Bill Gates is a man who knows a thing or two about disasters. It was he after all who inflicted the Windows Vista calamity of 2007 on the world. Overnight, billions of computer users who have been trundling along perfectly happy with the perfectly serviceable Windows XP operating system found themselves upgraded to an unholy shitshow of clunky interface, malfunctioning drivers and baffling new features. Worst of all was the User Account Control chastity belt that gave you an intrusive pop-up every time you went to scratch your balls. It was the least welcome arrival since Word 95’s Clippy. “It looks like you’re trying to write an email.” It looks like you’re busting my chops, you digital piece of shit. GTFO.
Chill with that, though. The past is the past and a scary future approaches like Joss Whedon approaches a vulnerable teen alone in the writers’ room. He has now written a book How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have And The Breakthroughs We Need, on how we might best avoid the massive extinction event we have been flirting with for years like Joss Whedon telling a tenth grader “you know, you’d be great in my new movie Ostracised”. Unlike that rat bastard Steve Jobs, Bill Gates has form as far as giving a tinker’s cuss what happens to the planet and the people and animals on it. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done sterling work in sub-Saharan Africa in sanitation, disease prevention, education, agriculture and financial services for the poor; has invested heavily in plant-based meat and was a consistent advocate for a better response to pandemics, in 2014, five years before it became fashionable when the cuckronavirus began its reign of terror and it was all frankly too late.
In promoting the book, Gates has pronounced that rich countries should move to 100% plant-based beef to help tackle climate crisis. 10 years ago, the mainstream would have dismissed you as a crazed woad-painted hippy for suggesting such a thing – now it barely raises an eyebrow. That’s the arc of history bending towards progress again, filling hearts with joy as it does so. Dive into the book expecting any kind of PETA manifesto or hoping for the meat industry to be sliced up julienne style though and you will be disappointed. If you’re into concrete then you’ve hit the jackpot because he’s got a hard-on for that particular compound stiffer than Jimmy Savile’s three-inch pecker every time a funeral cortege passes.
And I get it. Concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet (after water) and it’s also the most destructive. The developed world is dependent on it and the developing world’s use of it will be growing exponentially in the coming decades. Concrete compounds are the White Walkers of modernity. If we don’t tackle them, there won’t be a habitable planet for us to fuck up. Limestone plus heat equals calcium oxide plus carbon dioxide – that particular law is immutable. So concrete is hard – hard as pavement, you gaze from amazement, knock you in the head you wonder where the days went. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions. “One approach is to take recycled carbon dioxide,” he suggests “And inject it back into the cement before it’s used at the construction site.“ While it sounds like something a mental patient might come up with, there is actually some mileage in this one. Nice work, Poindexter!
He cautions that current technology alone will not get us there, arguing that we need a lot more inventions to make it happen. Breakthrough technologies are essential. That will require massive government intervention and partnership with the private sector. Lab-grown meat, lab-grown dairy and air protein all have huge potential if enough investment is made.
Chapter 6 “How We Grow Things” is where we really get into the meat of the cucknivore fallacy. He talks about the massive contribution methane from cows makes to the greenhouse effect and the grisly consequences of deforestation by cattle ranchers. People don’t hack down trees because they are wicked but because they have sufficient incentive to, he states. Disincentivise the practice and you go a long way to solving it. “So, we need political and economic solutions,” he argues “Including paying countries to maintain their forests, enforcing rules designed to protect certain areas, and making sure rural communities have different economic opportunities so they don’t have to extract natural resources just to survive.” Yep, that would be a start.
He summarily sketches out the level of fucked we are currently at and how that will swiftly reach clusterfucked if we do not take radical action. A simple mission statement is repeated like a mantra: 51 billion to 0. We add 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the world each year and we need to get that to 0 by the year 2050. It sounds a tall order but Gates is above all a pragmatist. He thinks like an engineer – inputs, methodologies, optimisation. He knows that there is no way we will omit zero greenhouse gases in 2050 by reducing and proactively removing carbon from the atmosphere we emit we can get to “near net zero.”
No one imagines this will be a walk in the park. In fact, there’s an entire chapter “This Will Be Hard” driving home the point that this task will be ongoing pain in humanity’s balls. Overall though the tone is optimistic. It’s in the same vein as Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature or Hans Rosling‘s Factfulness (a work he cites more than once). It’s “look how far we’ve come” combined with “look at where we need to go”.
You’ll disagree with Gates when he says eliminating livestock altogether is unrealistic as “meat plays too important a role in human culture” but bear in mind he’s working to a deadline. It would be a true menkle who saw us reducing worldwide meat consumption to near zero in the 29 years between now and 2050. We should take heart from the fact that everyone outside of a few fringe cranks sees eliminating meat as a huge net positive in avoiding climate disaster. That’s a solid base to build on, much better than the one we’d have if Steve Blobs was still around dictating corporate culture from his Chinese suicide pits. Count your blessings, fam.