World leaders are searching for a resolution to the eight-billion-body problem. Eric Dean Wilson reports that ministers gathered at COP26 for “The Shitshow in Glasgow,” where, sipping tequila and vodka, they committed to ignoring the climate crisis despite significant cost outlays. Jessica Fletcher writes of dilapidated parks and unused public spaces in New York City, which reflect the broken social hopes of the city’s past urban designers. Kevin Rogan surveys the damage wrought by landlords, Amazon, and the real estate monopoly Vornado across Manhattan.
Meanwhile, in other horrifying non-places, Jonathan Katz reports that the American government upholds its tradition of renditioning its presumed enemies to the crippling darkness of its global black sites; John Washington describes the space left behind by victims of forced disappearance around the world; Kit Duckworth tells of nuns in Tuscan convents penetrating the mysteries of religion; Daniel Fernandez prods liberals’ reformist delusions about the classrooms inside America’s prisons; and Patrick McGinty describes a nebulous cult of “cryptopians” that worships at the altar of the blockchain and prays to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, now the world’s richest man, who’s got his sights set on the colonization of Mars.
After a three-hour tour of the cosmos, Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos, previously the world’s richest man, openly declares class war on earth, thanking “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this.” In “Dawn of the Space Lords,” Corey Pein describes such jaunts as characterizing a new era of “blown deadlines and spectacular failures” in the space race. Astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein skewers these undemocratic pretensions in “Becoming Martian,” and considers, by way of the history of transatlantic slavery, which futures of space travel are preferable or even plausible. What isn’t plausible? Kyle Paoletta, inspects the spectacular claims of former Harvard professor Avi Loeb, who has spent four years trying to convince readers that the strange artifact called ‘Oumuamua is alien technology fueled by light from the sun. And Matthew King wonders whether this new space age will lift off at all, what with the ever-growing rings of junk clogging earth’s orbital lanes. “The brave new world unfolding before our eyes is no endless frontier of renewed exploration,” King writes, “but an uncontrolled experiment of epic proportions.”
Issue 61 of The Baffler is a “Space Opera” in two acts. For the intermission, we’re thrilled to present a new work of fiction by Samuel Delany.