Nationalize Gmail!: Climate Change, Critical Infrastructure, and the Technological Innovations of the USPS
A conversation with Josh Lappen
Two Californians walk into a podcast . . . . and they immediately start talking about the California High Speed Rail. That’s not actually a joke, that’s just what happened when fellow Californian and environmental historian Josh Lappen came onto the Anti-Dystopians this week!
Josh researches environmental and energy history at Oxford University, studying some of the most important technology there is: critical infrastructure. We chatted about why hundreds of Elon Musks can’t (and won’t) solve climate change, how 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 ever, what’s going on with the Texas blackouts, and should the government give you an email address (and a bank account)?
Mentioned in This Week’s Podcast
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.”
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), and 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, 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 last 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 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, 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
Meme of the Week
A Rocky Mountain big horn sheep said “NO” to the surveillance state.
What I’ve Been Reading
For more environmental crises, thousands in Mississippi city are still without water weeks after storms. And FEMA has published a list of potential disasters, including cyberattacks on critical infrastructure and solar flares that could take the entire electrical grid (I didn’t even know that was a thing!!).
If you listened to our episode about Biden and Big Tech, you know that US Secretary of State Blinken’s strategic consultancy WestExec has a lot of Big Tech clients. Now, the advisory firm Teneo—which currently boasts Saudi Arabia and UAE as clients—has acquired a minority stake in WestExec.
Additionally, an excellent feature of MBZ, the leader of the UAE, last year in the New York Times.
Shannon Stirone wrote a beautiful article called “Mars Is a Hellhole: Colonizing the red planet is a ridiculous way to help humanity.” (She’s subtweeting Elon Musk, if you didn’t catch it.)
In some Solar Winds news—although Amazon’s AWS was not breached, hackers targeting the US government used AWS servers to launch the attack. Congress is not happy. But at least that explains Trump’s outgoing Executive Order, where he ordered the Commerce Department to bar transactions with foreigners in cloud computing products if they use them for cyber attacks.
And, in some sweet news you can use, the untold story of social workers who quietly placed queer youth in queer foster homes during the 1970s. We love the heartwarming rainbow love and our queer foster babies.