inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #51 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 5 Jan 09 00:44
    
*Welp, I kinda figured we'd have to spend this year talking about
economics.  The Dismal Science.  Do you realize how boring this
discussion is gonna look in retrospect?  Even utterly brilliant
economics is notoriously boring.

*Still, maybe we've just gotta do it, in the same grim way that it was
a "duty" for a generation of North Vietnamese to die for their
country.  

*So: I'm not entirely buying bslesin's argument that ad-hoc
organizations are inherently undependable, while command-and-control
successfully meets the urgent requirements.  It's true that you can't
trust a bunch of scattered dilettante hobbyists with the
care-and-feeding of your children.  However:  command-and-control can
become unpredictable tyranny.  Stalin didn't feed the peasants, he
starved them.  Same for the Great Leap Forward in China.  

*Whereas markets, especially small-scale peasant markets, are more
adhocratic and also more dependable.  If you're depending on food for
the kids every morning, in real troubles you vote with your feet, and
go where the food is created and dependably distributed.  I'm thinking
that people might drift toward the commons through this kind of
visceral response.  Not because they've read Yochai Benkler and gotten
all ideologically convinced, but because it factually meets their needs
better.

*Networks can meet needs dependably.  The English language is an
ad-hocratic communications network.  Nobody seized central control
there to ram through some emergency adverbs.  

*The Internet is ad-hocratic. We're severely dependent on that system
now.  The French would love to "civilize" the Internet, but imagine
that the French government somehow seized full control of the Internet
and imposed a fully-organized, rational MINITEL Internet on the world. 
Would users gratefully depend on that solution, or would they panic
and flee?

*The natural biosphere, what's left of it, was organized without human
planning or intention, yet we depend on that utterly.  Nature
underlies all our pretenses that we're in control of events.  We have
no choice but to accept some Kevin-Kelly style neobiological
out-of-controlness; the questions are how and why, and where is that
good and where is it useless, or even just silly.

*I'm wondering when the new financial instability coaxes forth the
Russian response, which was and is the economic mafia.  An economic
mafia is a hybrid combination of ad-hocracy and tyranny.  It's a
black-market with armed autocrats struggling to direct events through
their social capital, a social cement of illicit favors, blood and
greed.  

*Economic mafias are unstable.  Not only are their markets unstable
because of the market opacity, but their politics are severely unstable
because of the succession problem and the lack of constitutional
checks and balances.  The structure of mafias is feudal loyalty,
cronyism... plus some terror.  So the mafia can internationalize pretty
well, it spreads laterally like oil on water, yet mafias don't scale
up very well.  They tax productive industries with the invisible
corruption tax, but you rarely see any mafia break ground, obtain
financing and build a productive industry.  Illegal industrial dumping
as a mafia industry, maybe.  The cocaine market?  That's huge, it's
global, it surely ships tons of product, but it's not industrial.  You
might argue that some failed-states are basically mafia.

*I can't doubt that in times that scream for a Robin Hood, we're gonna
see Mafia.  Most people in the world see them every day already. 
Maybe you could argue that the American Bailout funders are the
functional equivalent of Russian moguls.  Maybe we're seeing some
development there that is quite close to the opaque "privatizations" of
the Yeltsin era, when the tottering Soviet economy swiftly and
suddenly ended up in the pockets of seven guys.  The "semibankyrshina,"
as the Russians used to call them.  Yeltsin's Seven Bankers. Will we
see an Obama government where the private sector's in receivership and
run by a bunch of "Czars"?  The Car Czar, the Energy Czar, the
Broadband Czar...

*Putin has supposedly proved that a tight conspiracy of Russian spies
is tougher and smarter than a loose conspiracy of Russian moguls. 
Putin had the oil-boom at his back, though.  *Are* spies really tougher
than mafiosi?  Spies do have one great advantage over mafia: a
national flag.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #52 of 177: Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 5 Jan 09 05:38
    
From Darryl Rosin:


"I'm not entirely buying bslesin's argument that ad-hoc
organizations are inherently undependable, while command-and-control
successfully meets the urgent requirements."

It's never one or the other. It's both and all the other things as well,
with people looking out for themselves and others.

My local Saturday market is at a suburban rugby league club. It's an ad-hoc
collection of volunteers who operate a C&C structure (the legal entity that
deals with external actors, allocates space and directs traffic) to provide
a forum for an ad-hoc collection of producers (none of whom are required to
be there) on a scale that allows me to rely on getting 80% of the food for a
family of four. I could do better If I were less picky and more organised.

"Nature underlies all our pretenses that we're in control of events."

All of human behaviour is given to us from Nature. Humans are naturally able
to think, manipulate, burn, design, destroy, nurture, observe, ignore and
all the rest. We are not in control of anything  but each of us individually
controls a great many things.

Love reading your thoughts at this time of the year, Bruce. Thanks.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #53 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 5 Jan 09 07:07
    
I agree that economics is a boring subject... fish convening to argue
the sorry state of water. And all the issues of corporations, corporate
personhood, corporate social responsibility, shareholder value etc.
are just so much thudding drum & base to the great struggling majority
who have little invested, nothing saved; whose debt increases monthly
with unchecked, inexplicable credit card rate hikes; who are
decreasingly able to buy homes, send kids to college, even take
vacations, or weekends off.

Re adhocratic and local markets, USDA documented an increase in the
number of farmer's markets a couple of years ago, and there's a
movement around local food networks that include, not just farmer's
markets, but community gardens and food co-ops. This movement is
decentralized, dis-organized, and linked to a growing overall interest
in localized sustainable systems.

Re mafia-cracy - that opacity you refer to is most interesting; always
fascinating to imagine the machinations behind the curtain. Pull the
curtain away, perhaps nothing's there? Darryl says "We are not in
control of anything  but each of us individually controls a great many
things." I wonder.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #54 of 177: Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 5 Jan 09 08:19
    
From Brock Armstrong.....

Bruce,

I was wondering what your current updated thoughts on the Vinge-Venter-
Extropian experiment community were? – Do you have any 2009 addendum to
your Long Now talk. (That talk – to little me - sounds how the sermon on
the mount must have played).  I realize the 'singularity' as a topic isn't
really about dealing with collapse - but it looks like it is full speed
ahead for these guys and gals. The notion of societal collapse seems to just
embolden the techno-triumphant mindset?  Can the graph still point up?  How
do you deal with freeloaders in an adhocracy?  What happens to children in a
post-singular world?  These are the most pernicious question to me.

(I read (and love) your blog greatly, appreciate your ironic-subversive
notation of all things beyond - have all the required reading: Robb, Cascio,
Kunstler, Benkler, Spuybroek, Sterling…. Shakespeare….)

In full respect,
Brock
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #55 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 5 Jan 09 09:57
    
We interrupt this litany of ceaseless woe to announce that
Rudy Rucker and I have just published another collaborative
science fiction story.

It's in the February 2009 issue of ASIMOV'S Science Fiction
and is aptly titled "Colliding Branes."  Its topic is the
literal end of the known universe.  As seen by a couple of
bloggers.

It's convulsively funny.  I mean, I wouldn't say that about
my own work, but Rucker wrote some of it.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #56 of 177: uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Mon 5 Jan 09 09:58
    
Heh
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #57 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 5 Jan 09 10:03
    
My Long Now talk on the "Singularity."  I seem to recall remarking at
the time that "end of history notions" don't age well, and that the
Singularity is an end of history notion.  One among many.

Well, we've now had several years of subsequent history. I still see
no visible signs of spectacular rates of scientific advance escaping
human comprehension. If you find one, send email.  I'll pass it on to
"io9.com," which, really, if there's any justice, ought to have first
crack at that news. 

So I saw no Singularity since that talk.  I did see several more years
of dewy-eyed science geeks getting the political tar beaten out of
them by fundie Lysenkoists.  

If that finally stops in the new Administration, I won't need any
Rapture of the Nerds in order to shout Hallelujah.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #58 of 177: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 5 Jan 09 11:45
    
Will the rapture of the nerds be a second coming of Jobs and Gates
descending into the New Silicasalem?  Will their command-and-control of
well programmed robots take out our garbage while other chips monitor
our every move to assure that we all follow the rules?  Then every
year, the elite will drop down on their knees at the revival tents,
knowing full well that these annual tradeshows only offer the
well-crafted illusion of an ad-hocracy.  Hallelujah, indeed! 
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #59 of 177: (dana) Mon 5 Jan 09 14:15
    
S. Yannis writes:

Bruce, don't you have a novel coming out this year?
 
Also, any notable works of fiction (SF or otherwise; in any medium)
that you care to point out from 2008?
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #60 of 177: D (dana) Mon 5 Jan 09 16:58
    <scribbled by dana Mon 5 Jan 09 17:11>
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #61 of 177: (dana) Mon 5 Jan 09 17:02
    
Ted Gumpton writes:

Hi Bruce et al,
This is a broad and mind-warpingly inspiring discussion - the first
I've read of its kind. I'm a lurker by nature - you've enticed me out.
I hope myquestion doesn't misjudge the forum. As I type this I'm sat in
the middle of England in an ordinary market town of 100,000 - most are
white-haired and 97% are white. Most of the young people who go away
to university seem not to come back. I have returned, and for the time
being I'm stuck here. I'm okay with that, but this is a long way from
the places where the stuff I read online is written. boingboing
penetration is low. I don't expect there are many people around here
who lol at xkcd. Or have the slightest idea what an RSS reader is. eBay
is an exciting novelty. If I mention to someone an interesting blog
post that I've read, it's likelyI'll be asked what a blog is.

But that's okay. That isn't the problem. That isn't my question.

I just read, for example, your last Viridian note. It has been
assimilated. I might evangelise it to someone else, but it's likely to
fall on deaf ears. The same goes for Cory Doctorow's next post about an
infringement of online civil liberties. Or Jason Kottke's on a piece
of great design. If I'm asked for a book recommendation, Neal
Stephenson's 'Cryptonomicon' isn't likely to be appreciated.

What bothers me is not a sense of isolation or alienation from my
environment or the people I share it with. The thing that bothers me is
the sense of spectatorship. I live in this place, but I also live
online. I don't watch much TV but I'm concerned that the mode of
passive consumption that characterises a TV viewing also represents the
sum of my engagement with the online culture to which I aspire. I read
it, but I don't live it. I'm a mutant, but I'm not a Happy Mutant.

My question is essentially this: What would you say to me about this,
and to the other people in other places, or who occupy different online
niches but who share a similar sense of ... perhaps ... 'detachment'?
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #62 of 177: (dana) Mon 5 Jan 09 17:11
    
(post #60 scribbled for formatting errors)

George Mokray writes:

My raw notes from _Foundation of Gandhian Economics_ are online at

http://www.globalswadeshi.net/forum/topics/notes-from-foundations-of

Just so you know what the term means.

Global Swadeshi is an online community with world-wide reach that is
trying to be a DIY center for local transformation towards living
within our ecological limits.  Might be that sustainability
peer-to-peer network thing some are proposing here.

Elinor Ostrum's work on the many different kinds of commons would be
good to consult.  Her 1990 book, Governing the Commons: The Evolution
of Institutions for Collective Action (New York: Cambridge University
Press), might be one place to start.  Haven't read much of her work but
I've seen her speak and she has devoted her working life to the idea
of the commons.  Even got Garrett Hardin to modify his "tragedy of the
commons" proposition from a blanket statement about common resources to
a statement about the "unregulated" commons.  Fact is, there are many
ways to regulate a commons so that the resources last for years,
decades, and, in some cases, centuries unto millennia.

I am promoting the idea of a weatherization barnraising on the White
House which would elevate that idea from a grassroots, hippie exercise
to a significant national priority. Doing things on a grassroots,
practical level does not negate the necessity for global solutions and
changing large-scale power structures wholesale. No reason why we can't
use one to drive the other.

The New Alchemy legacy is already in your supermarket and has been
there for years.  Who do you think first started American aquaculture
of tilapia?  What do you think the roots of aquaponics are?  These
days, John Todd is trying to get funding for his revisioning of
Appalachian coal
lands (rather topical I'd say).  He believes he can use his ecological
waste treatment designs to clean up coal sludge and slurry and replace
coal with ridgetop windmills and forestry biomass.  The full proposal,
which won the first Buckminster Fuller Challenge award, is at
http://challenge.bfi.org/sites/challenge.bfi.org/files/pdf_files/pdf%20files/j
todd_proposal.pdf

I agree with <bruces> that the word John Robb is looking for is
"citizen."  That describes who we need to become, citizens and
neighbors.  A sustainable future is going to look more like an Amish
farm than a Buck Rodgers jetpack.  The Mormon idea of having a year's
worth of food on
hand at any one time is not going to be unusual either.

The problem has never been technology but our desires and our
willingness to do those things we know are practical and possible.  It
took me a good twenty-five years before I got one room off the grid. 
It cost me less than $200 (now would cost me about $100) but now I have
multiple ways of doing so.  My methodology is available at
http://solarray.blogspot.com but I'm sure there are only a handful who
have done likewise.  I am a small person with a small mind and start
with small steps.  Too many people never do anything but talk (present
company excluded) and never progress from thought and talk to action
and from action to routine practice.  That's what we need, a routine
practice throughout our daily lives that builds in ecological
restoration rather than destruction.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #63 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Mon 5 Jan 09 17:17
    <scribbled by emilyg Mon 5 Jan 09 20:29>
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #64 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Mon 5 Jan 09 17:29
    

 Hey Bruce -- Great to see you here again.

 You wrote a couple things early on that I'd like to follow up:

 "The same goes for Americans trying to rebel against Wall Street.
 There's no visible other space.  There's no liberated territory.  It's
 like rebelling against a funhouse mirror because it makes you look so
 fat and stupid."

 "Ecological economics" seems to offer a pretty practical bridge
 between Wall Street and the limits of the Earth's ecosystems.  What
 chances do you think these ideas have of catching on?

 I got all excited last fall when Sarkozy talked to the press about
 reinventing the global economic system, but that sorta talk fall by the
 wayside, fast.  None of the business reporters even knew how to write
 that story.

 It's sort of astounding how much is going to rely on Obama.  And with
 Larry Summers heading Obama's economic team -- and no Jeff Sachs or
 Herman Daly type of economist in sight when he lines them all up for
 press conferences -- I'm not optimistic.  But of course, as I'm one of
 those Voltaires tapping away daily at her global warming blog, I must
 be hopeful.

 And


 "Communism, capitalism, socialism, whatever: we've never yet had any
 economic system that recognizes that we have to live on a living
 planet. Plankton and jungles make the air we breathe, but they have no
 place at our counting-house.  National regulations do nothing much for
 that situation.  New global regulations seem about as plausible as a
 new global religion.

 "None of this a counsel of despair.  Seriously.  We dare not despair
 because in any real crisis, the pessimists die fast.   This is a frank
 recognition of the stakes. It's aimed at the adults in the room."

 As one of the Voltaires tapping away at her global warming blog and
 online news assignments, I'm trying to figure out how to move readers
 beyond the environmentalist equivalent of navel-gazing -- changing
 their goddamn light bulbs to CFLs, vowing to give up plastic bags --
 and pay some attention to the politics of global warming again (never
 mind getting involved) now that they're actually going to matter, for a
 change.

 Part of me believes that yes, personal actions matter, because they
 help build the groundswell of public opinion and support that
 politicians need to see if they're going to stick their necks out to
 confront Big Oil and Big Coal. But we were shopping for a better world
 in the 1980s, too.  And as economic and ecological conditions have
 become perceptibly worse nearly two decades later, people are still
 debating "paper or plastic"?

 From what I can tell as both a journalist and a media-consuming
 citizen of the United States, the big green groups are making next to
 no headway communicating the depth of the climate change crisis beyond
 their dedicated core members.

 Simultaneously, too many of my colleagues are still being suckered by
 the notion that there's any real debate about the reality of global
 warming.

 Help, Pope-Emperor!
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #65 of 177: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 5 Jan 09 17:30
    
<Doing things on a grassroots, practical level does not negate the
necessity for global solutions and changing large-scale power
structures wholesale. No reason why we can't
use one to drive the other.>

Well, said, George. and when you say <from a grassroots, hippie
exercise to a significant national priority> it reminds me of John F.
Kennedy's Presidential Physical Fitness initiative in reverse. 

 
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #66 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 5 Jan 09 21:45
    
Emily, I suppose it's still a religious question for many, but I
haven't heard much debate lately - what are your colleagues thinking?

Bruce, have you had second thoughts about shutting down the Viridian
engine? Are you still hearing debate in your world?
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #67 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 6 Jan 09 08:32
    

 Not sure what you mean, Jon: religous question?

My colleagues in enviro reporting are generally as frustrated as ever:
pressure to write sensationalistic stories, resistance to covering the slow
moving story of climate changes and climate science with the precision it
needs.

And then there are the truly disheartening developments, like CNN
disbanding its entire science and technology reporting team in favor of its
"Planet in Peril" series.  Just as we've returned to reality-based
scientific leadership in the federal gov't!

Beyond that sphere, I see examples of false balance every week in some or
other news outlet, and sometimes downright sloppy reporting (like
Politico.com's amazing reporting flop late last year).

And while there are a lot of readers at my globalwarming.change.org blog,
the most popular global warming "actions" on the site are so far things
like giving up plastic bags.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #68 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 6 Jan 09 09:46
    
Emily, I meant that most of us are guided by belief, not actual
knowledge, about climate change. That's true of those who deny climate
change, but it's not just them. It happens that my beliefs about global
warming - that it's happening, and accelerating, and potentially
catastrophic, and that it's driven by, and can be mitigated by, human
action - are well-supported by climate scientists who've studied the
facts. But I don't have that knowledge myself, so it's my (admittedly
well-founded) belief against that of someone who disagrees. So there's
still debate, and it's a religious argument... one belief system vs
another.

I think it was hard for scientists early on who were pretty sure what
they were seeing, but were committed to scientific method, where you
qualify the difference between observable facts and hypotheses. A
climate scientist once told me how this was creating a perceptual
problem, that to laymen it seemed that they weren't certain about
climate change. Someone who's in denial anyway will take that as a
foundation for their denial. It's better today, I think - climate
scientists are pretty clear about what they think's happening.

But I understand what you're saying - some in media still assume the
question's still unresolved, and they think they're being objective.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #69 of 177: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 6 Jan 09 09:54
    


See, I fundamentally take issue with calling an understanding based on the
best scientific evidence a "belief," even if you yourself have not eyeballed
and measured and analysed that evidence firsthand.

I have never witnessed a polio vaccine killing a polio virus, but I have no
trouble saying that I know polio vaccines kill polio.

That's dicing it too fine jon, and essentially lets deniers define the terms
of the discussion -- which of course is what they've largely succeeded at
doing so far.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #70 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 6 Jan 09 09:55
    
*Got some news on my speculative digital-urban rice front here.
It's a Japanese robot rice-planter here that navigates by GPS.

*I like everything about this gizmo except the old-fashioned word
"robot."
The device is likely better described as an autonomous urban
taxi with passengers that are rice plants.

http://www.impactlab.com/2009/01/05/robotic-rice-planter/
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #71 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 6 Jan 09 10:00
    
"Bruce, don't you have a novel coming out this year?"

*Yeah, my new novel THE CARYATIDS is out this February.
It's picking up some reviews now.  It took me four years to write that
book.  A pretty eventful four years.

*Fans of my novels naturally wonder where I've been all
this time, but I'm in pretty good shape compared to
the publishing industry.

*I hope I can write more novels without the glum prospect
of becoming a publisher myself.  I always, always feared
becoming a publisher.  "Those who worship the Muses end
up running a Museum."
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #72 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 6 Jan 09 10:01
    
"The thing that bothers me is
the sense of spectatorship. I live in this place, but I also live
online.... I'm a mutant, but I'm not a Happy Mutant.

"My question is essentially this: What would you say to me about this,
and to the other people in other places, or who occupy different
online
niches but who share a similar sense of ... perhaps ... 'detachment'?"

*Okay, brother, I hear you.  As a former denizen of a small Texas
refinery
town, I know where you are coming from.  I have a solution for you.
It's kind of a hard karma, but I can promise it will work.

*I would urge you to travel.  Put the computer down, get out of
the house, and get out of the town.  Go to weird cultural events, go
to conventions 
of mutants.  Travel cheap if you have to, but make a point to
spend a lot of time on the road.

*You wanna go accumulate a tonnage of stimulating stuff in two or
three
days.  Then take your loot back to the crib, and think hard about it. 
The joy of
living outside the hipster circuit is that, unlike them, you can get
some serious
perspective on all that noise.

*You will never be able to singlehandedly transform your small town of

retired people into an ashram for happy mutants.   I would not urge
you 
to try that. It's neither practical nor necessary.  But: if you 
keep your secret hacker personality entirely hidden on a screen, 
you will come to feel unhappily schizoid.  

*So: venture out in the open air.  Break your routines, and go mix it
up 
with the weird people.  In a spare, calculated, fully-planned fashion.
 

*When you start to feel like your boring little 
burrow there is actually your "safe and secure
base of operations," then you're on the right track. 
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #73 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 6 Jan 09 10:07
    
 "Ecological economics" seems to offer a pretty practical bridge
between Wall Street and the limits of the Earth's ecosystems.  What
chances do you think these ideas have of catching on?

*Maybe some chance, but at this point I'm kinda in the Taleb BLACK
SWAN camp; "ecology" is a real science, sorta -- but "economics" is
ninety percent voodoo.

*Frankly, I don't much want to see "the ideas catch on."  Instead, I
want some vigorous community to actually implement some "ecological
economics." I want people to go live there because their lives there
are more exciting than a cornball Buck Rogers jetpack, and a lot less
onerous than being Amish. Give me a city that's visibly living in
tomorrow, and you can print all the -eco-economics whitepapers you
want.

 "I got all excited last fall when Sarkozy talked to the press about
reinventing the global economic system, but that sorta talk fall by the
wayside, fast.  None of the business reporters even knew how to write
that story."

*Sarkozy has hundreds of ideas.  He even has maybe a dozen pretty
good, unorthodox, inventive, yet practical ideas.  Sarkozy's my
favorite European politician now, even though I'm certainly not "of the
Right."  I frankly doubt that Sarkozy himself is "of the Right" in any
ideological sense, either.  Sarkozy's a truly abnormal politician for
abnormal times.  In normal times he'd look pathological, but in crazy
times like these, he's like the only sane guy in our lifeboat.

*I just saw Sarkozy on BBC World News, popping up in Syria and trying
to shut down another impossible regional war.  The guy was visibly
enjoying himself at this hopeless task.  Nice spotlights focussed on
him,  a terrific soft-power French suit and tie ensemble, not one hair
out of place. Sarkozy's even more showbiz than Reagan or Berlusconi,
while being about a thousand times smarter than either of them.
He looked fantastic, even hallucinatory: way outside the European
political norm.  Like Obama, he's got this unexpected poly-ethnic
vigor.... and the people he put in his Cabinet are almost as weird as
he is. 

"It's sort of astounding how much is going to rely on Obama."

*The American Sarkozy.  If we're lucky.

*I know people are emotionally attached to the guy, but, objectively,
he's got almost every challenge that Clinton faced, plus he's got to
deal with all the havoc Bush caused.  I frankly have more intellectual
sympathy for him than heartfelt hope for him.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #74 of 177: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 6 Jan 09 10:15
    

 From what I can tell as both a journalist and a media-consuming 
citizen of the United States, the big green groups are making next to
no headway communicating the depth of the climate change crisis beyond
their dedicated core members.

Help, Pope-Emperor!
  
*Okay, fine.  This is going to sound harsh, but you're right: the
depth of the climate crisis is very profound.  It will require a lot of
sacrifice from people who never expected to face that.

*Starting with you.   So: leave journalism. Stop preaching to the
green choir.  Be brave. Suffer.  Leave your big green groups.  Go into
big business  or big governance.

*Real solutions to a crisis of the size of climate change can only be
huge. Therefore, eventually, they will seem normal and dull. When
everything is "green," nothing is green.  Heroic campaigners will have
to accept the idea of becoming functionaries.

*That, or stop the campaigning.  Personally, I stopped the
campaigning. When functionaries are required, zealots should shut up
shop.
 
*You're a journalist.  So am I.  We can't hide from change in there. 
I'm frankly unsure what a "journalist" is supposed to in today's media
environment. Or tomorrow's.  I doubt anyone knows.

*You might want to consider working for green tech development. Some
organ like the cleantech equivalent of "Oil and Gas Journal." Something
specialized and dull that covers the Planet Earth, not with earnest
lectures and moral harangues, but with windmills and power relay
stations.

*Somebody's got to do that work.  It has to happen on the ground.
Physically.  On a huge scale.  Not with websites and manifestos.   With
machinery.

*Engineers are boring, dull and methodical, right?  Political activism
 is supposed to be more exciting.  Very well then.

*If I wanted to be politically effective, rather than visionary, I'd
disguise myself as a right-wing Green, probably some kind of
hunting-shooting NASCAR "conservationist," and I'd infiltrate the
Republicans this year.

"Look," I'd tell them, "Cheney said that the 'American way of life is
not negotiable.' Look where that blind attitude got us -- kicked into
the political wilderness, with neither our global preeminence nor our
American way of life. We're on the ropes...

*"So let's wise up -- here's the plan.  We've still got a few of the
Red States -- let's cover them with biomass and windmills. We pocket
that Arab oil money ourselves.  We play the patriot card, while the
Left tries to suck up to their nonexistent world governments. We're
'defending the homeland' while they argue their abstract ozone levels.

*"Pacifism, feminism, socialism, racial integration, all that leftie
stuff we hate forever -- we still fight that.  Tooth and nail.  But we
steal the Left's clothes on the all-important energy issue -- because
they're congenitally unable to build or sell a damn thing."

*"Furthermore, that endless Kyoto mess?  That's always useless crap. 
No nation likes Kyoto, so it's never going to work. 

So we publicly recognize the climate crisis: just as if we suddenly
discovered it ourselves.   And we don't downplay the climate crisis: we
OVERPLAY  the crisis.

"Then we blame the crisis on foreigners.  We're not liberal weak
sisters 'negotiating Kyoto agreements.'  We're assembling a Coalition
of the Willing tp threaten polluters.

"We're certainly not bowing the knee to the damn Chinese -- they own
our Treasury, unfortunately, but we completely change the terms of that
debate. When the Chinese open a coal mine and threaten the world's
children with asthma, we will take out that threat with a cruise
missile!  

*That's our new negotiating position on the climate crisis: we're the
military, macho hard line.

*"Suddenly we Americans sound like the grown-ups in the room again. 
Of course we don't have to really battle China -- they're already both
much browner and much greener than we are.  The Chinese get on board in
a hurry, because they're run by engineers who can understand climate
math.

*It's only the obstreperous, the planet's hopelessly stupid -- the
tiny minority who truly think and act like George Bush -- who get
hammered under the new dispensation.

*"Everybody who's factually wrecking the planet gets redefined, by us,
as a 'rogue state' or a 'climate terrorist.' Instead of that cynical
war for oil that we have unfortunately lost, we have a new war against
oil that we might conceivably win."

*Now: I'm not saying this position is good or correct. I'm saying its
appearance is probably necessary, and it would be a sign of political
health in the United States of America.  

*For the Right to stuff climate change into its Scopes-trial monkey 
bag was fatally stupid.  Katrina alone was calamitous for them.  The
Right are gonna need a lot of face-saving to come to terms with the
agonizing inconvenient truth.  Somebody's gonna have to create that
political position for them. It's got to be phraseable in their own
language.

*In the American Civil Cold War, neither side will ever be able to
annihilate the other.  The Confederacy just enjoyed  eight awful years
in power.  As usual, it screwed up.  It's precious way of life is Going
with the Wind as we speak, and for  all the usual reasons: the raw
ignorance, the blatant injustice, the gut-level instincts and the raw
belligerence. The Right is gonna have to crawl back to Tara now.  It's
gonna have to make a new dress out of its drapes.  

*Somebody genuinely concerned with what  climate change means to a
suffering mankind --  as  opposed to a concern for all-organic green
righteousness, -- probably ought to go help them.  God knows they'll
never get there alone.
  
inkwell.vue.343 : Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009
permalink #75 of 177: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 6 Jan 09 10:56
    
>>>
essentially lets deniers define the terms
of the discussion -- which of course is what they've largely succeeded
at
doing so far.
<<<

I don't think I agree that they've defined the terms of the discussion
overall, though I agree that they've managed to sustain the sense that
there's a debate.

Re the "issue with calling an understanding based on the best
scientific evidence a 'belief,'" I'm not sure what else you would call
it. In fact hypothesis is a belief that you try to prove, and the more
and better proof/evidence you have, the better sense you have that you
actually know something that's true. But there's a fuzzy line between
belief and truth, I think.
  

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