Look, at this point it’s too easy to make ‘don’t be evil’ jokes at Google’s expense. Along with much of the rest of Silicon Valley, they are now all-in on courting climate-denying politicians in the hopes that it’ll get results in some other arena.
Wait. That’s not fair.
Google didn’t intend to fund a climate denier when they hosted a $250 to $2,500-per-plate lunch for US senator James ‘God wouldn’t allow climate change’ Inhofe. They only wanted to fund the part of the senator that dealt with the employees and data centre Google has in Oklahoma. Which is, to be strictly fair, powered by the wind.
Politics makes strange bedfellows and, try as you might, you can’t sleep with just part of a man. You can’t just sleep with part of a corporation, either. I wonder if the senator felt a twinge of embarrassment as he accepted a cheque from the notoriously LGBT-friendly environmentalist pinkos that power ~80% of searches on the web.
Google assures us that they fund plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle even if they do not agree with all of the candidate’s positions. Why not? Compromise is admirable. But how best to evaluate these compromises? When it can’t guarantee green energy, Google uses carbon offsets to reduce its net contribution to global cataclysm. Perhaps Google’s billions of dollars invested in green infrastructure allows them some leeway with Inhofe. Is there such a thing as lobbying offsets? It may be that, morally, contributing on both sides of the aisle cancels out.
Still, it is difficult to escape the impression that Silicon Valley—much like all of the organizations and industries involved in delaying or outright preventing action on climate change—is selling out the future to fund the present. This is disappointing coming from a commercial sector dedicated to bringing us the world of tomorrow. Perhaps it is unsurprising, coming from a commercial sector dedicated to bringing us the world of tomorrow one quarterly result at a time.
Maybe Peter Thiel’s seasteading investments can be used to rescue and house climate refugees. Maybe Larry Page’s innovation zones can figure out how to section themselves off from a wrecked ecosphere.