After a hiatus from work and after a beautiful summer vacation in Magallanes, I return with great emotion to write to you. And honoring Gatito Earth as a diary of disasters (pandemics, planetary climate crisis, the death throes of the rotting body of capitalism), I write to you amid a new nuclear threat. Ok. Maybe it’s my fault: I’ve longed with all my heart to be able to understand this century as I thought I understood the 20th century. So, I can’t complain about having a little bit of the cold war and all those melodramas of white Europe suffering.
A few weeks before this new disaster, I took the opportunity to travel to Chilean Patagonia in a new cycle of my personal farewell to the Holocene, called “we were so happy, and we didn’t know it.” We went to the Grey glacier, and after at least 12 years of not having visited it, one thing I was able to appreciate: it’s melting, baby! Very impressive, very sad.
I also went through Cabo Negro, which is really such a beautiful landscape, and I kept thinking about the geological layers of extractivism that we’d talked about in the “Dreaming of Patagonia” edition of gatito. We also got wet with rain and a terrifying wind which, as a woman of drought, makes me live it as a tourist experience. Did you see that water rationing this year in Santiago could be real? It joins other cities even more in collapse, like Viña del Mar.
Will this be the first year of the rest of my life in the Capitalocene? When, where, and how do our own Capitalocenes begin?
That is why it is so ABSOLUTELY ABSURD that the big tech companies continue to install their data centers in Santiago as if the drought did not matter or the priority in water consumption was digitization. Did you know that, in addition to the case of the Google data center in Cerrillos, the neighbors of Quilicura in Santiago are now mobilizing due to the project “Microsoft SCL03”? This Microsoft data center would consume 894 thousand liters of water per day! Which, by the way, would seriously affect the flow of the Las Cruces stream, the main water contributor of the wetlands of the commune.
I don’t know. Maybe is this what people call the metaverse, a digital parallel reality of ultra-capitalism? Are the “weather derivatives” part of the metaverse? I learned about them by reading Jo Bates (here is an article from 2013), who analyzes these financial instruments (although they work as insurance but without legal obligations) used by companies or individuals to hedge against the risk of weather-related losses. But beware! The bet is not on concrete damages due to a catastrophic weather event, which would be understandable, but on the variation of the temperature itself! If you hit it, it pays; if not, the broker (socially reliable companies such as Enron and Monsanto) keeps the money. So how do they determine these variations? Well, by using big data on weather and algorithms. Bates rightly claims how these instruments reward worst-case scenarios and how they disincentivize powerful economic actors to take climate mitigation seriously.
To tell you the truth, I haven’t understood anything for a long time. In the meantime, I keep going back to the 20th century. In fact, I took two summer nights off to see State Funeral, and, Danae, my dear, es algo de otra era, otra era mental. Those were the best ends of the world.
Besos, amore mío.
It’s so beautiful to read your letter, and the hiatus is more than fine, with some of my friends and colleagues we have thought a lot recently on the value of slowness. I think that everything started last year when I was at this reading group with extremely talented women and we explored artificial intelligence from a “slow” perspective. Of course slowness is also a value that is very connected with ecology and with proposals such as degrowth and sustainable technologies. Maybe here in Gatito 🌎 we could be more explicit regarding the material manifestation of those values, an approach similar to what is proposed by Low Tech Magazine which functions on a server powered by solar energy and which once in a while it simply turns off. I believe our decision of writing letters is very related to those ideas, maybe we should also just close our site every summer and display a sign that says we’re on vacation?
Slowness, hiatuses, are probably what we need in this global context that keeps hitting us: the sadness of seeing your glacier melting, the monstrosities that Zuckerberg proposes every other day, the infinite crypto-stupidities, the anguish of realising that these major problems are in the hands of lawyers, and a long etcetera.
The Appropriate Technology project it is something that inspires me a lot in that sense: values that are truly far from capitalism but which are also very affirmative and not centered in grifting complaints. But most importantly, theirs is a proposal that is manageable and therefore way more compatible with the universal need for mental peace.
I find it quite funny that I’m sharing these ideas of love and calm, so different from my usually scandalous and controversial traits. It must be that I’m in New York at the moment and I truly have to do this massive mental labor in order to disconnect from the horrible realities of this neo-imperialist country. In order to achieve a mental state of sanity I brought a marvelous book by the socialist icon William Morris, and in his essay Useful Work v. Useless Toil he writes a beautiful paragraph that reminded me so much to our project Gatito 🌎 despite it was written in 1888 (please forgive the patriarchal isms of the time):
Next there is the mass of people employed in making all those articles of folly and luxury, the demand for which is the outcome of the existence of the rich non-producing classes; things which people leading a manly and uncorrupted life would not ask for or dream of. These things, whoever may gainsay me, I will forever refuse to call wealth: they are not wealth but waste. Wealth is what Nature gives us and what a reasonable man can make out of the gifts of Nature for his reasonable use. The sunlight, the fresh air, the unspoiled face of the earth, food, raiment and housing necessary and decent; the storing up of knowledge of all kinds, and the power of disseminating it; means of free communication between man and man; works of art, the beauty which man creates when he is most a man, most aspiring and thoughtful -all things which serve the pleasure of people, free, manly, and uncorrupted. This is wealth.
Down with capitalism, amiga! I love you!
These are not gatitos but here you have some beautiful animals in a tapestry made by John Henry Dearle at William Morris’ studio