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"We Are Winning!"
Alex Steffen, 29 Jan 07

Bruce's latest Viridian note is too good not to republish in its entirety. I think we still have a ways to go before we can confidently declare victory (it is one thing to get people to agree that there's a problem, and quite another to get them to agree to tackle that problem with solutions of the proper magnitude), but nonetheless, it's sweet to see such a sea change in public opinion well under way.

Here's Bruce:

Viridian Note 00487: We Are Winning
by Bruce Sterling
Key concepts:
Viridian Design Movement, climate change, culture change, cybergreen, Bright Green, victory conditions
Attention Conservation Notice:
The Viridian struggle has met with success. We are winning.
(((The boiled frog is jumping. It turns out that a boiled frog always jumps. To think otherwise was a mere urban legend. The frog won't jump free from its dire, life-threatening menace at the first effort, but next year will be even hotter and scarier, and the frog will jump harder. From now on, the frog will jump all the time. Further urging to jump will not be required from the likes of us Viridians. The frog has gotten the message. We are winning!)))

(((Here is the first Viridian Note. This is number 487. I doubt we will ever reach 500 of these. That won't be needed: because we are winning.)))

(((The cogent quote from the first Viridian speech, eight years ago:)))

"Now let me explain to you why my 21st century design movement is going to be a great technical improvement over all previous art movements. Let me give you a tour of its many unique and innovative features.

"Number One. Perhaps most importantly, this movement has a built-in expiration date. The problem with previous art movements is this unexamined assumption that they have discovered some eternal cultural truth, and that they will therefore go on forever. In point of fact, no matter how much truth they discover, movements never do last very long.

"So, this is where our movement gets it built-in expiration date. The date is 2012, a date in the Kyoto accords, when people are supposed to be engaged in a serious decline in CO2 emissions."

(((We Viridians have beaten that clock. There is no need to wait for distant 2012 to declare victory in our war to make green trendy and to create "irresistible demand for a global atmosphere upgrade." Green will never get any trendier than it is this year. The atmosphere upgrade is on the way. That process won't be pretty, but it's going to happen.)))

(((The 2012 deadline for Kyoto is already a dead letter, because Kyoto was far too weak and too slow. We are going to see a series of monstrous efforts by large enterprises: private, local, state and national, to save whatever can be saved of the previous natural order. The primary motivator of this effort will be fear. The climate is changing much more quickly and more severely than anyone suspected it would. A rapid, ruthless, headlong clean-tech techno- revolution – in fact, a series of them – is the only global option with a ghost of a chance to save our smoldering planetary bacon. That's coming; it is under way.)))

((When the Davos Economic Forum steals your clothes, there's no reason left to wear them any more. We are winning. The Great and the Good agree with us. They're more scared than we ever were.)))

(((Even traditional green campaigners are getting smarter. Not a whole lot, but some.)))

**Breaking News** (((not for us, but for others)))
"Ten Major U.S. Companies Join Environmental Defense and Others to Endorse Mandatory Limits on America's Global Warming Pollution. Watch press conference live this morning on CSPAN at 11:30am Eastern." (((These companies are demanding carbon regulation in order to punish their competitors. They have a jump in going clean, and their competitors, who were stubborn and fatally tardy, will be destroyed. Not in a week, no: but in five years they'll be deader than Enron. They have fatally misjudged the flow of events, they threw a war-for-carbon and lost it, they have no friends left and a million commercial enemies sharpening knives... they are doomed.)))

"The companies involved in today's announcement are well-known Fortune 500 corporations: Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, Florida Power and Light, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, Pacific Gas & Electric, and PNM Resources. They have joined Environmental Defense, the World Resources Institute, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and Natural Resources Defense Council to form an unprecedented alliance – the United States Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP)." (((If you are Exxon, what is your response when you see this? Your PR reaction is contempt. Your private response is anguish. Fear, and a desperate attempt to muddle and temporize. It's not just that Viridians are winning. Denialists are losing. Horribly. We win. They're toast.)))

(((Too late, Exxon. Now, at last, you struggle to move: but you made your bed of Procrustes and you will be torn to pieces. First, denial: you tried that for years. Then anger. You'll try that, that will be brief. Then resignation... and at last you'll beg for pity, but, although you're the world's largest and most profitable corporation, you have brought such fantastic suffering onto such vast hosts of other people that there will not be a drop of pity left for you.)))

((("Corporate Green." Get used to this. It's what's for breakfast, lunch and supper. You're going to get Corporate Green whether you like it or not. Green is is sexy as it's ever going to get, right now, 02007.)))

(((When the brown alternative begins disappearing wholesale, when that's simply unavailable and we have to live Corporate Green, then green will not be sexy. No, Green will just be what there is. Brown could not be sustained. So Brown died. Green will work better eventually, but when we first get it, the alpha- rollout of a sustainable world... man, is that ever going to suck. I own some eco-chic shoes. I had to stop wearing them because they were rotting right off of my feet. It'll be like that, okay? Only more so. We're not gonna win pretty; we are gonna win kinda ugly, frankly – but we are winning.)))
"This year's Greenbuild, the annual conference of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), was all about two things:

"Green has gone corporate – and that's exactly what everybody wanted. Past gatherings may have been intimate affairs, but this year's event, in Denver, was a full-scale trade show, with 13,000 attendees walking around with tan totes emblazoned with Honda on the side, lots of corporate-sponsored parties, and a sold-out exhibition hall, with 700 exhibitors hawking their green products. It left little doubt that green, at least as it's represented by the USGBC, isn't about the counter-culture anymore." (((Because it is not the "counterculture," it's the culture. We are winning.)))

(((The leader of the British Tory Party is quoting GBN futurist scenarios in the Financial Times. Cameron is framing the climate crisis in terms of immigration, national security and GNP. Margaret Thatcher's party agrees with us. We are winning.)))

(((Same goes for the Canadian conservative party. Good luck "conserving" that Arctic ice, Mr Prime Minister.)))

(((Climate chaos in Europe. This has been happening year after year after year. It will continue to intensify no matter how it's spun by anybody. It is the new reality. It is methodically destroying the credibility, the options, the business, the basic future of anybody who ever denied it.)))

(((Thank you, "Situational Science Man!" You are doomed. You were a tissue of fraud. You lose.)))

(((Watch yourself drown. You are looking at people here who will be seeking vengeance on the fossil enterprise. There are hundreds of millions of them who are currently occupying some of the most expensive real estate in the world, including the capitals of Britain, USA, and Japan. There is no resisting the political, economic, social, cultural effects of this. Everything will change.)))

(((Geeks green out at the Energy Innovation Conference. We Viridians always wanted 'em to do that. Well, there they go, then. We got what we wanted. We win.)))

(((Brazil, the ethanol Saudi Arabia. Hello, Brasilia Consensus.)))

(((The War For Oil becomes the War On Oil. Except Bush can't wage that war, because he can't win wars. Somebody will win; just not Bush. Bush has tainted and destroyed everything he touched, and since he was the poster-boy for anti-environmentalism, it will thrive in his absence. People do not yet understand the awesome extent of the ruin Bush has brought on himself and his supporters, but that will continue long, long after his absence from power.)))

The many, many, net-based heirs and successors of the Viridian Movement (1998-2007):



Hugg: User-Generated Green News. (((What,
huh? Really? Yeah.)))
Celsias: "It pays to save the world."
(((What? It does? No kidding?)))

Vivavi: contemporary sustainable furniture.

Inhabitat: good design is green design.

Sustainable Style: look fabulous, live well, do good

Eco Design Lab: fashion + design for the ethical

Jetson Green:

Ecogeek: "EcoGeek monitors and explores the current explosion in technology designed to mitigate our impact on the environment."

Terra Rossa: Where conservatives consider a new energy future. (((Huh? Yes, they do that. Because otherwise they have no future at all. These are three stages in successfully changing culture: "That's ridiculous," "it's true but trivial," "I always said so." Terra Rossa are Christian white-green albedo right-wing greens. Do you understand what this means? The right cannot go away. The right you always have with you. When the right steals your clothes, that means you win. We Viridians have cruised through those three stages in jig time. We are winning.)))

Evangelical Ecologist. I don't know their slogan, so I'll say "for maximum cognitive dissonance." Look at that awesome blogroll of lunatics you've never heard of. I wouldn't trust these clowns with a burnt-out match, but they're there because they HAVE to be there.

(((Okay: did we do all this ourselves? No, of course not. But it's a lot easier to get something done when you don't bother to take credit for doing it. Do all these people we claim as "successors" even know we exist? Maybe not. Likely not. And that's GOOD. That means we win.)))

(((This isn't the first time I've seen this happen. I remember when there was such a thing as "cyberpunk": visionaries in the early 1980s writing farfetched, daring stories that predicted that someday there would be a world rather like the late 1990s. We didn't create that world, but it was obvious. Now the prefix "cyber" has gone away – not because it failed, but because it is EVERYWHERE. There is nothing left now that isn't "cyber." The "virtual" is going away, too. The word "actual" is older than the word "virtual," so when the one subsumes the other, the virtual vanishes and becomes the actual.)))

(((We Viridians used to be a rather novel effort, virtual activists in a cyber space: today there is no other kind. It's all the same. There is no such thing as a political, aesthetic, cultural, literary, military, governmental or nongovernmental movement without a digital component. Such a thing is no longer possible, such things no longer exist.)))

(((This means that it is becoming necessary for us to vanish. Not because we are losing. If we were losing – like the Arts and Crafts movement lost, like Modernism lost – then we could complain for the next dozen decades. Viridian is winning. We threw a match or two, and less than a decade later the planet is consumed in prairie fires. The smart thing to do is to stop.)))

(((Then what happens? There are two choices. You can attempt to seize control, or you can get out of the way. Oh wait, there's a third choice: getting cold feet and apologizing for having won. I didn't mention that option because that one didn't occur to me.)))

(((We are winning because we were ahead of the curve: we Viridians were an avant-garde who understood, almost ten years ago, that something like this was bound to happen. That does not make us the proper people to actually carry it out. First, we don't have the scale, the resources, or the ability. Second, and let me be very clear to you here: the primrose path to sustainability, even it is construed as sexy, trendy and stylish, will be dark and thorny. Behind Corporate Green is its darker, bloodstained cousin, Khaki Green, and we'll be seeing a lot of that. Sustainability will be a comprehensive revolution in the tenor of daily life. There will be blood on the hands of the people who bring it about. Not because they are bloodthirsty. But because there is so much blood.)))

(((Genuine climate mayhem is underway. It is intensifying fast. People are going to die: of heat, of disease, freezing, starving, drowning and dying of thirst. Not in mere tens of thousands as they did in the Paris heatwave, but in hecatombs. We have a global climate crisis. A real one, not a futurist speculation. People are going to make agonizing sacrifices in increasingly frantic efforts to ameliorate that and redress that crisis. Then, next year, they will discover that the situation is vastly worse than then imagined, and the spillage of blood and treasure and sacred honor that they thought would surely help is a fraction of what was necessary.)))

(((Two thousand people on an email list are not the masters of a global situation. We're going to be sucked into it just like everybody else is. Nevertheless, we are winning. And that's good news.)))

(((The climate crisis is in its Neville Chamberlain phase right now. People still imagine that a concern with the climate is trendy, and that a judicious head-nod here will mean peace in our time. Those people are not merely mistaken, they are delusionary. They are nodding in disdain at the basic laws of physics. The human race has spent two industrious centuries unearthing the planetary dead and setting them aflame in the sky. There is hell to pay for an affront like that, and it's all ahead of us in this century. We are in in 2007 and we are about seven percent of the way into very, very deep and very, very hot water.)))

(((Nevertheless, the frog will jump from that hot water. We are winning.)))

(((I wish, very much, that we were not winning on those awesome and frightening terms, but we are winning. Our ideas are becoming mainstream ideas. Our approaches and assumptions will be mainstream approaches and assumptions. Our ideas are becoming truisms. They are being absorbed at such a deep and irrevocable level that they'll become cliches. The victory condition for successful prophecy is not prophecy. It's cliche'. Viridian is becoming cliched. Our sensibility is becoming mainstream sensibility. And that is good news.)))

(((That means it is time to declare victory. Further rhetorical effort on this line is not required, and the cleverest activist tactic when you get what you want is to take it and vanish into the woodwork. A strutting triumphalism will only annoy people who are doomed to end up thinking like us anyhow. So, the sooner we can vanish and let them get on with the hard, sweaty labor of jumping from a boiling pot, the better off the world will be.)))

(((I am thinking hard about what comes next. Some different enterprise should build on this achievement. It'll take me a while to understand that, but it should be as far ahead of 2007 as Viridian was ahead of events in 1998. Likely a little farther.)))

(((I'm good at thinking ahead: the track record shows that my speculations, even the daffiest and most sarcastic ones, do tend to be crowned with some success. Still, I tend to oversell my own foresight: Viridian shows that events and developments that I imagine are twenty years out, are only about eight or nine. As a futurist, I'm clearly not trying hard enough. Next time, I'll try to take a bigger bite.)))

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

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Old pond boiling
frog jumps -

With apologies to Basho.

Posted by: gmoke on 29 Jan 07

I know you are right Pope-Emperor. We have won. Did you see the cover of the Economist? Statue of Liberty holding a compact flourescent bulb!

The real work begins now. The audience is nearly ready for action. I agree that it will not be pretty at first. It does however, beat the alternative hands down.

I have enjoyed your notes, eagerly awaited them actually for many years. Hard to believe its been nearly a decade. Thank you for your services my fearless commentator.

I look forward to a bright green future!


Posted by: Daniel N Smith Jr on 30 Jan 07

I first saw Bruce speak at the 1999 IDSA conference in Chicago nearly 8 years ago where he challenged designers to confront this hidden reality.

It took a long time to get the ball rolling (just starting to roll now) but it will not stop for a while. Now is when the real work begins it's gonna get nasty folks...

As a designer I have had to convert into a PR person for sustainability in order to inform and make the subject relevant and be able to justify this position.

FINALLY it looks like we can get to work designing and innovating so we can re-make EVERYTHING. A good place to begin to understand how to go forth now is Bruce's last book Shaping Things.

Remember to buy the WC book first, as Mr. Sterling suggest.

I can feel the pulse of change...and the blood presure is rising.

Posted by: Stiven (sustainableday) on 30 Jan 07

Jump, Boiling Frog.

This entry was a rollercoaster of a read, and at the end, leaves me wondering if the visual that came to my mind each time I read the Jumping Frog Koan could be anywhere close to the next in "what's next".

Years ago, amongst my cyberfriends, were those who believed fervently that getting to Mars should be at the top of our agendas. At the time, I remember a cynicism; 'If we've done this to this world, why ought we entrust ourselves with another?' But I think about space a lot lately, and I no longer feel cynical. It's partly because I've done enough reading since then to think it just may be possible that 'we are it' for this corner of the Galaxy.

If so, then certainly -something- ought to jump, and hope that another chance, and another, awaits outside the pot. We stand now with all of our eggs in one basket; er, pot. But whatever we have here, in addition to being at massive risk, is also beautiful and possibly quite rare. We are finally forced into a position, here, to pool our very best energies towards evolving out of our own self-destruction. But we remain extremely endangered.

From R. Kurzweil's 'The Singularity is Near' (which in earlier days I would have nabbed in my cyperpositive frenzy, and in middle days I would have scoffed at, and in these days I've decided I can't afford not to at least register on radar), 2005:

"The Fermi Paradox Revisited: Recall that biological evolution is measured in millions and billions of years. So if there are other civilizations out there, they would be spread out in terms of development by huge spans of time. The SETI assumption implies that there should be billions of ETIs (among all the galaxies), so there should be billions that lie far ahead of us in their technological progress. Yet it takes only a few centuries at most from the advent of computation for such civilizations to expand outward at at least light speed. Given this, how can it be that we have not noticed them? The conclusion I reach is that it is likely (although not certain) that there are no such other civilizations. In other word, we are in the lead." (357)

Even if untrue, the implications suggest that it is irresponsible not to proceed as if such a situation is possible. How many civilizations reach crises of their own creation (such as that of global climate change) and transcend irresponsibility rapidly enough to see their aspirations through to the other side?

From 'Intelligent Life in the Universe,' P. Ulmschneider, Springer-Verlag, Advances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics Series, 2003... A source much closer in on my credibility radar, though perhaps without reason. Taking a mainstream astronomer's approach to the Fermi Paradox, he nevertheless raises the crucial point of cultural responsibility:

"It is precisely this lack of discipline [e.g, the revelation of onesself as a species to a world exercising its own self-determination and free will, as we are now (hmr)] that cannot be expected from extraterrestrials, because if they were capable of such irresponsible acts, they would never have survived thousands, millions or billions of years without falling victim to the dangers of such behavior. If highly advanced extraterresterial civilizations -- very much older than our own -- exist, it could only be because they have learned to act responsibly."

We are learning, our own mistakes self-educating us, in the most painful of ways.

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." - George Orwell

So perhaps it's jumping the gun to see the "next" as space. Perhaps before we can even address such things we need to address the problem of universal prosperity. Or at the very least and first, universal education. And many now guess that universal prosperity (and the decrease in global violence it would bring) might be the necessary prerequisite for the breathing room needed to self-educate. I speak here not of 'us', able to use this here cyberblog, but of those far hungrier, to whom we are intimately connected.

Evolution is testing us. We ourselves are the stakes, the byproducts of our own actions the test.

- Heath

Posted by: Heath M Rezabek on 4 Feb 07



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