2018 Newsletter 1: Planetarity
TL;DR: there's a link to an article at the end of this piece. I would love your comments on it.
We have all heard this story in some form or the other:
A sensitive young man is brought up in the lap of luxury. He is the favored child of his father, who doesn't want him to be exposed to the cruel ways of this world. A new father, he goes for a ride with his charioteer, and is exposed to disease and deprivation. What does he do? He goes back home, takes leave of his sleeping wife and child and heads off to the forest, to meditate and to end the cycle of suffering. Six hard years of practice and asceticism later, he strikes gold and is revealed as the Buddha, the Tathagatha, the Enlightened one.
I feel this story in my bones but it also feels like I need a new skeleton. I think the purposes of contemplation are best served by looking outward rather than inward. The Buddhist story is deeply anthropocentric, focusing on the suffering (caused by illness, old age and death) that's intrinsic to human life. True enough, but arguably, the dominant form of suffering today is that caused by humans to other living beings.
So I took on the minor ambition of reimagining our planetary condition as my new year’s resolution. It’s best seen as a counter-revolutionary manifesto. Wait, what? You didn’t think we were living under a revolutionary regime, did you? You would be right in thinking so if you only heard our great leaders, but don’t pay attention to what they say and ask what they (and we) do and have been doing for the last two hundred years. Industrial society is a revolutionary regime headed by the Carbon Liberation Front, aka the People’s Republic of Exxon, Aramco and Gazprom.
Trotsky wanted us to live in a permanent communist revolution, but the liberation of the proletariat is nothing compared to the liberation of carbon, which is the one liberation theology that unites socialists, communists, capitalists, fascists and every other istist. Unfortunately, the carbon revolution is running out of gas (and steam).
What comes next?
Here are the beginnings of an answer. Do read the article. I would love your comments either as a reply to this email or as a comment below the article itself.