I just finished reading Techno-Fix, by Michael and Joyce Huesemann. Carrying it around, it looks and feels like a substantial read, and though it took me a couple of weeks of bus, breakfast and bedtime sessions to get through it, it’s much bigger than its britches in retrospect. Anytime I invest a chunk of time in a book, I kind of expect it to deliver on all fronts by the 90% point, which is around page 300 mark in this one. But in the vicinity of 275 I started to swear at the thing. Never a good sign.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a wealth of information in this book you will be hard pressed to find between the same two covers elsewhere. Sadly, there isn’t a great deal that’s new and given the breadth of the topic, there isn’t a great deal of synthesis by its authors.
No, the swearing started because I began to wonder why the big thesis wrapup was all happy-panties idealism that skipped over the shit storm of technology-fueled (or lack-of-fueled) horror that’s about to knock the average person back into the Middle Ages. The Huesemanns accept the inevitability of climate change due to human technology. They even seem to be deeply aware of the coming threats to agriculture, water and global finances. The problem is that they spend a large portion of the book enumerating the historical misteps that led us to now and the gloomy future we face if we stay on the same path. But instead of talking about the near future and what we might do to avert the coming storm, they leap over the issues facing us now and instead start describing, in great detail, what we should be doing, given somekind of squeaky clean happy place where we all just play nice and get along.
Yes, scientists should only invent nice things that don’t pollute our streams or level Japanese cities. And of course, governments should only make nice laws and they should spank the bad corporations when they exploit their workers or the environment. But holy fuck, dude, have you looked outside lately? You aren’t in control. Your government is not in control. We are on a deisel freight train full of commuters and Chinese cargo that is not going to stop moving till it kills a big chunk of the population, chokes most of our animals and crops with coal dust, and uses up the last drop of planet earth’s fossil fuel.
I would like a happy future as much as the next guy. People should only buy eco-friendly products that bio-degrade. They should only watch PBS and take public transit. We were very very bad for burning all those fossil fuels and now we’re sorry. But any git can write a prescription for living with a conscience in Teletubbie land. We’re not talking about an earth populated by Flying Nuns. We’re talking about an earth populated by Stalins and Homer Simpsons. You think Exxon and Monsanto are just going to go gently into that good night? OK, good luck with that.
But hey, it was all made better by the 100 pages of bibliography and footnotes – which I promise to read by tallow candle during the Second Coming of Tinky Winky.