Goodbye 2020 and Goodluck 2021
The field of environmental history has shown again and again that human societies rise and fall because of their relationship with the rest of nonhuman nature. Use up all your water: boom. Fell all the trees: boom. Hunt all the animals: boom.
You get the picture.
But it’s not just felling trees and hunting animals - that’s the macroscopic end of society meets environment, with effects immediately visible to the naked eye. We have also learned about microscopic causes of social change: pandemics are the most obvious and pertinent example. Then there are influences that don’t sit easily in our understanding of the term ‘environment’ : energy and information. Environmental history has to be supplemented with energy history and information history, as there’s an accelerating shift to a new energy regimes: from fossil fuels to renewables and a parallel accelerating shift to a new information regime: from paper to pixels.
In 2020, all of these influences came together in a glimpse into the massive regime change that’s happening around us. Human society is integrated into planetary systems all the way from viral populations to the atmosphere of the earth as a whole. It’s also being lashed together by information networks that connect us all in real time.
Here’s how I visualize the circles of influence 👇🏾
At the center of it is a riveting human drama, the transition from Trump to Biden with a pandemic threatening the world and a new cold war on the horizon. In the background lies a mostly invisible transition to a new planetary regime with energy, information, climate and the nonhuman world as the main actors. Surrounding both is what I believe to be the best philosophical framework to understand Geopower in which Chinese-Indian ideas have an important role.
It’s a nested story that’s never been told. The story of geopower.
Biden has inherited this nested world and will have to keep the human niche within it alive for liberalism. He doesn’t have time for the usual 100 day honeymoon - Biden will have to hit the ground running with his response to the pandemic. Which is what I am going to be covering next. But not tomorrow.
Yeah, despite my earlier promise of a daily update I am going to take a two week break from writing this newsletter and restarting on Jan 2nd with my Viral Biden updates. The revised target is 60 T2B updates before the series ends.
I hope all of you have a wonderful and relaxing end of the year. See you at the dawn of the next one.