Ep. 137 Bryan Walsh “Avoiding Apocalypse” + Adrienne Haynes “Community Empowerment”

September 18, 2019

Playing for Team Human today, former TIME International Editor, Bryan Walsh & attorney and business woman Adrienne Haynes.

Bryan Walsh shares his thoughts on why the end of humankind seems inevitable and the ways we might avoid imminent crisis. In his new book, End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World, Walsh explores how the threats of asteroids, super volcanoes, nuclear war, climate change, disease pandemics, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial intelligence might actually be avoided through innovative news ideas and collective action.

You can find out more about Bryan Walsh’s work here: https://www.hachettebooks.com/titles/bryan-walsh/end-times/9780316449618/

On this Episode we launch a brand new segment, “Real People, Doing Real Things.” Joining us for our inaugural slot is attorney & businesswoman, Adrianne Haynes. She joins Team Human to share how she is empowering her local community through the work of her nonprofits, including the Construction Business Institute, Multicultural Business Coalition and Black Female Attorneys Network.

You can find out more about Adrianne Haynes’ work here: http://adriennebhaynes.com

You can also find out more about all of our guests, listen to past shows, find out about upcoming live events, and become a contributing subscriber by visiting us at TeamHuman.fm

You can read written versions of Rushkoff’s show monologues at Medium.

Team Human is made possible thanks to the generous support of our listeners on Patreon. Your support makes the hours of labor that go into each show possible.

You can also help by reviewing the show on iTunes.

On this episode you heard Fugazi’s “Foreman’s Dog” in the intro thanks to the kindness of the band and Dischord Records.

Team Human is a production of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism at Queens CUNY. Our new producer is Josh Chapdelaine, Luke Robert Mason edited and mixed this show, and Stephen Bartolomei is working to survive the apocalypse in his own way.

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  1. Dear Doug,
    Over the years I’ve loved reading your work and listening to podcasts you’ve been on, and I greatly respect and am grateful for your insightful work. I’ve given copies of Life Inc to several friends and turned them on to Team Human. But something was missing in your conversation with Bryan Walsh, like you were not completely there or not completely yourself. Two things stood out to me.
    First, the entire conversation was framed in terms of “we” meaning the human species as a whole, as if “we” all collectively made the decisions that got earth and life into the predicaments of today and “we” collectively can make decisions to fix it. I just can’t comprehend how one can be aware of slavery, genocide, concentration camps and other atrocities and still think of the human species as a monolith, as if we all have common interests. In fact, for centuries, for millennia, humans have been divided into slave owners and slaves, the conquerors and the conquered, the extractors and the exploited, and as this plays out today we have the Trump’s War on Life versus those awakening to the reality of the threats to existence and working for a different world. So I don’t understand how the author of Life Inc — and of the monologue you gave at the beginning of the same episode — could buy into Walsh’s “we” without question. I wish you had challenged Walsh on that perspective.
    Second, toward the end Walsh said the big thing “we” need to do now is come up with new technologies for sequestering carbon. Hello? Earth knows how to sequester carbon — forests, mangroves, soils, meadows, natural habitats of all kinds. “We” just need to stop destroying them and begin to help regenerate them. Granted, the power of the extractive corporations and sociopathic billionaires is making that difficult, but those same entities would be in control of any new technology we come up with, no? Buying into Walsh’s assertion that we need new technologies is essentially saying that the only way to address climate change is to find solutions that enhance the wealth and power of the same entities that created the problem. (See that familiar Einstein quote.) I don’t think you believe that, but one would never know from your conversation with Walsh. Where were you? I sure wish you had challenged him instead of going along with his nonsense.
    Here’s a clear, eloquent 3.5 minute video of Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot describing the carbon sequestration mechanisms of nature — if only “we” could allow them to work.

    1. Singingway says:

      Lorenzo Kristov, good comment! Right on!

  2. Douglas says:

    I hear you on some of this, and certainly appreciate your candor.

    I use “we” all the time, even when referring to slavery. I was not a slave-owner, but I see it as something that is part of “our” culture. We humans also destroy the planet. I know that some are doing way more than others, but I am using a Mac right now, and I know there were slaves and rare earth metals and other stuff that went into its manufacture. So, I include myself among those who use these destructive technologies. I suppose there are people who aren’t in the “we” that do that – but most TH listeners are implicated in the harm, no?

    For me, the distinction that rapists make between Me and Her is part of the problem. And I do think those rapists are part of the human race. If I pretend they are “them” and not part of “us,” I suppose the only solution is execution. And then where exactly do we draw the line between them and us?

    I agree, however, that I could have pushed back harder. As I think most listeners know by now, it hasn’t been the style of my conversations to challenge people too hard. It’s more my style to let them say the stuff they’re going to say, and then letting that sit. Some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn’t. I think most of us hear when it’s over the top, and usually I say something more like “really?” than “how could you say that wrong thing!”

    Of course, that’s also why I’ve got a few dozen conversations we haven’t aired. I’m more trying to model a style of conversation and engagement than extracting the issues in the manner of an NPR show. Bryan is not a person with solutions so much as someone who has chosen to dwell on existential scenarios. So if anything, the mistake was asking him to weigh in on that, when it’s not really his expertise.

    As for Greta and George, are you saying you think their hopes for regenerative solutions are BS as well? Or are they articulating a better alternative?

    I don’t know for a fact that we cannot develop technologies to do carbon sequestration. And I know a whole lot of people who think that nuclear energy is going to be a necessary stopgap for carbon fuel. Or that we need to “push through” with chemical/bio/genetic agriculture rather than retrieve permaculture. I get many many emails from people saying that it’s quaint and new age for me to suggest returning to more indigenous practices, but that they are utterly incapable of feeding even half the planet, and that I’m spreading fantasies by entertaining these delusions.

    Might “we” be wrong? Is is possible the technosolutionists are right? In my monologues, I try to make my own perspective clear. But in the conversations, I try to “try on” what the guest is saying. If I feel they’re saying something too dangerous for the audience to try on, then I don’t play the episode.

    But I will try to more directly challenge things that don’t make sense to me. In this case, it could also partly be the result of our new editor. We generally only use about half the total conversation, and he may be editing out different sorts of stuff that Stephen did. I do remember challenging Bryan’s technosolutionism more than appears in the final edit.

    1. Dear Doug,
      Thank you for your responses to my comments, and for explaining your approach to the Team Human podcast. In retrospect I feel I owe you an apology for faulting you for not responding to Bryan Walsh the way I was responding as a listener and wanted you to respond on my behalf. That was bad form on my part, and counterproductive because I think it also confused my substantive concerns with Walsh’s positions. So, I do apologize, and want you to know that I greatly appreciate Team Human and your many contributions and insights revealing the workings of the human world.
      I also want to clarify a couple things I may not have said so clearly in my previous comments. On the use of “we” — I’m well aware of the dangers and fallacies of an “us-versus-them” mindset and do not want to go there. And I’m also aware that we who live a fairly privileged life are complicit in exploiting earth’s ecosystems and people, and do not want to deny that. My point is only that when we use “we” in discourse it is often important to specify who “we” includes — all humans? western civilization? voters? users of Apple computers? meat eaters? white people? In particular, ascribing environmental destruction (and the mitigation thereof) to “we” meaning the whole human species — in the context of your Bryan Walsh conversation — creates what I think is a false sense that all members of that “we” participate in the decision to adopt any direction or strategy that shapes our future. After all, the decision to eliminate urban public transportation early in the 20th century to pave the way for automobiles was a project of car companies and related industrialists, not something all US residents chose as a desirable future. And there are many other examples where a small but influential “we” sets a direction for the whole society that has enormous consequences. Similarly, I doubt that “we” as “all humans” or even “all US citizens” will be the ones to decide to adopt geo-engineering or other high-tech approach to global warming. So for me — and I am a fairly frequent speaker to professional audiences in the electric power industry — when I use or hear “we” l try be explicit about who “we” includes, to recognize who is actually taking the subject action or decision.
      On the Greta and George clip — not BS in my opinion, and I would not characterize it as their “hopes.” I saw that clip as a simple exposition of scientific fact, that carbon sequestration is a natural process done very effectively by forests, mangroves, soils, etc., unless humans disrupt these processes as we’ve been doing so intensively for a very long time. I pointed to this clip to refute Walsh’s assertion that we “need” new technologies to sequester carbon, i.e., an assertion that only more human invention can reverse the damages done by previous human invention. It may or may not be possible to come up with technology to sequester carbon, I don’t think that’s the point. Rather, it’s that bias toward a technology fix that is part of the mindset that got us here.
      Thank you again for the great work you’re doing.

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