'In 2030, we ended the climate emergency. Here’s how."
January 11, 2020 6:35 AM   Subscribe

What is human civilisation if not the result of all the stories we’ve been told? Centuries of evidence have shown that storytelling can change the course of history. Radical imagination, a term used by US author and social movement organiser adrienne maree brown, describes the power visionary fiction has to change the world. “Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless,” she writes. Our story of the 2020s is yet to be written, but we can decide today whether or not it will be revolutionary. Radical imagination could help us begin to see that the power to change reality starts with changing what we consider to be possible. […]

This is a story about our journey to 2030 – a vision of what it could look and feel like if we finally, radically, collectively act to build a world we want to live in.
(Eric Holthaus, The Correspondent)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (34 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like this. Is it increasingly dusty in here or what?

It will feel like something you’ve always wanted, but never thought you’d get. You deserve it.

I know what that can feel like. I want more wins like that, for myself and the world. I just read a very different future story immediately before this, "I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter." In that story, our gendered instincts have, in a more dystopian climate scenario, been reharnessed for survival in an environment where rogue AI's have been left in control. Whichever way it goes, we can rewire our way of thinking. We just have to clarify for ourselves that our survival depends on collective action.

I read something else recently that pointed to how in the west, the myth of individual determinism leads to too many of us failing to collectively organize, because we're sold the idea that, well, things bought and sold and our individual purchases and consumption matter. They kind of do, but those things are not what's going to save us and the Earth. We absolutely have to hold accountable the corrupt and dangerous entities that have been created and unleashed by capitalism.

Otherwise, we're just tilting at windmills, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, doing things like I did last night, arguing by text message with the building manager about the proper way to package trash and non-recyclable items not for the best environmental outcome, but so we can avoid petty fines for our building that could stem from inaccurate reports of a trash bag that's noncompliant (e.g., this city doesn't accept bubble mailers as recyclables, but if something thrown away looks at a glance like something recyclable, when seen through the haze of a white plastic trash bag, they'll fine us). We're applying our limited energy and attention to the wrong things, and entrenched powers would love us to continue that sort of infighting.

But I love this near-future vision of how things could be. I still want this. But I'm not sure I—or we—will get it.
posted by limeonaire at 8:16 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


I mean, I was thinking about this the better part of a decade ago.
See, we don't even need Terminators; totalitarian regimes of nonhuman actors uninterested in keeping individual humans alive are already here in the form of megacorporations. Most of the top search results for "corporate singularity" have to do with people answering the question "Will corporations prevent the singularity?" But I fear the rise of these human-enslaving corporations is the singularity. The hive mind of corporate culture serves to give these nonhuman entities sentience of a sort, all directed toward the preservation and propagation of the company at all costs. And the worst part is, we volunteer to surrender our minds and our energy to these entities. As my husband puts it, it's the voluntary Matrix.
More thoughts on this, from about 5 years ago:
It used to be that you would only hear of plotlines like this in the context of sci-fi, in which evil entities use a virus to put massive oil tankers in a position to be capsized or use subsidiaries to move around strategically important metals and secretly corner the market.

But these sorts of leeching global finance corporations are viruses, self-propagating and endangering our lives. And they are the result of a singularity—a corporate one, in which corporations now have both the rights and intelligence of humans and the global reach of nonhuman networks. Hello, Da Vinci virus! Hello, Skynet! They're already here.
So yes, story is important. Narrative is one tool that might get us through this. It's time for us to rewrite that story, absolutely. It's only inevitable if we don't write a better outcome for ourselves and the Earth. It's only inevitable if we don't develop a collective consciousness of these things and rise up.
posted by limeonaire at 8:27 AM on January 11 [8 favorites]


Yes, please.
posted by odinsdream at 9:39 AM on January 11


totalitarian regimes of nonhuman actors uninterested in keeping individual humans alive are already here in the form of megacorporations.

See also this, by MeFi's Own.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:45 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


2023: We will criminalise and delegitimise the fossil fuel industry.

This ought to be Step 1. We shouldn’t have to wait to catch up to Endgame for this to take place. But who has the political will to make it happen?
posted by Construction Concern at 9:57 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


When I think back on how much has changed in the past 10 years, it makes this scenario seem even more possible. Thank you for sharing!
posted by johnxlibris at 10:00 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


it sucks that it feels like we, as a society at large, are 10 years away from getting to the state described in the 2020 stage.
posted by Reyturner at 11:01 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


This brings me to a half glass full state.
Dystopia's are the shit that's supposed to be depressing, but...
Presenting a utopia like this just utterly depresses my pessimist self.
posted by symbioid at 12:07 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]



When I think back on how much has changed in the past 10 years


Such as?
posted by lalochezia at 1:28 PM on January 11


We've got uber and mask off nazis, now.
posted by Reyturner at 1:52 PM on January 11


This reads like a utopian fantasy to me.
The media is inundated with condemnations of the fossil fuel industry twinned with free passes for anything related to solar and wind. This is so naive that it really disheartens me. Solar and wind projects are not made of pixie dust created by vegan hippies on the moon. They're industrial creations that use massive resources. They require staggeringly large collections of batteries which are dependent on limited minerals that are very destructive to mine.
We can't just say "everything's electric now!" and go on about our lives.
Any path towards an actual solution needs to address the destruction of habitat that is caused by nearly every human activity, and the continuing problem of human overpopulation, which continues to be neglected by supposedly progressive activists.
Always remember the law of unintended consequences. In other words, "Man plans, God laughs" (Yiddish proverb, or Public Enemy, take your pick). Things never happen as we plan them.
posted by Joan Rivers of Babylon at 3:07 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]




There's going to have to be extensive cultural changes. The person who wants to live in that 2030 has to be raised differently.
posted by Selena777 at 4:06 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


This reads to me the same way that an article in 1967 might have been titled: "In 1977 we ended Capitalism and War. Here's How."
posted by lalochezia at 5:41 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]


the continuing problem of human overpopulation, which continues to be neglected by supposedly progressive activists.

This is nonsense. Climate activists have not ignored or neglected "overpopulation". In fact, we've been over this on the blue many times.

- Empowering people to make their own reproductive choices? Already a major goal.
- Earth can support 9 billion, could support more, the issue is not the number, it's the distribution of the resources.
- Pretty much everything else is ecofascism.

I know that this piece might seem to be ambitious, but honestly, the only naivety I see is believing us to have any alternative.
posted by Acid Communist at 6:39 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


continuing problem of human overpopulation, which continues to be neglected by supposedly progressive activists.

Any solution to any problem that centers itself around exterminating inconvenient populations would do well to be honest about the desire for stiff-armed salutes and jackboots.
posted by happyroach at 7:51 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]


"We will have long begun to reclaim lawns and parking lots in our cities for people and gardens. We will take back public spaces that had been privatised."

...followed by....

"We will begin to feel comfortable around each other in public again because we love each other and we always have. We have always liked meeting new people, so our public spaces will help us do that instead of isolating us in outdated cubicles of individualism."

tells me he's never been to a public zoning meeting.

We're doomed.
posted by storybored at 9:18 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Either that, or he can imagine another way of relating to others, a wholly different social landscape, which you can't.

Since the alternative is "we're doomed", I'm more than willing to take a gamble on the possibility that if the pressures of life were radically transformed and alleviated, humans might get along a little better.

How many MeFites can remember life before a point as recent as 1950? And yet people are so willing to declare that their experiences account for all the possible ways humans might be in a different world.

Most of us have known almost nothing but variants of neoliberal hell. We should not forget that, and how it constrains us.
posted by Acid Communist at 11:04 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Either that, or he can imagine another way of relating to others, a wholly different social landscape, which you can't.

That's not how the quote actually reads though:

"We will begin to feel comfortable around each other in public again because we love each other and we always have. We have always liked meeting new people"

He's not imagining some new and other way of relating to people. He's suggesting something about how we all already are. It's a failure of imagination on his part to ascribe his feelings to everyone else.
posted by Dysk at 3:14 AM on January 12


Whether we already are something and it's suppressed by our environment or we can become something isn't really a distinction I care much about, I guess.

I mean I do love those around me, and I always have. I do like meeting new people. It's only the difficulties of life which mean I'm anxious and bound by other things. I find it hard to express that love in this world, but that doesn't mean it's not there.
posted by Acid Communist at 4:29 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


"Any solution to any problem that centers itself around exterminating inconvenient populations would do well to be honest about the desire for stiff-armed salutes and jackboots."

I'm really fucking sick of being called a Nazi every time I bring this up.
Yet again:
I said nothing about "exterminating inconvenient populations." Universal, voluntary, and free access to birth control would go a long way toward solving this problem.
You're devoting so much mental energy to denying overpopulation as a problem that it's causing you to lash out at strangers with ridiculous and totally unfounded claims. It really isn't helpful.
Wildlife habitat is being annihilated around the world at an increasing rate, all because of human needs and wants. Yes, capitalism, the rich, and unfair distribution are causing this. Obviously. Overpopulation is also causing this. Obviously.
posted by Joan Rivers of Babylon at 6:28 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]


I can’t fix the global waste problem, but here are small steps I am taking to be more sustainable (Brittany Long Olsen, The Lily)
After I read Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, my main takeaway was that new, eco-friendly habits are only helpful if they’re sustainable. I wanted to immediately make a hundred changes to the way I shopped, cooked, dressed and cleaned, but I knew that such an overhaul would be too disruptive for my family and my budget. We’re doing things differently a little at a time, and so far, it looks like our reduced reliance on plastic is building good long-term habits. The massive scale of the global waste problem can make our individual efforts seem so trivial, but don’t get discouraged. We can all work together to make a difference.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:07 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Joan Rivers of Babylon there's a disconnect somewhere, because no-one here's against Universal, voluntary, and free access to birth control. That's already on the agenda. That's already part of the plan. I really think you'd struggle to find someone here who isn't already advocating in favour.

So what more do you want done?
Most people who bring up overpopulation do end up saying they want to constrain the lives and choices of poor people, people not in the imperial core, and so on. That's what the reaction is to. Hopefully that's not you, but if so I'm confused as to what you think is being ignored or left out of climate justice rhetoric.
posted by Acid Communist at 7:23 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


That sounds impossible.

What's our plan for if it fails?
posted by MrVisible at 7:34 AM on January 12


None of things that are actually reducing carbon emissions is remotely radical.

Luxury cars with sweet lines and head-slamming acceleration aren't "radical" - but Tesla created the contemporary electric car market.

US venture capitalists and Communist Party of China officials aren't radical - but the tens of billions of dollars they are collectively pouring into solar, wind, battery and electricity transmission technology are what will make cheap electric vehicles, and all-electric buildings in temperate climates, feasible, as well as extend the grid capacity of renewable energy beyond areas with high insolation or steady winds.

Cops aren't radical - but good policing reduced city crime rates enough for lots of people to start to prefer energy-efficient urban living to suburban living.
posted by MattD at 8:11 AM on January 12


I mean I do love those around me, and I always have. I do like meeting new people. It's only the difficulties of life which mean I'm anxious and bound by other things. I find it hard to express that love in this world, but that doesn't mean it's not there.

Good for you. But you aren't everyone.
posted by Dysk at 8:53 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


You're very much missing my point.
posted by Acid Communist at 10:31 AM on January 12


And you're very much missing mine. I get that a lot of people probably are constrained by context, and would have very different social experiences in a different socio-political context. But refusing to accept that this is not universal is to ignore the existence of both a lot of neurodivergence, and reported lived experience.

"I feel like this could be different for me" is great, be a good point to go to "I feel like this could be different for many people" but absolutely not "and thus this applies universally, to everyone". If it sounds plausible or resonates with you, you're probably like the author, and the prediction might well cover you. But you are not everyone, and the shared experience of you, the author (and no doubt many others) is not necessarily universal.

Also, not everyone lives in the kind of capitalist hellscape that the US in particular and the Anglosphere more generally is, and social experiences vary just as much between individuals in those contexts.

It will simply never be true that everyone will love (or even on any level enjoy) meeting new people.
posted by Dysk at 11:16 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Pretty much everything else is ecofascism.

lol no

Most people who bring up overpopulation do end up saying they want to constrain the lives and choices of poor people, people not in the imperial core, and so on. That's what the reaction is to.

I would absolutely like the lives and choices of poor and / or non-Western people to be constrained in certain respects, as well as wanting to constrain (to a far greater extent) the lives and choices of better-off Westerners, because fewer constraints mean greater risks for people in general and poor and / or non-Western people in particular. Birth control is an essential part of the solution, but shouldn't be treated as a silver bullet.

There's a lot to discuss about how to identify and implement such constraints - how to promote effective collaboration rather than rich countries unilaterally imposing 'solutions', how to promote public acceptance of constraints, how to avoid hamstringing development and poverty reduction efforts, how to reduce unequal and unfair outcomes of constraints - but blanket denial of the need for such constraints is simplistic and deeply counterproductive. I understand the desire to deal with this issue by empowering rather than constraining people (particularly given the context re the West's responsibility for the situation and historic treatment of the poor and non-Western), but given what's at stake for all of us - not just the West - relying on empowerment alone is irresponsibly risky.

I appreciate there are people online and in environmental movements heading towards the 'salutes and jackboots' end of the spectrum of possible constraints (whether because of innate authoritarian / racist leanings, general misanthropy or simple blind panic). We can oppose them without labelling everything other than birth control and resource redistribution as 'ecofascism'.
posted by inire at 5:53 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I'm not opposed to the idea that there could be other things to do. I'd still like an example or two, because I've only seen ecofascism so far.
posted by Acid Communist at 10:14 AM on January 14


Think of any restrictive measure that a state might impose within its borders (via law and regulation) in order to control or reduce an activity that has significant climate / environmental impact. Some measures will be targeted at individual activity (e.g. measures to discourage car use, consumption of goods that come with a heavy climate / environmental cost, or use of toxic pesticides by farmers), others will be targeted at commercial activity (e.g. banning certain types of heavily polluting manufacturing processes, mandating controls on business energy use), and others will be targeted at state-level activity (e.g. no new coal-fueled power plants). Some of these restrictions will only be relevant for better-off Westerners or Western states, but many will be more broadly relevant. These restrictions will constrain individuals – either because they directly target individuals or because they e.g. reduce the types of goods and services or the scope of activities available to them.

I see no reason, in principle, why such restrictions should not be applied to poor and / or non-Western people where relevant, in a proportionate way and with due attention paid to collaboration, fairness, etc. as mentioned in my previous comment. It’s true that such restrictions would – like most laws – be top-down, agreed at a level far above the heads of most people who will be affected by them, and ultimately backed by state force. That may well make them problematic, depending on your political views, but doesn’t necessarily make them fascist. Obviously states can impose restrictions that would qualify as ecofascist (e.g. forced sterilisations) or tend in that direction (e.g. criminalising having more than one child), but that’s because of the nature of the restrictions, not because they are restrictions per se.
posted by inire at 12:08 PM on January 14


Yeah but it's specifically the overpopulation thing that I'm calling ecofascism. I don't believe I've suggested taxes or incentives to drive less are necessarily fascistic. I struggle to see how we can address "overpopulation" as a specific issue without restricting people's rights unnecessarily.

After all, overpopulation isn't a problem. It just isn't. So any effort put towards fixing it is wasted energy and fodder for racists. Any restriction based on neo-Malthusian ideas is an unnecessary one. Overpopulation isn't "obviously" a problem. It's one that's been sold hard as a problem, but that's not the same thing. We don't need to use more land than we do now, even if world population doubles. We already produce more than enough food.
Even the assumption that humans have to negatively impact the environment per capita, instead of positively, is questionable.
posted by Acid Communist at 12:51 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Yeah but it's specifically the overpopulation thing that I'm calling ecofascism. I don't believe I've suggested taxes or incentives to drive less are necessarily fascistic.

Ah, got you - I read your earlier comment as referring to broader constraints on people's lives and choices, my mistake.

I do think it's very clear that the rapid and ongoing increases in global population are causing (and / or exacerbating) significant problems for the environment and climate, which means that in the current context overpopulation is a problem in its own right.

Obviously there are a range of ways of dealing with the situation, and you don't need to limit yourself to reducing the global population through empowering women, free birth control, etc. - as you point out, resource redistribution would help, and there are plenty of other things that can be done to change the current context and reduce the average negative impact of each person. If we could do enough of those things fast enough, population levels wouldn't be a problem. But it's extremely unlikely that we will do enough of those things fast enough, and accordingly population levels are and will very likely remain a problem.

The fact that there is no good solution to this problem (meaning a solution that is effective, swift and moral) doesn't mean it's not a problem; it just means we're in a shitty situation. We shouldn't respond to that by becoming ecofascists (and god knows I get why there's instinctive resistance to talking about this, given fash eagerness to use it as an excuse for genocide), but denying that the problem exists isn't helpful.
posted by inire at 2:00 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Cops aren't radical - but good policing reduced city crime rates enough for lots of people to start to prefer energy-efficient urban living to suburban living.

I'm not sure this should be attributed to good policing. In fact, studies have shown that U.S. states with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime reductions than others. The drop in city crime rates could well be attributed to (and certainly correlates with) legalized abortion, leading to fewer children being born into poverty, abuse, or other untenable situations that foster or necessitate crime.
posted by limeonaire at 1:11 PM on January 17


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