People who envision a high tech anarchist future often point to the endless supplies of green energy,
but what about the minerals for all the wires and batteries to store and move that energy?

Copper, zinc, nickel, lithium?
Without a massive decrease in the technology we use, recycling alone isn't going to work.

So are we all going to volunteer in the mines instead of exploiting labor in the global south?
And what about the non-renewable and environmentally unfriendly nature of those mines?

@queeranarchism More recycling plus less planned obsolescence and consumerism should at least help. And unpleasant jobs of all kinds could be shared our more fairly under anarchism.

@queeranarchism (And for that matter, low tech anarchism would necessarily involve a lot of agricultural labour, unless we’re going back to hunter-gatherer bands.)


One of the problems with sharing unpleasant jobs is that mineral supplies aren't divided on the world equally and sharing those unpleasant jobs fairly would require a lot of global travel, with pollutes, etc.

@queeranarchism “Fairly” doesn’t have to mean everyone in the world on one big rota, though.

I find it hard to imagine the post-revolution anarchist societies of what-was-once-Chile rotating on mining shifts to provide what-was-once-Europe with copper.
If it were me I'd tell Europe to go screw itself and find a way to live without getting natural resources from other regions.

@queeranarchism My feeling is there’s probably enough unpleasant work to even things up globally. Mines in Chile and recycling centres in Europe, kind of thing.

@ghost_bird I really don't see that at all. Recycling is sort of an everywhere kind of thing and work in mines is a particular unique kind of nasty.

Regions with rare minerals would face a pretty huge part of the nasty tasks of providing the rest of the worlds population with minerals at anything close to the rates they do today.

That's before we even consider that those mines are destroying their region and they might be very eager to shut those mines down and heal the land.

@queeranarchism (I also think you’re missing the point of anarchism a bit if you think of mining as exploitation and Chile as distinct from Europe under anarchism. Though I agree the tensions are real and would need to be negotiated.)


I think you're stuck in wishful thinking. Mining isn't going to magically be fun. It'll still be an unpleasant job that isn't good for the land around it.

If anarchism is people in what is now Chile doing nasty work and polluting their region to provide people in what is now Europe with minerals for their technology... how is that revolution?

You've stopped drawing borders and calculating profit but the same people are doing the same work.
It's like inventing anarcho-colonialism.

@queeranarchism So is your deeper point that achieving anarchism without reproducing colonial relations is hard? Or are we on the “phones bad”/“technological civilisation bad” axis?


My initial point was that achieving a high tech anarchist society without reproducing colonial relations, polluting the earth and relying on non-renewable resources is hard.

But from there I'd like to have real practical conversations about what the solutions to those difficulties would be.

If we're dreaming up high tech green anarchist societies we need to seriously engage with how dirty and difficult to extract minerals are and ask ourselves how much of that we really need.

@queeranarchism Then that’s cool, and a very necessary conversation to have. Do you have any thoughts about solutions?


Nope, which is why I'm asking.

I expect is that the first thing people around mines will want to do is shut those horrible things down and heal their land & communities.

There would be a post-revolution phase where we would need to recycle and prioritize only the most necessary technology (medical needs etc) to radically reduce our reliance on minerals.

From there, the important question is "can we invent conductive wires and batteries that don't rely on depletable resources?"

@queeranarchism Which is to say that there’d be a lot of negotiation involved - a perfectly satisfactory answer, and not entirely unexpected under anarchism.

@queeranarchism @ghost_bird To get specific, I believe the majority of materials in modern electronics is near perfectly recyclable. Metals and the like. Silicon semiconductors are more troublesome. I've heard tell of experimental pyrite semiconductors, which would be amazing. Batteries are another thing. Lithium ion isn't great, but lead acid batteries are also extremely recyclable. The battery in your phone is equivalent to about a 1lb lead battery. tldr yes we could, it's just not profitable.

@queeranarchism @ghost_bird For this particular case -- well, there are microbial nanowires; turns out some unicellular organisms do electron transfer outside the cell boundary, using nanowires they grew. (How humans figure this out, let alone scale it to meet our multicellular needs, without mine-dependent technology I don't know. )

@queeranarchism @ghost_bird i reckon the answer here is yes but so far the incentives have been misaligned

think about how far down to the physically possible chip makers have pushed the silicone transitor design

the incentive there being: more transitors on less space == more speed!
or something like that

there was never any incentive for let's use potato starch, or anything else outlandish, because the mining of the material is so far externalized.

@queeranarchism @ghost_bird n.b.: i have no idea what the chemistry of potato starch is, and i'm how far it's close to silicone (it probably isn't)

@queeranarchism @ghost_bird Mining does not have to be deadly, polluting work. Probably many mines will be shut down to build up infrastructure for automation and safer conditions, and that might result in a shortage of cell phones for a time. So? I'm sure we can work out a way to get minerals out of the ground without subjugating a class of people, and if miners have control of their conditions, we will get there.

@queeranarchism Thank you! So many people forget about the externalities of electric vehicles.

@queeranarchism It's almost like, to truly build a more equitable world, we'll really need to give up a lot of the creature comforts we take for granted now

or alternatively, go balls to the wall and immediately get on mining like asteroids and stuff


Yeah, that's what I've been thinking too.

We will be able to make some technologies genuinely non-exploitative and environmentally friendly, but not all.

And we'll probably want to maintain limited 'problematic' technologies because we need medicine, we need batteries in hospitals and pacemakers and electric wheel chairs. We can't fuck over the disabled and the sick.

But we will definitely also have to give some things up and battery-dependent recreation might be first to go.

@acdw @queeranarchism

It's not material comforts a lot of times. It's what we're RESTRICTED.

Like, I wanna go pitch a large tent with people I care about. Well, I gotta be "out there", or there's all sorts of regulations against it. Property, as in a house, is different -- I can rent that. But I can't pitch a friend near where 10 of my friends live and have a break from life for a bit on the cheap without complications

@acdw @queeranarchism In Federal Way, the brambles bore blackberries, but they were all providing a massive barrier for where you could go or be or think.

It's all artificial, and in the name of the power lines and power companies that run it.

@queeranarchism this is where I'm supposed to yell "ASTEROID SPACE MINING" or something, right? 😅😬


Parecon? An anarchist tried to take the best ideas of workers cooperatives, markets, and central planning to and create an economic system.

I have nothing to back up this claim 

I have nothing to back up this claim 

@queeranarchism extractivism is inter-dependent. heavy equipment for mining and refining is very fossil fuel dependent and likewise fossil fuel extraction and transportation requires a lot of metal. once those supply chains (themselves a product of ongoing exploitation and colonialism) start to break down (and they must, since that's what unsustainable/non-renewable means) we're back to hand tools and muscle power.

@queeranarchism I think if there is any hope for a positive technological future there would need to be a big reckoning to contend with all these deeply unsustainable, anti-human layers that modern civilization is built upon. Part of that is the intensity of specialization. The concept that some people are raising in these comments that "some" people work in mines, and this is decided "democratically" or "socially" for example, is something I think we should treat with a lot of skepticism.

Lithium is largely extracted from seawater and not mined traditionally. Ditching 120v wiring in favor of more 240v in future US construction and appliance builds saves a LOT of copper (note that many electronics are already built for both 240 and 120v), 120v was an early copper-mining lobbying win to increase consumption. Ditching planned obsolescence saves a ton of resources. landfill mining and asteroid mining i assume when optimized anyways are less energy intensive than earth ore mining. Is there an AI mentality that would actually enjoy garbage mining is a question that could be expanded upon greatly. Happy neuralnetdiversity! I did have a friend who posited that in the future it's entirely possible that the preferred hydrocarbon source in labs might be landfill diapers. and of course materials science improvements.

and I wonder how much copper we can extract by replacing copper plumbing with pex, the highly crosslinked polyethylene is very biocompatible and i believe can be biosourced.

Not to mention all the scrap we can harvest from the aerospace industry (which may fall under the planned obsolescence category) and the military on top of diverting their continuous consumption of resources.

@queeranarchism tbh using the unique resources of a region (chilean copper, as an example) for the benefit of the world, which includes that region, isn't colonialism in and of itself. What would be colonialism is if they didn't benefit from it too (and we didn't pay them back for labour exploited pre-revolution)

@queeranarchism also, recycling. Once copper leaves the mines, it's in use forever, not for 5 years in some gadget that gets thrown away and buried. Closed loop economics is the next step.

@queeranarchism This is a vvvvv important point thank you. I tend to envision high tech but only the tech that's nessacary. Eg. for food production. Able bodied neurotypical people don't need smart homes. I guess distributed in as fair a way possible, the same as everything else. Reckon we could achieve this with recycling what's already out of the ground. (This is a sort of speculative out loud thinking not me debating!)

Yeah, I'm thinking the same.

And able bodied people maybe could eventually have a lot of tech luxury just for the fun of it, but only after (and if) we've developed completely new technology that isn't so demanding on our ecosystem and society.
Which may take decades, maybe centuries, because 'truly consider the complete impact of every resource you use' has never driven the direction of our inventions before..

@queeranarchism we could just blow up jupiter and let all those mineral rich asteroids rain down on us

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Anarchism Space

A mastodon instance for anarchists and libertarian socialists.