Thursday, June 17 2021

Quote of the Day

It is my solemn and important duty to bring happiness, light, and joy into your world when you’re being a dour idiot. Which is most of the time. So there.

Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer

I Could Use Some Help With This

Kate Cavanaugh, “reading & reviewing less common writing craft books!”, YouTube

One of the books Kate reviewed was Ursula K LeGuin’s Steering the Craft, which has been on my Amazon list for a while. Kate really loved it, which confirms my thought that it is probably great and I really should read it one day.

One of the books I had never heard of, but I will likely need at some point, which Kate also recommends: Diana Gabaldon’s “I Give You My Body..”: How I Write Sex Scenes. No throbbing, glistening members or opening love canals for me, thank you! Hopefully this is the sort of book that can help me Do Better than That.


Juneteenth acknowledged!

Biden Signs Juneteenth Bill, Saying ‘All Americans Can Feel the Power of This Day’

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. Many Americans still get the history wrong

Biden got down on one knee to welcome the 94-year-old ‘grandmother’ of Juneteenth to the White House


Yesterday’s Research Today

Getting back to ecosocialism:

Ecosocialism is a vision of a transformed society in harmony with nature, and the development of practices that can attain it. It is directed toward alternatives to all socially and ecologically destructive systems, such as patriarchy, racism, homophobia and the fossil-fuel based economy. It is based on a perspective that regards other species and natural ecosystems as valuable in themselves and as partners in a common destiny.

Ecosocialism shares with traditional socialism a passion for justice. It shares the conviction that capitalism has been a deadly detour for humanity. We understand capitalism to be a class society based on infinite expansion, through the exploitation of labor and the ransacking of nature. Ecosocialists are also guided by the life-ways of indigenous peoples whose economies are embedded in a classless society in fundamental unity with nature. We draw upon the wisdom of the ages as well as the latest science, and will do what can be done to bring a new society, beyond capitalism, into existence.

Ecosocialist Horizons, “What is Ecosocialism?”

Urm. Well, there’s a lot there about what ecosocialism is against, but not a whole lot about the how to transform society to be “in harmony with nature.” Perhaps by first realizing that society is a part of nature? Also: “guided by the life-ways of indigenous people whose economies are embedded in a classless society” feels pretty sus to me. I’m interested to know which indigenous people exactly they are talking about; I know my ancestors had slaves pre-contact. They also had and still have a leader (sachem). Perhaps they don’t mean pre-contact, and are referring to tribes today, who are made up of people, people who are just as likely to do shitty things as any other person. I worry that they mean something more like the idealized image of the Crying Indian, and ooof, that’s a bad look if they do.

In synthesizing the basic tenets of ecology and the Marxist critique of political economy, ecosocialism offers a radical alternative to an unsustainable status quo. Rejecting a capitalist definition of “progress” based on market growth and quantitative expansion (which, as Marx shows, is a destructive progress), it advocates policies founded on non-monetary criteria, such as social needs, individual well-being, and ecological equilibrium. Ecosocialism puts forth a critique of both mainstream “market ecology,” which does not challenge the capitalist system, and “productivist socialism,” which ignores natural limits.

As people increasingly realize how the economic and ecological crises intertwine, ecosocialism has been gaining adherents. Ecosocialism, as a movement, is relatively new, but some of its basic arguments date back to the writings of Marx and Engels…

The core of ecosocialism is the concept of democratic ecological planning, wherein the population itself, not “the market” or a Politburo, make the main decisions about the economy. Early in the Great Transition to this new way of life, with its new mode of production and consumption, some sectors of the economy must be suppressed (e.g., the extraction of fossil fuels implicated in the climate crisis) or restructured, while new sectors are developed. Economic transformation must be accompanied by active pursuit of full employment with equal conditions of work and wages. This egalitarian vision is essential both for building a just society and for engaging the support of the working class for the structural transformation of the productive forces.

Ultimately, such a vision is irreconcilable with private control of the means of production and of the planning process. In particular, for investments and technological innovation to serve the common good, decision-making must be taken away from the banks and capitalist enterprises that currently dominate, and put in the public domain.

Michael Löwy, “Why Ecosocialism: For a Red-Green Future“, Great Transition Initiative

Now we’re getting to it. Ok. So this is really Marxism + green initiatives. It feels like less of a plan and more like laying out some ideals. Some ideals which really should be self-evident at this point. Capitalism is exploitative and unsustainable, tiny number of people in power wanting to stay in power is bad. Yes, yes, but solutions?? Putting decision-making in the public domain reminds me of both worker-owned businesses and participatory democracy.

Again, not enough time to read all the links I found about ecosocialism, so here are the extras:

Wednesday, June 16 2021

Quote of the Day

The whole world at your fingertips, the ocean at your door
The live-action Lion King, the pepsi Halftime Show
Twenty-thousand years of this, seven more to go
Carpool Karaoke, Steve Aoki, Logan Paul
A gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall
There it is again
That funny feeling

Bo Burnham, “That Funny Feeling”, Inside

Sometimes Falling For Clickbait Titles Works Out

Our Changing Climate, “How We End Consumerism”, YouTube

I don’t really know if I was expecting a wholesale answer to ending consumerism in a 12-minute video, but I didn’t want to get up and start cleaning the apartment so I decided to find out. I’m glad I did, because while the video is pretty light on specifics, it introduced some interesting new vocabulary: degrowth and ecosocialism.

Degrowth: Oh wow, so there’s a lot about this thing I’ve never heard of.

Degrowth is an idea that critiques the global capitalist system which pursues growth at all costs, causing human exploitation and environmental destruction. The degrowth movement of activists and researchers advocates for societies that prioritize social and ecological well-being instead of corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption. This requires radical redistribution, reduction in the material size of the global economy, and a shift in common values towards care, solidarity and autonomy. Degrowth means transforming societies to ensure environmental justice and a good life for all within planetary boundaries.

“What is degrowth?”, Degrowth.info

Well, ok, it’s a grand vision, I guess. I’m totally for prioritizing social and ecological well-being over profit. Interestingly, their requirements to realize this re-prioritization seem to still have a system of money. So less of a Star Trek-ian future model. I’m also interested in what “autonomy” looks like next to “solidarity”, with no mention of community, just society. Hmm.

Like a snake eating its own tail, our growth-orientated civilisation suffers from the delusion that there are no environmental limits to growth. But rethinking growth in an age of limits cannot be avoided. The only question is whether it will be by design or disaster…

The idea of the steady-state economy presents us with an alternative. This term is somewhat misleading, however, because it suggests that we simply need to maintain the size of the existing economy and stop seeking further growth. 

But given the extent of ecological overshoot – and bearing in mind that the poorest nations still need some room to develop their economies and allow the poorest billions to attain a dignified level of existence – the transition will require the richest nations to downscale radically their resource and energy demands. 

This realisation has given rise to calls for economic “degrowth”. To be distinguished from recession, degrowth means a phase of planned and equitable economic contraction in the richest nations, eventually reaching a steady state that operates within Earth’s biophysical limits.

At this point, mainstream economists will accuse degrowth advocates of misunderstanding the potential of technology, markets, and efficiency gains to “decouple” economic growth from environmental impact. But there is no misunderstanding here. Everyone knows that we could produce and consume more efficiently than we do today. The problem is that efficiency without sufficiency is lost…

This is the defining, critical flaw in growth economics: the false assumption that all economies across the globe can continue growing while radically reducing environmental impact to a sustainable level. The extent of decoupling required is simply too great. As we try unsuccessfully to “green” capitalism, we see the face of Gaia vanishing.

The very lifestyles that were once considered the definition of success are now proving to be our greatest failure. Attempting to universalise affluence would be catastrophic. There is absolutely no way that today’s 7.2 billion people could live the Western way of life, let alone the 11 billion expected in the future. Genuine progress now lies beyond growth. Tinkering around the edges of capitalism will not cut it. 

Samuel Alexander, “Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it”, The Conversation

Well that’s a much clearer call to action and explanation. And hey, I think I actually have run into this idea before under the guise of the “doughnut economics“:

Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

Kate Raworth, “What on Earth is the Doughnut?…

Ok, I’m running out of time today for more introspection and research about degrowth, so here’s a bunch of the links I unearthed but didn’t read:

And no time to even look up ecosocialism! Next post I guess.