Hungry for a Technical Solution to Climate Change
If we're going to solve climate change with technology, why haven't we solved hunger?
If I’m understanding it right, the fundamental tenet behind capitalism in the US is we believe that if someone has a good idea and a strong work ethic they should prosper. It’s a little bit like saying that the most attractive person at a party should get to be privy to all the most interesting conversations.
I guess that makes a certain amount of sense. But what happens when it becomes clear to the party at large that the most attractive person is the most attractive because they have pushed any potentially more attractive rivals out the window, onto the fire escape, and then kicked them over the rail into the abyss?
Obviously, someone has to say something. Why don’t they?
Because that, you swine, would be socialism.
The greatest trick that modern corporations have pulled is convincing us, consumers, that the burden of climate action is on us rather than them. It is we who should recycle, purchase a Tesla, and eat less meat, while they go right on, as Angie Aparo put it, “Turning Green into Gold.”
Of course, changing our personal habits to reduce our carbon footprint is still the right thing to do, even if the effect is like trying to fix a crumbling dam with a single flicked booger.
So how do we get the real bad actors to change? If there are technological solutions on the horizon, who will implement them? Are there any other problems we could solve, because we have the technology, but just haven’t?
What about hunger?
Let’s Play Billionaire
It seems that the answer is yes. We could end world hunger. Granted, there are a lot of problems between here and there. It’s not as simple as trebuchet-ing tons of burritos onto people. But we haven’t ended world hunger because nobody who has the money to do it wants to do it.
Like climate, solving this problem will take a multi-national government-level consortium, which means it will take a mandate from us, the people. We are going to have to go round this party, stop everyone in the middle of their potential unclothed wriggling negotiations, and get them interested, instead, in politics. Should be an easy sell.
Yes. That is socialism. A mandate from the people to ask government to regulate capitalism is socialism. It’s socialism like the Pure Food and Drug Act, or FEMA, or the SEC, or the FDA. Perfect? No. But necessary.
There is ever hope. Young people seem to be very interested in climate. They bring to mind someone who, when told they are soon going to be forced to walk through a swamp, becomes intensely interested in the habits and whereabouts of reptiles.
More power to them.
Will we be saved by the oil just running out?
The latest reports seem to indicate that we could cross an irreversible “climate threshold” in as few as 10 years. We have plenty of oil to rocket over that cliff. Plenty. Estimates indicate we could go on the way we are going, purely from an oil reserves standpoint, for more than 50 years, and likely beyond that too.
But technology! Right?
I know there are some potential technical solutions on the horizon, but I’m dubious. As mentioned above, we also have burrito and trebuchet technologies. And yet, folks are still hungry.
Let’s say you’re someone with a stake in putting off major climate remediation as long as possible. It’s 1985. Read the room. You can see the kids coming up. Chances are there will be a critical mass of voting-age people clamoring for climate change over the next 50 years. But you, personally, are older. You wont be around to suffer the effects of climate. And if you can push a climate reckoning back by ten, twenty, thirty years… well, it’s not just millions in the balance, it’s trillions.
How do you make it happen? First, you remove any barriers to presenting your worldview as fact. It might not catch on with everyone, but you don’t need everyone. Next, you remove any barrier to getting corporate money to politicians. A lot of people are going to figure out what you’re up to, so, for good measure, do what you can to declaw voting rights regulations.
All of that worked better than expected. The kids still have it figured out. But there’s one last card you can play.
What if you carve off a few million here and there, fund technological solutions to climate, regardless of how ridiculous they are or how unlikely they ever are to work? You can say you’re doing your best to sort it out.
We can do this together. We can demand a government that regulates bad actors. And the right can call it socialism, because it is socialism. But it’s better than just kicking our problems off the fire escape.