The central issue as the new millennium dawns is technocultural. There are of course other, more traditional, better-developed issues for humankind. Cranky fundamentalism festers here and there; the left is out of ideas while the right is delusional; income disparities have become absurdly huge. These things are obvious to all. However, the human race has repeatedly proven that we can prosper cheerfully with ludicrous, corrupt, and demeaning forms of religion, politics, and commerce.
By stark contrast, no civilization can survive the physical destruction of its resource base. It is very clear that the material infrastructure of the twentieth century is not sustainable. The unprecedentedly severe and peculiar weather of the late 1990s makes it clear that this problem is growing acute. Society has simply been unable to summon the political or economic will to deal successfully with this problem by using twentieth-century methods. That is because CO2 emission is a design and engineering problem; a cultural problem and a problem of artistic sensibility.
New and radical approaches are in order. These approaches should be originated, gathered, marshaled into an across-the-board cultural program, and publicly declared—on January 3. A group that can offer a coherent, thoughtful, and novel cultural manifesto on the target date of January 3, 2000 has a profound opportunity to affect the zeitgeist. (On January 1, everyone will be too hungover to read manifestos; on January 2, nobody's computers will work. So naturally the target date must be January 3.)
Civil society does not respond at all well to moralistic scolding. There are small minority groups here and there who are perfectly aware that it is immoral to harm the lives of coming generations by massive consumption now: deep Greens, Amish, people practicing voluntary simplicity, Gandhian ashrams, and so forth. These public-spirited voluntarists are not the problem. But they're not the solution either, because most human beings won't volunteer to live like they do. Nor can people be forced to live that way through legal prescription, because those in command of society's energy resources will immediately game and neutralize any system of legal regulation.
However, contemporary civil society can be led anywhere that looks attractive, glamorous, and seductive. The task at hand is therefore basically an act of social engineering. Society must become Green, and it must be a variety of Green that society will eagerly consume. What is required is not a natural Green, or a spiritual Green, or a primitivist Green, or a blood-and-soil romantic Green.
These flavors of Green have been tried, and have proven to have insufficient appeal. We can regret this failure if we like. But the past's well-meaning attempts were insufficient, and are now part of the legacy of a dying century.
The world needs a new, unnatural, seductive, mediated, glamorous Green. A Viridian Green, if you will.
The best chance for progress is to convince the twenty-first century that the twentieth century's industrial base was crass, gauche, and filthy. This approach will work because it is based in the truth. The twentieth century lived in filth. It was much like the eighteenth century before the advent of germ theory, stricken by septic cankers whose origins were shrouded in superstition and miasma. The truth about our physical existence must be shown to people. It must be demonstrated repeatedly and everywhere.
So why is this an aesthetic issue? Because it'sa severe breach of taste to bake and sweat half to death in your own trash, that's why. To boil and roast the entire physical world, just so you can pursue your cheap addiction to carbon dioxide. What a cramp of our style. It's all very foul and aesthetically regrettable.
Unlike the modernist art movements of the twentieth century, a Viridian culture-industry movement cannot be concerned with challenging people's aesthetic preconceptions. We do not have the nineteenth-century luxury of shocking the bourgeoisie. That activity, enjoyable and time-honored though it is, will not get that poison out of our air. We are attempting to survive by causing the wealthy and the bourgeois to willingly live in a new way.
We cannot make them do it, but if we focused our efforts, we would have every prospect of luring them into it.
What is culturally required at the dawn of the new millennium is a genuine avant-garde, in the sense of a cultural elite with an advanced sensibility not yet shared by most people, who are creating a new awareness requiring a new mode of life. The task of this avant-garde is to design a stable and sustainable physical economy in which the wealthy and powerful will prefer to live. We need a form of Green high fashion so appallingly seductive and glamorous that it can literally save people's lives. We have to gratify people's desires much better than the current system does. We have to reveal to people the many desires they have that the current system is not fulfilling. Rather than marshaling themselves for inhuman effort and grim sacrifice, people have to sink into our twenty-first century with a sigh of profound relief.
Environmental awareness is currently an annoying burden to the consumer, who must spend his and her time gazing at plastic recycling labels, washing the garbage, and so on. Better information environments can make the invisible visible, however, and this can lead to a swift re-evaluation of previously invisible public ills.
Energy meters, for instance, should be ubiquitous. They should be present, not in an obscure box outside the home, but enshrined within it. This is not a frugal, money-saving effort. It should be presented as a luxury. It should be a mark of class distinction. It should be considered a mark of stellar ignorance to be unaware of the source of one's electric power. Solar and wind power should be sold as premiums available to particularly affluent and savvy consumers. It should be considered the stigma of the crass proletarian to foul the air every time one turns on a light switch.
If one had a pair of computerized designer sunglasses that revealed the unspeakable swirl of airborne combustion products over the typical autobahn, it would be immediately obvious that clean air is a luxury. Infrasound, ultrasound, and sound-pollution monitors would make silence a luxury. Monitor taps with intelligent water analysis in real time would make pure water a luxury. Lack of mutagens in one's home would become a luxury.
Our movement has no street credibility. We are not hip, underground, bohemian, or alternative in any way. If anyone asks you, tell them you are engaged in corporate futurism and product development. Trust me on this one. I have an exquisite understanding of how this system works, and at the end of the nineties, the real estate in the underground is priced out of sight. Forget about the underground; it's not worth it. Give it back to the young people and let them live there and breathe there and grow there.
We're not particularly interested in young people, or in recruiting young people to our cause. We think that young people have suffered enough, and will probably suffer a great deal more for things that they never did. They should not be required to be trendy any more; the overhead there is just too cruel. Young people should be left to enjoy their pirated MP3 music and their baggy cast-off clothing, and everyone over 30 should get the hell off their backs.
We are an avant-garde that is specifically interested in OLD PEOPLE. If anyone should be galvanized with guilt over this issue, it's guys who have been driving big ugly cars and living in leaky mansions for sixty years. Well, your chickens have come home to roost now, Mr. Muscle Car, Mr. Little Deuce Coupe. This is your legacy to the grandkids. If you have a spark of decency, you should pitch in and help us. We've got plenty of stuff you can do without leaving the house or even getting out of your wheelchair. Besides, we're the first avant-garde that is living in a society where the median age is rising steadily. The target audience is old.
We believe in the Culture Industry. This means, by necessity, leisure. Large amounts of leisure are required to appreciate and consume cultural-industrial products such as movies, software, semi-functional streaming media, and so on. Time spent at more traditional forms of work unfairly lures away the consumers of the Culture Industry, and therefore poses a menace to our postindustrial economic underpinnings.
"Work" requires that people's attention be devoted to other, older, less attractive industries. "Leisure" means they are paying attention and money to us.
We therefore demand much more leisure for everyone. Leisure for the unemployed, while copious, is not the kind of "leisure" that increases our profits. We specifically demand intensive leisure for well-educated, well-heeled people. These are the people who are best able to appreciate and consume truly capital-intensive cultural products.
A real problem with traditional art movements is that they acquire their enemies at random. Mostly their enemies emerge from within their own ranks. Any avant-garde that lacks a designated hate and contempt figure immediately breaks up into warring schisms. Successful groups tend to define themselves by the people they can't stand.
My art movement comes pre-supplied with powerful, malignant, threatening enemies, the Global Climate Coalition. They are perfect villains. They have huge industrial backing, massive PR budgets, and headquarters in Washington; things that we don't have, and will never have, and that we deeply envy. Worse yet, they have a vested interest in obscuring and distorting the truth about climate findings.
We intend to find out all about the people of the GCC. We intend to make public fun of their moms and the way they dress. So our friends and fellow travelers needn't worry about sharing every jot and tittle of our arcane aesthetic doctrines. If you're on the Web and willing to do some oppo research against the GCC, you'll always receive a hearty welcome from us.
We also love cops and soldiers. Cops and soldiers are the armed wing of our movement. One problem with traditional cultural movements is that they have way too much culture and not enough people with revolvers. We have a special fondness for environmental-crimes units, anti-poacher units, post-disaster National Guard units, emergency civil engineers, the Red Cross, and so forth. As for terrorism and vigilante action, we just find this absurd. These people aren't serious players; they have no idea how to seize and hold power.
One gets tired of watching cultural movements act as if they were engaged in something daringly criminal and semi-licit. The GCC is the group that is truly engaged in something daring, criminal, and semi-licit. They should live in dire fear of arrest and prosecution. So we don't engage in any of this net-radical hacking or monkey-wrenching nonsense. We're far more interested in things like on-site inspections and legal indictments.
If several million people starve to death because, for instance, repeated El Niño events have disrupted major global harvests for years on end, then there will be a catastrophe. There will be enormous political and military pressures for justice and an accounting.
We surmise that the best solution in this scenario would be something like the Czech lustration and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The groundwork for this process should begin now. With the Czech lustration and the TRC, the late twentieth century has given us a mechanism by which societies that have drifted into dysfunctional madness can be put right. We expect no less for future malefactors whose sly defense of an indefensible status quo may lead to the deaths of millions of people who derived little benefit from their actions and were never given any voice in their decisions. We recommend that dossiers be compiled now, for the sake of future international courts of justice. We think this work should be done quite openly, in a spirit of civic duty. Those who are risking the lives of others should be made aware that this is one particular risk that will be focused specifically and personally on them.
While it is politically helpful to have a polarized and personalized enemy class, there is nothing particularly new about this political tactic. Revanchist sentiment is all very well, but survival will require a much larger vision. This must become the work of many people in many fields of labor, ignoring traditional boundaries of discipline and ideology to unite in a single practical goal: redesigning the global climate.