Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I Suppose It Takes Balls

"Halliburton Solves Global Warming" announces an authentic looking website that appears to be from the corporate contractor known for no-bids deals. At a speech purportedly at a catastrophic loss conference, the visitor can learn the details of this ambitious plan. Certainly it appears that Halliburton hasn't underestimated the challenges caused by planetary climate change, according to their wry executive PowerPoint:

Unfortunately, things aren't as simple for us as they were for Noah. God isn't telling us what kind of an ark we should build, nor how to deploy it - but luckily Science can fill in the blanks, and Science tells us that what we're doing in the world today will lead to much more flooding, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, or even worse, with consequences including epidemics, human migration, civic unrest and even war.

But as Warren Buffet, the oracle of Omaha, so astutely said: you must follow “the Noah rule: predicting rain doesn't count, building arks does."

I can personally guarantee you that we as a society are more than ready to build arks against these conditions - in some cases, we've already done so.

Keeping the ark of our interests afloat in a world of increasing disquiet is the job of our defense industries, and they do it quite well - here's the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Likewise, secure neighborhoods protect us against the unknown in our own societies - this security checkpoint built after the Rodney King riots protects a community on the edge of Los Angeles.

As for the Dutch, they're building literal arks - houses that float! Many people live in these houses - young families, the elderly, even CEOs! The Dutch have thus found one good way of making a systemic new problem routine, and even turning it into a net contributor to their economy.

The solution? The patented Survivaball! According to this widely e-mailed website, the ever-industrious Halliburton has now created a disaster-proofcocoonn in the form of an spherical life-support suit that makes the wearer look like a combination of the Death Star and the Michelin man. The speech transcript ends with all the executives onstage enthusiastically clambering into these devices to model their new apparel to themarvelingg crowd.

It's a good hoax in color, choice of fonts, use of corporate logos, and placement of photos of earnest workers and grateful global customers. It also parodies several digital genres at once, including the PowerPoint presentation and the company website. Best of all, the privacy page of the imposter is almost indistinguishable from the one on the real Halliburton site, so you can have your confidentially compromised by political subversives as well as institutional insiders.

I looked around for humorous material on the genuine site and didn't find much to laugh at, although they do offer products like a "Swellpacker" and services like "Chi Modeling." There is the space-agey MyHaliburton that promises you online news along with your networked work environment, a fake parchment historical timeline, and my personal favorite page information graphic, which you can see below. In addition to their core energy resources and postwar reconstruction businesses, perhaps they are also subcontracting for the NSA.

It may be useful to think about how the logic of global warming relates to another digital genre, that of the videogame. The game Civilization has been praised by many videogame critics -- including Kurt Squire, Noah Falstein, and Ian Bogost -- for the way that it teaches players to be conscious of the procedural consequences of particular choices that accrete over time. However, if you have destroyed your planet in Civilization, because of poor planning and impulse decisions, you can play again, hopefully more cognizant of the constraints of rule-based systems.
Now that there are serious discussions about covering polar ice caps with tarps or sending deflecting mirrors into space with magnetic propulsion, the scientific heroism of a one-shot, technology-driven solution like the SurvivaBall doesn't look so ridiculous.

Thanks to Vivian Folkenflik and Julia Lupton for passing on this link!

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