Links of the Month: May 2024

Public Service Announcement: If reading my links of the month is unbearably depressing for you, just skip down to the very bottom of this post and at least read Lyz Lenz’s little story on Mothering. Everything else here will probably be the same next month, anyway.

cartoon by Michael Leunig

No, I’m not making fun of protesters. Given the ever-increasing risks that protesters face everywhere in the west, protesters, and especially young ones, are seemingly the only ones brave and sane enough to challenge the increasing repression by our so-called “liberal”, “democratic” and “freedom-loving” governments.

What I take Michael Leunig’s cartoon to be referring to is that it seems to be in the nature of our species that people with power will always move to suppress dissent. Or as has often been observed, no one gives up power voluntarily. As collapse worsens, the ruling caste will either fight with every means at their disposal to hold onto their power, and try to commandeer all the lifeboats for themselves, or they will have power wrenched from them.

At another level, though, I think this cartoon points to the futility of us getting angry at our essential human nature. The atrocities, destruction, oppression and desolation of our planet are all the result of our individual and collective conditioned (and traumatized) behaviour, over which we have no control. We can and will of course be justifiably outraged at this behaviour and its ghastly consequences, but beyond it being outrageous, it is essentially just tragic.

As EO Wilson famously put it “Darwin’s dice have rolled badly for Earth”; the emergence of a species that always wants more, and is capable of endlessly producing more (until it can’t) seems an unlikely and tragic evolutionary turn.

So, thank you, protesters — please keep forcing us to face the truth, and stay safe.


COLLAPSE WATCH


chart by PNAS — look quick before they’re all gone; thanks to Jae Mather for the link

The utter madness of geoengineering: Richard Heinberg’s latest Museletter explains the horrors we could unwittingly leash upon the planet by messing with geoengineering. And he echoes a similar warning from European climate experts:

Once started, solar geoengineering cannot be stopped. Assuming that carbon emissions continued, the artificial sunshade would mask increasing amounts of extra warming. If geoengineering ceased abruptly—due to sabotage, technical, or political reasons—temperatures would shoot up rapidly. This termination shock would be catastrophic for humans and ecosystems. [“The sudden release of just one year’s worth of global warming energy”, Richard calculates, “would be the equivalent of nearly a thousand times the energy yielded by exploding the world’s entire nuclear arsenal.” So not only are we like kids playing with matches, not having the faintest idea what we’re doing, but if we stop once we’ve started, we’re basically doomed to extinguish life on earth.]

… but here come the geoengineering cheerleaders: When I was a youth, I was a huge fan of historian and environmentalist Gwynne Dyer’s writing, but now, it seems, he’s decided to go all in on geoengineering. And nukes. Yikes.

Here comes 3ºC: That’s the average expected increase by 2100 forecast by the world’s leading climate experts. More than 3/4 of them believe it will be 2.5ºC or more. They aren’t even trying to soften the blow anymore by saying “…if we don’t immediately do x“. They know we’re not going to do x. They know what this means, and they’re terrified.

The advent of lenocracy: What happens when governments, and other “players” in our broken economic system, give up the pretence of being able to do anything to avoid or even slow down economic collapse? It becomes a lenocracy, which, as John Michael Greer explains, does nothing whatsoever of value, but which, like cops and border guards in most countries, charges fees and takes bribes for not interfering in what the wealthy (and to some extent the rest of us) want to do. Everything hence becomes more difficult and more expensive, and you know ends up paying for that.

A sneak preview of the scavenger economy: The Honest Sorcerer reviews how things get done in India, which has already begun the transition from an industrial economy to the type of post-collapse scavenger economy that Anna Tsing told us was coming.

How not to build a viable food system: John Whiting warns us of the consequences of a monocrop industrial agricultural model that nutritionally starves, poisons and sickens us, and renders our entire food system fragile and unsustainable, in a presentation he made back in 2007, which is even more true today.

The pelletization of our forests: The Tyee’s Ben Parfitt explains how, especially since Fukushima, an ever-increasing proportion of our ‘forestry’ activities, including the clear-cutting of old-growth forests, is feeding the demand for wood pellets and other wood “biomass” that is simply being burned up.

A world without growth: Tim Watkins describes, in terms of what the day-to-day lives of all of us will be like, what it soon will mean to live in a world without growth. Another grim non-hypothetical preview of collapse; and it’s a long way down.

We’re already at maximum power on the warp drives, captain: Energy geologist Art Berman draws on several datasets and the work of several energy analysts to predict the trajectory of economic collapse. Thanks to Renaee Churches for the link.


LIVING BETTER


meme by Damian Barr; illustration by Barbara Kelley

CLT+LEC=Affordable housing: Housing developments that combine community land trusts with limited-equity co-ops offer the twin promises of truly affordable housing and a sense of real community. Here’s how the model works, and here’s a diagram explaining the legal and operating structure. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.

An alternative to the Tweedle parties: Jill Stein explains why she’s running for US president. Sadly, she’s become embroiled in a dispute with Cornel West, the only other candidate of reasonably sound mind.


POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL


Kent State University, May 4, 1970. National Guard opens live fire on mostly peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and others just passing by, murdering four and injuring nine others. The killers were found not guilty. Nothing, other than the new paramilitary riot gear, has changed in 54 years. Image from the Kent State University Library. 

The Usual Empire Malfeasance: Corpocracy, Imperialism, Fascism, Propaganda, Misinformation, Disinformation and Censorship: Short takes (thanks to John Whiting for many of these links):

Wendell Berry on the “urban elite’s” misunderstanding of rural America: The distinguished 89-year-old novelist, poet and environmental activist minces no words when he chastises the NY Review of Books for its ignorant and condescending dismissal of the grievances of rural America. Apparently the NYRB doesn’t like to be taken to task — they declined to publish his letter to the editor. He wrote a similar, and even harsher, critique of Paul Krugman’s equally ignorant and condescending attack on rural Americans. I suspect it was received with similar hostility. What Wendell writes is important, but few of us (and the urban/rural mutual misunderstanding and antagonism is not unique to the US) are likely to listen. One point he makes is: If you don’t take the time to visit and pay attention to other cultures, including those in your own country, you will never understand or appreciate them, and that ignorance can quickly turn to mutual distrust. (Thanks to Paul Heft for these links.)


FUN AND INSPIRATION


cartoon by Everett Glenn in the New Yorker; add your own caption

The fascinating way fruit flies fly: A fascinating video explaining their flight agility bears witness to the astonishing complexity of even nature’s “simplest” species.

A feminist review of The Idea of You: Lyz Lenz at her brightest and funniest, reviewing the new romance flick.

The enshittification of everything AI touches: Cory Doctorow explains all the ways AI can be, and is being, used to enshittify every corner of the internet, from your search engine results, news sites, product “reviews”, social media, and even sites licensed under Creative Commons licences. As has often been said, for every promising new technology there will be ten assholes ready to exploit it for profit and the immiseration of others.


THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH


page from Lewis Hyde’s A Primer for Forgetting

From Caitlin Johnstone, on the American voter’s “choice”:

Remember, all this fascism would feel way more fascismy under Trump… You don’t have to like what’s happening to your country. You don’t even have to pay attention to it. All you have to do is make sure you keep telling everyone to shut up and stop criticizing the president and to tick that little box next to Biden’s name in November. Because it’s just a tough fact that in order to defeat Orange Mussolini, we’re going to have to get comfortable with fascism.

and on a similar note, from Indrajit Samarajiva, on the American voter’s “choice”:

There’s no need to wait for Trump to bring in fascism, it’s alive and kicking students in the teeth already. In many places (like NY and California), it’s happening under a Democratic President, governor, and mayor. America’s two parties are just left and right boot, stamping on a human face forever.

From Lyz Lenz, on Mothering:

I was going to write a small essay about how I bought a couch and economic fear and insecurity. But my 13 yo came into the office, saw me typing, and said, “No one cares about you buying a couch, mom!” I will still write about the couch and money. But for today, I want to write about mothering.

This same kid had a bunch of friends over on Saturday. And they are such women and also such children. Eating sushi, jumping on the trampoline. I’ve known my daughter’s friends since they were in kindergarten. I am not friends with their parents. But we are all familiar strangers in each other’s lives, pulled together by the gravitational force of our children.

After the girls left and my daughter and I were snuggling in bed she began to tell me that she and her friends have a list of which parents houses are good for which things.

One kid’s house is good for snacks. One house is good for being chill. Another house is the fancy house. I was furious my house wasn’t any of those houses. But I listened, finally asking, “Okay, what is my house good for?”

And my daughter said, “Oh, your house is the safe house. It’s the house we all know we can go to if anything goes bad.” She told me that her friends know I am accepting. And that throughout the years of playdates, birthday parties, and field trips they’ve learned this house I’ve built is the home where they can go to be themselves.

After my daughter went to bed, I sat on my sofa, the one she thinks no one cares about, and cried.


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5 Responses to Links of the Month: May 2024

  1. noz says:

    Greetings from Türkiye. Just wanted to add that Erdoğan suspended trade with Israel only after immense public pressure. When people from all sides of the political spectrum put aside their differences for a single cause even dictators cave in.

  2. Bob Lasiewicz says:

    Thanks for another enjoyable Links post!

  3. Siyavash Abdolrahimi says:

    Thanks, Daoudjan, for the links! I always look forward to them, even if they are always quite depressing. Excellent cartoon!

  4. FamousDrScanlon says:

    Turns out Tim Watkins is a climate change denier/minimize – just coming out of the closet. He’s far from the first Angry, White, male, Boomer coming out. Fuck him. Hiding all these years is the same as lying. Perhaps he will go full neo alt-right to replace his lost readers just like Jim Kunstler had to. Lying climate change deniers gotta pay bills to.
    I hope they both stay alive long enough to fry.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Hmm. DrS, are you basing that on the article I linked to above, A World Without Growth? If that’s the case, one of us is reading him wrong. I think he’s saying that we’re on the horns of a dilemma — our economy depends on perpetual growth, but the resources don’t exist to sustain that. So we’re going to soon be back in a world without growth, and it’s going to be awful, not because growth is good, but because our dependence on it is going to make its absence excruciatingly difficult, since we’ve assumed it could go on forever, and based our entire economy on that assumption.

    Or am I misunderstanding something? (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

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