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A graphic designer is invited to paint a mural on the side of an old building in a rough end of town. She collaborates with a group of artists to turn four storeys of tired brick into a contemporary work of art. When the mural is complete, the neighborhood throws a party to celebrate the first of what they hope will be many rejuvenations to the area. The graphic designer’s boss reads about the mural in the news and asks her, “Why can’t you create something like that around here?”
We’ve seen things like this happen again and again for more than ten years. As advertising agency people, we have the opportunity to work with a lot of creative types. We’re not just talking about designers and artists; we’re talking about people with the ability to solve old problems in new, imaginative ways. Advertising agencies and marketing departments attract thousands of these types. Yet it’s rare to see a creative person unleash his or her full potential at work.
We call this effect the Proximity Paradox, and that’s what this book is all about. Proximity is the effect that shackles creativity, dilutes innovation, steers brave people down safe roads, and pushes leading-edge companies to the back of the pack. It’s what was blocking your view when a competitor blindsided you. It’s what eventually wore down your bold, inventive younger self, and it’s what is still wearing you down today.
Climate change defies the traditional divisions between left and right. The response from the far left — led by Naomi Klein and the Pope — targets market forces, economic growth, and capitalism itself as the enemy. Yet climate solutions need all three. The far right — dominated by market fundamentalists like FOX and the Koch brothers — view unfettered markets, unlimited growth, and unregulated capitalism as unassailable foundations of the twenty-first century. But that view is incompatible with a livable planet. The simple ideologies of left and right are unhelpful in trying to solve this problem. It’s time to let them go. Common sense provides a better basis for climate solutions than political or ideological preference.
Climate Capitalism is a pragmatic response to a messy problem. To rewire our economy in time to head off disaster, the left and right need to throw out a bunch of comfortable assumptions. The idea that we’re going to jettison capitalism itself is as absurd as it sounds. We need high finance. And market forces. Yet both must be tamed. Unbridled market forces make for great toys and factories but will take us straight off the climate cliff. Not everything can be valued in money or commerce. Some things have worth that can’t be contained in a spreadsheet: the human spirit, our place in the world, values and ethics, our planet itself.
The current intellectual trend claims all of human activity can be captured in value-free quantitative analysis. That view is false. We can’t speak to the climate issue without the deep, reflective language of moral philosophy. Intergenerational justice is not measured by what economists call the “discount rate.” The value of nature — the Amazonian rainforest, biodiversity, healthy watersheds — is not captured by estimating their monetary value. Our deeper qualitative concerns must bend (not bend to) the forces of commerce to be effective. Commerce is the tool, human values the force — not vice versa.
Yet this book is all about economics: money, trade agreements, discount rates, capital markets, entrepreneurs. Undoubtedly, my environmental friends won’t like the whole-hearted embrace of that language. And many business colleagues will bristle at the call for what they see as radical interference in those markets and a value first approach to weighing costs and benefits. That may be a sign I’ve got something right. In any good negotiation, both sides will feel like they lost. But both also win.
Things will get nasty in the climate debate as our world continues to get hotter. There will be fights — not just over ideas but water, food, land, and money. But one thing we can’t fight about anymore is which economic system occupies the high ground. The left and right, the business community and environmentalists, bankers and activists must together reclaim capitalism and force profits to align with the planet. We must retool our laws and institutions to reflect our collective long-term security. We can worry about who occupies the moral high ground later.
in an infinite series where we approach each oth’r
Jejune, forked in some road that might have
cropped up anyhow to cross us barely ready
or were we unaware that we had cracked I
to save us, split us three ways
as the centuries that made us possible left us
with all possible comprises, we have this one
existence, this so many elsewheres, in others,
I, and in every elsewhere, us both
and so you have arrived, Jejune, and so I
in a million pictures of our face, and still
I was not myself, i am not myself, myself
resembles something having nothing to do
with me and the idea that I would like
a holiday, a whole lifetime from this bend
London, Waterloo Bridge Station — August 1848
Ravenea stood on the platform surveying the unfamiliar surroundings and glancing anxiously at the outside world folk hurriedly walking by. Was her clothing appropriate? Would she pass among the people of the outside world unnoticed? She could not decide whether she was being overly anxious or respectably cautious. Perhaps if she were here on official Council business, or perhaps if this unconventional location were a crossing point at which she intended to greet a potential Initiate, her usual calm professionalism would prevail. Instead, much too late to change her mind, she repeatedly second-guessed her choice. What could possibly be worth this risk?
“Good afternoon,” said Fraxinus. Ravenea flinched slightly. Despite his flowing white hair and voluminous robes — highly unorthodox amidst the station’s occupants — she had not seen him approach. “Our time here is limited. I will be boarding a train within minutes.”
“Am I to join you?”
“Of course not!” His ice-blue eyes snapped at her, punctuating his words. “What excuse could you possibly offer the Alchemists’ Council if Azoth Magen Quercus learned you had embarked on an outside world train journey with a Rebel Branch Azoth?”
“What excuse am I to offer even for leaving the London protectorate for this station?” she asked. She glanced around once again at the passersby, worriedly skimming for a familiar face.
“Simple curiosity. Is this station not an architectural marvel of the modern world?” He gestured up and outward. For the benefit of onlookers, she smiled and nodded.
“And for what reason other than mutual observation of this outside world spectacle have you requested a meeting?”
“To relay information that may affect your future.” He paused.
She waited, hands clenched.
“Let me rephrase,” he continued. “To relay information that may profoundly affect the future of all three dimensions.”
Ravenea shivered despite the summer heat.
“Yes?” Her impatience grew.
“The Osmanthian Codex has been activated. If memory serves, the manuscript will mature fully within thirty years. The Rebel Azoths will then, once again, possess the knowledge to create an alchemical child.”
Ravenea froze, momentarily stunned. Her thoughts raced.
“But the bloodlocks! Osmanthus himself sealed the Codex with his primordial blood. And Makala sealed the secreted libraries from intruders after the Second Rebellion.”
A smartly dressed man within hearing range turned immediately to frown at her. She did not recognize him. He must merely have found her words vulgar.
“The ancestors intended worthy descendants to open the bloodlocks on both the Osmanthian and Aralian manuscripts,” said Fraxinus. “And Makala followed their lead.”
“Who is responsible?” she asked him. “A Rebel Branch Elder?”
“An Elder? Really, Ravenea, if an Elder both carried the bloodline and met the required prophetic conditions, one of us would have enlivened the manuscript centuries ago.”
“An outside world scribe,” he responded.
“That cannot be. Makala would not have allowed—”
“Yet here we are. And we have you to thank for this evolutionary exception.”
Another chill coursed through Ravenea.
“In what sense?”
“Our scribe was born in the outside world to exiled alchemists.”
She stopped. He smiled. She understood. She caught her breath.
Ilex and Melia.
Fraxinus turned, walked along a nearby platform, and disappeared into a train. Engines bellowed. People shouted. Wheels shrieked. Ravenea could not move.
This is what I remember: the warm night air, darkness as soft and inviting as a cashmere shawl, a gentle breeze brushing flirtatiously across the tops of the sweet-smelling shrubs in which I’m hiding, their coral flowers now folded in on themselves, closed to the dark. I’m vaguely aware of their faint aroma as I peer through my binoculars into Sara McAllister’s third-floor window, my knees aching from squatting so long in the same position, my toes cramping. It’s closing in on midnight, I’ve been here for hours, and irritability is curling around my consciousness like a hungry boa constrictor. I’m thinking that if I don’t see something—anything—soon, I’m going to call it a night.
That’s when I hear it—the snap of a twig, perhaps, although I’m not certain, that signals someone behind me. I turn to look, but it’s already too late. A gloved hand quickly covers my mouth, blocking my screams. I taste leather—old, stale, earthy. And then, those hands, seemingly everywhere, on my shoulders, in my hair, snapping the binoculars from my fingers, as fists slam into my stomach and against the side of my head, causing the world around me to blur and the ground to give way beneath my feet. A pillowcase is pulled roughly over my face. I can’t breathe, and I panic. Keep your wits about you, I tell myself in an effort to regain my equilibrium and hold my growing terror at bay. Keep track of everything that’s happening.
Except that everything is happening too fast. Even before the pillowcase is pulled into place, the white cotton overwhelming the blackness of the night, I see nothing but a vague shape. A man, certainly, but whether he is young or old, fat or thin, black or brown or white, I have no idea. Has the man I’ve been waiting for been waiting for me? Did he spot me hiding in the bushes and simply bide his time?
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