Great to chat with Andrew Dana Hudson a sustainability researcher and speculative fiction writer! We discussed solar punk, the future of capitalism, rearranging politics to solve planetary problems, the importance of climate storytelling, futurist urban spaces and more!

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Thanks so much! 

James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter

Hello today speaking but Andrew Dana Hudson a sustainability researcher and speculative fiction writer of a number of different books including the soon to come out our shared storm a novel of 5 climate features welcome to podcast Andrew great.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Ah, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

James McWalter

You know and I came across your work while researching solarpunk. How would you Define solarpunk.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

So We’re punk I usually call a ah speculative Movement. You know it’s ah, a new burgeoning subgenre of speculative fiction Science fiction and climate fiction that thinks about sustainability and um. How we deal with climate change and kind of Utopian ideas of what a sustainable or just society might look like but it’s also I think for a lot of people is ah you know a source of praxis a way that they are thinking about their um ah about how they relate to this. Kind of civilizational bottleneck that we find ourselves in so it you know it means I’ll have different things to a lot of people which is one of the things that makes it so exciting because it’s one of these those keywords that once you hear it I think for lots of people. It just s sinks in and you’re like oh there’s something there. There was something that I kind of always knew or wanted to be there. Um. And now I need to to figure out what it is and what it means for me right.

James McWalter

I think a lot of people are familiar with this concept of cyberpunk when were you first kind of drawn into solarpunk because it’s it’s a more recent phenomenon I guess.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah I first heard about it in 15 um I read ah an an essay called notes towards a solar punk manifesto by Adam Flynn and I was living in the bay area at the time and and realized that I knew this guy he was roommates with a really good friend of mine. So you know Adam and I started talking because it really just like clicked for me like I think the concept does for a lot of people and I wrote a thing about solarpunk a long read essay on the politics that I saw in what was kind of coming up and then I started. Ah. Originally collaborating with Adam them and then kind of breaking out on my own writing my own stories and and that’s kind of ah been how I got into this particular stage of my career where I’m writing and publishing novels and you know studying sustainability and and all that.

James McWalter

I yeah, and I guess when I think about so I went back and I read through you know those original articles you know the Wikipedia page is is pretty limited relative to some of these other kind of you know something punk right? You know sort of like people I think are from there with steampunk and cyberpunk etc. Um, but I’ve actually heard it more and more and I was actually talking to a venture capitalist recently and and she just mentioned kind of aphat. Oh I I own http://solarunng.com randomly I was like oh okay, that’s’s that’s a kind of fascinating anything and so that kind of caused me to kind of do a deep dive and so I became a little bit involved in the kind of sort of community on Reddit and realized I was like this.

James McWalter

You know this is this tension between people kind of posting pictures of you know buildings in Singapore versus people who are thinking more in terms of its you know political impact I guess how do you think about? you know that that kind of divide between solarpunk as pure aesthetic versus solarpunk as Paul like a political kind of movement right.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah, so my core way of of trying to understand and and nudge people to understand silverpunk is that you know there there’s lots of kind of ecotopian thinking out there and what defines summerpunk. Is that it needs to have kind of a countercultural bent right? It needs to be punk which means it needs to be ah the the you know sort of coming out of the lives of people who are in some way rejecting the kind of mainstream choices and like. Approaches to life. Um, that doesn’t mean that they need to be punked the way the punks were in the 70 s or the way the cyber punks were right? but it it means that they are not the majoritarian position right? and so you know you can have those like. Green building is in Singapore those are very much the the majoritarian position in Singapore right? you put graffiti on them now you’re kind of now. It’s interesting, right? because it implies that there’s a group of people that are a little bit bucking the the system right? Um, and so so. Um, I think you know I would encourage people when they encounter these aesthetics to sort of think about what it means for the different kind of groups that might live in there and in you know in the world that produces these buildings or these images. Um and you know ask. Who who’s doing the weird stuff right? Who is ah who you know who are the the equivalent of the cyberpunk hackers and like street samurai and these people who are sort of operating on the ah edge of illegality. Um. And we’re not the ones who are kind of like packing up their cyber briefcase and taking the cyber train to their job at like way and utay industries or whatever right? like whatever the the cyberpunk megacorp is there was a lot of people working at those and ah the so the cyberp punks were the ones who weren’t right um. And so the solar punks are kind of are similarly going to be people doing something that is um, uses the the technological momentum of the sustainability. The energy transition. The the all the the innovation coming out of the climate crisis and does something different. With it right? Ah, you know the famous Gibson quote is the street finds its own uses for things right? So you know in the context of cyberpunk that was about computers and networking and telecommunications and in the context of solarpunk that’s about solar panels and permaculture and carbon drawdown and and.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Renewable energy and all sorts of things that um, you know we can imagine a finding different uses when they become ubiquitous right? like when when you have solar Panels So cheap that they are just littering the ground that like anyone can pick them up. Ah, what are people going to do of them that we haven’t thought of yet. So That’s kind of um, the big distinction that I try to to make.

James McWalter

Yeah, and I guess you know want I think through like a punk appreciation for as and change right near to by definition if you you know I am a punk trying to achieve a certain kind of change as of right now if I succeed in all my aims it becomes a majoritarian. Position to certain extent and so then there needs to be another reaction and so it’s like this kind of breathing living kind of organism but in society where you have in Essence people trying to move the overome window across like different kind of areas of of being right? So Whether it’s technological uses you know how we organize ourselves into kind of social groupings and so on and so I guess theres like. What what? I think it’s interesting to me about the way you kind of describe Punk is that like there’s no end in sight right? It’s like not an endpoint that people are kind of striving for. You know if you quote unquote achieve solarpunk as like it becomes a Majoritarian and now something else would be emergent as a reaction to that.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah I I think one of the things that I’ve really found interesting about seeing solarpunk evolve over the last seven years is that a lot of the stories that get written are in some ways. Not. Purely concerned with like how much carbon is in the atmosphere and where are we getting our energy right? like a lot of it that kind of consideration is in the background. But the thing that people the like heroes of the story are trying to deal with is like um you know the the trickier ah questions of. Biological ah health right of of ecosystem health of biodiversity and you know trying to deal with the the various ways that we are toxifying our planet with pesticides and herbicides and and chemical runoff that are are not just. You know, kind of carbon in the atmosphere and radiative forcing. Um, so in a way I think that for me implies that um, you know we we have to some extent reached a little bit of a majoritarian position on where you know where we are going to. Building a lot of solar panels and we are hopefully going to cut our emissions and we might even have a you know majoritarian packing to clean the carbon that we’ve dumped out of the atmosphere but all these questions of like oh we really need to stop killing. Ah. Our our planet in all these other ways. All these other sort of planetary boundaries. Um, and ecosystem health questions right? like those are I think very much. Ah, you know you end up a punk when you start taking those really seriously so you know I think it’s yeah, exactly what you said we we’re gonna. Get to kind of 1 phase of we’re going to get through 1 phase of of these transitions but there’ll be sort of another and there will be people on on the bleeding edge of each of these moments and maybe they don’t stay punks throughout it right? like I mean you know you. You become a punk and and you know you you live very radically for a while and then eventually you get old and and it’s not really sustainable to to do that for 1 ne’s entire life right? But you know we we’re interested in in. Ah. Stories about these because they kind of capture the the moments that are kind of most exciting and and that offer the most um you know visual or or aesthetic or or just kind of narrative possibility for the rest of us.

James McWalter

Right? And if it doesn’t you know in some way capture that imagination right? If there isn’t you know? Yeah, when somebody writes it like yourself or you see those some of those images that that people have designed like it has to capture something and and whether it’s solarpunk or something else. You know it like there has to be some hook that you know feeds into some sort of emotion. You know a sense of loss a sense of you know hope but or whatever it may be um I’m also kind of you know I was reading your article or your blog post a few years ago called the political on the political dimensions of solarpunk and I think you know we’ll we’ll include it in the show notes I think it’s this absolutely kind of fascinating article that kind of goes into some things. We’ve already talked about. But 1 of the elements you kind of really dig into is like the state of capitalism even four or five years ago um and how it’s kind of evolving and how people are kind of reacting to different versions of that with these other kind of crises that are you know, like emerging all at once and so you you have this line where I suspect that global capitalism is entering a contradictory period about. Fierce domination and slow failure and those you know 2015 2016 I believe would you so agree with that. How have your kind of views kind of shifted on that over the last five years and

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Oh yeah, um, you know I look back on on what I wrote then and you know the the phrase like the the idea that was embedded in there that where you know there’s sort of neoliberalism was like strangling all possibility of change. Um, boy like I mean that that does not particularly feel ah like it bore out right? because you know history did not like keep withering history just like exploded sort of we had you know Trump Brexit you had all the craziness of of those years you have covered. All these things. Um, so you know I think my my sense that ah in 2015 that Hillary Clinton was going to become president and they’re just going to be the molasses poured over the levers of change and if you wanted to do anything. Ah. Big with the world. You would need to to sort of do it from the margins. You know I’m not entirely sure that that worked out right? Um, but you know I mean maybe we’re back in that moment I think I think covid has kind of squashed a lot of sense of possibilities. Um for a lot of people. Ah. And you know I mean it was definite like I would I would write. Um I’d probably write the essay very differently for for you know a covid moment but you know nonetheless I I don’t I think what you the what you quoted is probably still more or less right? I mean we are um. In a phase in which capitalism seems to be um, not exactly collapsing but sort of bursting at the gills and um, you know there’s there’s more struggle and and friction between labor and and capital than ever and. You know that is really exciting in some ways. It’s really scary in others. Um, so yeah I don’t know if I if I quite answered your question there.

James McWalter

You yeah, though you you did and even I think you know in the last few years. Um, you know one of the ways I can think of like the capital sort of the narrative of capitalism itself was that you know it emerged in you know, red and tooth and claw in like 18 late 1800 s into into develop world. And then basically spread around the world in a kind of post-world war ii kind of you know, ethos and and kind of took over more and more elements of different societies and obviously we had very you know fragmented and and kind of wild twentieth century as that kind of processed through but as we were basically now you know pretty much the majority of. Countries have some sort of capitalistic kind of system in terms of like the exchange of goods and and the means of production and so on and so to me the you know capitalism as like a project like the endpoint has somewhat been reached right? You know like there are you know as as many people kind of starting companies in sub-saharan africa as there ever have been right? like you have this? Yeah dude. Kind of sense of the penetration of global south is you know, maybe not 100% complete but has has done to kind of yeah gotten to a certain logical end and so now I think there’s this kind of reaction to like okay, what is next and by next again, it can also be through the prism of you know, privatized means of production and so on. But.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Totally.

James McWalter

1 of the lines again that kind of stood out of that article was this idea of um, you know one way sobo can challenge. That’s kapa’s status quo is nurturing these alternative economic arrangements at a community or network level and I think about this you know, emergent often full of nonsense like web 3 but sometimes there’s like a gem of like an interesting idea. Um, in these kind of digital co-ops. How do you think about that as a potentially you know new route. Um, as like ah a challenge but also you know a kind of a compliment I guess to capitalism.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah, um, well I I don’t want to set my foot into you know web 3 culture wars right? because I I mean solar punk very recently people were were up in arms from various sides and it was kind of like bad behavior. We all need ah to leave this in but you know.

James McWalter

Sure.

James McWalter

Shirt like you know.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Um, yeah I mean nonetheless I think that solarpunk has a lot of ideas about the possibility of of decentralized projects that are are nonetheless grounded in the material world. Um, that care about. Material reality as opposed to to some extent I think um, a lot of the web 3 stuff doesn’t really isn’t interested in material reality right? It. It’s kind of the the far end of where we’ve gotten with with the cyberpunk abstraction of human life right? You shove. Your human life into into things like cyberspace the metaverse right? And like I mean we’re not going to be uploading our brains into anything but there’s there’s that sort of dream that I think some people still have um and you know the the like having a like pixelated. Profile picture that nonetheless is is this ah, highly networked. Um like hyper object is like that’s super cyberpunk. Um, but you know using those technologies that sort of existing infrastructure to do something that. Affects watersheds or ah, you know effects ah cares about like the land the like the climate health food and water like pollen like using if you can find a way to use these technologies to like. Um, you know, think about pollinator populations and revitalizing those like now you’re talking solar pump. Ah because I think that there’s this like reverse of that trend toward abstraction embedded in the the technological. You know speculations that that come out of solar punk. So um, you know, probably the most solar punk real knife project I’ve ever heard of was a few years ago I was at ah, a conference in Berlin and talked to an iraqi guy who told me about how they had used. Like an Ourrduino Geiger counter and hooked it up to Google Maps and gone all throughout their their community and mapped out which streets were still irradiated by the depleted uranium shells the ally the the you know american invasion had used. Which was something that the government both the iraqi and the the american government was like refusing to acknowledge that they irradiated big big parts of that country and people were going to get cancer and you know like all the technology they were using like man that is that that was like very.

James McWalter

Right.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Digital stuff that they got there with their savvy with code and electronics but it was about like the the invisible ah material dangers of the like actual place that they lived In. And of course like and it was very rebellious, right? because they got shut down because none of the like business people wanted. Um the you know people to think that like their shops were dangerous to go to right? Never mind that they sent their employees there every day. So um, you know I think.

James McWalter

Right.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

I Think the the more you can look at these new kind of axes of decentralization and figure out how to ground them and sometimes into the literal ground and caring about things like soil health and that sort of thing like that’s that’s where I get excited.

James McWalter

Yeah, yeah, there’s um, it kind of reminds me of I don’t know if you’re familiar with Klima Dao kl I m a dow so this is like a large welle. It still exists but basically ah, an attempt to you know create a token create value.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Um.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Written.

James McWalter

And link it to carbon sequestered in the natural world right through different types of you know, farming practices, forestry etc. Um, it was worth about a billion dollars in July it’s lost 96% of value since then and the onlying reason for that is that it could not figure out its extra connection to the supply of the real world right? It basically it solved at a man problem. There’s some disaggregated. Group of people who want to money their money to go towards and their influence as a dow to go towards you know climate positive product projects. But then the actual like hard on the ground work needed to try to find you know can we get some trees planted here. Can we protect the forest there. Can we change some farming practices there um just was. Was not It doesn’t have the same speed as you know throwing together like a you know a community wouldn’t discord or whatever it may be and I think it’s this kind of fascinating tension where you know people who are very very used to moving incredibly quickly within you know digital spaces. Coming up against atoms and trying to figure out how to solve problems there but I do I really love this kind of example of the geigger counter because I think one of the like amazing skillsets of people I’ve been very impressed with in the last couple of years are people who are coming from some sort of digital first or software background and have become frustrated by just living in a pure software world and want to actually start building things and. You know people are like tinkering around with different things trying to you know invent hardware that does various things and well that’s purely in a kind of vcbacked startup space but some are even on their side projects are quite kind of solarunk in nature.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah I I tend to think that almost everything we need to solve our sort of societal collective Planetary problems has already been invented. The the technology is is there. It’s just a matter of. Rearranging our politics to use it and in the right way and and so yeah, I’m I’m like not surprised I’ve I’ve heard lots of people for whom like um the the like digital. Feeling like your life is only digital and and is not tied at all to in a meaningful way to an actual like objects and place and food and like all those things are digitally mediated for you too in some ways right. Like that can be very dissatisfying and and you know not to not that the the solution entirely is to just like log off and go live in the woods right? I mean I think um, these are problems that really we need to solve in in an urban way not in a like. Back to the land Way. So but you know with the the It’s really promising to you know hear and and think that there are people willing to slow down and and try and solve these problems as opposed to just. Um, you know, just trying to move fast and break things I mean I think you know I I threw in in that essay that you you mentioned the political dimensions I say I have kind of a tagline that then has been taken up ah by a lot of people which is move quietly and plant things right? and I think you know. The the sense of like um, trying to figure out what it looks like when from a narrative perspective and from an aesthetic perspective when people are engaged in in that kind of behavior right? Where the exciting stuff is happening very carefully through cultivation through cooperation and negotiation. Um, as opposed to through pure disruption I think is is part of what people come to solar punk trying looking to to try and like guide them towards figuring out.

James McWalter

Yeah, and and you mentioned this kind of urban element and you know when I think about solarpunk just again on the pureesthetic level. It seems to be this kind of uniting of like the pastoral with the urban right? So it’s like we’re seeing greenery. Um I’ve mentioned many times the podcast that come from kind of very rural farming background. And Ireland but love big. You know blunt cities and and and like love kind of moving between those spaces and I guess the if I look at you know, a lot of the developed world but the United States in particular there is this kind of ah urban non-urban battle and even when in urban areas you know. Monikers like Gimby and nimbbi and these kind of tensions that are arising over like how to basically govern the built environment in a way that you know boat gives people places to live and like those basic you know human needs are met but then also you know reaches for something higher either through you know, mitigating climate change that you’re even solving climate change in in some. Small manner or even just bring in these kind of new asthetic kind of values like how do you think about that kind of you know the the urbanism and ah, you know how important that is to this as ah as a kind of general movement.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah I mean one of the reasons I wrote that essay in 152 was to kind of um offer some guidance to what at the time was like felt like a bunch of kids exploring this kind of genre possibility on Tumblr and now there’s been a billion think pieces written about it. There’s been some like say. Major science fiction writers have kind of taken it up but has at least ah you know taken a hint from from this discussion. Um, and you have communities who are that are very vibrant. Um on Reddit and Discord and and all these other places. Um. But you know one of the yeah one of the things that I tried to offer as advice was don’t ah you know run out and try to build a you know, ah commune and in the middle of nowhere I mean like if if you if you personally want to do that and like go for it right? but that that can’t be what every solar punk story is about right? because. Um, we we live in an urban world. The majority of human beings live in urban environments. Um and those places aren’t going away right? like I I think occasionally I’ll see sort of solar punk inspiredd stuff where where they’re like. Live in this utopian village and then they are going and like scavenging from the ruins of Detroit or the roof or the ruins of Chicago or whatever. It’s like if we have you know multimillion person metropolises that are are left in ruins.

James McWalter

Sure.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Like it doesn’t matter how nice your village is right like that. We’ve something truly catastrophic has gone down right? and um, it’s it’s that’s not where I think we should sort of put our imaginative efforts right? like we should put our imaginative efforts towards figuring out how we avoid the decimation of.

James McWalter

And we failed Yes, okay.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Of humanity and and the loss of of so much of of what we’ve built together and you know how do we retrofit it to actually work for humans for other species for the environment. Um, because you know the the truth is. Like these places are our urban spaces are amazing but we did build them wrong right? Like we built them around fossil infrastructure. We built them in a variety of other unsustainable ways we kind of have to go through and rebuild everything that we spent the like late nineteenth through the sort of late twentieth century building. Um, and. That is like in some ways a little bit of a demoralizing prospect but it also is is very exciting. Um, if you’re you’re willing to kind of embrace the the possibilities both sort of aesthetic and narrative of um of that retrofitting project right? but. Um, yeah I think I think a lot of people are like we can just have these beautiful like Eco biomimicry houses and we don’t have to think about really where in the actual world we are or um, you know we didn’t like. We’re going to have these beautiful green skyscrapers never mind like all the skyscrapers that already exist. Um, so the the more we can ah situate this sort branch of speculative thinking in in the retrofit project right. And and not just like abandoning or expecting to abandon or de facto abandoning the the huge amount of stuff we built the better. The better off will be because you know people people live there already and like displacing them. That’s terrible. Um them. You know trying to. Them leaving this place like just to be overgrown like that I don’t think that’s a way forward. So um, it’s it’s really tough and you know I but you know hopefully um, hopefully the you know. That essay can and just kind of general. Um I think that the the urbanist draw that a lot of people in solar punk. Do do also feel along with that pastoralism can start to to start to get us to a more like productive place about.

James McWalter

Yeah, you actually just as you’re talking there. Um you named the thesis of of the but sort of I’m working on now and don’ I’m not ready to kind of announce it and but basically the thesis is. We’re going to rebuild or refurbish every part of the built environment in 50 years and that’s out of necessity.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah.

James McWalter

But the kind of positive piece out of that is that what we’ll build is just way better than what we have now you know I was talking to a guy the other day who was coming on the podcast soon and he’s building windows that will completely black out the the sun at just a flick of a switch. Um you you talk about people who are you know working on things like. Electrification of the home. You know the amount of kind of health issues from people just inhaling you know Fossil Fuel effluence and so on um, day-to-day it just this you know billions of people are affected by this kind of every year and I think we’ve done collectively the we who care about these things and are working on similar things today. Collective. We just done a very bad job of describing that like more positive future in a way that actually gets people involved. You know I think there’s like these 2 versions of the future. It’s like now plus more solar panels on the roof or you have you know Musk who describes you know and not a fully dystopian but you know a world where cyberun cybertrucks sorry are needed. Um, is yeah more dystopic than utopic I think in terms of like ah like a potential future and so yeah and and then just one a thought on and the kind of urban elements I think if I think about cities like Barcelona and Paris and you know cities not without their issue but these are very very dense cities. Um, and I don’t think they have quite the ah. You know vision in you know at least in north american minds of something that’s you know, completely cyberpunk like there’s no movement There’s nothing green at all. It’s like well these cities are more dense than pretty much every city in the United States outside of maybe a part of Manhattan and so you can live in very dense. You know community-built like society. In a way that you know is I think is also aesthetically pleasing.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah, definitely I think more retrofits are needed on the the suburbs and the exurbs than on the the actual like super dense urban urban life right? because you know you can. there’ there’s there’s sort of like a land use tradeoff right? where when you stack ah tens of thousands of people in you know one square kilometer um, you can kind of buy buy off like land elsewhere on the planet to provide the ecosystem services they need and I you know I think we can. We can think about it that way. But. Um, yeah I think um, what what you said earlier was was really right? Like there’s just a lot of new stuff that needs to be built, but it’s better stuff right? like um, solar is just cheaper. Than fossil fuels right? Like we’re entangled in the fossil fuels. We’re caught on the net. But once we’re free man like we’re going faster than we ever were right? We’re going to have access to more energy than human beings have ever had by and like probably an order of magnitude and where it’s going to be cheaper and and. Yeah, people are not going to die of asthma nearly as much There are all these ways that just doing the transition. Um, like hopefully we could adjust transition and we we use as an opportunity to build the social structures that are are better too. But there there are like. There is just sort of straight improvements. We can make um, but you’re right that that it’s hard to sell people on these that I think Carl Schrader is a canadian science fiction writer and and he articulated something that I really like ah a few years ago which is you know. People would rather live in a dystopia they understand than a utopia they don’t understand and you know I get it man I mean like the like this sort of current societal situation that we find ourselves in is like pretty not good, but like. I get up I like face the day like I get through I pay my rent right? and like I’m not like totally out of it yet and and the prospect of um, a radical upheaval in society like I you know would I ah. But I find meaning in the same things I find meaning in now like would there be a place for me the way there is a place for me now I mean these are all open questions that people ask. It’s kind of I call it the devil you know problem so that is one of the the places where I think we need solar punk and and a whole lot of other kinds of of future visioning.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

To help people fill in the gap right through stories through visuals through just kind of general propaganda right? to to say that like no like this is how you’ll fill the day and this is ah you know the kinds of things that you might do instead and. Of going to work for 8 hours a day and commuting for another 2 right? This is what life on a train would be like like all kinds of things that these are the the rhythms and habits like you tell people that it it takes them. Ah, you know half an hour to like supercharge their electric vehicle. They’re like half an hour like what am I going to do at the gas station for half an hour um but if you are say that like well you can just kind of build into your road trip. You can stop. You can plug in you go in you like hang out for a little while. Relax like start to articulate those ah sort of emergent behaviors that come um and that people will embrace. Um I think I think they they that stops being an issue right.

James McWalter

Right? And you know I think one of the things you’re touching on is this ability to tell stories right? and you know writers like yourself and other artists who are kind of working on this kind of speculative ideas. Um, you know that are more positive or you know positive with some yeah. Optimism typee with realistic kind of views of the world and then you have yeah so that’s that’s occurring but from my perspective. It’s a little bit siloed relative to the other silo which are you know people kind of from the community I’m coming out of which is like tech people trying to build things maybe moving fast and breaking things. But you know maybe thinking on a little bit. More of a kind of timeline but very interested in. You know how do we get a lot of solar built how do we? get you know how do we yeah move from gas power to like evs. How do we get to 0 carbon buildings and the like and I think that there’s a real hunger I think for some cross-pollination of ideas from those 2 groups. You know I run this? um. Monthly meetup for mostly climate tech folk in New York and on the last one we happened to have somebody who also does some climate art and the amount of enthusiasm was like oh my god this is amazing. You know you have these tech founders who are just like so excited to like talk to this woman who like you know, does these lovely watercolors of of you know climate charts and so on how. You know I guess what would you like to see from more of like the tech community in terms of engaging with these ideas like what? what could you know? if if I can go speak for us on on that side like what could could we do more of.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah, it’s tricky right? because you know there I think a lot of people. Um, do go into ah something like startup life and and tech wanting to think big and and um. You know change the world I mean it’s like the Silicon Valley and like sitcom cliche now. But I think there are there are a lot of good intentions and but they’re just these like deep grooves worn in the worn in the path right? that route you into doing it in ah a particular way that involves making money for. People who are mostly richer than you um, and you have to sort of interface with all these other groups that are also trying to make money and it’s it’s just like not a very countercultural place to be in no matter what your original intentions were so um, yeah I think. Ah I think that’s a tricky spot and and you know the incentives for you know doing this in a way that ah is a business even if you you have these kind of other that turns a profit even if you have these other notions that definitely complicates the kind of. Pure imagination that I think um, a lot of people who just approach this as an aesthetic project. Um are you know able to engage with that said I I think that there’s a certain amount of you know you. I think there is room to sort of ah rebel against the the grooves that you’re shunted into um and one of the ways is to try to to think about the role of a particular firm ah not entirely in terms of. Like what market percent will it achieve right? and like how can I be the next bajillion dollar company that takes over the world and outcompetes you know ever all the other solutions right? and instead just be like how far can I push the possibility space right? Like what can I open up that and allow. People both, you know in the mainstream the majoritarian and the the marginal ah sustainability project to to see that like oh there’s a there there. There’s like ah we can do something that is fresh and interesting and as opposed to. Just trying to to you know, maybe you push out a little bit but then so much of the work of businesses. The consolidation is the the sort of strangling out of the competitors. Um, but if you just you know were were able to. Ah.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Focus even as you go through the consolidation on like how how far out can you push the um, can you push those um possibility sort of fogs of war. Um I think you could get to some really interesting places and and then the other thing I would say um. Is you know I think every organization at this point needs to start thinking deeply about the ways in which it is going to be ensconced in the material reality of the transition and that means that you know you you can’t just. Um, if if you’re really serious about this. You shouldn’t just be like we have an office space that we are renting and from another company and like they handle the landscaping and like you know they handle like turning off the the lights at night these are all things that I think we we have outsourced. Tons of of stuff to ah to others. But you know that that are you know determine the majority of things about the the places that we sort of ensconce ourselves as as companies or as as individuals and we we just need to be pushing back against that like. You know, most companies are not going to be able to design a like Google campus or like whatever where they get to build these things from the ground up. But you know I think trying to go and like figure out and develop relationships with like. Building management and and being able to like use your your voice as someone that cares about ah the energy the climate transition to ah help them make better choices right? like that. It’s hard work and and it and like requires us to sort of put ourselves out there. But I think it would be really interesting and it would probably also just like it inspire a lot of gear turning from the kind of people that you’re talking about right? just just I mean like just like 1 example, you know if you’re if you’re building is going to.

James McWalter

Yeah, please.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Get its heating redone right? and they install gas now like there’s like a 20 year lifespan built into that right? and um, but we just can’t keep running the the gas pumps for for another 20 years. We just have to stop. So um, it’s. The the more people can start to kind of look out of their own kind of little lane and and see that they are part of this web. Ah, and that they need to be tugging on on the web and advocating for electrification for better land use all these things. Even when they’re just like they feel like they exist on the internet. Um I think that would be a really generative way to approach it.

41:08.63

James McWalter

You yeah, you definitely cannot or you should not outsource your you know your your actual ethical due right? I’ve this kind of basic framework for like little article I wrote about founder ethics and it’s basically it’s just you know, classic 2 by 2 you know, beloved by mbas around the world and and startup founders et etc and it’s basically you can. Work on an ethical or or uneth like a problem we’re solving it is ethical or unethical, right? and you know one is climate I want ant extremes climate that is how do I get more kids to you know, smoke right? And so those are you know? So if you’re working on something very ethical, amazing and then you can do it in an ethical or unethical way. It’s like the people who are trying to get a lot of kids to smoke you know maybe they’ve been amazing like.

James McWalter

Company culture and they are very like respective of the local environment all that kind of thing but still terrible. What they’re doing versus what you really want is to align both So you’re working on a big problem that has a big ethical component and you’re doing it it to maximize your own ethical manner of doing so and I honestly think that more and more people are starting to think like this. And often it’s mainly just like a lack of thought rather than ah anything more sinister. But even that you know the amount of people I talk to are like oh yeah, we’re working on something big and profound and like you’re not right? so and you may be doing it pretty ethically but like you’re not really working on anything like. Super big and doesn have to be climate right? There’s a lot. We have a lot of problems to solve. So You know there’s a lot of fertilile ground for people to kind of approach. But yeah I guess you know one of the things. Um that I will be doing at at these kind of groups and especially when your book comes out in early April is yeah reading your book and and kind of.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Ah, thank you.

James McWalter

Putting your book around as well. I’d love to just in the last couple minutes here chat a little bit about you know what kind of led up to writing this novel and yeah, any thoughts you have on us.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah, so this novel was was actually my master’s thesis. Um, and I that I wrote as I was studying sustainability at Arizona state which is you know, sort of an incredible place to be doing this kind of work because they they’re willing to support a lot of really interesting. Future thinking projects and people like me. Um, but you know I I came out of starting to ah you know, learn more about the the world of climate modeling and and encountering these. Encountering these scenarios the the shared socioeconomic pathways that are are now starting to show up in the ipcc’s assessment reports and reading through them being like oh these are science fiction stories right? These are climate fiction stories and so I decided to try to write. Um, a set of stories that kind of together would be more or less a novel that illustrated each of these scenarios that were you know informing the science. Um, and that we’re trying to take a deeper and look at ah. You know, not just how much emissions are we going to put out but like how are these how is economic growth and population growth and all these all these things and entangled um and can we create and sort of a set of assumptions and narratives that that help us understand the different ways we might go and eventually I i. Kind of winnowed at the idea and figured out that I what I actually wanted to do was kind of tell 1 story 5 different ways right? I wanted to to have it be a little bit of like um, alternate ah alternate futures. So so it’s not just. So. It had an an experimental quality to it where I’m eliminating as many variables as possible and each story is said in the same place and and share some characters but they’re all living different lives because we the people that have built this future have made different choices right? collectively about about how we’re going to handle this and um. And I said it at at the cop at the un climate change negotiations I said at cop sixty though in some ways it feels like it all. It could also be you know 10 years from now. Um, just because you know since since I started working on the book. It feels like so much of this is accelerated. um so you know it’s it’s um I think a pretty ah entertaining even though it is very wonky book that tries to think about the the cultures of our climate politics. Ah and you know to some extent. Ah, that’s a space where.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Um, you can imagine continuing to be dominated by the the kind of diplomatic class but you can also imagine the ways in which you know it’s it’s a place where the startups and and companies and private equity ends up playing. Ah. Ah, bigger role I mean you, you know if you go to the cop right? They have this huge floor and and half of it is is countries showing off what they’re they’re doing as nations. But there’s also tons of of Boofs and and ah displays from companies that are are sort of involved in this. So um. You know there’s kind of a middle of the road scenario where we’ve got similar problems as to now and we’ve made some progress but we haven’t sort of really and like gotten a ton of momentum. There’s ah a scenario in which. We just sort of burn all the fossil fuels we use that to power like high economic growth particularly in the developing world. Um, and we just sort of try to adapt our way through. Um there’s a scenario in which like inequality is really strong and thinking about the the sort of. Aesthetics of inequality was a really fun task of of writing that particular section there’s a section in which like man we just totally fail. We have total international breakdown and like we just turn to fighting amongst ourselves. There’s just constant conflict and and.

James McWalter

Only a 20% chance ah

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Ah, violence. Yeah right? I mean that that is the baseline scenario right? That’s the one that we get to if we don’t swerve at all and then um, there’s the sustainability scenario which is ah you know in the in the ssp is that’s ssp one but I I use it as the happy ending for my book. Um, so you know I I think it can be useful for anyone who’s trying to just think about all the the different angles that one can approach the climate question from um, both from a utopian and ah and a dystopian perspective. Um, and and I think it’s you know anyone who’s been to the cop I think should read it because they’ to’ll probably like get a kick out of it. Um, so yeah, it comes out in in April you know it’s it’s been sort of um, a multi-year project for me and so very excited to have it come out and and. In the world and hopefully you know hear ah hear from people that it was it was useful. You know it’s there’s a little bit of the the kind of ah speculative didactticism in there where you you try to like articulate. What is the path to the or like what is the the.

James McWalter

If.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

More sustainable future made of but for the most part I think um I think it avoids that and ah, you know which you know we’ve got. We’ve got other good examples of people trying to to shut you know Kim Stanley Robinson he’s got the ministry for the future which is very much like you know. Laying it out to people like what? what the the transition would look like and um, ah.

James McWalter

Yeah, we we actually had Delton Chen whose kind of idea of like a global carbon currency was the underlying concept for ministry of the future. We we ended up on the podcast about eight months ago and yeah, and and I think that like Kim Staling Robinson’s kind of general approach including his one 20

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Um, yeah.

James McWalter

40 New York or New York 61 yeah so yeah, these are um I think more ideas that people are putting out there I think it does expand like the view of what’s possible in a way that you know like goes to the people who are making those decisions the cop at the cop. Yeah, the different cop meetings.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Yeah, um, well I Certainly you know, look forward to to hearing what people what people think of the book. Um, and and I think it’s pretty fun. You know I mean it’s it’s I I think there there’s.

There’s jokes. You know there’s sort of like action packed moments right? It’s not entirely just and actually not that much like sitting in rooms talking about the climate even though sitting in rooms talking about the climate is probably a majority of the work that that ah we need to do to actually? well. The majority of the work is just like hammering Silver Panels onto roofs but we we we do have to do just a lot talking to get there and and you know so it’s always good to like be in conversations like this one where where we are doing a small piece of that that conversation.

James McWalter

So right? so.

James McWalter

Well I love the conversation and Drew this has been absolutely brilliant and we’ll we’ll include links out to you know presals for the book and everything. Thank you very much.

ANDREW DANA HUDSON

Oh wonderful. Thanks thanks for having me.

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