A (Money is eating the planet)
A friend shared this paper with me:
and its first sentence is:
"The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of an inevitable near term social collapse due to climate change."
After reading this sentence,
I put the paper aside for a few months.
By now I did read it, and consider it most useful.
It made me more curious about how climate and ecology works. To inquire about essential principles of growth, taking an interest in how plants talk with each other and how they coordinate to make a viable ecosystem.
Mainstream practices towards of “financial growth” do not seem to operate in accordance with any of these principles. Conventional ways of making money on the basis of already having money usually involve some type of moneylending, of creating debt. Terms such as “passive income” seem to obfuscate that this we are dealing with an exploitation of wealth inequality. The biological world (life) relies on homeostats to regulate and balance the flow of energy and material within a system to support the sustained growth of the system as a whole. Your body for example works like this. A metabolism with glands, organs, lungs, digestion, processing oxygen, nutrients and so on. Current day finance knows no such thing as a homeostat. Instead, the dominant narrative is an upside-down version of this, where the very notion of regulation is framed as growth-inhibiting.
Where I live, housing, water, food, energy, heat, internet and transport are not free public utilites, not managed by people, but by businesses. They set it up in such a way that everybody gets to start each month in a minus and has to accumulate at least enough money to get out of the death-zone, to pay for the rent, food and other survival infrastructure.
So the laws of money are different to the laws of viable systems, but money runs the planet. Humans and their more or less elected officials who hold the power, are not in charge of this operation. Many people are scared of AI taking control, while there is already this relatively autonomous and self-guided entity that rules and shapeshifts the living conditions of pretty much everybody on the planet.
So what is this entity?
Today, capital is mostly digits in digital space. It does not live in the dimension of human bodies, it inhabits a layer above, a divine force somewhere in the blur of the cloud. It is a hyper-object which only reveals itself in its effects and through its invisible but all-transforming shadow magic. Money is dark matter.
That’s also why the word “anthropocene” really makes me raise an eyebrow. If we were free, I would agree.
But what’s your gut feeling these days, about the general state of the world?
+ B (Humans live on the planet)
= C (___________________) ?
I tried to picture more urgent conditions than this, but failed.
With all the people already dying.
All the time, all over the globe.
Some get burned alive in their cars.
Did you see a weather report recently?
So you saw these pictures too?
How do you feel about this?
To have a chat about the weather in 2019 means to discuss recent catastrophic events and related forecasts, industrial and corporate infrastructure, the new silk road, planetary boundaries, post-truth. Or some version of this story.
I started an are.na channel on this type of journalistic desaster photography, which to me feels like a surreal new genre that just accidentally emerged. Perhaps it was a bit of a reflex, I just started to log screenshots when I saw something surprising on the news. Attempting to process the information, or trying to cope with what's going on there, I don't know.
I feel that with a bit more discipline and energy, I could find a lot more images every day. It could be turned it into a live feed. A realtime documentation, 4K, VR, of
A few years ago, such images were made in Hollywood. Photorealistic CGI, imagination, oracle, entertainment, business.
Now it’s found footage, news, reality, fact, truth.
(insert: Roland Emmerich, “The day after tomorrow”)
Today, the only photography I’m really interested in, is ecosystem photography.
I mean melting glaciers in the New York Times, or the National Geographic capturing the melting of what we used to call “permafrost” soils (now we call it CO2 timebombs), animated info graphics of a polar vortex. But also factories in Shenzhen, the product photography of Teenage Engineering and even Chef’s Table – all of these images are visual crystallisations and proponents of their very own spiritual and material infrastructure to me.
(insert image feed of the above reference)
The simple question that all these images evoke for me:
Is this how I want to live?
Where am I going?
Are these the values, principles and mechanical structures, that I choose to be dependent on, and supportive of? Do I say yes or no to this?
Calling it ecosystem photography is more a way of seeing than a way of photographing, I get that. “Meaning is a mood” is a sentence that Jack Self uttered somewhere, and it stuck with me.
The mood of 2019.
I guess I don’t know how to see things any other way at this point. This feels like the appropriate lens to be working with, the starting point to articulate stories like this, and to design tools.
A branch of this visual narrative is trending on Netflix right now. You, and me, and thousands of people, in front of their laptops and phones, binging on premium documentaries of disappearing nature through paid streaming services. A grotesque. “Welcome to the future nauseous”, as written in 2012. Those services are built on top of a global infrastructure that is hell-bent on growth, and which calls the interior of our planet
"The black death of oil is formed
into brilliant plastic mobile decks.
Heterogeneous minerals are pulled
from mountain streams in Central Africa
and other places,
and turned into our devices.
The Stack terraforms the host planet,
by drinking and vomiting it's elemental juices
and spitting up mobile phones.
The shiny surfaces of our handsets
demand gore to gloss their faces.
Satellite networks expand
the literal circumference of the earth,
bearing down with false images of a denuded whole,
now turned from a map into an interface,
and in turn into a vast planetary epidermis,
to be governed as a total, living image.
All this is powered
by an Ourobouros-shaped smart grid,
which in distributing electrons
in peer-to-peer packet networks
may rationalise and enlighten
the carbon burden
of industrial computation
or may consume
the last remaining terrawatts
and CO2 gigatons
into a black hole
of data-center-shaped future ruins,
which in doing so
spawns new jurisdictions
of those affected
and those causing
the ecology itself
into the final emergency,
against which we try to defend ourselves
in a losing battle
with the mathematics
the ecology itself
into a final, ambient
The poetry of the 21st century.
(This poem is just a random bit I typed up while listening to this Bratton talk:)
Anyway, I digress.
speaking about the planet –
How many years did it take
to store all this energy in the planet?
years of collective, net-positive result
of the ecosystem, like the GDP of nature
added up over billions of years,
since the planet was born
How many years
did it take us to burn it all?
About 150 years, starting when our great-grandfathers were maybe just riding their horse somewhere, or farming and living of a slice of land that they actually had ownership over
How many years
until it gets rough in your neighbourhood?
From all I gathered,
I guess we have to get used
to the idea of
In case you live near the coast
like me, you might want to pack up
a bit sooner than that.
I don’t know how I feel about this information.
Did you hear this term already, “Climate Grief”?
Sure, the numbers might in truth be slightly different, who knows. Does it matter?
What will be inappropriate tomorrow,
is also inappropriate today
– ethics aren't time-sensitive like that
(material resources are)
(if you're burning them)
Now let's appreciate
that almost every news outlet
is already talking about this every day.
Awareness is not the issue,
This is the point where we collectively can no longer afford to ignore what we see there, right in front of us, every day. Such an ignorance would be equivalent to a suicidal condition, an unhealthy state of mind. It's a sobering but constructive realisation, that this is not the next generation's problem, but ours.
we are living in
a collapsing ecosystem.
Knowing this, how to live?
I think this, because all the answers are there already, and for a long time.
Buckminster Fuller, Stafford Beer, Benjamin Bratton, Adam Curtis, George Monbiot, Jeong Kwan, Ken Wilber, the list of reasonable counter-cultural proposals to this destructive vortex is long. They have been written in every language, from spiritual or occult practices to economic narratives, science, engineering, design, architecture, food, wellbeing. We have libraries full of viable practices. Just take your pick and follow any of these manuals for spaceship earth and personal conduct.
Neo-Metabolism is in that sense just another version of this knowledge, ages old, formatted for the 2019 context: the end game. We make stories and tools, and we’re a non-profit organization.
It’s quite hands-on, like quitting smoking.
There are 12 step programs for this type of addiction.
Our options are:
A suicidal lifestyle or doing the dirty work
The shadow work
(as Joe called it)