#179 | We Will Not Arrive Intact: The Times Are Urgent, Let's Slow Down w/ Bayo Akomolafe

In this episode, I speak with Bayo Akomolafe — lecturer, activist, and the author of ‘These Wilds Beyond our Fences: Letters to my Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home.' We pick up where we left off from when we last spoke over one year ago, and get into some of the overlying (and underlying) themes of his work, which includes a radical reshaping of the understandable, but often unexamined, sense of urgency we feel in a time of accelerating change and ecological collapse as we fully enter into the Anthropocene, "the human epoch."

The times are urgent, let’s slow down. I ask Bayo to elaborate on the deeper currents that run through his activism and writing, including what it means to “slow down” in a time of accelerating change and the catastrophic unraveling of the biosphere as we enter into the “the human epoch.” The Western encultured mind grasps for meaning, direct purpose, in order to “figure it all out” in the face of this global unraveling, as if we are clever enough to escape the planet we have molded in our image (impoverished, depleted, traumatized, ruined). The human being, within our current paradigm, is grasping for meaning in all this (this certainly includes myself). As Bayo elaborates in so much of his work, and in his recent essay ‘Coming Into The Sanctuary’ “[w]e cannot practice escape any longer — if we are to survive. We cannot cleanse ourselves of our sins or hope for the parting of the clouds to bring a convenient saviour. [W]e must now gesture toward hopes and worlds beyond modern imaginaries. Beyond humans. Beyond the intelligible. Beyond our usual ways of making sense. [W]e must go to the edges, toward the hedgerows teeming with hagodays and gargoyles and stuttered beings, and learn to [witness] with-ness the world we once banished to the peripheries of significance.”* We explore these questions and much more in this wide-ranging conversation.

Bayo Akomolafe is a husband and father, as well as an international speaker, poet and activist for a radical paradigm shift in consciousness and current ways of living. Bayo is globally recognized for his unconventional, counterintuitive, and indigenous take on global crisis, civic action and social change. He is the Executive Director and Coordinating Curator for The Emergence Network. Through his work with The Emergence Network, “Bayo hopes to inspire a diffractive network of sharing –- a slowing down, an ethics of entanglement, an activism of inquiry, a ‘politics of surprise’… one that does not treat the crises of our times as exterior to ‘us’ or the ‘solutions’ that conventional activism offers as discrete or separate from the problems that we seek to nullify.”**

*Source: http://bit.ly/2Tor3tz

**Source: http://bit.ly/BayoAbout

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about Bayo and his work at his website: http://bayoakomolafe.net

- Read his recent essay ‘Coming Into The Sanctuary,” quoted above and in the introduction to this episode: http://bit.ly/2Tor3tz

- Learn more about The Emergence Network: http://www.emergencenetwork.org

- Purchase Bayo’s book ‘These Wilds Beyond Our Fences: Letters to My Daughter on Humanity's Search for Home’: http://bit.ly/2EUNVYL

- The songs featured in this episode are “Sound & Color” and “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes from the album Sounds & Color.

#178 | The Unsustainable Currency: The Environmental Footprint Of Bitcoin w/ Alex de Vries

In this episode, I speak with economist and cryptocurrency/blockchain specialist Alex de Vries. We discuss his research into the energy consumptive cryptocurrency Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency in the world at the present moment. I ask Alex to elaborate on how Bitcoin and blockchain works (in particular how Bitcoin “mining” and transactions work), Alex's research into the disturbing amounts of energy required to keep Bitcoin functioning and growing, Bitcoin's growing environmental footprint, as well as what these trends mean for the future for Bitcoin and decentralized cryptocurrencies more generally.

I first became aware of Alex and his work after coming across several major publications that were reporting on his work, in particular an article published in Motherboard that examined the massive, and continuously rising, amount of energy required to "mine" and process Bitcoin transactions globally -- a trend that may, on its own, lead to a 2°C global temperature rise within two decades (it’s worth mentioning that we are well that path, regardless). To put the amount of energy required to maintain Bitcoin's global use as the dominant cryptocurrency in perspective: “[Alex] de Vries’ research has found that Bitcoin’s energy consumption [is] roughly equivalent to the energy needs of Austria and may be more resource intensive than mining gold.”* To put it another way, Bitcoin transactions and “mining” in 2018 alone globally used about 0.5% of the total electric energy produced. It’s worth noting that that percentage will likely increase as long as the underlying structure of Bitcoin remains the same. In order to understand why this is the case and how we got to this point, I ask Alex to explain how Bitcoin operates, and why the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, require so much energy to operate in the first place. I also ask Alex to discuss the possible ways Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, can move away from being so energy consumptive, while still remaining decentralized in its structure. We discuss this and more in this episode.

Alex de Vries is a Senior Consultant and Blockchain Specialist at PwC, and is the founder of the blog Digiconomist -- an educative cryptocurrency/blockchain blog, featuring news roundups, risk assessments and in-depth analysis. Alex is the author of the paper ‘Bitcoin’s Growing Energy Problem’ published in Joule, the findings of which we discuss in this episode.

*Source: http://bit.ly/2GV1iui

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about Alex’s work at his blog: https://digiconomist.net

- Alex’s research into the Bitcoin’s energy use can be found here: http://bit.ly/2UddcT2

- Read Motherboard’s article on Alex’s work ‘Bitcoin Mining Alone Could Raise Global Temperatures Above Critical Limit By 2033’: http://bit.ly/2GV1iui

- The songs featured in this episode are “Hatoa” and “Nightlite (feat. Bajka)” by Bonobo from the album Days To Come.

# 177 | The Great Dying: How The Colonization Of The Americas Cooled The Planet w/ Alexander Koch

In this episode, I speak with Alexander Koch, lead author of the recently-released 'Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492,' a groundbreaking scientific paper that, as the title suggests, explores the dramatic global climatological changes that resulted from the “Great Dying" of indigenous populations in the Americas after first contact with Europeans in 1492. Alexander and his colleagues’ research has been making the rounds in mainstream media, getting extensive coverage at The Guardian, BBC, The Hill, and numerous other publications.

As Alexander and his colleagues’ research reveals, the "Great Dying” in the Americas ultimately led to the deaths of up to 90 percent of the indigenous population in North and South America, as a result of subsequent waves of infectious diseases and the genocidal actions of the European invaders. In turn, the widespread decline in population led a "7-10 ppm decrease in atmospheric CO2 between 1550 and 1650,” which "is the largest pre-industrial change in CO2 over the past 2,000 years.”* The average surface air temperatures dropped by 0.15°C globally, resulting in what has been defined as the coldest period during what has been described as the "Little Ice Age,”** which extended from about 1300 to 1850. I ask Alexander to elaborate on the details of this research, including how he and his colleagues were able to more accurately estimate the population density in the Pre-Colonial Americas, how many died as a result of contact with Europeans, and how this directly contributed to a shift in global temperatures and carbon output during that timeframe. We also fit the findings of this research within the context our contemporary understanding of the human impact on the global climate system in our present time, and how this research reframes our understandings of when the Anthropocene, “the human epoch,” initially began. We discuss this and more in this episode.

Alexander Koch is currently pursuing his PhD at University College London (UCL), which includes research combining the fields of climate modeling, historical geography and tropical ecology. Along with his colleagues Chris Brierley, Mark M. Maslin, Simon L. Lewis in the Department of Geography at UCL, Alexander is the co-author of the paper 'Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492,’ the findings of which are discussed in this episode. 

*Source: http://bit.ly/2EfRlU7

**Source: http://bit.ly/2GMHCbC

Episode Notes:

- Read the paper 'Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492’ at Science Direct: http://bit.ly/2EfRlU7

- Read the summary of Alexander and his colleagues research in 'European colonisation of the Americas killed 10% of world population and caused global cooling' published at The Conversation: http://bit.ly/2U9apds

- Mark M. Maslin and Simon L. Lewis is the author of ‘The Human Planet: How We Created The Anthropocene,’ which expands upon the implications of the findings in this research: http://bit.ly/2GPv1or

- The song featured in this episode is “Shred You To Bits (feat. Shigeto)” by The Gaslamp Killer from the album Instrumentalepathy.

#176 | Rebel For Life: Rebellion In The Age Of Extinction & Climate Breakdown w/ Clare Farrell

In this episode, I speak with Clare Farrell, co-founder and spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion (XR) — "an international social movement that aims to drive radical change, through nonviolent resistance in order to minimise species extinction and avert climate breakdown.”* This discussion includes an overview of the principles and the proposed demands of this movement, the realities of the global implications of climate change and environmental disintegration and how it informs the activism of those involved in the movement, and the ground-level organizing Extinction Rebellion is engaged with in communities across the United Kingdom, and internationally as well.

In this discussion with Clare, we examine her role within this movement, as well as look at some of the recent high-profile acts of direct action and civil disobedience organized by XR in the United Kingdom this last year, and how these actions highlight the broadening awareness more and more people now have of the implications of global climate change and environmental disintegration into the near and distant future. I ask Clare to elaborate on the principles and proposed demands of this movement, and how this rebellion against extinction (of both human and non-human life) is a step toward publicly and politically addressing the likely near-term extinction of human life due to anthropogenic climate change and ecological collapse. In spite of this reality, XR means to generate action against, as well as directly confront, the political and economic forces of our global society head on, in spite of our dire prospects. Extinction Rebellion has hit a nerve in the UK and abroad, as can be seen in much of the media coverage XR has been getting, and the awareness and action XR has generated has created a means (one of many) for people to grieve and act meaningfully in light of the reality we are implicitly a part of — a reality that deeply informs the nature of XR’s origin, activism, principles, and demands. We discuss this and more in this episode.

Clare Farrell is a fashion designer and founding member and spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, a grassroots movement founded in the UK in 2018. The main mission of XR is to address the global ecological and climate crisis through nonviolent direct action and protest. While XR was founded in the UK, its impact and reach is global.

*Source: http://bit.ly/XRwikipedia

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about Extinction Rebellion at their website: https://rebellion.earth

- Extinction Rebellion has gone international: https://xrebellion.org

- Extinction Rebellion's high-profile actions have been featured in major media publications, including The Guardian: http://bit.ly/2STuWX2

- Follow XR on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellion

- Follow XR on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ExtinctionR

- This episode features the songs “(What A) Wonderful World” and “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” by Sam Cooke from the album The Best Of Sam Cooke.