Highlights for The Ministry for the Future

In dealing with the poverty that still plagued so much of the Indian populace, the Indian government had had to create electricity as fast as they could, and also, since they existed in a world run by the market, as cheaply as they could. Otherwise outside investors would not invest, because the rate of return would not be high enough. So they had burned coal, yes. Like everyone else had up until just a few years before. Now India was being told not to burn coal, when everyone else had finished burning enough of it to build up the capital to afford to shift to cleaner sources of power. India had been told to get better without any financial help to do so whatsoever. Told to tighten the belt and embrace austerity, and be the working class for the bourgeoisie of the developed world, and suffer in silence until better times came— but the better times could never come, that plan was shot. The deck had been stacked, the game was over. And now twenty million people were dead.
India’s electrical power companies were nationalized where they weren’t already
change with us, change now, or suffer the wrath of Kali
The nineteen largest organizations doing this will be, in order of size from biggest to smallest: Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom, ExxonMobil, National Iranian Oil Company, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Pemex, Petróleos de Venezuela, PetroChina, Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Iraq National Oil Company, Total SA, Sonatrach, BHP Billiton, and Petrobras.
“Not good enough?” Mary suggested. “No, but nothing is ever good enough. We just make do.”
His therapists talked about trigger events. About avoiding triggers. What they were glossing over with this too-convenient metaphor was that life itself was just a long series of trigger events. That consciousness was the trigger. He woke up, he remembered who he was, he had a panic attack. He got over it and got on with his day as best he could.
We are the Children of Kali, and you can’t be one of us, even if you were here during the catastrophe. But you can do something. You can carry a message from us to the world. Maybe that can even help, we don’t know. But you can try. You can tell them that they must change their ways. If they don’t, we will kill them. That’s what they need to know. You can figure out ways to tell them that.”
To be clear, concluding in brief: there is enough for all. So there should be no more people living in poverty. And there should be no more billionaires. Enough should be a human right, a floor below which no one can fall; also a ceiling above which no one can rise. Enough is a good as a feast— or better.
the Food Sustainability Index, formulated by Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition
But look, the violence of carbon burning kills many more people than any punishment for capital crimes ever would. So really your morality is just a kind of surrender.”
So, if your organization represents the people who will be born after us, well, that’s a heavy burden! It’s a real responsibility! You have to think like them! You have to do what they would do if they were here.”
“People kill in self-defense all the time. Not to do that would be a kind of suicide. So people do it. And now your people are under assault. These supposed future people.”
You grew up in Nepal, right? And I grew up in Ireland. In both places there was a lot of political violence. Which really means murder, right? Murder and all that follows murder. Fear, grief, anger, revenge, all that.
The hidden quality of the nistarim is important; they are ordinary people, who emerge and act when needed to save their people, then sink back into anonymity as soon as their task is accomplished.
Avasthana, Sanskrit for survival.
Look, if you have to do something, you have to do it. Don’t keep talking about cost as if that’s a real thing. Money isn’t real. Work is real.
And so India is coming into its own. We are the new force. People around the world have begun to take notice. This too is new— no one elsewhere has been used to thinking of India as anything but a place of poverty, a victim of history and geography. But now they are looking at us with a little bit of confusion and wonder. What is this? A sixth of humanity on one big triangular patch of land, caught under the blazing sun, cut off by a mighty range of mountains: who are these people? A democracy, a polyglot coalition— wait, can it be? And what can it be? Do we make the Chinese, who so decisively stepped onto the world stage at the start of this century, look dictatorial, monolithic, brittle, afraid? Is India now the bold new leader of the world? We think maybe so.
No one denies future people are going to be just as real as us. So there isn’t any moral justification for the discounting, it’s just for our own convenience. Plenty of economists acknowledged this. Robert Solow said we ought to act as if the discount rate were zero. Roy Harrod said the discount rate was a polite expression for rapacity. Frank Ramsey called it ethically indefensible. He said it came about because of a weakness of the imagination.
The guilty need to know: even in their locked compounds, in their beds asleep at night, the Children of Kali will descend on you and kill you. There is no hiding, there is no escape.
When you lose all hope and all fear, then you become something not quite human. Whether better or worse than human I can’t say. But for an hour I was not a human being.
You could even say that money itself would resist this change. Indeed it seems to be the case that there’s simply a kind of inherent, inbuilt resistance to change!
Our current economics has not yet answered any of these questions. But why should it? Do you ask your calculator what to do with your life? No. You have to figure that out for yourself.
We laughed out loud. For a while we couldn’t stop laughing. Fuck Margaret Thatcher, I said when I could catch my breath. And I say it again now: fuck Margaret Thatcher, and fuck every idiot who thinks that way. I can take them all to a place where they will eat those words or die of thirst. Because when the taps run dry, society becomes very real. A smelly mass of unwashed anxious citizens, no doubt about it. But a society for sure. It’s a life or death thing, society, and I think people mainly do recognize that, and the people who deny it are stupid fuckers, I say this unequivocally. Ignorant fools. That kind of stupidity should be put in jail.
The Austrian and Chicago schools had run with that opinion, and thus neoliberalism: the market rules because it’s the best calculator. But now, with computers as strong as they’ve gotten, the Red Plenty argument has gotten stronger and stronger, asserting that people now have so much computing power that central planning could work better than the market. High-frequency trading has been put forth as an example of computers out-achieving the market proper, but instead of improving the system it’s just been used to take rents on every exchange. This a sign of effective computational power, but used by people still stuck in the 1930s terminology of market versus planning, capitalism versus communism. And by people not trying to improve system, but merely to make more money in current system. Thus economists in our time.
Having debunked the tragedy of the commons, they now were trying to direct our attention to what they called the tragedy of the time horizon. Meaning we can’t imagine the suffering of the people of the future, so nothing much gets done on their behalf. What we do now creates damage that hits decades later, so we don’t charge ourselves for it, and the standard approach has been that future generations will be richer and stronger than us, and they’ll find solutions to their problems. But by the time they get here, these problems will have become too big to solve. That’s the tragedy of the time horizon, that we don’t look more than a few years ahead, or even in many cases, as with high-speed trading, a few micro-seconds ahead. And the tragedy of the time horizon is a true tragedy, because many of the worst climate impacts will be irreversible.
carbon quantitative easing
It’s the vital work of our time. If we don’t fund a rapid carbon drawdown, if we don’t take the immense amount of capital that flows around the world looking for the highest rate of return and redirect it into decarbonizing work, civilization could crash. Then the dollar will be weak indeed.
Apparently he didn’t travel much compared to most people. That felt right. If you were mentally ill your energy use inevitably dropped, because you couldn’t put it together to live a normal life. He had gone to ground, he was living in a hole like a badger. Hibernating maybe. Waiting for some kind of spring to come.
Germans: they had seen the worst. They knew how bad it could get. Even though these were the grandchildren of the ones who had lived through it, or now mostly the great-grandchildren, there was still a cultural memory they could not escape, a memory that would last centuries.
everyone living in the past of their own region’s psyche to one extent or another, because they all lived in their languages, and if your native language was anything but English, you were estranged to one degree or other from the global village.
Always she had been prone to the rash act. She put it down to something Irish. It seemed to her that Irish women doing rash things was precisely how her people had managed to perpetuate themselves.
That pistol, that moment of fear— a jolting spike of fear for her life— she had not forgotten that, or forgiven it. She never would. Nothing was quite like that. But nothing was quite like anything.
The War for the Earth is often said to have begun on Crash Day. And it was later that same year when container ships began to sink, almost always close to land.
The fossil fuel lawyers and executives looked interested when this was proposed to them. The privately owned companies saw a chance of escaping with a viable post-oil business. The state-owned companies looked interested at the idea of compensation for their stranded assets, which they had already borrowed against, in the usual way of the rampant reckless financialization which was the hallmark of their time. Paid to pump water from the ocean up to some catchment basin? Paid to pump CO2 into the ground? Paid how much? And who would front the start-up expenses?
Eleven policies would get it done, they all told her. Carbon pricing, industry efficiency standards, land use policies, industrial process emissions regulations, complementary power sector policies, renewable portfolio standards, building codes and appliance standards, fuel economy standards, better urban transport, vehicle electrification, and feebates, which was to say carbon taxes passed back through to consumers.
As with a move from bank to credit union, instead of the company using the consumer, the consumer used the company, and owned it too. What did the company per se get out of it? Nothing, because a company was nothing. It was just an organization devised to help its employee-owners, nothing more. Like any other company, in the end. If you thought that was what they were.
Another banker, Mary thought. Out of seven Swiss presidents, how many came from a banking background? Four? Five?
The rentier class will not help in that project. They are not interested in that project. Indeed that project will be forwarded in the face of their vigorous resistance. Over their dead bodies, some of them will say. In which case, euthanasia may be just the thing.
a land tax properly designed could again swiftly redistribute land ownership more widely, while quickly swelling government coffers in order to pay for public work, thus reducing economic inequality.
This sudden loss of supply sent oil prices and oil futures sharply up. Oil was rarer now, therefore more expensive, which meant that clean renewable energy was now cheaper than oil by an even larger margin than before.
Or perhaps inflation: macroeconomics was no longer so very clear on the ultimate effects of quantitative easing, given that the evidence from the past half century could be interpreted either way. That this debate was a clear sign that macroeconomics as a field was ideological to the point of astrology was often asserted by people in all the other social sciences, but economists were still very skilled at ignoring outside criticisms of their field, and now they forged on contradicting themselves as confidently as ever.
In this case, these people insisted, please go back to the basics. Here’s the true economy, these people said: since the Earth’s biosphere was the only one available to humanity, and its healthy function absolutely necessary to humanity’s existence, its worth to people was a kind of existential infinity. Gauging the price of saving the biosphere’s functions against the cost of losing them would therefore always be impossible.
So until the climate was actually killing them, people had a tendency to deny it could happen. To others, yes; to them, no. This was a cognitive error that, like most cognitive errors, kept happening even when you knew of its existence and prevalence. It was some kind of evolutionary survival mechanism, some speculated, a way to help people carry on even when it was pointless to carry on.
What if the standard, or even the legally mandated, maximum wage ratio was set at say one to ten, being so easy to calculate? With the lowest level set high enough for life adequacy or decency or however you want to call it. Enough for a decent life. Which then, ten times that? That’s a lot! I mean think about it. Count it on your fingers and thumbs, seeing the enough amount on the tip of each digit, all ten stuck together at the end of your arms looking back at you. Enough times ten is fucking luxurious.
We listen to her, but not you. He said, I am Kali. Suddenly he felt the enormous weight of that, the truth of it. They stared at him and saw it crushing him. The War for the Earth had lasted years, his hands were bloody to the elbows. For a moment he couldn’t speak; and there was nothing more to say.
Can you make up a new society from scratch at that point? No, you can’t. Things just fall apart and next thing you know you’re eating your cat. So take this in: there has to be a pre-existing Plan B.
Even if you are a degrowth devolutionist, an anarchist or a communist or a fan of world government, we only do the global in the current world order by way of the nation-state system.
All over the world this was happening, they kept saying. All these sad little towns, the backbone of rural civilization, tossed into the trash bin of history.
They kill the good ones, Mary thought bitterly, the leaders, the tough ones, and then dare the weaker ones to pick up the torch and carry on. Few would do it. The killers would prevail. This was how it always happened. This explained the world they lived in; the murderers were willing to kill to get their way. In a fight between sociopathic sick wounded angry fucked-up wicked people, and all the rest of them, not just the good and the brave but the ordinary and weak, the sheep who just wanted to get by, the fuckers always won. The few took power and wielded it like torturers, happy to tear the happiness away from the many.
The hidden sheriff; she was ready for that now, that and the hidden prison. The guillotine for that matter. The gun in the night, the drone from nowhere. Whatever it took.
Another brick in the controlocracy, some said of this recorded money; but if the public kept ultimate control of this new global state, by way of people power exerted by the ever more frequent strikes and non-compliances, then the people too would be seeing where all the money was and where it was going, move by move, so that it couldn’t be shuffled into tax havens or otherwise hidden, without becoming inactivated by law.
the Half Earth projects
and capping personal annual income at ten times that minimum amount
“Revolution comes; not the expected one, but another, always another.”
Many are now tagged, and more all the time. There is coming into being a kind of Internet of Animals, whatever that means. Better perhaps to say they are citizens now, and have citizens’ rights, and therefore a census is being taken.
A cobbling-together from less-than-satisfactory parts. A slurry, a bricolage. An unholy mess.
You have to be part of a wave in history. You can’t get it just by wanting it, you can’t call for it and make it come. You can’t choose it— it chooses you! It arrives like a wave picking you up! It’s a feeling— how can I say it? It’s as if everyone in your city becomes a family member, known to you as such even when you have never seen their face before and never will again. Mass action, yes, but the mass is suddenly family, they are all on the same side, doing something important.
Then another five million come to live with you and everyone speaks English to understand each other. Pretty soon your kids speak English, pretty soon everyone speaks English, and then your language is gone. That would be a big loss, a crushing loss. So people get protective of that. The most important thing, therefore, is to learn the language. Not just English, but the local language, the native language. The mother tongue. Their culture doesn’t matter so much, just the language. That I find is the great connector. You speak their language and even when you’re messing it up like crazy, they get a look on their face: in that moment they want to help you.
Tom Athanasiou, Jürgen Atzgendorfer, Eric Berlow, Terry Bisson, Michael Blumlein (in memory), Dick Bryan, Federica Carugati, Amy Chan, Delton Chen, Joshua Clover, Oisín Fagan, Banning Garrett, Laurie Glover, Dan Gluesenkamp, Hilary Gordon, Casey Handmer, Fritz Heidorn, Jurg Hoigné (in memory), Tim Holman, Joe Holtz, Arlene Hopkins, Drew Keeling, Kimon Keramidas, Jonathan Lethem, Margaret Levi, Robert Markley, Tobias Menely, Ashwin Jacob Mathew, Chris McKay, Colin Milburn, Miguel Nogués, Lisa Nowell, Oskar Pfenninger (in memory), Kavita Philip, Armando Quintero, Carter Scholz, Mark Schwartz, Anasuya Sengupta, Slawek Tulaczyk, José Luis de Vicente, and K. Y. Wong

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