Is it a coincidence that the rise of identity politics coincides with the rise of the Internet and in particular of social media? Identity politics has been around for a while and predates the internet, but it’s become particularly impactful in the last few years.
Facebook is centred on the personal profile. It encourages people to say who they are, to express how they feel about things, they like and who they like. This is its business model. It’s essentially one very big market research survey, selling people space to advertisers so they may better target their ads and sell more stuff.
With many users already displaying their preferred pronouns in their profiles, Twitter has decided to introduce a pronoun field which all users will be encouraged to fill. Robots will be required to use the it/its pronoun, with humans having to pass an “I am not a robot” captcha test before being allowed to enter their pronouns in a free text field.
“Twitter believes passionately in freedom of expression,” said a spokesperson, “and one of the most important forms of expression is to tell others what pronouns you want to be called by.”
I went to see Stephen Pinker on Monday night, interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian, talking about his latest book, Enlightenment Now, an argument for science, rationalism and humanism. Bill Gates’ new favourite book apparently, knocking his previous favourite, Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, off the top spot.
Some of us, maybe all of us to some extent, like our principles to be pure, unsullied by the messiness of reality.
Friends of the Earth is no longer fundamentally opposed to nuclear power and neither is the Green party of England and Wales. They still oppose nuclear power, but now because of its cost and how long it takes to build, but they’re quite happy to keep existing power stations running. They no longer see them as inherently dangerous and needing to be shut down at the first available opportunity.
Suppose you have a very simple society consisting of just three citizens:
Mr Poor lives in a bedsit in Peckham and is very poor. He doesn’t cook, just lives on cereal, biscuits and Dorritos but very occasionally treats himself to a kebab. He gets around by bike or takes the bus. His carbon footprint is 3 tonnes CO2e per year.
Back in 2002/3 when we were demonstrating against the war it seemed so much simpler. Now, though I can see the case for air strikes, that to leave those fleeing IS without air cover could result in massacres which will be filmed and shown to us, it feels like we’re trying to put out a fire with parrafin.
You don’t often see badges or bumper stickers with slogans like that. The antinuclear ones are all over the place.
If future historians look back on this era perhaps they’ll conclude that a major factor influencing our failure to decarbonise rapidly enough was that the environmental movement put its resources into campaigning against the wrong power source. Though other future historians would say nah, don’t be silly. The greens were never that influential.
Here’s an equation, a nice simple little equation:
The equation was developed in the 1970s during the course of a debate between Barry Commoner, Paul R. Ehrlich and John Holdren.
This little equation has had a big effect over the years on environmentalists and how they think and talk about the problems we face and how we should be trying to tackle them.
In 2100 my son will be the same age my father is now. When my father was born the world was emitting just under a billion tonnes of carbon per year. When my son was born we were emitting almost 9 billion tonnes a year and global CO2 levels had increased by about 30%.
- How old is my son?
- How old is my father?
- What will the world be like in 2100?