Join us on a wondrous journey through whatever’s on our minds this week. We have no idea what we’re doing. But we’re trying.
Not doing grievance progressivism today, sorry folks.
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Cheap housing, deep unease and intense resilience - all forces that are driving a clutch of Americans to swap city life for a fresh start off grid and far from civilisation. Some are survivalists, among them high fliers who fear a looming, urban catastrophe and the mayhem that might follow. Others want a greener, gentler life untainted by the malign forces of capitalism and uncertainty of mainstream politics.
Whichever camp, realtors say the new dropouts are not “crackpots” and often include affluent professionals whose run for the hills has boosted rural land values and started to change their property market.
“I’ve had hedge-fund managers and billionaires that have made purchases, and they all have concerns about the direction of the economy and social stability,” said John E. Haynes, president of Retreat Realty in North Carolina.
“We’re on that upward trend,” he said. “Inventory of that land on the market is tighter.”
Haynes has worked in real estate for decades.
About four years ago, he rebranded his company to pitch property to a new and growing breed of buyer - those motivated by “concerns about social stability”.
He had a record year in 2019, and was busy in the run-up to the 2016 election, when Donald Trump came to power.
“I’m sensing that again,” he said. “People get uncertain, and they start making decisions on the political environment and what they anticipate.
“So I think 2020 will be a good year for my business.”
Democracy is actually the problem, not capitalism /s
“We think democracy is better,” said the jet-fuel salesperson. “But is it? In terms of outcomes?”
In a conference room overlooking the gray Thames, a group of young corporate types tried to imagine how the world could save itself, how the international community could balance the need for growth with our precarious ecological situation. For the purposes of our speculative scenarios, everything except for carbon was supposed to be up in the air, and democracy’s track record is mixed.
A graph from Chinese social media showing how many trees the country is planting — a patriotic retort to the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg — had a real effect on the room. Combine that with the Chinese state-led investment in clean-energy technology and infrastructure and everyone admired how the world’s largest source of fossil-fuel emissions was going about transition. That’s what the salesperson meant by “outcomes”: decarbonization.
Regional experts from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East–North Africa also entertained the democracy question, pointing to Iraqi disillusionment with voting and economic growth in Rwanda under Paul Kagame (“He’s technically a dictator, but it’s working”). The China expert said the average regional Communist Party official is probably more accountable for his or her performance than the average U.K. member of Parliament, a claim no one in the room full of Brits seemed to find objectionable. The moderator didn’t pose the question to me, the American expert, presumably because our national sense of democratic entitlement is inviolable.
Folks, there’s no way these fossil fuel companies stop without being MADE to, because their whole model is based on keeping going
There’s little doubt that fossil-fuels are, culturally speaking, on the wrong side of history. But there is still a lot more money to extract from those wells, and the fossil-fuel businesses are intent on extracting as much as they can. It’s not necessarily such a bad time to be an oil and gas company, in other words, but it is a bad time to look like one. These companies aren’t planning for a future without oil and gas, at least not anytime soon, but they want the public to think of them as part of a climate solution. In reality, they’re a problem trying to avoid being solved.
Without addressing the issue of power (and the money that makes it possible) fossil fuels will just co-opt all movements that don’t directly challenge them in an existential way. They will absorb all green initiatives as just an additional revenue source while continuing to drill and pump.
… the first step they imagined was a co-optation of the youth environmental movement by older generations and their institutions. Co-opt was the word they used, but they meant it in the positive sense: the end point of being influenced. Liberated from the dour marchers, the Establishment will tweak the messaging from XR-style fear for the immediate future of the species to classic Obama hope and change. There will be “youth innovation hubs” and millennial investors bringing their values to the market, eager to provide capital for clean-energy start-ups. The night before, I had learned Shell was moving into new sectors in part by buying up small firms like Greenlots (electric-vehicle-charging infrastructure) and Sonnen (smart batteries). Some of the younger Shell employees I spoke to had found themselves acquired into jobs they wouldn’t necessarily have applied for. That’s one way around a recruiting problem.
Capital Is A Hydra. Starting to think Capitalism is actually the problem here.
If you tax oil, capital will sell it elsewhere. If you increase demand for raw materials, capital will bid up the prices of commodities and rush materials to market in the most wasteful, energy-intensive way. If you require millions of square miles for solar panels, wind farms, and biofuel crops, capital will bid up the price of real estate. If you slap tariffs on necessary imports, capital will leave for better markets. If you try to set a maximum price that doesn’t allow profit, capital will simply stop investing. Lop off one head of the hydra, face another.
Capitalism posits that greed can be productive, but it seems like it always is not, ultimately.
Shell’s concern, deeper than its fossil-fuel identity and more urgent than the climate crisis, is Shell. I don’t believe it’s going to lead us to the Paris climate goals, and Shell probably doesn’t believe it will either. But in order to survive and keep the bottom line growing, I am convinced the company will do whatever needs to be done, whether that’s networking solar panels, systematic human-rights violations, or both. Maybe it’ll even make some incidental progress along the way, depending on where the subsidies are, but there’s no comprehensive vision for a livable future here, no ethical imagination, no morality to speak of. It is unfit to lead.