Welcome to Issue 52.1 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
Today’s news, fermented:
Just yesterday, I was preparing for a training on narrative strategy. One of the prompts was to think about an issue that needed urgent attention, and to consider some non-traditional ways to address it.
The first thing that came to mind was geoengineering.
Geoengineering can mean a lot of things, but generally involves adding something to Earth’s atmosphere in order to change it. The climate crisis is an atmospheric one, among other things—we’re putting too much greenhouse gas into our hot bubble for it to self-regulate as well as it used to. So, geoengineering has become a part of the sprawling conversation about climate mitigation.
Today, there’s an article in the NY Times on just that. It’s entitled: Should we block the sun? Scientists say the time has come to study it.
I let out a small yelp when I read this headline. Science fiction—which geoengineering has mostly been the stuff of—is fiction until we start to creep towards those realities. It is a rooted-ness in our present absurdity is what makes good science fiction so compelling: using your fingerprint to unlock your personal tracking device, needing to stay at home to protect yourself from an invisible deadly virus, so on.
As I’ve mentioned here, no science fiction has broken my brain as thoroughly as Snowpiercer, a 2013 film directed by Bong Joon-ho, who also directed Parasite. The basic premise, which I feel at liberty to spoil because I’ve done it before and it’s laid out in the first few minutes of the film, is: climate change has gotten out of control, and a corporation swoops in (lol) to spray some things into the atmosphere to cool the planet down.
Just like in all other situations where corporations act like to a solution they knowingly caused, the exec of that corporation knows that this spraying-of-things (geoengineering!!) will go way overboard and freeze the entire planet. In preparation, he builds a train that will perpetually circle the Earth and sustain a small portion of the remaining human population.
As you might imagine, things are not so pretty on the train. So when I read the article about geoengineering today, I thought, ok—one of the only things that helped me talk myself back from existential dread after watching Snowpiercer was that we probably would never figure out how to spray Earth-freezing nonsense into the atmosphere in the first place.
But here we are, reading news about how scientists are saying it’s time to study it?! Apparently the report acknowledged some of the understood risks of geoengineering, including:
“upsetting regional weather patterns in potentially devastating ways, for example by changing the behavior of the monsoon in South Asia; relaxing public pressure to reduce greenhouse gas missions; and even creating an “unacceptable risk of catastrophically rapid warming” if governments started reflecting sunlight for a period of time, and then later stopped.”
I’m sorry. Are those risks not too harsh to actually invest our political will into the real solutions (leaving fossil fuels in the ground, financially incentivizing carbon sequestration through farming and rewilding, transitioning to clean energy, the list goes on) that we already know are viable?!
The constant climate question is, I think: how far will we go in jeopardizing our only home before we truly commit to course correction? The willingness to investigate geoengineering before, say, decommissioning the fossil fuel industry, suggests that we will continue to go further.
So what should we do? In my exercise in non-traditional thinking, I suggested we call up our friend Bong and ask him to make a public statement against geoengineering, that we set up immersive unannounced performances in public places simulating our experience of a geoengineered world, that we send droves of people dressed up as Tilda Swinton’s horrifyingly horrifying character from Snowpiercer to deliver warnings to elected officials, a la the folks who dressed up as Handmaids to protest restrictions to reproductive rights.
Those were my best ideas—maybe you have better ones. Here’s Tilda to spur your thinking.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
Chet Hanks is to me in my adulthood what the Bermuda Triangle was to me in my childhood -- scary yet enticing; a total enigma that I just can't get enough of.
In case you were not aware, Chet is the 30-year-old son of actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and everytime he makes the news, I wonder what happened to Chet along the way to make him turn out into the person that he is today. Don't just take my word for it: Chet has described himself as the "black sheep" of the Hanks family due to his public controversies that are in sharp contrast to his Tom's public image as "America's dad." He tried embarking on a rap career under the name Chet Haze but I don't think that took off very well. Since then, Chet's decided to speak in a Jamaican patois accent and is, at the same time, both seemingly delusional and self-aware about how this comes across. Chet's unfazed though. Anytime the Internet drags him for his culture vulturing, he takes it in stride and just moves on with his life. Maybe that's why we all still pay attention to him?
Anyway, Chet's declared that this summer is going to be a White Boi Summer! But don't get it twisted though. He's not referring to the Tr*mp and NASCAR spectrum of white because that's all in the past. This summer, we're celebrating vanilla kings like Chet, Jon B, and Jack Harlow -- just in time for Justin Bieber's re-embrace of culture vulturing after the country boy church thing didn't quite work out.
Chet's getting predictably dragged for this proclamation but did that stop him from going full steam ahead with this plan? Hell no! Only a true vanilla king would own the ludicrousness of such a status with the confidence Chet frequently displays. So of course he's been rolling out the rules and regulations of White Boi Summer 2k21 with the authority of a white boi singing Sweet Caroline at the baseball halftime show or whatever that lil breakdown during those games are called. I'm only grateful that he's officially decreed the ban of "anything salmon-colored" and leaving the Sperry Topsiders and Vineyard Vines at home. As someone residing in the Northeast surrounded by the whitest white bois there will be this summer, I cannot co-sign this shit fast enough. CHET'S RIGHT. Let's all just admit it and be at peace with ourselves!
Anyway, Chet's been rolling out these rules all week and to be honest, they're mostly quite wholesome? I truly just want to know what Tom and Chet talk about at the dinner table more than anything else though. Like, what does Tom think about all of these shenanigans Chet is always getting up to? Is he mortified or just relieved that at the very least, Chet isn't actively harming people the way some of these other people and men in Hollywood are? SO many questions!