Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Toward a Peak Everything Postanarchism and a Technology Evaluation Schema for Communities in Crisis

Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Toward a Peak Everything Postanarchism and a Technology Evaluation Schema for Communities in Crisis

Article excerpt

Abstract: Communities everywhere are already in crisis as a result of the twin threats of peak everything and climate change. These threats will pressure all future organisations of the technological base. This presents opportunities for careful and intelligent intervention. Though some forms of environmental crises are certain, the timing and seventy of these remain unclear and will likely provide unique challenges to varying climate and socio-economic contexts. A variety of probable environmental scenarios will constrain the range of potential political interventions. In this article different orientations to the interacting crises, with focus toward possible reorganisation of the technological base, are considered. Through a brief discussion of environmentally-oriented anarchist politics, postanarchism, and radically democratic politics of technology, I find new directions for an anarchist politics of technology prepared for the short- and long-term responses to the crises. I demonstrate these politics through a set of practicable evaluative questions for assessing new and existing artefacts and systems. In doing so, I provide not only the beginnings of an analytic theory of technology, but also an evaluation-oriented experimental schema.

Keywords: politics of technology, technology assessment, anarchism, peak everything, scarcity


In 1982, William Catton elucidated a conception of carrying capacity in his book Overshoot.1 In a tradition of environmental commentary over the prior decade,1 Catton warned that ecosystems and the Earth as a whole had capacities partially based on available resources that were being exceeded by human use. Human production and consumption were overshooting far beyond the carrying capacity of their ecosystems, and Catton recommended significant decreases in productive and consumptive activity. This was an ecological basis for a revolutionary reorganisation of modern society. Additionally, this approach shifted the discussion away from overpopulation, per se, and toward the issue of overproduction and overconsumption.

Despite a long history and more recent work which challenges essentialising approaches to scarcity,4 underneath the political contingencies of unequal distribution exist very real shortages of materials upon which most human communities now depend. Holmgren acknowledges that climate change and resource scarcity are 'caused by collective human behavior and potentially can be ameliorated by human behavior', but also that they 'arise from geological and climatic limits beyond human control.'' Three decades later Catton wrote a sequel, Bottleneck? in which he effectively argued that perhaps had warnings from three decades prior been taken seriously and drastic measures employed at the time, a now-inevitable catastrophe might have been avoided. Being too late for this crisis to be averted, all the world's inhabitants will need to prepare for a certain material shortfalls and the devastating social consequences thereof. Bill McKibben makes similar arguments with more concern focused on the impacts of climate change. McKibben contends that humanity is not 'going to get back the planet we used to have, the one on which our civilization developed'.7

This catastrophe has created the material basis for a struggle that transcends the contingencies of state formations and economic relationships to global capital. While these crises differently impact those at variously intersecting subject positions, everyone will be forced to respond to them in particular ways for survival. Indeed, tasks specific to our varying social and geographic positions will differ, yet all life on this planet - human and otherwise - is deeply touched by this constellation of ecological shifts. While those in different industrialised and informatised countries will face challenges unique to their technical infrastructures and culture, especially when compared against the 'underdeveloped' world, it is likely few will be immune to the challenges this new scarcity will pose over the rest of this century and beyond. …

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