Tag: climate crisis (page 1 of 3)

This bus ain’t growing wings

Cory Doctorow: activist, technologist, sci-fi writer and all-round awesome human being has written a powerful article for Locus magazine. He likens the climate emergency to us being collectively trapped on a bus that’s speeding towards a cliff edge.

We’ll all die at the bottom of the canyon, but no-one will yank the wheel, as it would cause the bus to roll and many people to be hurt.

The good news is: climate denial is on the wane. The bad news is: deniers have pivoted to incrementalism: “We’ll fix the climate. Give us a couple decades to phase out oil and gas. Give us a couple decades to replace the cars and retrofit the houses. Give us a couple decades to invent cool direct-air carbon capture systems, or hydrogen cars that work just like gas cars, or to replace our overland aviation routes with high speed rail, or to increase our urban density and swap out cars for subways and buses. Give us a couple decades to keep making money. We’ll get there.”

In other words: “We’re pretty sure we can get some wings on this bus before it goes over the cliff. Keep your hands off the wheel. Someone could get really badly hurt.”

People are already getting really badly hurt, and it’s only going to get worse. We’re poised to break through key planetary boundaries – loss of biosphere diversity, ocean acidification, land poisoning – whose damage will be global, profound and sustained. Once we rupture these boundaries, we have no idea how to repair them. None of our current technologies will suffice, nor will any of the technologies we think we know how to make or might know how to make.

Source: Cory Doctorow: The Swerve | Locus Online

WIRED magazine predicts the 21st century… in 1997

This is from WIRED magazine in 1997 where authors Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden suggest ten scenarios that could play out in the 21st century. On the one hand, this feels eerily prescient given our current world. On the other hand, perhaps the writing has been on the wall for quite a while.

We’re recording an episode of the Tao of WAO podcast tomorrow with futurist Bryan Alexander, who pretty much predicted the pandemic in his book Academia Next. I wonder what his thoughts are on this?

Ten scenario spoilers include tensions between China and US, new technologies "turn out to be a bust", Russia devolves into a kleptocracy, Europe's integration grinds to a halt, major ecological crises affect food supplies, major rise in crime and terrorism, rise in pollution increases prevalence of cancer, energy prices go through the roof, an uncontrollable plague hits, human progress halts because of a social and cultural backlash

Source: In 1997, Wired Magazine Predicts 10 Things That Could Go Wrong in the 21st Century: “An Uncontrollable Plague,” Climate Crisis, Russia Becomes a Kleptocracy & More | Open Culture

Updating our worldviews

I’m reading a book which deals with the Protestant Reformation at the moment. I think for anyone who knows some history, there have been times which have truly been unprecedented; things have changed so quickly that people haven’t been able to keep up.

We’re living during a slow, but accelerating, car crash. We do need to update our mental models, for sure. But collectively, and most important at levels which are going to have an impact. Let’s not forget that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions.

Those of us with active minds are constantly gardening our worldviews. We adjust our perspectives as events around us unfold, as age and experience inform our received wisdom, as we learn new facts — and as cultural change around us pushes us to think differently. Even in extremely stable and slow-changing societies, there are always some people doing this gardening

But this is not a stable society, and today gardening is not enough.

We grew up in societies built upon certain assumptions about how the world works, and how the planet around us should be seen. We now know those assumptions were wrong in profound ways, and in one human lifetime we have altered the climate and biosphere, squandered vast natural riches and destabilized a myriad of systems we depend on. We have made the circumstances of our lives discontinuous with everything that came before us. The societies we live in are now catastrophically unsuited for the planet we’ve made. Yet we still see the planet around us with worldviews formed inside of those societies.


Seeing with fresh eyes is something we can learn to do. It offers real advantages. At very least, an updated worldview means being able to stand in the surf and face the ocean, to see the waves rolling in, giving us a better shot at not getting plowed and dragged when the next sleeper wave suddenly surges up and hits us.


Right now, rebuilding our worldviews involves a lot of labor-intensive personal exploration. Being native to now demands finding insight, not just receiving it. It demands teaching ourselves how to learn new things, when both the course of our study and the lessons to be absorbed are complex and constantly evolving. This is a real challenge when we have such busy lives. A lot of people will decide to worry about it later.


The greatest danger in any work that asks you to think systemically about the future is getting locked into the worldview that made sense to you when you first began, that you built your successful career on.

We all have limited time and energy. Building up an insightful mental model of how the world works takes a lot of both. The pay-off is in the profit and sense of purpose gained from one’s expertise. It is very common, when you’re highly rewarded for a given set of working insights, to commit more to those insights as your career unfolds, to begin even to defend those insights from challenging new perspectives (ones you fear might devalue your intellectual stock in trade). This “sunk-cost expertise” can easily become a set of shackles.


All this is to say that the very process of worldview-building is undergoing an unprecedented shift. The planetary crisis is swallowing the world we thought we knew, whole, in one great gulp.

Source: Old thinking will break your brain. | Alex Steffen