Global Warming Ate My Homework
pirate wires #45 // the political lust for megafires and blackouts, this is your ocean on socialism, and a few words on real “progress,” from nuclear power to terraforming earth
Lights out. Listen, I’m really not trying to stress you out, but the west coast is presently one meth addict’s cigarette away from megafire, and Gavin Newsom thinks that this is something we should just accept — meth addicts and megafire, I mean, certainly not tobacco. One problem we’re facing is it really is getting hot out there. The land is thirsty, folks. But far more important, a well-meaning strategy of fire prevention with too-infrequent controlled burning has built up a few hundred years of unspent fuel in a state where wildfire has been a natural part of the ecology for tens of thousands of years. As if in twisted response to the fact, as if truly their goal was to kill people, politicians in our densest cities, especially throughout Northern California, have effectively frozen construction and forced new development into what are basically death zones. Meanwhile, back east, the lights have once again gone out in New York City, a now recurring summer tradition. And the ocean? After a pipeline burst off the coast of Mexico, oops!, it’s on fire.
All of these disasters have been attributed, in one way or another, to climate change, as political leaders around the country argue the world teeters on the brink of apocalypse — explicitly, a climate-induced extinction-level event in our lifetime. In 2019, fan favorite Ocasio-Cortez insisted we have 12 years to live. Anyone out there just graduating from high school? Sorry, kids, the United States Congress regrets to inform you your ten-year reunion has been canceled on account of the world is ending. In California, Newsom tweets about global warming almost every week, typically in the context of wildfire. But an ocean in flames was a moment too shocking not to immediately politicize. Behold, Tweedledee, who truly no one asked, on the Mexican pipeline:
From New York, a fun little nugget from Tweedledum:
Bill DeBlasio, far more the authentic radical than Newsom (who is really just himself a very pretty midwit), aped his language from socialist Twitter, as he is, it is always worth remembering, a socialist. The first viral bit of untethered anti-market propaganda came from Laura Pidcock, an openly-socialist British Labour Party leader:
The logic of the tankies is thus: climate change is on the path to murder the entire world, and climate change exists because of capitalism. To save the world from imminent murder, we must therefore dismantle capitalism. Give! Me! Your! Money! Free people, absent the firm hand of a central government authority in total control of the world’s resources, will naturally pillage the land and scorch the skies and here we are, folks, staring down what looks like the Gateway to Hell thanks to — wait, what’s that you say? The Mexican pipeline was nationalized by the Mexican government decades ago, aka it was socialized, aka this is technically and objectively speaking a failure of socialist policy?
Do you ever get tired of being right about shit? This is a feeling I’ve been having.
A causal relationship between freedom and climate change is canon among the more authoritarian leftists in control of our most populous cities and states. These are the same people who, among many fascinating blind spots, seem mentally incapable of looking at China, a totalitarian prison state where a full half of the world’s coal is currently burned. But setting aside the question of which country, shaped by which political ideology, is causing global warming, is there nothing any of our leaders can do to prevent fires or blackouts or crumbling infrastructure? Other than tweet about it, I mean?
Back in September, I challenged the notion there’s nothing California leadership can do to protect us from wildfire. Global warming is just our leadership’s excuse for their own committed incompetence. If you deny climate change is our foremost problem, you’re accused of not “believing science” (from the same people who banned going to the beach in the middle of the pandemic). But wildfire is native to California. Even if the average global temperature hadn’t risen for the past three hundred years, we would need a strategy to protect our towns from burning down. Mostly, I argued, California needs a housing policy that facilitates an increase in urban density, and a well-funded strategy for controlled burning. There is presently broad aversion to such housing strategy among state leaders, and Gavin Newsom just cut 150 million dollars from our wildfire prevention budget.
Now about these blackouts.
The only reasonable justification for the tolerance of routine rolling blackouts in the Twenty-first Century, in the wealthiest country the world has ever known, would be the belief we are presently facing a new and formidable obstacle we simply don’t know how to manage. But our obstacle is heat, which has existed for as long as we’ve had power grids, and all over the world, by the way including cities built in deserts. When it’s hot out, people consume more energy, and these days it’s for sure a little warmer. But there are cities with power in much warmer, average climates than New York or Northern California. Mainly what our country seems to be facing is a series of infrastructural challenges, perhaps the greatest of which is our failure to produce enough energy. This is a challenge our political leaders have created proudly, and on purpose.
Two months ago, Andrew Cuomo shut down the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant, which is to say a safe, abundant, carbon neutral source of energy. While he celebrated the fact, critics attacked the decision explicitly and correctly on grounds that it would lead to increased carbon emissions and summer blackouts. Not to be outdone, California recently voted to shut down Diablo Canyon, the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, cleverly circumventing the problem of “we don’t have enough energy now, you idiots, you absolute morons,” by… no, never mind, they didn’t address the energy shortage at all. They simply dictated any new source of energy must be carbon neutral to preemptively quell the justifiable outrage their decision elicited from people who actually care about climate change, and called it a day. But our challenge, now, is producing enough carbon-neutral energy to power the state without nuclear, for which we have no strategy. Global warming isn’t responsible for our blackouts. Blackouts are our future by design. In fact, I’m starting to think that blackouts border a kind of religious expression. Is this a contemporary sort of elitist fasting, in which our leaders travel out of town while the rest of us fast on their behalf… with the lights out?
The FernGully left’s obsession with eradicating nuclear power is the point at which the fight against global warming most obviously diverges from anti-consumerist environmentalism. It also proves that almost no one in a position of elected leadership is taking global warming seriously. Climate change is just the excuse Democratic leaders use when their policies fail, which happens chronically, while Republicans refuse to even admit the world is warming, thus ceding the entire rational ground in this conversation to irrational actors.
But there are things we can do.
In the first place, we can reduce our carbon emissions with a policy of nuclear energy. Then, there are no shortage of ways to reduce the amount of carbon already in our atmosphere. This is really just the kind of stuff we talk about in the context of terraforming other planets, but on a much smaller scale. For a more ambitious example:
Fortunately, here at home, we don’t need to take a moon apart. I’m alluding to advanced carbon capture storage, sure, but we should also be talking about geoengineering and genetic modification. If we’re staring down the barrel of a gun, which people keep insisting we are, we might consider genetically-modifying forests to grow rapidly and everywhere. This is something called afforestation, which I discussed at length with activist and biohacker Gabriel Licina in Alien Ecology, one of my favorite episodes of Anatomy of Next: New World (interview begins around 22:10). Out at sea, we might consider iron fertilization, which would catalyze massive phytoplankton blooms, capture carbon, and bury it at the bottom of the ocean. There are solutions to carbon sequestration we should be looking at in everything from industrial chemistry to agriculture. We just have to care about this.
Does anyone really care about this?
The year is 2021, our entire country should be nuclear-powered. The only possible moral purpose of our elected leaders is the security of our country, and the maximization of our abundance and opportunity, any strategy for which necessarily must favor a mindset of growth and invention, with any policy we implement measured soberly against its results. Clean, safe, and most importantly dense urban areas with abundant mass transit and affordable housing are good for people and the environment. State land needs to be properly managed. Management of state land needs to be adequately funded. The power grid needs to be updated. And we need to expel from government every single idiot who argues the world is going to end in a decade because of carbon in the atmosphere while at the same time working tirelessly to dismantle our only safe, reliable, abundant source of carbon-neutral energy.
Then, in terms of blaming all our problems on business? That rhetorical tactic can’t last forever.
It turns out Americans still like when things work, which is why Amazon ranks second in institutional favorability, just behind the military. Antifa, the physical incarnation of irrational American political activism, ranks dead last — just behind Hamas, a terrorist organization.
Might our politicians have a better use of time than dismantling the most popular institutions in the country? This climate apocalypse for example: I’m just spit-balling here, but maybe we should try to stop it.
Link Library // July 6, 2021
Michael Shellenberger, a conservationist and environmental activist, has written extensively on the reality of global warming, what is and is not in our control, and how we can more effectively manage our conservation and environmental efforts. A quick thread here:
Gavin Newsom @GavinNewsomCalifornia fires in 2019: - 4,927 fires - 118k acres burned. California fires in 2020 (so far): - 7,606 fires - 2.3 million acres burned. CLIMATE. CHANGE. IS. REAL.
But you can buy Apocalypse Never, his book on the subject, here.
David Roberts wrote a great piece on trends in urbanism. In general, this is the sort of thing we should all be focusing on. Separate from our challenges, as with global warming for example, what sort of city do we want to live in? What sort of world do we want to build?
Bari Weiss wrote a fantastic, alarming piece on the collapse of freedom in Hong Kong.
Facebook is now crafting rules on what does and does not constitute “satire,” which I’m sure will not be weaponized against unpopular political opinions in the months to come. Jk, welcome to censorship. From Erik Torenberg:
Erik Torenberg @eriktorenbergOne reason people want to censor comedy is b/c comedy is subversive to power. You can't "punch down" in comedy, so if something's comedically acceptable it must mean you're "punching up". For the powerful who derive power/legitimacy from seeming powerless, comedy is a threat.
Finally, over at Substack, Chris Best challenged social media’s impact on our cultural and political discourse. He suggests a new, perhaps less insane way forward.