Nationalize Gmail!: Climate Change, Critical Infrastructure, and the USPS
Alina Utrata talks with Josh Lappen, a fellow Californian and environmental historian researching at Oxford University, who studies some of the most important technology there is: critical infrastructure. They discuss why hundreds of Elon Musks can’t (and won’t) solve climate change, the government funding and politics behind many technology entrepreneurs’ businesses, why low-tech solutions and indigenous practices are critical sources of knowledge, and the surprising number of technological innovations enabled by the US Postal Service (including Amazon’s e-commerce business and commercial flight). Plus, is PG&E really the worst company, what’s going on with the Texas blackouts, and should the government give you an email (and a bank account)?
Addendum from Josh: "When recognizing the climate benefits of indigenous land management, we need to stress that a purely technical approach, which seeks to identify knowledge and incorporate it into existing management regimes, is simultaneously inadequate, amoral, and probably counterproductive. As we stressed during the interview, climate change is a political question which presents problems of distribution that run deeper than its problems of budgeting. In places like California, indigenous land management regimes ended due to enslavement, removal, and genocide of the state's native peoples, and modern land management practices have long depended on ignoring that fact, and the experiences of people who live on the land in general. Durably solving climate change is not just about assembling new tools; it requires rebuilding social and political systems to avoid new iterations of extractivism. In the case of cultural land management practices, that means restoring indigenous communities' role in shaping and caring for the land."
Mentioned in this podcast:
- By Josh: How Climate-Driven Disasters Threaten Climate Progress
- Bill Tripp, the director of natural resources and environmental policy for the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, in the Guardian: “Our land was taken. But we still hold the knowledge of how to stop mega-fires.” As well as Jared Dahl Alder, “Cultural Fire on the Mountain: An Introduction to Native Cultural Burning" and Indigenous Conservation Practices Are Not a Monolith: Western cultural biases and a lack of engagement with Indigenous experts undermine studies of land stewardship.
- How California’s firefighters are made up of incarcerated people who are paid $1 a day,
- An explainer on PG&E and California’s (basically, annual) rolling blackouts and the recent Texas energy grid failures.
- If you’re wondering why California doesn’t have a train line between its two most populous cities, here’s a good explainer on the High Speed Rail (spoiler alert: its local politics), more long view coverage from Ralph Vartabedian at the LA Times. Plus, why Elon Musk’s Hyperloop literally won’t solve anything.
- “It’s the government, stupid.” Elon Musk is a state-made man. In case you didn’t catch the number, Elon Musk ventures’ Telsa, Solar City and SpaceX have received a total of $4.9 billion dollars from the government in tax breaks, grants and subsidies, and Tesla literally was not profitable until this year.
- For more on so-called libertarian tech entrepreneurs who make their fortunes contracting with Big Government, check out our previous Anti-Dystopians podcast about Peter Thiel with Andrew Granato (a mutual friend of me and Josh).
- More on the climate impacts of AI language modeling in the memo that Google fired Dr Timnit Gebru over, plus the environmental toll of a Netflix binge.
- For more on how Google buses and tech corporations are creating two-tier public/private infrastructure in the Bay, check out Inside a Secretive $250 Million Private Transit System Just for Techies.
- And, how Congress is Sabotaging Your Post Office. Plus a really interesting argument about the benefit of state-issues crypto-currencies aka why doesn’t the Fed just give everyone a bank account?
- Marianna Mazzucato’s The Entrepreneurial State
- Winifred Gallagher’s How the Post Office Created America
- Timothy Mitchell's Rule of Experts
- Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space
- Susan Leigh Star's Ecologies of Knowledge
- Richard White's The Organic Machine
Nowhere Land by Kevin MacLeod