Photo by Daniela Araya on Unsplash

News from the front desk, Issue 503: Was there ever such vicarious interest in another country’s election as in that of the US election this week?

The US is to Australia, to the fight for the planet, to the need for leadership on decency and human rights – however faded and degraded – utterly important. It’s the symbolism, the crazy mindless optimism that that country is built on.

To those who say that the US is Disneyland on a stick, they’re right. It’s our childhood dreams for the impossible, the yearnings that occasionally “magically” come true, transmuted to the harsh adult light of day.

Magic is an interesting word. It suggests nonsense and fairies at the bottom of the garden. But the reality is we ascribe magic to anything that defies the rules of “normal”, in known physics, science or human constraints. Let’s remember that to people 100 years ago the smart phone would surely have been perceived as magic, or witchcraft. What we know and are sure of is so often vastly removed from what’s possible.

America is a kind of magical realism: a country that invokes the stubborn refusal to grow up and abide by the given rules of the land and science. “I have a dream”. “We will get to the moon, no idea how, but we’ll get there.” “We will grow an ecology on a distant planet and colonise space.” “I, a 19-year-old mother, will lift the bus that is crushing my child.”

Magic is just another word for that ephemeral energy that comes from an extraordinary desire to make something happen, whether by an individual or more powerfully by harnessing the untold, unexplored, unmeasured power of the masses acting in unison.

We have no idea right now what that power is capable of.

But we need to find out. And weabsolutely need American with us. We have China, South Korea, Japan and the UK now committing to net zero emissions targets, but we need the six-year-old spirit living in Disneyland to come with us too.

As a species we are such clever people. So many of us are utterly rich. And powerful. Look at the massive expenditure on the stock exchanges of the world, our real estate, our investment in science, technology, our trajectory to a clean fuel state so fast it’s defied the most optimistic of projections and is slaying the oil dragons as if they were flies.

We can send ordinary citizens on space travel, we can create a car that drives itself cleanly, and is fast, exciting and sexy at the same time.  We can reverse pollutants and create energy by harnessing the gifts of the earth, like algae, copy the amazing aerodynamics of biophilic design and mimic its creative genius in our buildings and “things”.

We can look to nature and learn from it to live within our means and copy its circularity.

So, to America, the flawed genius. During the GFC, someone warned not to write off America. Do not underestimate its power of reinvention.

In the past four years, the wild Transformer president from the evil empire side of Disneyland has rampaged through the land unhindered. But at the same time he’s unleashed a counter force that’s more powerful because it’s focused and clear. And because it has the momentum of logic and justice on its side.

The fight for the planet makes sense. We look to the Indigenous people of this country and of other countries to learn that if you care for people and care for Country, that’s about all you need to worry about .

There’s a third leg to the sustainability stool, the economic imperative. It was installed there by our liberal capitalist leaning democracy focused on GDP and growth. But is it really an imperative or more of an illusion (helps out when the other two are busy)?

The economic leg of the sustainability stool is not an end in itself, it’s a tool. Just like money, just like the GDP and growth. These have no intrinsic value of their own. They take on the values of those they serve.

So, how’s that going for us?

Let’s take a look.

Worldwide, the forces of capital are turning inexorably to our service.

As we’ve been reading in the financial press from all over the place, there is growing and fast moving acceptance that money can be made from the need to protect our planet and ennoble its people. Money doesn’t really care about the politics, it just cares who’s side it’s on. It just cares about…making money.

The stats are pouring through. Whether or not the sitting US president is re-elected, or whether Biden comes in and is immediately weakened or otherwise undermined, is pretty much irrelevant to the trajectory of the most powerful force unleashed on the modern world: capital.

Here’s some comfort for those of us who feared permanent damage to our equanimity from yesterday’s election confusion:

Capital shifts

The US administration might have reneged from its Paris climate commitments, but “ half of US states — representing a US$11.7 trillion economy — are still committed, Verge Weekly says.

As of early October, more than 1000 companies — with a combined market cap of US$15.4 trillion and including one-fifth of the global Fortune 500 — had committed to setting science-based targets for reducing emissions in line with the Paris goals. Around 250 businesses had been expected to sign up.

“While global fossil fuel producers would be glad to have Trump back in the Oval Office, as would Prime Minister Scott Morrison, there is a reality about climate change that would mug Trump no matter what he says….The world’s biggest investors, most of whom are based in the US, are ‘persuading’ boards of directors to increasingly show their commitment to action against climate change,” The AFR says.

Transparency

Key to this weight of capital moving to our side is that it’s genuine. And now more than ever there is a growing force of people keen to “out” the greenwashers.

From The Ecologist for instance, comes a fabulous piece about the power in our pockets and how to use it wisely.

Brendan Montague | 2nd November 2020 | Creative Commons 4.0

It focuses on Brandalism, an outfit that says it’s a “revolt against the corporate control of culture and space”, run by collective of artists, possibly the most “dangerous” of all revolutionaries, as we know.

The mission of Brandalism is to intervene in ad-land to subvert the messages of greenwashers.

For instance, this beauty (in themimage shown) of counter messaging directed at banking group HSBC that has been spruiking its community mindedness and green credentials because it’s thrown a few quid at cycling.

“This campaign offers the public a right of reply to HSBC’s PR spin,” the activists say.

(See how HSBC features in this 4 Corners expose of bad banks and their entanglement with dark from 2018 and why they seem untouchable. Spoiler alert: the most powerful people in the world are in its debt, one way or another).

By Thursday, at time of publication, the US presidential election looked more promising, but the show ain’t over yet.

Biden, if he wins, needs to come fully armed for a big fight to prosecute his strong agenda. As we know the US president is a figurehead at the end of a massive entanglement of forces that will no doubt galvanise against him. He will need major support.

The fight is not over with an election. In fact, because he’s purportedly on our side, it’s only just begun.

Our Building Circularity event

The way our next event is shaping up is fantastic.

Check out the program so far (not promising it won’t still change a bit) and the list of wonderful speakers and presenters who will help with the show.

And show it is. We have managed to secure a television grade studio for a hybrid event. All available panellists will be there in person to create a great vibe, and some will be on a live freed from their home countries.

Book now.

And if you a member of Architects Declare or Engineers Declare you qualify for our member discount.

Send a note to events@thefifthestate.com.au to get your promo code.

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