Last night I was in bed with my friend Cata, we were talking for hours and just before falling asleep we both took our phones and set them in flight mode. It was nice to realize that the two of us had that habit, a habit related to something strictly technical but somehow also connected to some sort of superstitious self-care practice that we don’t even know if it works or not.
That anecdote is in total synchronicity with what has been my mood the last month: days of astrology and cycling. Days of playing with fire and days of using my favorite mythologies to think about everything I don’t understand while I compulsively buy vegetables at the Turkish supermarket by my street.
My friends in Santiago tell me that after months of tear gas, the Alameda has a disgusting welding-like smell. At times I’ve been trying to avoid those bits of awful information from Chile by watching excellent films and excellent exhibitions that I couldn’t have accessed in the third world. Is weird to benefit from those postcolonial and postcapitalist inequalities when the thing I want the most is a feminist utopia for everyone.
In that sense, my readings of this month have been very related with neoliberalism as this zodiacal force that attempts to govern our destinies, this force that we cannot stand anymore. For example, I read that seven men were convicted because of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, however, most of them are hitmen plus a couple of medio pelo Honduran executives. None of these men holds any real power whatsoever and certainly none of them is affiliated to the extractivist corporations of the first world who orchestrated the targeted surveillance and the consequential murder of this renowned environmental activist.
Companies are not accountable and they refuse to let go of their privileges, I was looking at the sectorial engagement documents used for the COP25 summit on climate action and the proposals from the private sector are so petty, so mezquinas. For example, the fashion industry expressed their commitment to lower their emissions in 30% by the year 2030, and they expect to reach a 100% just by the year 2050! As if we had so much time, as if it were so important to supply millions of stores with poor quality fast fashion clothes.
At the tech industry, things are just as bleak. Google is building a data center in the area of Cerrillos in Santiago despite of the huge environmental impact of this action. According to local activists, the building will use 228 liters of water per second during the next thirty years, moreover it will alter the temperatures of the underground waters affecting the local ecosystem forever. Of course this project is taking advantage of the narratives that celebrate everything that has to do with Silicon Valley technology so the Chilean authorities happily welcome the initiatives of these imperialist corporations.
Regarding data centers, I found a very good text at Failed Architecture in which they define these constructions as ‘infrastructural excess’, I really liked a point about that myth that says that because of the recent advances in digital technologies we no longer need to use space for cds, dvds or video game cartridges. That affirmation is a myth because that physical space is still needed and it takes place at the data centers, which are monstrous in size and depend on big amounts of energy for processes of refrigeration, industrial cleaning and emergency equipment that prevents the computers from stop running 24/7. Here is where I return to the idea of neoliberal corporations who don’t want to hand over their privileges, none of the digital giants is going to promote practices that lead to have their systems offline for a while, much less they are going to design interfaces that conflict with the digital addiction of their users.
Check, this is a real image of a tech businessmen watching news about who’s the responsible for the climate emergency:
I don’t want to end this letter as another list of sorrows. These have been tragic days for democracy and social justice, but I still believe there is hope if politics is at service of environmental sustainability. Actually, I felt that type of hope when I found out of the energía popular initiative promoted by the communist mayor of Recoleta, Daniel Jadue, he is installing solar panels all over his constituency so the most vulnerable neighbors pay $0 in their electricity bills 🙂
I’m grateful for your fighting spirit, amiga. Is contagious and inspiring. I promise that my Aries heart will rise to the challenge.
I really liked the piece you sent me from Failed Architectures. I was hooked by it, mainly because I hate that horrible architectural idea behind data centers and those business cities (?) from Silicon Valley. Carcasses of old cement blocks with almost no windows, an omen of obsolescence of what precisely cannot be obsolete, the architecture.
Last year I went to Facebook headquarters, and I almost got a stroke. In the middle of a wasteland, they have built city simulations or imitations of what Zuckerberg and his friends should imagine as a city: shops to buy, small squares, office buildings, bikes and buses, bars, and restaurants. Offices like horrible data centers, almost without natural light, with artificial lighting on all day and night (because exploitation today is going to your work at any time with your hoodie, you know). But what struck me the most, and I remember it today as I read the walls of Santiago and its protests, is that there were posters all over that city mimicking street art, but with self-help motos planned by some interior design firm.
Deep down, Silicon Valley seems to me like KidZania but where adults play to be adults. And the game they play is called neoliberal ideology.
With your reading, I think we could include data centers within a circle very close to “green extractivism.” There is something in that persistent exercise of erasing what is awkward – for example, all their forms of exploitation, including the environment- that it seems to me to be vital in investigating the relationship between technology and climate crisis.
By the way, Thea Riofrancos made an excellent piece about Chile, its lithium reserves, and how the Salar de Atacama is now a new sacrifice zone primarily for the technology industry. There, natural species will be extinguished, and the only water source of inhabitants will be ruined (who, by the way, are already experiencing water crisis). But, hey, we will be full of electric cars in Los Angeles making unnecessary but green trips, and full of gadgets with endless batteries to be always connected to the Internet. And, besides, all these people happy with their tech environmentalism will make even more millionaire the “Green Pinochetism” in charge of the Chilean lithium reserves.
This is the full circle of what is wrong in the world. Just to imagine that the tech industry will now be the new Shell, but feeling cool, neutral, environmentally conscious makes me gag.
Speaking of gatito earth on a cold November night, my friend A told me that we have to get rid of net neutrality and start implementing Internet usage quotas. Just as we can’t have water running all day, we shouldn’t have electronic devices connected all day to the Internet. I know people who read gatito earth are super young (!), but I lived something similar for years when I had to connect to the Internet only at night because it was cheaper. In fact, I’m going to invite A to write in gatito to tell us more. The armed arm of Internet Freedom will be scandalized, and just for that, it’s worth it, haha.
Have a beautiful new year eve, d. I didn’t want to stop mentioning this interview (in Spanish) to my new idol, Budour Hassan, a Palestinian activist who talks about feminism, anti-militarism, and, obviously, colonialism. In all our conversations on sacrifice zones, we cannot fail to take that whole triad into account, and the Palestinian experience has resonated with me in this invisible thread that links the climate crisis with the technology industry.
As a graffiti says near the Parque Forestal: “Another end of the world is possible.” May this kitty be the inspiration of our 2020.