NOTE: This episode was recorded in early April.
In this episode we focus on “Is There a Technical Solution?,” “Autumn in New York,” and “Optimodal.”
But first we spend some time (as usual) lamenting the state of the world, especially the plight of the unhoused from Maine to Chicago. We decide private property should be abolished, which is also one of the best takeaways from Eric Holthaus’s The Future Earth. We also curse Barack Obama for what the Obama Center is doing to the South Side of Chicago. A bad guy, actually!
This leads us into thinking about public space and the commons, which takes us back into Green Earth and Frank’s experience living in a tree in Rock Creek Park. Here, outdoor spaces have become something more than what they were before the flood and the freeze. In the park, with Frank, the bros, and the frisbee golfers, we can find the novel’s speculative kernel, taking us outside the question of whether science can become political and whether politics can be reconciled to science.
We talk about home and habits, how the everyday lives of the characters are so partitioned and look for the things that hold Frank’s life together, one of which is the economy, indebtedness, insurance–ironically the very thing that, in the novel’s A-plot, may force the world to change course. The uninsurability of property in the face of catastrophic climate change may force capital into a different direction. In this way, Green Earth provides an actuarial imagination that gives a different relationship to the future, in ways that KSR will continue to develop in New York 2140 and The Ministry for the Future.
Meanwhile, Phil Chase is doing his Wizard of Oz routine, and Matt and Hilary reflect on what it looks like when our politics is centered on charismatic leaders. Being beholden to a pseudo-magical figure and the hierarchies and dependencies entailed by that arrangement don’t lend themselves to having a better democracy. Even Frank’s relationship with the bros seems to be one of liberal benevolence, which they do not fail to call him on.
We critique Chase’s speech calling on America to fulfill its “historical destiny” and put pressure on the possibility of threading the needle between the U.S. being a world leader without being hegemonic, “inventing permaculture” without engaging in imperialism. Can we reconcile the idea of the nation-state with the idea of a global civilization? What does “culture” mean in a borderless world?
The whole notion of “permaculture” is a weird one–isn’t culture constantly changing?
The section ends with some hints toward the need for a new global religion, with Frank dipping his toe in Emerson (and then getting beat up).
Hilary pulls a switcheroo, picks a bone with Donna Haraway, demands action, and Matt plugs Tokyo Vice.
It’s all happening.
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