When The 1% Start Singing Whalesongs …


{ Photo was taken in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where children bathe in water that is contaminated with lead paint and scrap metal. One of the places where retired and abandoned cargo ships -that transport products across the globe to feed our civilization’s consumer addictions – end up to be “recycled”. S. Salgado? }

An investigative analysis of the 1% dreams for the future.


When The 1% Start Singing Whalesongs … In the Long Now… Run !

( part 1 )

Last night we got a beautiful invitation from some old friends to come and experience the lecture series from The Long Now Foundation. And Jesse H. Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment and Senior Research Associate at The Rockefeller University in New York City was presenting : Nature is Rebounding: Land- and Ocean-sparing through Concentrating Human Activities. more here. Note: An a/v archive of this talk w/ slides should be available soon.

Jesse’s an extraordinarily clever character. And in the back of your mind as your listening to him speak, you’re probably having little synapses going off in your brain: If I owned a company I’d want to hire this guy! No chance I’m gonna lose my shirt with this guy on my team !

But IF you start putting his talk into context of everything in the headlines today, from the funeral of the four hostages killed in Paris, to the possible return of that Romney billionaire buffoon into the political arena, to Woody Allen doing a new TV series distributed by Amazon, to the horrific slaughters in Africa … oh nevermind that last one, it’s barely in the news…  Just about every sign of a global population breathing in the toxic fumes of its own inability to change its ways, screams at you daily !

And suddenly these messianic visions for the seamless continuation of the white male technotopian corporate+venture capitalist futures hosted in the luxury of the gorgeous new San Francisco Jazz center begins to strike us as a surreal black comedy.

Don’t get us wrong, we could appreciate his calm and jovial demeanor, and his unusual optimism and rosy outlook for conserving the natural world. Apparently the planet is, to Some extent, undergoing a Global Greening. Nature and species are supposedly rebounding in Some places. And this can be a result of humans increasingly concentrating into dense urban areas. And YES many technological innovations can alleviate the environmental wreckage and all the miseries heaped upon developing nations, the indigenous and the working class in the era of 20th century consumerism. And there ARE infinitely brilliant things we can do to change destructive , greedy and clueless behaviors.

Championing the systems inherent to corporate ventures and visions IS NOT one of them !  As Ausubel repeatedly mentioned the Amazons and Apples as bringing us all this ingenious progress and the increasing de-materialization* of 21st century products and production, we began to notice how cherry-picked his narratives and statistics are. And advocating that such powerful corporate monopolies ( beholden to market logic ) continue to steer the course for our future, after the track records we have all witnessed, is an intolerable travesty. Incomprehensible. Incongruous. A sick joke.


As we listened, in our own cognitive dissonance, we could picture those mountains of e-waste that land in places like Nigeria.* Having met an extraordinary artist from Lagos last year, who explained to us the toxic impacts and the suffering there in terrifying details. See the enagaged and compassionate work of Jelili Atiku.

Now it would take time to analyze completely and/or deconstruct many of these wonderfully positive statistics and charts Ausubel provided to show us how our society IS supposedly making the necessary and incredible transitions. Many whom we spoke to after were doubtful about the data he provided.

We don’t have the time, nor the Rockefeller funding to do that kind of research adequately and scholarly. And we’ll have to rely on others out there to provide more data that exists to reveal the contrary Other side of this dreamy enterprising eco-futurist coin. Cause there’s undoubtedly a dark side to all this cheery western-affluent delusion, and conveniently omitted aspects in his pitch for urban density futures. i.e. The rate of species extinction worldwide.

There’s definitely dozens of good NGOs out there doing crucial watchdogging that would have made fascinating counterpoints to his thesis. But no, we were in the heart of the [California Ideology] bubble, a Long Now Foundation testament to mega-city trajectory plans and big technotopian business investments. There was no open debate, just cards passed out for questions to be selected by Stewart Brand, the moderator.

This seminar fit like a glove into what we’ve read before about Brand’s own vision for accelerating mass migration from rural areas into the ’smart’ high-production and hi-tech mega-cities, places which all require massive resources from Elsewhere. And in these versions, it apparently involves extending dependence on nuclear energy sources, whose unresolved toxic menace still looms over the safety of citizens everywhere.* In other words, this futurist “Brand” does not exactly foster autonomous self-sustaining cultures nor decentralized community structures. On the contrary, one can argue that it also fuels massive plundering mechanisms, pyramid schemes and the resource wars.

For us, this push may resemble more an advancing, aggressive techno-fascism, displacing people from their lands and independent local-scale livelihoods ( as in having to hustle to survive by working for big industry players like Google, Facebook, Genentech or Cisco to afford places like San Fran) , and thrusting them into the rarely meaningful workforce, the high-rent market of preying landLords, and the shopping zones where the shelves are stocked full for all those welcomed new exploitable refugees-cum-consumer/debt-slaves.

In Part 2, we can provide you with some extremely simple analogies to provide other informed perspectives. Let’s call them starting points to a MUCH-needed debate on how we can actually get to those goals of a truly greening planet … for ALL.

Let’s start w/ an analysis of E-Readers vs. The Book… which Ausubel referenced frequently… two vastly different realms of technologies and information systems.

But first, re: Whalesongs…

We’ll have to explain this in greater detail, cause it’s so poignant to the comedy and this critique. Ausubel’s talk concluded by showing us the beauty of sea life and whales somewhere off the coast of Tahiti, where the water is still crystal clear. And he added that whales are starting to come back into to waters off NYC, a polar opposite place on the map that will unlikely attempt to restore the full beauty of nature for anyone slaving for the 1% in, say the Bronx, in our lifetime… And in fact, the chance of any family living in any of the mega-slums around the world, will ever save enough money to visit Tahiti and experience the pristine, unfucked beauty there is SLIM.

It seemed a super slippery wriggling twisted mix of facts, academics + business trends to sell an agenda for the corporate technology sectors in today’s competitive and predatory climate, while tugging on the emotions of those of us so deeply concerned for saving planet earth.

Is this a real convergence point for viable paradigm shifts?  And does anyone still really buy into the theory that the marketplace is going to get us there…  all together … and in one piece ?


{ a yacht in Tahiti }

Added: A couple fresh articles below that point out the need for a departure from corporate capitalist strategies, w/ some more alarming facts that Ausubel is unwilling to provide:

That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth

Humans Have Brought World’s Oceans to Brink of ‘Major Extinction Event’

And not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Ausubel pointed to Some interesting innovations ( we”l have to revisit when the archives are up), that could be utilized within structures of a different economic operating system, but in the context of what we currently are subjected to, there is no guarantee that 1st world business will not continue to reap the advantages, while dumping the negatives in someone else’s backyard.

to be cont.

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