147 / On the privilege of activism

We are so much the victims of abstraction that with the Earth in flames we can barely rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look at the thermostat.

– Terence McKenna


Featured artist: Tiago Galo

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 147!

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North America, Europe, Siberia, the Arctic – almost everywhere in the northern hemisphere the severity of heat, fires and floods surprises even climate scientists. Once again, we’re looking at the news, asking helplessly: “What can we do?”

“Anything”, says Emily Atkin, author of the fantastic newsletter HEATED. In her latest issue, she lists several actions people can take, reminding us of the role privilege plays:

“The ability to participate in activism is a privilege. Many simply do not have the time, money, or emotional bandwidth to take on a global cause. Climate activism also has an unfortunate history of regressive finger-wagging, blaming relatively powerless individuals for not making ‘better’ environmental choices. The climate activism that is needed today is not that type of activism ... What’s needed today is sustained outrage at the powerful, by those with the time and resources to express it.”

The 2019/2020 fires in Australia made me realised that I’m one of those people: a privileged white guy with a moral imperative to do something who still spends most of his days fixated on saving up for a future that’s increasingly fraught with cataclysms.

I regularly make time for running, for seeing friends, and for reading books. ‘Making time’ of course means prioritising those things over other things. Making time for activism wasn’t on my radar, because activists are those people that chain themselves to gates or scale a smoke stack. That’s not me.

But as Emily points out, the kind of activism required by most of us today looks different. It’s a form of activism we can easily participate in and doesn’t require acts of bravery: writing an email to a local government representative, signing a petition, learning about the power structures behind fossil fuels, joining the occasional march, donating money, attending a local action group, talking about climate change with family and friends, being an engaged citizen.

Doing this sort of low-key activism takes me less than an hour a week on average. Of course, the cynical little dude in my brain keeps telling me that it doesn’t make a difference. But the more hopeful little dude, who still shows up occasionally, makes me wonder: if I – with my intellect, money and inborn privilege – can’t be bothered to engage with the living world’s biggest existential threat for 45 minutes a week, then who can? – Kai

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Apps & Sites


AirPods revival

AirPods are notoriously badly designed. Once the batteries die, the entire product becomes useless and is often discarded. Podswap (US-only for now) gives AirPods a second life: you order a second-hand, cleaned and sanitised pair of AirPods with fresh batteries through their website, then send in your old ones for them to restore for another customer.


Notion-like page builder

The UI preview of Typedream reminds me of Notion but the feature set is closer to that of a tool like Webflow: a simple page builder that doesn’t require any coding skills.

Clean Creatives

Pledge to shun fossil fuel clients

There is a growing sentiment that we need fewer pledges and more action. And while that’s true, I think public pledges can help raise awareness. Big creative agencies like Ogilvy and BCW take money from the likes of BP and Shell to help them greenwash their polluting products. The Clean Creatives movement wants individual creatives and creative agencies to pledge never to accept work from the fossil fuel (and related) industries.

Yoni Circles

Storytelling community for women

The kind of social network I can get behind. Yoni is an app that creates ‘storytelling circles’ which are “hour-long, live, moderated video chat experiences (capped at 6 women) that leave members feeling lighter and more connected to themselves and the world around them. Think a slumber party meets a mindfulness class.”

Worthy Five: Zena Alkayat


Five recommendations by Bloom founder and publisher Zena Alkayat

A word worth knowing:

In Arabic, the word ‘tasbera’ (تصبيرة) literally means taste, but has one of those untranslatable meanings too: it’s a snack that gives you patience while you wait for your next meal. I always need those.

An activity worth doing:

Gardening. You need patience, resilience, a positive outlook and the capacity to watch your mistakes play out (and to learn from them) over years. Sounds great, right? The thing is, it’s life-changingly good and I’m so glad I tried it.

A podcast worth listening to:

The BBC’s Desert Island Discs is full of surprises, with big celebrities, academics and everyday heroes sharing the music they’d take to a desert island. It’s a brilliant deep-dive into people’s lives through music.

A book worth reading:

The Well Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith explores how being outdoors and growing plants can impact the way our brains work and the way we function in the world. Being in nature isn’t just anecdotally good for you, it’s a science-backed reality.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

Whenever you feel stuck or out of options, just do something... do anything. Don’t wait for the ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ thing. By making a decision and getting moving, you shake off the ‘stuck’ feeling and good change usually follows.



Less is More

A vision of a post-growth future

For many, it still seems controversial to talk about a world after capitalism. Jason Hickel draws a possible map of this ‘uncharted territory’: “If we want to have a shot at halting the crisis, we need to slow down and restore the balance. We need to change how we see nature and our place in it, shifting from a philosophy of domination and extraction to one that’s rooted in reciprocity and regeneration. We need to evolve beyond the dogmas of capitalism to a new system that’s fit for the twenty-first century.”


An Ugly Truth

The insiders’ acccount of Facebook’s fall from grace

Using ‘unrivalled’ internal sources, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang shine a light on the inner workings of the world’s biggest data-mining machine using outrage and misinformation to sustain its growth. “The missteps of the last five years were not an anomaly but an inevitability – this is how Facebook was built to perform. In a period of great upheaval, growth has remained the one constant under the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Both have been held up as archetypes of uniquely 21st century executives – he the tech ‘boy genius’ turned billionaire, she the ultimate woman in business, an inspiration to millions through her books and speeches.”

Overheard on Twitter

After years of studying it, I believe that cryptocurrency is an inherently right-wing, hyper-capitalistic technology built primarily to amplify the wealth of its proponents through a combination of tax avoidance, diminished regulatory oversight and artificially enforced scarcity.

@jothornely (The whole thread is worth a read.)

Food for Thought

What This Feeling Is


In which Ben Jenkins perfectly describes the feeling a lot of us are experiencing right now, deep down in our guts. “The most uncomfortable sequence in Jaws isn’t the bit where the shark finally attacks, it’s Martin Brody sitting on the beach, watching the water. That sequence seems to go for hours. By the time the disaster actually arrives and we get the dolly zoom right up on Brody’s terrified face, we feel less afraid than we did moments before. And that’s where we’re stuck. We’re stuck on the beach waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing, like Brody does, that when it comes, we and whatever systems we’ve put our faith in until this moment, will be powerless to stop it.”

Instagram Has Become SkyMall


90% of the ads Instagram throws at me are for useless gadgets aimed at people with too much disposable income. It really has become the new SkyMall. “It’s pretty clear that Instagram ads are a breeding-ground for the legions of dropshippers who are trying to find some sort of tech thingmabob that they can sell four million of a week so they can ‘put their income on autopilot’, as per The Four Hour Workweek. It’s also clear that many of these merchants are itchily desperate for attention. Many of the products have ‘like’ counts so risibly high they practically need scientific notation, almost certainly juked into the ionosphere by roboclicks.” [Possible soft paywall]

All the right words on climate have already been said


An honest, emotional ‘brain dump’ by writer Sarah Miller who gets asked to write ‘something about climate change’ after her piece on the paradox of Miami’s thriving real estate world amidst rising sea levels attracted a fair amount of attention. “I probably talked for 11 minutes straight. I told her I didn’t have anything to say about climate change anymore, other than that I was not doing well, that I was miserable. ‘I am so unhappy right now.’ I said those words. So unhappy. Fire season was not only already here, I said, but it was going to go on for at least four more months, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. I didn’t know how I would stand the anxiety. I told her I felt like all I did every day was try to act normal while watching the world end, watching the lake recede from the shore, and the river film over, under the sun, an enormous and steady weight.”

Aesthetically Pleasing

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Frieke Janssens is a photographer and photo artist who uses “precise staging” to produce playful, unexpected and humorous artworks.

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‘Digital sculptor’ Maxim Shkret employs “hard surface modelling and organic sculpting techniques” to create three-dimensional illustrations that I really want to touch.

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Only just catching up with Pentagram’s rebrand of The New Republic. Some interesting typographic choices, cleverly applied across different media.

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The Totentanz type family offers slanted and backslanted versions that are “an experiment on how to construct an italic by sliding, shifting and crossing the stems, thus eventually creating a whole new typographical matter”.


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