Friday, October 05, 2018

Eat the Rich - Unless They Get You First

When the Trump administration recently sought to justify scrapping Obama's initiative to substantially improve vehicle fuel economy, it used what seemed to be a bizarre argument: we're already screwed so why bother?

...the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed. 
The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket. 
“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.
The jolting nature of Trump's admission got me thinking. Was he just openly saying what other national leaders, including our own, are keeping to themselves? Are they also ready to sell out our future generations?
We know where we're at, we know where we're heading, we have had plenty of warnings and we know what we must do if we want civilization to survive. We know that time is not on our side. Just recently the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, said we have until 2020 to implement major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if we're to avert truly runaway global warming. 
We know that Trump's response is "meh." What about our own government's response? How is Canada's government moving to decarbonize our society and our economy? Is it on the side of Team Science or is it actually on the side of Team Trump?

The idea that, on climate change, we're in the same camp with Trump is going to offend some people. 
Is this where Justin gets his ideas about flooding world markets with high-carbon bitumen.? He hasn't said that our planet's fate is already sealed but he certainly acts as though he believes it. And he's following in the footsteps of his predecessors.
But, wait, that can't be. Justin has young children of his own. He wouldn't set fire to their future, surely not.  Then I stumbled upon this today in the Globe & Mail, an article by Denise Balkisoon, "Climate adaptation for the rich: Bye-bye planet earth."

According to the author Douglas Rushkoff, many of the very rich believe their wealth can protect them, especially if they leave the rest of us behind.

Mr. Rushkoff teaches media theory and digital economics at the City University of New York. In July, he wrote an essay that opened with an anecdoteabout being paid half his annual salary to give a talk on “the future of technology.” 
He ended up around a table, he says, with “five super-wealthy guys – yes, all men – from the upper echelon of the hedge-fund world.” The increasingly shocking questions they posed included urgent inquiries into whether New Zealand or Alaska would be safer from rising seas.
Here are a few excerpts from Rushkoff's essay, "Survival of the Richest."
After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys — yes, all men — from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own.

...The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down. 
This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers — if that technology could be developed in time. 
That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.
...When the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after “the event,” I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now. They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place. All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now. 
They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars. 
Luckily, those of us without the funding to consider disowning our own humanity have much better options available to us. We don’t have to use technology in such antisocial, atomizing ways. We can become the individual consumers and profiles that our devices and platforms want us to be, or we can remember that the truly evolved human doesn’t go it alone.
Being human is not about individual survival or escape. It’s a team sport. Whatever future humans have, it will be together.


Karl Kolchak said...

Justin's kids are gonna be fine--that doomstead in New Zealand will have plenty of room.

Anonymous said...

So much for simple folk trying their best to begin "A 'Third Way' to save the Amazon: make trees more valuable......or for that matter anyone else trying to do what is right for the earth. Of course those dogs have it all figured out as I have said before. Anyong

Jay Farquharson said...

Like I said earlier, they think they can rich their way out of Global Warming


Anonymous said...

It is like Mark Twain....said, "When the rich rob the poor it's called business. When the poor fight back it's called violence.