Bruce Sterling on Wrecked Beach Homes of the Rich & Famous

Entertaining essay from scifi writer Bruce Sterling in the Sierra Club’s magazine’s first ever technology issue. In effect, he argues that technology has helped get us into our current environmental problems, and it can help get us out:

Even our civilization’s death grip on creaky old fossil fuels is loosening. Already, major European oil companies are perfectly capable of talking sense: BP sincerely hungers to be “Beyond Petroleum,” while the honcho at Shell, an outfit chastened by fraud allegations, rides a folding bike to work and uses fluorescent bulbs at home. ExxonMobil posts the biggest profits in the world, but that’s not a sign of health and good management; it’s a sign of reckless mania.
A clever environmental campaign would explain to the rich how much they are suffering at the hands of old tech. A wealthy American with an environmentally caused cancer has the same bio-accumulative toxic burden as the rest of us; the ultimate environmental reality show would be something like Wrecked Florida Beach Homes of the Rich and Famous. Extend that metaphor to other groups that don’t easily embrace environmental messages and you can show fundamentalist churches ripped to shreds by F4 tornadoes, or Sagebrush Rebellion ranchers who haven’t seen a drop of rain in months. People understand suffering once it’s divorced from the abstract and imposed on them.
We need to grasp the artificial environment from a full, long-term, holistic perspective.