Discover more from Creative Destruction
Rabbit Holes 🕳 #26
From the attention & climate crisis, to gardening and equitable societies, and banks for the people ✊
Rabbit Holes 🕳
Three perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across lately:
#1 👀 Attention & The Climate Crisis
“In his latest book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention, author Johann Hari outlines how our inability to focus is far from a personal failing. Rather, it is the work of ‘huge invasive forces,’ including big tech, which have corroded our concentration by taking aim at it, monetizing it, harvesting it, only to sell it on. Hari describes this as a crisis of attention, one that is directly comparable to the climate crisis. Both are built on extractivist ideologies that push our bodies and our environment beyond their limits. And both are existential in scale and urgency.”
Johann Hari: ”There’s a guy called Dr. James Williams who worked at the heart of Google and was horrified and sick with guilt[…], quit and has since become the most important philosopher of attention in the world. And while he argues that there’s three layers of attention, I would argue there’s a fourth layer which helps us to think about the attention crisis in relation to climate change.”
🔦 Spotlight: “That’s your ability to filter out all the noise around you and achieve an immediate task. Mostly when we think about attention problems, we think about that layer. But actually, although disruptions to that layer is problematic, it’s also the least important layer.”
💫 Starlight: “[…] That’s about your ability to achieve a longer-term goal—like write a book, run a campaign, be a good parent or whatever it might be.”
☀️ Daylight: “[…] That’s your ability to figure out what your long-term goals are. How do you know what book you want to write? How do you know you want to run a campaign? How do you know what it means to be a good parent? To know these things, you have to have periods of rest and reflection and deep thought. And if you’re constantly jammed up and unable to stop and think, you don’t get that.
🏟️ Stadium Lights: “These refer to our ability to formulate and achieve long-term collective goals; to see each other, to see the truth, to think clearly as a society, which is necessary to combat a crisis as nuanced and intersectional as the climate crisis.”
“How does the attention economy hinder us from taking collective action on crises like the climate crisis?”
Johann Hari: “Think about anything you’ve ever achieved in your life. What you’re proud of achieving most likely required a huge amount of sustained focus and attention. When your ability to focus breaks down, your ability to solve problems breaks down; your ability to achieve your goals breaks down; you become much less effective.”
“[…] This is why we are living in a perfect storm of cognitive degradation as a result of being constantly interrupted. And if we’re being cognitively degraded, quite apart from the mechanism of polarization, we’re also just less effective. We make more mistakes; we remember less of what you do; we’re much less creative. And we can see that in activism: people are being burned out more quickly.”
“Attention is our superpower as a species. And losing our superpower as we face our biggest collective challenge—the climate crisis—is not going to work well for us. That’s why it’s so important to get our attention back.”
#2 🪴 Lessons From Plants For Building A More Equitable Society
“As I lay out in my book Lessons from Plants, the natural world offers us a template and inspiration for a more equitable society — where the needs and contributions of every individual matter equally, relationships among individuals are critical for supporting the collective, and diversity is a driver of sustainable growth.”
“The plant world — though an imperfect comparison like all metaphors — offers us a more hopeful vantage point. Plants inspire a collective view of growth-based thinking. When plants in our personal spaces fail to properly flourish, our general human response is not to ascribe stunted growth to a lack of potential. We think about the environment as a whole. We ask what we can ascertain about their struggle: Is the soil not supporting a plant’s growth? Is it getting enough light where we planted it? How is it interacting with other plants in its space? Is our caretaking up to par?
“[…] Native American farming practices are often based on planting diverse species together, where they can help each other grow and fight off pests. This intercropping allows for something called interspecific facilitation. Each species contributes something that promotes the growth, reproduction, or persistence of the other.
One of the best examples of this is an enduring planting style called the Three Sisters, the intercropping of corn, beans, and squash. The corn provides vertical support to the beans. The beans share their nitrogen through the soil. The squash, which is low to the ground, inhibits weed growth and maintains soil moisture for the whole community. The Three Sisters system shows us how a community benefits when individuals are set up to exchange their unique capabilities and strengths.
“[…] We need to build new dynamic ecosystems, based on shared wisdom and experience, energy, and new perspectives — spaces where everyone can grow.”
#3 🏦 Banks For The People
“Is there a better way to bank, one that would invest in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color instead of spurning their money? Jost and others are part of a growing movement in the U.S. that seeks alternatives to traditional banking. Their hope is to establish something that may sound like a contradiction to American ears: public banks.
In the broadest possible definition, public banks are financial institutions owned and run by the government. They store money for the state, not individual consumers, and their transformative potential lies in the simple fact that they can have a purpose other than the single-minded pursuit of profit for shareholders. This creates a wealth of possibilities: lower-interest loans, investments in green energy and affordable housing and in the neighborhoods that big banks tend to exploit or ignore.
“What we envision is a public institution that would invest in community-controlled economic development that builds wealth rather than extracts wealth,” said Andy Morrison, the associate director of the New Economy Project, which launched New York City’s public banking coalition in 2018. “We see in public banking an opportunity to invest in the communities that the banks have long excluded.”
“Enthusiasm for public banking has been building in the U.S. as people confront intertwined social, economic and environmental crises. This momentum “reflects the very real failures of private banks to resolve questions like community poverty and access to financial services, to confront the ecological crisis, to effectively respond to the COVID pandemic at the speed or scale necessary,” Thomas Marois, a political economist and public banking expert affiliated with SOAS University of London, told me.”
“Public banking proponents have been inspired to join the movement by everything from Occupy Wall Street to Standing Rock to Black Lives Matter. To hear them tell it, public banking could be part of a solution to the underlying problems that sparked those movements, such as private banks’ greed and willingness to fund harmful industries or the chronic underfunding of social services that leaves police operating as untrained mental health and homelessness caseworkers.”
“Public banks could be a robust source of funding for [worker cooperatives]. A lot of community-focused groups and worker cooperatives struggle to find capital from traditional institutions. Through credit unions, public banks can deepen and expand access to services in low-income communities and communities of color. ‘There are a lot of worker cooperatives and worker-owners who are in our coalition who are constantly lamenting the challenge of finding access to credit from banks, and Black-owned small businesses who go unserved by mainstream financial institutions or have to pay high interest rates,’ said Morrison of the New York public banking effort.”
🐦 Twitter Truths
That’s it for this week!