Against Dystopia

While the blogosphere exploded with (mostly bad) hot takes, I decided to lay low and let the GameStop frenzy blow over. I don’t have anything to say about all that (Matt Levine has been doing some great, hilarious writing on what he has only half-jokingly announced “is a GameStop blog now,” but this piece from Alexis Goldstein of Markets Weekly was the single best analysis I read of the situation), other than to note that GME has come down 90% from its peak a week or two ago.

Because this is primarily a climate crisis, not a GameStop, blog, I’m happy to pivot – by way of Corey Doctorow’s excellent summary of the variety of GME takes – back to the defining issue of our time. He writes:

Every couple of years, we have a massive, systemic financial crisis, and every time that happens, the finance sector lobbies for a no-strings-attached bailout, abetted by suckers who hate the finance sector but fear starving in their old age. We’re about to be engulfed in the second-largest crisis of our lifetime – the reckoning from trillions in capital market gains propped up by the Trump administration’s policy of buying all corporate debt as a covid stimulus. (the largest crisis of our lifetimes is a few years off, as the climate emergency piles losses on losses, stranding tens of trillions in assets, from fossil fuels to obsolete gas-stations to literally underwater coastal real-estate to whole towns incinerated by wildfires) That’s where we’re at: a crooked casino that we’ve trusted our futures too, a crisis on the horizon, and a bunch meme-stock “players” who have thrown the normal weirdness of the market into stark relief through a spectacular stunt.

Too often, corporate media voices either sensationalize climate crisis, or ignore it altogether, but comparatively little of the media coverage, as yet, involves the nuance we need to both make sense of this monumental challenge we are facing (so as to rise to the occasion), and to avoid the pitfalls of climate doomism and Hollywood-style disaster porn, which makes analyses like Doctorow’s all the more welcome.

On Mistakes

I’ve been thinking a lot about climate finance, climate investment, and what the impact of climate crisis will be on financial markets, and will likely be writing more about those topics in the coming months. In the meantime, spurred by the writing of Zeynep Tufecki and Michael Mann’s new book, respectively, I’ve been reflecting on things I’ve got wrong, to date, about the pandemic and about climate crisis, and trying to better understand my own missteps. To my credit, I got many things right, and with respect to climate crisis in particular, the benefit of my past misjudgments is a sharpened sense of the challenges and opportunities of our current impasse; however, to the extent that I can discern a through-thread in my errors, it has to do with an over-reliance on trusted sources. This is, of course, ironic, because so much of my own process is predicated on genealogies of knowledge and the development of networks of trusted experts/thinkers, but to the extent that I, for example, under-appreciated the value of masking up back in March, or indulged in my own climate doomism back in 2016, it was primarily a function of trusting the wrong sources and of failing to fact/reason-check conclusions based on first principles.

One lesson I hope to carry forward from the experience of the pandemic into the deepening struggle of this climate decade, therefore, is a dialectical synthesis of these powerful modes of thought: Continuing to develop my own thinking in conversation with/respect to that of other trusted authors/writers/speakers (as a counter to the increasingly amorphous, sourceless propagation of ideas and “facts”) while also striving to base my analyses in a materialist/naturalist conception of a world and universe governed by laws, principles, and theories that can guide our understanding of what is reasonable, what is likely, and what is possible.

On Data

Less than two weeks ago, I noted the following headline in the Times of India: “India sees less than 12K new cases, 50% of them in Kerala,” and wondered: What are the odds that 50% of all the COVID-19 cases in India happened to come in one of its smaller states, but coincidentally, the state with the most functional public health apparatus and that has handled the pandemic most ably?

Then, last week, the following headline appeared in the ToI: “Over 300 million Indians may have COVID-19: Source citing government study”; subsequently, the news broke that a nationwide seroprevalence survey had shown 21% plus seropositivity rates in India, which would, indeed, put the total number of Indians infected over the course of the pandemic in the vicinity of 300 million (although of course, antibody tests have all sorts of reliability issues, neutralizing antibodies fade with time, etc). I’m not really looking to dig into this data in detail here, but only to point out once again the absurdity of the way that the pandemic is being reported upon in the United States. Yes, the US happens to have the most confirmed cases and deaths in the world. No, it probably is not accurate to histrionically pretend that the pandemic has somehow raged here while largely sparing countries like India when, in the case of India in particular, it is increasingly obvious that a negligent government (or set of governments at every level of administration) has simply decided to collect as little data as possible on the pandemic, whether about case counts, deaths, or anything else.

On Settler Colonialism

At the time COVID-19 hit New York City, I had been writing about the struggle by Wet’suwet’en land and water protectors to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The Red Nation Podcast has an excellent interview with two of those protectors “on the one-year anniversary of RCMP raid on Unist’ot’en Camp.” I highly recommend you give it a listen.

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