Cory Doctorow has a vision of “resilience and joyful thriving through and after a just climate transition”

Unless, of course, TINA gets in the way.

Years ago I wrote about TINA. It was about the destruction of our communities by big box stores. “Small retailers often complain that they can buy stuff cheaper from Walmart than they can from their own wholesalers. Most governments are resigned to the multinational big-boxes coming into town and destroying their main streets because, they say resignedly, There Is No Alternative (TINA).”

Now BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow writes a wonderful article in The Globe and Mail, Science Fiction and the Unforeseeable Future: In the 2020s, let’s imagine better things. He brings TINA into the discussion about how to deal with the climate emergency. He first notes that we can fix this if we put our mind to it.

Considered in the grand sweep of human achievements, resolving the climate crisis is a big job, but it’s not the biggest thing we’ve ever done. We have built great cities, international aviation systems, an internet that wires together the planet like a vast digital nervous system. We can do this.

Yet nobody seems to really be doing anything about it. “Our species – which has mobilized millions of bodies for war, gold rushes, Beanie Babies and Beatlemania – seems to have given up hope of any chance of mobilizing a comparable effort to avert its own extinction.”

Why this failure of imagination? I blame Margaret Thatcher. It was she who popularized Herbert Spencer’s 19th-century axiom that when it came to markets, “There is no alternative.” That is, if market mechanisms can’t deliver whatever you’re seeking, then it is unattainable and any attempt to buck the market will end in heartbreak and catastrophe.

“There is no alternative” – a phrase Thatcher repeated so often that wags called her “TINA Thatcher” – is a devastating rhetorical cheat: a demand phrased as an observation. “There is no alternative” doesn’t mean “No alternative is possible.” It means, “Stop trying to think of an alternative.”

We’ve lived through 40 years of TINA thinking, and it’s left us stranded on a sandbar of our own devising, as the seas rise and begin to lap at our knees.

Lloyd Alter/ seen in Prince Edward County/CC BY 2.0

Doctorow goes on to develop a lovely science fiction story, a world where Canada is a world leader in cleaning up its act. “In a country as big as ours, the wind is always blowing somewhere, and even on the cloudiest day in one province, there’s sun in another.” Worth a read in the Globe and Mail.

Cory Doctorow has a vision of “resilience and joyful thriving through and after a just climate transition”

Unless, of course, TINA gets in the way.

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