Welcome. What I'm watching.
Hello. Thanks for taking a look at Scan The Horizon.
My name is Jim Thomas. I am an activist, writer, researcher, strategist and sometimes poet. For almost three decades my work has been in tracking emerging technologies and associated developments in the real economy, biodiversity, ecology, the food system and global governance. I have had the privilege of working with international social movements, civil society networks, human rights defenders, critical scholars, scientists, global policymakers and some of the most kick-ass radical activists and change makers.
I think I’m good at noticing and analyzing trends, digging into strategy, starting discussions and campaigns - scanning the horizon.
Until recently I have been carrying out this role as part of the incredible ETC Group collective. I encourage everyone to sign-up to ETC’s mailing list and follow them on social media. They do super-important and unique work.
As I leave ETC Group and go solo I am setting up this Scan The Horizon newsletter as an informal place to keep sharing what I notice and learn. I hope it generates a community - can become a sharing place for others who Scan the Horizon from a place of justice and in defence of the web of life and cultures. Another opportunity to build collective sentinel intelligence.
Below are some of the objects-on-the-horizon that I find myself watching and fascinated by these days. I may write here about some of these in the weeks and months to come (or not - no promises :-)
The Billionaire-technocrat-philanthro takeover of global biodiversity, food and climate policy : Just exactly what are the Bezos Earth Fund, The Gates Foundation, Jack Ma, Dustin Moskovitz and others up to?
Unmasking and Defunding the Industrial AgriFood Chain - The time feels ripe for food sovereignty activists to figure out the form and circuitry of industrial food system financing and to start hacking and re-wiring the money somewhere else.
Digital Fragility and Data Collapse(s) - Every human-made technological system has had breakdown, losses and collapses. The internet and the data network will be no different yet we are increasingly resting our food, health, education, clean water and wellbeing upon this fragile infrastructure and those who monopolise it..
Bio-Digitalization of the agrifood chain - The commercial industrial food chain is being ‘disrupted’ end-to-end by biotech and data-driven visions of a self-driving food system that may seriously run over food sovereignty .
Corporate hyper-nudging, digital manipulation and re-programming of consumers. - Thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal we know something of how governments and political players use psychometric AI targeting to steal elections and stay in power. We need to pay attention to how companies, including big food) use the same techniques and more to addict and manipulate consumers.
Seaweed, soil and carbon scams - I am researching how a ballooning investment bubble in ‘carbon removals’ for ‘net zero’ is driving a commercial grab on oceans and farms - based on shaky and changing science.
Fake food falls over - Like crypto, biofuels and other dangerous techno-bubbles the “impossible” hi-tech ’alt-protein’ delusion is coming undone as it stretches “beyond” just hype.
Commercial AI plays out - The release of ChatGPT which reached 1 million users in 5 days, has lifted the latch on what’s going to be a crazy couple of years of commercial generative-AI hype. I can’t help but be fascinated by the spectacle (and implications) of what’s about to unfold.
Biodiversity and food financialisation unleashed - The Global Biodiversity Framework launched less than 2 month ago in Montreal has opened a pandoras box and land grab of neoliberal biodiversity financialisation schemes such as debt for nature swaps and biodiversity credits that will also be coming to gobble up the food system.
Turning the ecosystem into a petridish - Gene drives, engineered viruses and insects, RNAI and other synthetic biology developments are treating open ecosystems as genetic engineering labs under conservation and food security pretexts.
Let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions for what else I should be paying attention to.
ps. The photograph is of the Maunsell forts at Red Sands , abandoned world war II surveillance and anti-aircraft posts stationed out in the ocean at the mouth of the River Thames near London and Kent, UK. They were constructed to give early warnings and take early action against incoming Luftwaffe raids on London. Later they were occupied by a pirate radio station who broadcast soul music to the city - a fitting transformation of swords into ploughshares by grassroots ingenuity. This photograph is by my favourite award-winning photographer (and old friend) Nick Cobbing who came across them on a Greenpeace training exercise and saw them as watchkeepers rising out the mist. The image has haunted me since Nick first shared it. You can see more of Nick’s incredible photography at http://www.nickcobbing.com
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