Summer’s over here in Europe and I have been trying to take advantage of the sunny days until the last second. Some friends visited recently, Cristóbal who lives in Paris and Rosa who lives in Mexico City. With them and Javi we went to Nesselande which is a beach / lake here in Rotterdam, all artificial of course, just like the soil of this very country.
On one of those trips we had sun all day. At eight pm it was still really warm so I went into the water with that childish feeling of not wanting the day at beach to be over. I was swimming for about ten minutes when it started to rain so suddenly, I swear, it was from one second to another, and it was very very heavy. It’s weird, but what I felt was euphoria, like a drug that hits you hard and fast, I could barely see because the rain was so intense and I don’t know why but I just started laughing. Instead of returning to the sand like most people, I kept swimming and everything felt so apocalyptic.
These untimely rains in the middle of the summer were investigated by scientists from the University of Stockholm and they discovered that in this context of global warming, those events are more difficult to predict, so they concluded that weather forecasting technologies should adapt to this new scenario. I connected that issue with the many times we studied together the topic of bias in digital platforms, for example how social network algorithms created in San Francisco often fail to incorporate gender and race components. This is why I started thinking about which geographies are being prioritized in meteorology studies, there is a clear concern in the European context with those threatening visions in which our countries are flooded. But what about the southern hemisphere and the places where the danger is desertification? Having access to an accurate climate forecast has enormous value in social and economic terms. So should we fear that the access to these new prediction technologies will arrive late for the regions of the global south? Who has the best information in their weather app, an European or a South American?
Another hit of my last weeks was going to the cinema to see The Matrix because of the 20 years since its premiere. In addition to being in love with Keanu Reeves throughout the film, I reflected on the projection of this idea of a war against intelligent machines that leaves the planet in a classic post apocalyptic state: an inhospitable place with subdued humans. Clearly the Wachowski sisters described the possibility of a cyber network capable of adapting to environmental factors in an autonomous, autopoietic way. I related this to Jussi Parikka’s ideas about viral culture and insect media defined as any device that reproduces through contagion. But why does contagion in the Matrix take the form of an oppressive system? Why do we have so much fear of contagion in our fictions?
Parikka is a researcher of postdigital materialities. His book Geology of Media is amazing, if you are interested, you can take a look at this interview in e-flux that is very good as an introduction to his work. He talks about how the biological and the technological are co-determining forces, his theory makes it possible to imagine a planet that will be covered by a fossilized layer of technological waste, and on its surface: pure virulent life. I am optimistic, so I think these viruses will constitute an ecosystem of fabulous post-human beings that will build their homes with our discarded phones.
Finally, I have to tell you that the worst recent news has been the death of my cat Chona, she was like a sister to me and was certainly one of the beings that I was most interested to see when I visit Santiago. My mother wrote to me super distressed telling me that when she woke up she had found her in my old bed already deceased. It was obviously a horrible feeling, well, I know you understand this. I always think that what saddens me most about the climate crisis is the suffering of the animals that inhabit the Earth today, which really are not to blame for anything, none of them. I comforted myself thinking that my adventurous cat lived more than fifteen years in a chilled house, with a patio to go out whenever she wanted, with trees to climb and with fresh drinking water. Other cats are going to have a harder time.
It was very difficult for me to find consolidated information on the species affected by global warming, however, it is possible to start researching the issue by consulting the article in Wikipedia that, although it is quite mediocre, lists the species that are at risk of extinction due to the weather emergency. I believe that we need a system that delivers this information in a clear and automated way, it could use visualizations and at the same time provide a record of this disaster and its consequences for non-human animals.
It would be such a wonderful dream if cats survive us and take over the planet, that if there is something left of the human race is the memory of all the animals that were our companions and made us feel so much love. This letter will be stored on my hard drive and maybe an earthling of the future will find it, and I want to leave this legacy: the record that my cat lived, that she gave me endless love and companionship to me, my mother and my brothers.
And that I will love her forever.
Amiga, let’s talk soon, I wish you the best, send greetings to Mónica, Jairo and Sardina Eugenia.
Santiago, September 12th 2019
Something similar happened to me. A couple of days ago, in the middle of the night, a storm started in Santiago, with lightnings and thunders, with a very cold wind, enough to cover the mountains with some snow. I was sleeping and the heavy sound of the rain woke me up. And even though I was in a deep sleep, I did not hesitate to get up, open the window and feel the icy air while watching fascinated those drippers bouncing on the sidewalk. I am indeed from the Atacama Desert and the rain always arouses in myself a curiosity that many people would consider provincial, but this time my feeling was somewhat melancholic. Amid the desertification of Chile, when could this storm be repeated? Will some of these streams of water reach the groundwater? But the storm, following the script of the local climate crisis, was brief </ 3
It has been difficult to digest that the consequences of the climate crisis have already arrived in the largest city in a country and not in another sacrifice zone, far from the capital. The water scarcity in Santiago is expected in less than 5 years. It will be a point of no return. I guess it won’t be long before, in an internal migration crisis due to border closures, the Chilean upper class migrates soon and builds their horrible private condos in the south of the country, gentrify and end up displacing poor or middle-class people into the desert. In the meantime, the industry brings around again the “not such a great idea” of building a water highway that can transport water from the fertile lands of southern Chile to the central area. “What do we care about the people in the southern part of the country and their ecological balance if I can continue with my business on the same terms!”
All this has made me think about how much the Silicon Valley industry has contributed in strengthening the complex capitalist ideological framework, with that irritating speech of the innovator who does things here and now, seizing the opportunity, asking for forgiveness rather than permission, without ask if what is deployed is even desirable for the community and the world as a habitat of multiple species. All that incredible stupidity of “deploy or die,” or “we are not futurists, we are now-ist,” which has erased every trace of community and deliberation and replaced it with marketing studies or technical feasibility.
And yes, as you’ve said it, I’m very afraid that the main weight of the mainstream discussion on climate crisis is in the developed world and, moreover, it gives me creeps just imagine the always well-intentioned people from Silicon Valley believe that they must come up with some software to stop it. But it must also be said that the white and right-minded world gives us always a lot of very funny material, and the climate crisis is no exception. So, to clear up the slightly gray feelings upon us, I thought this article might be interesting for you, because it’s written by Jonathan Franzen with Jonathan Franzen acting as himself, manexplaining and whiteexplaining (?) how to deal with the climate crisis, without acknowledging the historical role of indigenous communities in that old critical space. Call him an unimaginative writer and rich boy kale-eater (hahaha) is just the beginning.
I’m sorry about Chonita, I send you a huge hug. I bet she is with Lanzi, infinitely beautiful, intelligent and wise, laughing together at how stupid we are. We will miss them, forever.