation, organization, legislation equal to environmental problems would look like would require both incredibly stringent regulations and penalties to re-internalize the environmental/public health costs of extractive-petrochemical production and wasteful consumption as well as serious public investment in renewable energy and clean transportation infrastructure: a million solar rooftops in every US state; investing in vast wind and tidal turbine farms and in a smart grid to store and distribute this energy; mandating energy-efficient appliances everywhere, incentivizing residential construction and remodeling with geothermal pumps, porches, and attic fans; introducing emergency soil conservation and reforestation programs; eliminating subsidies for high-energy input intensive petrochemical monoculture and factory farming; ending the public subsidization of unhealthy and environmentally catastrophic corn and corpse over-consumption and subsidizing organic, region-appropriate polyculture practices instead; building a continental network of high speed rail connecting every American city; accelerating the switch to electric cars, while subsidizing alternatives to car culture, providing access to urban bike shares, pedestrianizing urban spaces, transforming streets into pedestrian malls and bike lanes, transforming parking lots in food deserts into garden co-ops and organic farmers markets. All of these interventions and practices actually have been implemented and encourages elsewhere in the world and in piecemeal ways in places in the US as well, so even our failed politics can turn to successful models in reality. That matters, too, and it happens to be something "geo-engineering" wet-dreamers handwaving about orbital mirror archipelagos, and metalized aerosol airship fleets, and mountains of dumped iron filings in the sea, and vertical pipe cathedrals sucking icy water from the ocean floor to the warming surface, and comparable corporate-military boondoggles depicted as CGI-cartoons for blissed out TED audiences and celebrity-CEOs cannot do by the way.

That our politics remains frustratingly, indeed tragically, criminally, genocidally incompetent seems an especially hard nut to crack in the face of the dysfunction and obstructionism of mostly Republican know-nothings and profitably opportunistic climate change denialists. But failures often fail right up to the moment when they succeed. Tipping point possibilities are palpable and proliferating, education efforts can reach saturation, insurance companies can change cost-risk formulas in the face of infrastructure damage, the Movement Republican fever might break (probably not because of climate politics, but over austerity, immigration, anti-choice zealotry, anti-gay bigotry, but with the consequence of removing the chief political block to environmental legislation and investment anyway), many things can change to mobilize our politics in ways we can scarcely imagine in our present frustration and hopelessness and distress.

Rather than pretending that despair over the failure of democratic politics justifies yet another predictable libertechian libertopian fantasy -- hoping all the while nobody notices that the implementation of the high-tech fantasy presumes precisely the working of legible stakeholder politics they simultaneous denigrate in the form of this pretense of despair -- I propose that those who care about catastrophic anthropogenic climate change keep their eyes on the prize, keep struggling to educate, agitate, organize, legislate to encourage sustainable civilization in the longer term and to make unsustainability unprofitable in the shorter term.

1 comment:

jollyspaniard said...

All movements look hopeless until they succeed, history is full of examples. The fact that deniers are having to shift to later stages of denial is telling.

The conservatives on this side of the pond look like they're on the verge of tearing themselves to pieces. Here's hoping the two parties are enjoying a bit of synch.