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Viridian Sixth Anniversary Rant
Alex Steffen, 17 Oct 04

That this is a Viridian crowd shouldn't surprise anyone -- hell, we call Bruce Sterling "Ally #1" for cryin' out loud -- but even by true believer standards, Bruce's latest state-of-the-movement rant on the Viridian list is an instant classic. We usually steer a pretty broad curve around things which resemble partisan politics here, but, as the Chairman himself notes, in the Autumn of 2004, it's nearly impossible to find a worldchanging subject -- the environment, science, childhood vaccinations, the freakin' Nobel prize -- which has not been turned into a focal point of bloody partisan street-fighting by what they now call in Iraq "the Situation." If that bothers you, come back tomorrow.

"To the casual observer, these may seem bleak times for Viridian aims, what with the world's only superpower gone hog-wild over military adventurism while studiously ignoring soaring CO2 levels. For longer-term activists, however, this can be seen as "intensifying the contradictions."

"The invisibility of the Greenhouse was a serious menace -- but in 2004, climate change is major news. The spinmeisters who had this problem under wraps have had to extend their propaganda skills to practically every aspect of American society. They're not merely in organized denial about the Greenhouse Effect, but about every political issue of consequence.

"They do okay for themselves with the domestic US audience, but nobody else anywhere believes a word they say. Either the current Administration and its handlers are amazingly right-minded and surefooted while the 94% of the planet is delusional, or else they're maintaining a paper-thin, cynical deceit that is likely to rupture, not just in limited, manageable, plausibly deniable ways, but 1989-style, in a comprehensive loss of credibility."

(more by clicking the permalink below)

This rupture may take a while, but the status
quo is doomed.

Let me namecheck a few important harbingers here.

First, Kyoto passed.

Kyoto passed *because*
of the opposition of the Americans, not despite that.
Kyoto has become the club of civilized people
who are anxious to have a diplomatic venue
has no Bush Administration wreckers in it.
That is a bigger geopolitical deal than Kyoto itself,
because (as we Viridians have always known),
Kyoto is far too feeble and modest a treaty to arrest
gathering climate havoc.

But even America can't stop Kyoto. The husk
of Kyoto, which expires in 2012 anyway,
is just the shell-game for the next-model global
deal. No one cares any more what Americans think
about that. They are over as a diplomatic

The American right will of course continue
to resist, but they will sound ever more
threadbare, paranoid and hysterical; having run out
of rational arguments, they're now reduced
to "faith-based Americanism." Nationalism is a
swell attitude until one's citizens start dying.
After that it smells like Koresh in Waco,
rather than Morning in America.

Second: the smoke is rising. Thirty thousand
people died of the heat in Europe last summer.
That's ten times as many as the death toll
in 9/11. A 9/11 attack won't happen every year.
Weather violence will indeed happen every year.
The Emperor's clothes are on fire.

Climate experts who once soft-pedalled
their case are now perfectly aware that there's
no safety or civility to be found from black spin
operations, so they blatantly announce the truth,
Solzhenitsyn-style. "We are moving from a warm
period into the first hot period that man has ever
experienced since he walked on the
planet." That's the British science adviser,
Sir David King, a gentleman Esso can't buy.

Third: oil is blood. In 2004, oil is universally
seen as a filthy, dangerous, terroristic substance.
Oil exists today in a haze of intolerable anxiety,
deceit, corruption and violence. Even
if the intent in invading Iraq was not a "war for
oil," the Iraqi resistance and the international
mujihadeen have transformed it into one.

Every oil-dominated regime with the exception of
Norway is highly
unstable politically. That particularly
includes the oil-dominated United States.
The USA has suddenly forgotten how to innovate and
is politically dominated by fanatics and rentiers.
That is the picture of an unstable regime.

The global mayhem over oil will never go away
until oil itself goes away. Even if there are
bayonets securing every streetcorner in
Iraq, there is hell to pay in Equatorial Guinea,
Chechnya, Venezuela, in the bank accounts of
Yukos... there is smoldering, persistent,
deeply rooted trouble everywhere there is oil.

Everything oil touches has turned to blood,
has turned to filth, has turned to stink.
The enchantment of black gold is over:
from now on, it's the tar baby.

Fourth: oil costs too much. The smart money
can't stay in oil. The Bush Administration money
is in oil, but the Bush Administration isn't smart.
Everybody touching a gasoline pump-handle knows
this now. We're a sneeze away from energy crisis
in a 1970s style, while the growing demand from
China and India will assure that supplies stay
tight for the foreseeable future. This means
that alternatives will pay.

Five: there are ways out. Some alternatives do
work, even when sabotaged by carbon moguls.
Even George Schultz is ready to believe this.
We've lived to see a day when Reagan's
secretary of state agrees with Amory Lovins.

"Winning the Oil End Game" is not a great plan,
but it is a plan. Something more or less
like this could work, especially in smaller
countries that are fearful about energy supplies
and unwilling to kill Arabs to get them.
States and cities that become carbon-free
won't miss oil and coal any more than
they miss leprosy.

Now some heartening news along the Viridian Design

Early Viridian Notes had a "Viridian Ranking System."
This effort == I used to do it with paper and a
pen == is now more or less present in a whole
host of social software apps. There is vigorous
experimentation here. It has become a lively

Almost everything I was attempting to do
in 1998 is now being done better, on a larger scale,
and by better-organized groups, in 2004.
Some webloggers have larger readerships than
nationally-known newspapers. Granted, they are
mostly cranks, but this is no fad. The Web *is*
activism now.
I may be their gray eminence, so I
suppose I'm justifiably proud, but it's
impossible to overemphasize how with-it
these Worldchanging characters are. I hope
they can manage the transition when
they go from a claque of hobbyists
into the big time == whatever that may be.
I prophesied for years that there would someday
be a slick, elegant, designery consumer
Greenness. Well, here it is, all
you can buy and then some. Look at that
list of "design related" sites. It is chock
ablock with Viridian fellow-travellers.
Bruce Mau is not kidding. This is a mover
and shaker of the design world, demanding
massive change. And Bruce Mau's demand is
a legitimate demand. Only massive change
will do. We are going to get some.

This is the dark clincher, here.

If our abuse of the atmosphere is genuinely causing
the biosphere itself to spew extra CO2,
then we are in for it. If that's for real, it means
every grim prognostication alarmists prophesied for
2100 will be happening within our own lifetimes.
It won't be slow, if this is so. It will be fast,

The going is getting weird. The weird are turning pro.

I have been asked to take a year-long guest
residency, teaching design at the Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena, California.

This school is in the Los Angeles basin, the epicenter
of Southern Californian car culture, the
etymological origin of the term "smog,"
and a metroplex that arm-wrestles Houston
every year for the crown of the most polluted
city in the USA. If there's a heart to
the Greenhouse beast, well, it can't
be far from Pasadena.

I'm taking the job. It's time to become
the change we want to see.

For the year 2005, the Viridian Pope-Emperor is
a design professor. I have a number
of ambitious developments in mind for
Viridian list, because, starting January,
design will become my career. I'm leaving
Texan and I'm becoming Californian. For a while,

The Pope-Emperor asks your prayers.

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O

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