Collapsing Upwards - Bruce Sterling Speaks  

Posted by Big Gav

WorldChanging has an interview with Bruce Sterling called "The Planet Is An Ark" (via Past Peak, which quotes the interview and one interesting comment about Lech Walesa's advice on how to bring about change - "Lech Walesa was once asked how Solidarity started. He answered, "By talking loudly at the bus stops."").

With heavy weather upon us and even boring, established news conduits like CNN talking apocalypse, we consulted the Viridian Pope-Emperor, WorldChanging ally #1 Bruce Sterling, to get his take as he was leaving for Europe and Art Futura.

Q: With Arctic ice melting and the worst hurricane season in recorded history, are we past the point where mitigation of global climate change is going to have much of an effect?

A: The climate crimes we've already committed aren't much compared to what's coming down the pipe. It's pretty cynical to write off mitigation when we haven't as yet even tried it. It may well be that the roof is on fire, but that doesn't make it good policy to chop up the walls and floors and add them to the blaze.

Q: Should we be building an ark or two?

A: The planet IS an ark.

Where do you propose to hide or construct such a thing? There's no place to hide from the sky.

This might be a great time to make backups of your data and scatter 'em all over the planet. If you're in Tornado Alley it wouldn't kill you to clean out the storm shelter. But there's no particular safe haven where one is sure to go untroubled by weather. People went to Florida because they liked the weather. Los Angeles has great weather and it's very imperilled. Everybody and everywhere is at risk. Trent Lott lost his house and the oil industry took a major hit from Katrina. I've personally seen a minor hurricane rip limbs from trees in the White House lawn.

Arks are mere Biblical legend. Nobody who isn't mythical has ever thrived in a stupid ark. This is sheer Marxist accumulation. When real mayhem breaks out, it makes no sense for some tiny group, sci-fi movie style, to retreat to some survivalist enclave and sit on a stack of gold bars. You don't survive that way. If you're unlucky enough to be situated in serious Disorder, the smartest thing to do is retreat in whatever area of order seems handy, and regroup. Await a change in circumstances and prepare to resettle the mess.

Q: In getting certain world leaders to be responsive to the increasingly obvious, we can't seem to get past legacy issues (e.g. George W. Bush ignoring Kyoto because it would "cost jobs.") What should the average person, or at least the citizen change agent, be doing at this point to support both mitigation and adaptation?

A: I don't want to be a big cynic about this, but really, at this point, who WANTS George W Bush to get all interested in climate change? Sooner or later, that guy poisons everything he touches. He'd probably start a highly secretive and utterly disorganized "Department of Greenhouse Security," where Bechtel apparatchiks took over abandoned army bases to install leaky nuclear power plants in dead of night with extraordinarily-rendered, off-the-books, union-busting labor. Would that help? If he fought the Greenhouse in utter sincerity and with all his might, would he win?

George Bush doesn't care about Kyoto and "jobs." The American right's loathing for Kyoto is strictly a nationalist, anti-globalist, unilateralist power issue. They don't want Kyoto inspectors dropping by to double-check Exxon-Mobil's emissions; they figure they'd show up in black helicopters, with handcuffs and guns. Because that's exactly how they themselves would behave, if they had the chance.

I don't believe in "average people" doing anything. People ought to support mitigation and adaptation within their own line of work, no matter how un-average that is. I mean: if you're butcher, baker, ballerina, banker, or a plumber, envision yourself as the post-fossil-fuel version of yourself, and get right after it. We'd be best off struggling to create some kind of Solidarnosc-style entirely alternate society, for a 1989-sized across-the-board upheaval. So, just, well, stop co-operating with the status quo. Stop collaborating. Stop being afraid and stop feeling helpless. Just stop all that and start living by entirely other means.

Be glad for any scrap of choice you're offered. The UN expects 50 million people to have their lives entirely uprooted by environmental mayhem -- EVERY YEAR. That could be you or me. You're worried that a hybrid car costs more money? People in Key West are standing on the roofs of drowned cars.

Our best hope is to "collapse upwards."


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