Climate Crisis Summit


Climate scientist Peter Kalmus, a friend of Root Simple and a guest on our podcast (116 and 39), took a long train trip this past week to be a part of the Climate Crisis Summit in Iowa with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Here’s what Peter had to say on the Twitters,

I’ve found two articles since Bernie’s climate summit. One in NYT which focused condescendingly on the “buddy movie” aspect (not climate), and one in the Iowa State Daily that led with a climate denier. This event was a huge deal. The media continues to fail on climate.

In the interest of not failing on climate here at Root Simple I’ve embedded the summit in its entirety.

Saturday Linkages: A Big Post of Random Stuff

Spotted in our local little library. Doesn’t sound like fun to me.

Mist Showers: Sustainable Decadence?

$1.50 for 1000 hens: Hamilton man desperate to rehome birds after accidentally winning auction

Gary Nabhan requests career counseling from a pomegranate tree

Samhain, Grief, and Photographs on Backyard Ecosystem

Democrats’ baffling blind spot on cars

The Automotive Police State

A 3d printed floor lamp

Learn to Embroider at Trade School Los Angeles

Due to my ostentatious Facebook embargo, now in year two, I rely on comrade Lee of nearby Mixville Heights to pass along important notices via an awkward but mostly reliable chain of semaphore stations and carrier pigeon relay. Brother Lee spotted my post on embroidery and informed me that the barter-based Trade School Los Angeles is offering a free embroidery class on November 17th. In addition to embroidery, they have a zero waste sewing and mending class on the 16th and a class on fermentation on the 23rd. For more information on these classes head to their Eventbrite listing.

Here’s how it works according to their website:

Step 1) Classes at Trade School LA are taught in exchange for barter items provided by students. For example, if you teach a class about building a website, you might ask students to bring 1 of the following barter items: a pack guitar strings; a paperback novel; a bag of local fruit; help with finding an apartment. Every class’s barter will be different, as each instructor sets their own class’s exchange.

Step 2) Students sign up for classes on our website, and, by signing up, they agree to bring 1 of the barter items requested by the instructor.

Step 3)  On the day of class, the teachers & students meet in a space that is made available by Trade School LA. Students give their barter item to the teacher, and the class begins!

Perhaps brother/comrade Lee and I will offer a semaphore class on the hilltop above the Red Lion in the near future in case any of you would like to explore Facebook alternatives.

The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour

I’ve sprinkled references in the past few posts to a book I just finished reading, The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour. The central thesis of the book is that we are all writing more than we ever have in history in the form of tweets, Facebook updates, texts, emails etc. Seymour contends, however, that we are not so much writing as being written by the platforms we use and that we all have a propensity for trolling and narcissism that tech companies exploit with a kind of algorithmic agnosticism.

Seymour chronicles the horrors of these platforms: the trolling, doxing, mob hate that we all, at this point, are familiar with. It’s hard to imagine anyone now coming to Mark Zuckerberg’s defense. But Seymour notes that this mass violence is nothing new and only breaks out thanks to pre-existing conditions, within all of us, that Silicon Valley exploits for a business model built on the unholy combination of gambling addiction psychology and mass surveillance.

Paul Klee, The Twittering Machine.

What separates Seymour’s book from others chronicling our current dystopia is a nuanced analysis of the crisis combined with a admonition not to fall into the simplistic “backlash” style of criticism of the sort I’ve been guilty of on this blog. Seymour says,

The backlash style, despite having the advantage that it disputes the inevitability of our assimilation into the Borg, is reactionary. It is compromised by a subtending fantasy that it could somehow be sufficient to exhort others to quit which is further underpinned by a fantasy that the frequent flights into mob irrationality, paranoia, nihilism and sadism characteristic of social media could be solved simply by ‘going back’. As though these phenomena had no deeper and father-reaching roots.

Seymour retells the often mis-reported history of the Luddites who were not opposed to technology, but instead against the ownership of the machines of production by the upper classes. He suggests that we need to develop a Neo-Luddite “escapology.” He leaves it to us to develop that alternative but implies that it might just an internet owned by all and stripped of exploitation and “gamified capitalism”–an internet that, in his words, leaves space for and encourages a sense of reverie, a stroll in the park with a pen and notepad or a quiet time in a church with our eyes closed. With Seymour’s nuanced and insightful analysis we might just be able to start mapping creative ways out of our predicament.

Embroidering the World

Washstand runner designed by Ernest Gimson and embroidered by Margaret Gimson, 1890.

I suspect that I’m not alone in feeling like I spend way too much time looking at screens to distract from the dystopia that surround us. Neuroscientist Marc Lewis says, breaking an addiction requires a “unique act of reinvention” such as “learning a new art or skill, or religious conversion.” (Richard Seymour, The Twittering Machine, p. 212).

During the daytime I have settled on a successful strategy to hold the Silicon Valley attention thieves at bay. I retreat to my wood shop and either work on house infrastructure, furniture projects or stuff for other people. The phone stays in the house. But I can’t do woodworking at night. I’m just a little too tired and that’s a safety concern. But I think I may have stumbled on a way to stay away from screens at night: embroidery.

Kelly and I took a class with Natalie Richards this past week. She has the qualities of a great teacher. She’s organized, calm, reassuring and inspiring. Her friends apparently call her the “Bob Ross of embroidery” for her soothing patter. If you’d like to learn a few simple stitches, check out Natalie’s YouTube channel. On her channel she shows you the basic stiches, how to make a hoop protector and how to transfer designs. I used her YouTube videos to review some of what we learned in the class. And thanks to her class my past few evenings have been filled by embroidering one of Natalie’s pillow kits.

Both Kelly and I have done some embroidery before but now we have the time to go a little deeper. Beyond being a useful skill, embroidery has something to teach us about life. What if we took back the time that we spend on our devices to make the world a more beautiful place, to “embroiderer” our cities and suburbs? Let’s extend that metaphor beyond a physical sort of embroidery and imagine embroidering this world with a little more love and kindness.