John Vidal recently revealed how big names in the US are behind a major new push for planetary geoengineering. He tells us that a coalition representing the most powerful academic, military, scientific and corporate interests has set its sights on the vast potential profits of modifying the planet. Of course they do.These are the same people who have been getting rich on nuclear power (and weapons), genetically modified food, oil wars and the ever-tightening grip of advanced capitalist bureaucracy.
For this insatiate minority, power and profits come through control; the control of energy, resources and people. The technology they promote isn’t small scale, local and empowering because this doesn’t pay so good. With nuclear power, GM seeds and a good war for oil the proceeds are highly concentrated.
By seizing control of the whole planet, the power freaks get their ultimate hard-on; at the expense of the rest of life on earth. Therefore this new threat must be met with fierce resistance built on a foundation of absolute zero tolerance. First up, it is crucial to counter the claims made by (often cantankerous and elderly) renegade environmentalists that we need highly centralizing technologies to survive.
Stewart Brand is a living legend for good reason. He hung out with the Merry Pranksters and set up the Trips Festival; he founded the Whole Earth Catalog and then was key to linking the counterculture to the cyberculture. So it is a hugely disappointing that in his latter years he has abandoned the counterculture and put his not inconsiderable influence behind the highly-centralizing technologies of genetic engineering, nuclear power and geoengineering.
His support has been seized upon by pundits who have an eco-axe to grind. On the back cover of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline (An Ecopragmatist Manifesto) there is a quote from Danny Fortson’s gleeful review in The Sunday Times:
“What Brand has produced is a thoroughly researched, highly entertaining manual that takes on many of the environmental movement’s biggest taboos, among them nuclear power and genetically modified food, and argues that, far from the scourges they are portrayed to be, they should be embraced wholeheartedly and as fast as possible. His message is, in short: get real.”
‘Getting real’ actually takes us to the real nub of the issue. What is this ‘real’ we are referring to?
If you think that this way of life is, in fact, solely a human invention… and a pretty bad one at that, then no, we don’t.
Reality is a consensus that we literally buy into. Today, corporations are so powerful because millions of us buy into their products and lifestyles and thus empower them to be the world changing forces that they are. Yes, we may well be coerced by ubiquitous advertising, government policy and flawed education but the fact is that reality is a choice that we all take every day. The red pill? Or the blue pill?
The atmosphere and biosphere is definitely real. This is not something human’s have imagined or created. This is the bio-physical reality that keeps us having this conversation. The fact that the first is changing fast and the second is dying should be the wake up call we need to reassess what kind of reality we want to live in.
When we realize that human culture is 100% plastic and negotiable, that it can be adaptive, democratic and sustainable, the game gets much more interesting. We are not talking about how much energy or resources we must use to sustain current ways of living. The whole caboodle is up for grabs. We are talking about: how we should live, how much we should work, how free we should be. We are re-imagining our lives and renegotiating what it means to be human.
I don’t know anyone who wants to work a 5 day week, or spend hours commuting, so why do we do it? If people like socializing, time with friends and family, community, sport, hobbies and the arts and entertainment, lets spend more time doing this. Lets work less, relocalize and shift emphasis from economic growth to increasing well being. This will mean much better lives for most people and local food production and energy generation can provide for these high quality, resource-lite lifestyles.
If corporations and governments keep telling us to live in a way that is bad for us and bad for the planet lets bypass the dodgy information and create the sustainable lives we want. This doesn’t require nuclear, GM or geo-engineering. It requires a global perspective coupled with local initiative. Lets define the reality we want and then create it locally, together.
In the front of every Whole Earth Catalog Stewart Brand had written “We are as gods and might as well get good at it”. This is a seductive idea but a dose of humility may go a long way. Jesus told us that the ‘meek shall inherit the earth’ but if we are not careful he will have been very wrong; we cannot let our reality be defined by the power freaks because this is the ultimate surrender to them.
The major new threat of geoengineering presents the urgent need for us to define ‘real’ and democratically agree what role humans should play on earth. Most people would like to live within an abundant, healthy, natural biosphere. Therefore we need to stand now against the minority who see humans (their) role as controllers of the planet’s biology, from DNA up to the atmosphere’s composition.
The powereful elite currently dominating the airwaves needs us to keep watching TV, going to work and driving a car. Go back to sleep! Keep calm and carry on! Obey the law! But doing these things is killing our planet and so is not an option. It is up to us now to take the power back and do what is right. The first step is to define the reality that we want.
It is time to wake up. We are not helpless lumps of flesh plugged into the matrix… we are the matrix.