CJW: Welcome to another edition of nothing here.
As ever, if you like what we do and want to support us, you’ve got a couple of options:
Both give you access to the full bonus archive, as well as new bonuses as they are posted. Another thing you can do to help spread the word is forward this email to someone you think might enjoy it.
The latest bonus is from Lidia, on Brasil’s upcoming election: Time to die: Is Lula finally replacing Bolsonaro in Brazilian presidency?
Hopefully there’ll be some good news to share in the next issue on that front.
Lidia Zuin (LZ) - Journalist, MA in semiotics, and PhD in Arts. Sci-fi writer, futurology researcher and essayist. @lidiazuin
MJW: It’s Science Over Capitalism: Kim Stanley Robinson and the Imperative of Hope by James Bradley at the MIT Press Reader
We need to change our political economy so that a single index, profit, isn’t our measure of doing well. We need to figure out a financial system that pays us for doing things good for the biosphere, including all its citizens, human and not — this would be safest, and indeed it’s necessary for humans — rather than rewarding activities that hurt people and biosphere, which profit-seeking will do. Capital gets invested at the highest rate of return. That’s the law, often literally the law. Repairing the biosphere and creating justice among humans is not the highest rate of return now. So it won’t happen. End of story.
Or beginning of new chapter. This is what we’re seeing in new terms like Modern Monetary Theory, full employment, carbon quantitative easing, the social cost of carbon, universal basic income and services, Half Earth plans, and wage parity. Also in the return of older terms like socialism, or social security. All these ideas or systems or software technologies are being proposed to get out of the death spiral of neoliberal capitalism.
I think it really is a crux moment in history. The 2020s are going to be wild.
Two great authors talking climate and capitalism. I ordered Ministry for the Future right after reading this.
CJW: Amount of ocean heat found to be accelerating and fuelling extreme weather events - Graham Readfearn at The Guardian
The amount of heat accumulating in the ocean is accelerating and penetrating ever deeper, with widespread effects on extreme weather events and marine life, according to a new scientific review.
Even under the most ambitious scenarios for action on greenhouse gas emissions, the review said the ocean’s heating will at least double from current levels by the end of the century.
Another climate horror story. Happy spooktober?
CJW: The Spirit of the Wetlands - Julian Hoffman at Emergence
This one’s a long read, both beautiful and depressing - using the Dalmatian pelicans of the Prespa lakes in Greece to look at the growing threat of avian influenza. And, of course, the role of capital in the creation of such dangerous influenzas.
CJW: China’s Global Vision For A Green Economy - Jacob Dreyer at Noema
As DARPA was to Silicon Valley, directing government funding toward basic research that would create national prestige and a strong middle-class economy, Chinese industrial policy seeks to seed strategic industries to thrive in the future — a future, Chinese leaders believe, that will be a time of floods and fires. The companies being created are intended to flourish amid hardship, an aesthetic that blends into the socialist militarism of Manchurian hero-workers, with smokestacks and oil rigs replaced by wind turbines, solar panels and battery manufacturers.
A really interesting read on recent economic and ideological shifts in China leading to a focus on green technologies. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of a China-dominated unipolar world (much like the US unipolar world having been disastrous in its own ways), but the massive scale at which they can work and the technological advances they could make may prove crucial to a green transition.
MJW: Floods Have Hit Australia Again. Thanks to Budget Cuts, the Authorities Aren’t Prepared by Andrew Charles at Jacobin
The corporate world, meanwhile, have wasted neither time nor money in adapting and protecting themselves. In 2006, for example, the Flemington Racecourse built a floodwall to deflect waters from the track, which is built on a natural floodplain of the Maribyrnong. Aerial photos show clearly that the wall did its job, diverting huge volumes of water toward homes. If it weren’t for the wall, the racetrack would have acted as a sink, potentially saving residences and possessions.
While Maribyrnong’s mayor says it’s “fair play” for the racecourse to protect their grass at the expense of locals’ homes, Walsh disagrees. She summed up the feelings of many residents who “are fuming about the retaining wall around Flemington racecourse.” She continues, “It kept the lawn dry for a bloody horse race, but exacerbated flooding for nearby homes. The wall is a symbol of the class power of the racing industry and big gambling interests, and that our city is run in the interests of the few, not the many.”
The Art of Life - George Monbiot
What to do about climate change (3): Andreas Malm on blowing up pipelines and other forms of property destruction - Ingrid Robeyns at Crooked Timber
“Green Capitalism” Is a Lie - Matt Huber at Jacobin
The Climate Crisis Is Driving Poorer Nations to Desperate Measures - Robin Varghese at 3 Quarks Daily
Climate crisis: UN finds ‘no credible pathway to 1.5C in place’ - Damian Carrington at The Guardian
Why climate despair is a luxury - Rebecca Solnit at The New Statesmen
CJW: ‘Peaceful modernization’: China’s offering to the Global South - Pepe Escobar at The Cradle
Russia and Iran are on the frontline – militarily and in terms of absorbing non-stop pressure. Other important Global South players, quietly, try to either keep a low profile or, even more quietly, assist China and the others to make the multipolar world prevail economically.
As China proposes peaceful modernization, the hidden message of the work report is even starker. The Global South is facing a serious choice: choose either sovereignty – embodied in a multipolar world, peacefully modernizing – or outright vassalage.
I can see some direct connections between this and the China green tech piece above. I never entirely agree with Escobar’s columns, but I still find them interesting and instructional.
CJW: Global finance vs global energy: who will come out on top? - Karin Kneissl at The Cradle & Saudis Sought Oil Production Cut So Deep It Surprised Even Russia - Ken Klippenstein at The Intercept
A good combo on OPEC+ cuts and the global energy sector versus the global financial sector.
How a new ‘Great War of Africa’ is raging under the cover of a media blackout - Will Brown, Lucy Kassa, and Zecharias Zelalem at The Telegraph (via APH)
Biden’s Former Haitian Envoy Slams White House Plan for Armed Intervention - Ryan Grim at The Intercept
In neocolonial rant, EU says Europe is ‘garden’ superior to rest of world’s barbaric ‘jungle’ and EU confesses ‘our prosperity was based on China & Russia’: cheap energy, low-paid labor, big market - Benjamin Norton at Multipolarista
Israel’s secret, illegal biological war against Arabs - Kit Klarenberg at The Cradle
Biden Has Fired the First Shot in a New Kind of Anti-China Cold War - Branko Marcetic at Jacobin & US waging ‘unilateral’ economic and tech war to halt China’s rise, DC insiders say openly - Ben Jenkins at Multipolarista
Race and Sweden’s Fascist Turn - Tobias Hübinette Boston Review
DCH: The Promise and Peril of Space Tourism - Jessica Camille Aguirre afar.com
If space tourism flourishes, the shape that it takes will determine the contours of life to come. Space Perspective and other ballooning operations—as well as companies such as Blue Origin using alternative fuel, and VR startups trying to re-create the Overview Effect without any travel at all—seem to thread the needle between accounting for the consequences of space travel and making the sublime attainable.
A good read on the perils of space tourism via Musk and Branson and better for the climate alternatives.
CJW: Solitary Confinement - Rob Horning
Of course, the proposition of workers not just having to use Microsoft Office but being compelled to enter into it, to inhabit it as a kind of world, where its functionality prescribes the limits of what they can sense, is not likely to excite them very much. It would instead reinforce a sense of work as both an inescapable doom and an intrinsically meaningless activity that occurs in a fictitious nonspace, where employees must depend on the boss even for the semblance of a shared reality. And it would make “the metaverse” a place you commute to and long to leave behind in your off hours — in a sense it is the opposite of the internet, which serves as a mode of escape that is shot through an office worker’s day, a means for stealing time back from the company. The corporate metaverse is an effort to abolish that escape route.
Any efforts to promote the consumer-facing metaverse, I think, should be understood as a way to try to distract us from noticing that trajectory: that it is a means of trapping and containing labor.
Rob Horning, formerly of Real Life Mag, on the Metaverse as an Enterprise product aimed at bosses, not end-users. Suitably corpo-dystopian.
CJW: Visions of Postcapitalist Design: An Incomplete Survey - Matthew Wizinsky MIT Press
Although growing a chair may take seven to nine years, the end product requires no assembly, adhesives, hardware, or major machine processes. No global supply chains of materials or associated energy consumption and pollution are involved; all materials are inherently local to their production.
This novel approach remakes the design process by applying agricultural knowledge, some of it quite ancient. In designing […] domestic furnishings to be grown from various species of trees, Full Grown UK uses the ancient art of coppicing as one of its design methods. Coppicing is a practice of cutting down trees to encourage regrowth. [The] designers have discovered that certain species regrow new branches in patterns matching the Fibonacci sequence. Based on this knowledge, furniture can be designed specifically to incorporate natural patterns into structural components of the finished pieces. This rethinking of the means of production has the added benefit of enormously decreasing the environmental impact of producing home goods.
I hadn’t heard of Full Grown UK before, but this is a fantastic and inspiring idea, a real druidic approach to home furniture, both in terms of the actual practice and the climate change friendly aspects.
This excerpt details other, similar groups/practices too (as well as autoindustrial efforts). Bio-couture reminds me of the recent indie SF film Vesper, which I recommend if you want a grimy bio-dystopia.
A great analysis of how social media platforms respond to misinformation. Twitter already does so little to moderate content. That Elon Musk wants to do away with those efforts altogether is bad for society and bad for Twitter’s business. Under Musk, Twitter won’t be a ”digital town square.” It’ll be an even bigger global dumpster fire.
Related: Our findings suggest that the contribution of social media toward a more politically informed citizenry is minimal. + Rich conservatives fund new media universe + By Buying Twitter, Elon Musk Has Created His Own Hilarious Nightmare
DCH: Meta’s Profit Slides by More Than 50 Percent as Challenges Mount - Ryan Mac, The New York Times (via Imp Kerr at The New Inquiry)
A year ago, Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook’s name to Meta and said he was going all in on the immersive digital world of the so-called metaverse.
Mr. Zuckerberg has had trouble getting even his own employees to buy into his metaverse vision.
Mr. Zuckerberg was defiant on a call with analysts on Wednesday. He said people would “look back decades from now” and “talk about the importance of the work that was done here” regarding the metaverse, virtual reality and augmented reality.
Solid read on the numerous zuck ups that are zucking Facebook up the ass right now. There are more:
That last one is from a long-term shareholder that’s had enough of Zuck’s shit.
DCH: The Rise of ‘Luxury Surveillance’ - Chris Gilliard at The Atlantic
This intense devotion to tracking and quantifying all aspects of our waking and non-waking hours is nothing new—see the Apple Watch, the Fitbit, social media writ large, and the smartphone in your pocket—but Amazon has been unusually explicit about its plans. The Everything Store is becoming an Everything Tracker, collecting and leveraging large amounts of personal data related to entertainment, fitness, health, and, it claims, security. It’s surveillance that millions of customers are opting in to.
Great piece by @hypervisible who’s easily one of the most vocal and insightful critics of surveillance capitalism. Another related article at The Washington Post: Tour Amazon’s dream home, where every appliance is also a spy.
Will the Metaverse replace PCs? - Divinations - Every - Nathan Baschez (via The Terminal) - CJW: Follows nicely from the piece on VR we shared last time.
AI Shouldn’t Compete With Workers—It Should Supercharge Them - Clive Thompson at Wired (via Sentiers) - CJW: An interesting piece on AI augmentation, and the Centaur approach. DCH: Related this is a great interview with my friend Lysandre Follet on his generative design process at Nike. CJW: Related - Let me recruit AI teammates into Figma by Matt Webb
Column: I once fell for the fantasy of uploading ourselves. It’s a destructive vision - Jean Guerrero Los Angeles Times
OnlyFans lawyers accidentally reveal which Meta execs allegedly took bribes - Ashley Belanger, Ars Technica (DCH: Shocker, Nick Clegg is name checked)
Exclusive: Twitter is losing its most active users, internal documents show - Sheila Dang Reuters & By Buying Twitter, Elon Musk Has Created His Own Hilarious Nightmare - Jon Schwarz at The Intercept
Iran’s Secret Manual for Tracking and Controlling Protesters’ Mobile Phones - Sam Biddle, The Intercept
Though this is a very isolated thing, I thought it could make one or two readers laugh after checking the most recent bonus. When you receive this newsletter, Brazilians will be voting for the new president, an already intense task… But the weekend before, the former deputy and presidential candidate Roberto Jefferson got an arrest warrant and resisted it by using rifles and grenades. Two policemen were wounded in the action, causing left-wingers to defend cops and the right-wingers to defend freedom to resist “unconstitutionality”. Turns out that Bob Jeff (as he is sometimes cutely nicknamed) decided to accept his fate after a minister negotiated with him. How Hollywoodian! Who would you cast to play him? Here’s a glimpse of the clown:
CJW: If You Care About Climate Change, Stop Mocking Vegans - Jan Dutkiewicz at New Republic
While the number of vegans in countries like the USA, Germany, and the U.K. is slowly inching upward, and plant-based meat and dairy alternatives are becoming ever more ubiquitous, these are outstripped by growing global meat and dairy production and demand. Global agricultural animal production is projected to rise by about 75 percent by 2050. That means that one of the primary drivers of deforestation, the biodiversity crisis, and burgeoning food emissions is growing at an astonishing rate but is only facing a fraction of the opposition that is currently devoted to fossil fuels—despite the fact that meat can be reduced or cut out of daily life more easily and quickly than fossil fuels can be.
Rather than taking these facts seriously, most people—even those who care about climate issues—are happy to mock or dismiss vegans. The question of dietary change, be it veganism or meat reduction, strikes at the heart of the imaginative difficulty people have with any politics aimed at building a sustainable future: It is necessary but impossible—which is to say, it’s theoretically more feasible than many other climate actions but practically unviable because of tremendous cultural resistance.
Emphasis mine. If you’ve ever told your vegan friend “I should try it,” or at the very least “I should try cutting down on meat,” please read this. The facts and figures quoted are largely on the US context, but it’s likely similar across the rest of the Global North.
DCH: Why did he suspect a COVID surge was coming? He followed the digital breadcrumbs - Manuela López Restrepo NPR
Over the course of the pandemic, social media sleuths, epidemiologists and health nerds alike began noticing an interesting trend in the review section for Yankee candles on Amazon.
Whenever there was an influx of negative reviews citing no smell, there was usually a spike in COVID cases to go along with it.
I’m always cautious when Detective Internet is on the case but this is an equally fascinating and no-brainer read.
The Very Real Lessons America Has Learned From COVID - Caroline Mimbs Nyce The Atlantic
Ebola Is Back—and Vaccines Don’t Work Against It - Esther Nakkazi WIRED
Fast food fever: how ultra-processed meals are unhealthier than you think - Andrew Anthony, The Guardian
CJW: The Exploited Labor Behind Artificial Intelligence - Adrienne Williams, Milagros Miceli and Timnit Gebru at Noema
While researchers in ethical AI, AI for social good, or human-centered AI have mostly focused on “debiasing” data and fostering transparency and model fairness, here we argue that stopping the exploitation of labor in the AI industry should be at the heart of such initiatives. If corporations are not allowed to exploit labor from Kenya to the U.S., for example, they will not be able to proliferate harmful technologies as quickly — their market calculations would simply dissuade them from doing so.
A piece focused on the exploitative labor behind “AI” systems. This is certainly a topic we’ve covered before, but the angle of this piece (summarised in the pull quote above), is a new and interesting one.
CJW: Liz Truss’s Government Was Brought Down by a Capital Strike - Charlie Winstanley at Jacobin
You may have noticed I’m sharing as little as possible related to US and UK domestic politics these days. That’s because they’re over-represented elsewhere already. But, I thought this piece was interesting enough in regards to the Tory commitment to neoliberal policy and austerity. We have seen nations all over the world embrace these policies without concern for the effects they will have on citizens, but tanking your own currency this badly has got to be a new one.
DCH: I mean, even The Financial Times started to quantify Britain’s moron risk premium. The markets weren’t going to let a shitty Thatcher cosplayer ruin their dirty money paradise.
Who Pays for Inflation? - Samir Sonti, JW Mason Phenomenal World
Malignant Growth - George Monbiot
Capitalist Inequality Won’t Last Forever - Danny Dorling jacobin (DCH: said with “It can’t rain all the time” inflection from The Crow.)
Rent Going Up? One Company’s Algorithm Could Be Why. - Heather Vogell Haru Coryne ProPublica
There Is No Leftist Case for Crypto - Patrick McGinty jacobin & Here’s How Much Money You’ve Lost If You Took Matt Damon’s Crypto Advice One Year Ago - Jon Schwarz The Intercept
The Wealth of America’s Bottom 50 Percent Has Doubled During the Pandemic Years - Jon Schwarz The Intercept
May God Save Us From Economists - Patric Sandri The New Republic
LZ: Heavenly Bodies by Paul Koudounaris
Still reading this one. I really like the topic of incorrupt saints and holy relics and Koudounaris seems to be a specialist in the latter. I bought both this book and The Empire of Death, which seems to be a guide on where to find these relics in Europe. The photos are amazing and the text is very informative, but I’ve been finding the author a little bit “disrespectful”. Maybe that’s not the best word, but he makes jokes about the topic and makes it clear that holy relics were most of the time just bogus, and people didn’t have any idea of what they were doing – which is true and fine, but I would expect something more neutral, from a more historicist perspective. We’ll see.
LZ: Ecstasies by Carlo Ginzburg
Very interesting reading, but might be too academic for some. Here the Italian historian tries to understand if sabbaths really happened or not. While some authors have stressed that sabbaths did exist, Ginzburg makes a dispute for the lack of formal documents that register people who really did encounters in the forest, flew in broomsticks and transformed into animals during rituals. While anyone would agree that of course no one was doing that for the sake of scientific laws, Ginzburg investigates different cultures and folklore that might have influenced the conception of sabbaths. We happen to discover that some folks did dress like animals and did processions and other ecstatic rituals that might have inspired the conception of what is a sabbath, and that’s pretty interesting because you’ll find info about cultures that are long lost or not even very well known. I asked a friend from Bulgaria about one of the topics described by Ginzburg and she said she never heard of it before, so it’s a very rich source of information.
LZ: Northern Archeology and Cosmology: A Relational View by Vesa-Pekka Herva and Antti Lahelma
Now and then you might have seen bundles of Amazon e-books being given for free. This one happened to be available as a freebie some time ago, when I wasn’t even living or thinking about living in Sweden. Yet, here we are and how interested I have been in history and cosmology. But this is not exactly a history book like Ecstasies mentioned above, it is very much more didactic and easy to read (to a point that it makes me annoyed sometimes, but it’s useful for beginners). It brings a lot of anthropological concepts, such as the relational view proposed by Viveiros de Castro, as the authors don’t lose focus on what is real, actual things, and what is folklore or magical stuff that, in spite of not being “scientifically proven to exist”, they still tell a lot about the people and the history of those places.
CJW: The Girl with all the Gifts
I first saw this movie when it was pretty new, soon after having read the book. I remember thinking it didn’t match up to the novel (few film adaptations do), but that it was still good. On rewatch, my opinion of it has only grown.
For some reason I just don’t vibe with American takes on zombies. I’ve gotten bored through at least 3 different TV shows (Walking Dead, Z Nation, and Black Summer), and can’t remember any movies beyond Zach Snyder ones (the less said the better) and the Zombielands, but give me a British zombie movie and I am a happy camper.
The Girl With All the Gifts is set during a fungal zombie infestation, with the “hungries,” as they’re called, covered in weird fungal growths. But where it sets itself apart from standard zombie films is with the second-generation - children who were turned in the womb. These kids look and behave normally, and even attend school (in a manner of speaking).
The bulk of the story focuses on one of these children, Melanie, played brilliantly by Sennia Nanua, and her favourite teacher Miss Justineau, played by the underrated Gemma Arterton (watch Byzantium). There is menace, of course, supplied both by the rabid zombies trying to break into the secure military facility and also Dr Caldwell, a scientists salivating at the prospect of cutting open Melanie’s brain.
I don’t want to go too far into spoilers (I think the movie is little known and underappreciated, even though the book was a huge success, and you should watch it), but the ending is brilliant (if a bit abrupt) and horrifying in its implications, but I will always have a soft spot for a film pushing back against the idea of human supremacy.
CJW: Our Members Be Unlimited by Sam Wallman
Wallman has been featured in these pages before, being a cartoonist who has covered Indigenous rights in Australia, offshore detention, and other topics we are wont to discuss here.
OMBU is mostly a history (and argument in favour) of unionism, but in detailing natural, spontaneous, and also planned collectives, as well as the state’s efforts to quell the same, I also see it as covering anarchist territory.
As well as the historical and more recent stories of union action and formation, there’s also stories from Sam’s life, including his time working as a salt in a Melbourne Amazon warehouse.
It’s a great book, definitely one to check out if you’re at all interested in workers and labor struggles.
Interesting new album by Durbatuluk. From what I understand, people are really appreciating what German artists are doing to current black metal, so this could well represent what’s going on in the scene now.
For the past years I have been collaborating with Roger Spitz in the development of this series of books about disruption and future. Most of my contributions revolve around humanities and art. As you can see, there are four different volumes in this collection, each focused on more specific topics like business, frameworks, or culture. The books will be released soon and you can keep an eye on the news by subscribing to the newsletter. :)