Reply to Lars Sund

In Ny Tid 6-7/2015, pp.40/41, there was a kolumn by Lars Sund titled ”Teknologi räddar oss inte från klimatkatastrofen”. It produced in me a very strong wish to comment, and at first glance it might seem logical to write a comment on it in the web edition of Ny Tid. Unluckily the web page of Ny Tid has still not any list of the incoming comments on the various articles, so that, if one wants one’s comment to be visible at all, one has to do as I am doing now, i.e. one has to write one’s comment as a contribution to the blog of Tigern (which WILL be listed on the web page of Ny Tid).

About Lars Sund’s kolumn, my first comment is that the title is misleading. I do not know who has formulated the title, but the way it is formulated it suggests that the kolumn were just one of the usual outpourings of some humanist who feels like blackpainting technology still another time. Luckily, the kolumn is in fact a report about a very reasonble presentation by Dennis Meadows, known as the author of ”Tillväxtens gränser”, and it ends with Lars Sund’s announcement that he is still busy thinking about the problem how to get political action going in the direction which Dennis Meadows thinks necessary. And I shall try to contribute some constructive thoughts about just this problem:

First thing: technology ALONE will in fact not be enough to save us, but it will certainly be a very important component of any solution – after all, humans do have quite a number of basic needs, and once they have got used to seeing these needs satisfied they will not easily agree to living in a state where these needs are not satisfied any more; thus, technology will have to provide ways of satisfying those needs which are less damaging to the environment and the climate. And I am confident that technology CAN provide these solutions, anyway IF one gives it the chance to do so. But, it is here where the problem is: the system brings politicians to the top who are technically incompetent, instead inclined to listen to the missionnaries of neoliberalism (who just give a damn about environment and climate), and who feel (and ARE) under pressure to get enough money together to be able to fulfill the obligations which the law is imposing on the public system: the solution is usually seen in ”more economical growth”, i.e. in getting more money to circulate faster so that the state has more opportunities to get, every time when money changes hands, its share of the exchanged money as taxes. I.e., the system is, if it wants to avoid bankruptcy, under strong pressure to want, e.g., ever more consumption. This will of course ruin the globe in the long run, but neoliberalism anyway does not show any alternative to the present course, is instead making everything worse by pushing for ”tax relief” (making in effect the state more and more dependent on consumption as a source of tax income).

And what to do in this situation? I think that one should begin by activating all available contacts to politicians or such organisations who have contacts to politicians. Via these contacts one should first of all try to shake the widespread belief in neoliberalism, e.g. by pushing Ha-Joon Chang’s ”23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism”. – It is basically a shame that this book has not yet been spread more widely. This in turn has had the pleasant side effect that at least the Finnish version of the book is now dirt cheap (I got it recently for 5 €), so that it should be easy to even give it to people as a present. And if that should (with some recipients) be necessary, one should begin by calming them down by stressing that Ha-Joon Chang is NOT an anti-Capitalist. He is just ripping the neoliberal mythology to shreds in midair. After this beginning one should perhaps point in special to ”Thing 12” in the book (”Governments can pick winners”), encouraging politicians to develop more initiative in technical and economical matters (instead of passively waiting that free enterprise comes up with ready solutions); such initiative could e.g. be to demand more technical development via institutions which are not dependent on private enterprise (such as TEKES and universities). Because: private firms will always promote just such solutions by which they EARN (and do their best to blackpaint competing solutions, even though – or especially if – those might be better). An example for this from Lars Sund’s piece is that ”Teslas beramade batteri”, which may be really not so bad for people who can afford it, but is of course by far too expensive for people in the Third World. Cheaper solutions for them might be a storage of energy in the form of compressed air or in spinning gyroscopes – but don’t you believe that Tesla will even mention these possibilities (which will, after all, not provide any profit for Tesla …). Altogether, it would be necessary to talk MUCH more about the possibilities which technology is in fact offering. In addition one should actively ask for still more suggestions, also from the general population (even I could provide some ideas). And once one has a good catalogue of possibilities, one should publicly kick the government for not following these up.

Here the present political situation is actually providing an opportunity: all the progressive parties are in opposition and (hopefully) searching for possibilities to brush up their profiles. And to point to the up to now unused technical possibilities to save the globe/create jobs/boost Finnish exports, and blame the government for being too passive about these, should basically be a promising strategy to attract votes. Thus (and see above), anybody who has fitting contacts PLEASE GET GOING!

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2 Responses to Reply to Lars Sund

  1. Bert says:

    Teknologin är ju nog tyvärr den enda möjlighet vi har att lösa de problem som vårt bruk – eller missbruk – av teknologin har lett till. På det teknologiska planet alltså. Beträffande bruk och missbruk av resurser är det väl som du skriver just politiken som föhoppningsvis kan leverera lösningar…

    Men du glömmer att nämna Naomi Kleins bok om kapitalismens rövarbruk av resurser ‘This changes everything’ – den och Changs bok brukar ju ofta nämnas tillsammans.

    • Ernst Mecke says:

      Thank you for pointing to Naomi Klein’s book (of which I certainly think that one should read it and about which I have been active myself, a.o. in the frame of a reading-circle). Into the line of my reasoning in my reply to Lars Sund, though, it does not really fit so well, because Naomi Klein is very good at describing the political landscape of the capitalism vs. the climate problem, but is, on the other hand, very obviously only moderately interested in (and, by that, not really so well informed about) technology. And my recommendation was first to try and shake people’s belief in the neoliberalist mythology (by means of Ha-Joon Chang’s book) and then to talk very much and in detail about technology (in order, e.g., to open people’s eyes to all those possibilities which our political system lets get lost by just listening to economists instead of also listening to the engineers).

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