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Clover Hogan criticised for saying tech won’t solve the climate crisis

Yesterday, in a series of tweets, the Gen Z environmental activist branded the belief in ‘shiny, silver bullet solutions’ to the crisis as the most insidious form of climate denial. This has been met with intense backlash from not only users, but the CEO of Tesla and X himself, Elon Musk.

Yesterday, Gen Z environmental activist Clover Hogan, known for her non-profit educational movement Force of Nature, took to X to voice her concerns about a new form of climate denial that she deems worse than the ‘it’s not happening’ mindset.

She explained that the misguided belief in ‘incremental or tech solutions’ to solve complex climate problems is negatively impacting our efforts, both in terms of emissions and human rights violations.

In a series of tweets, she warned that ‘in the pursuit of shiny, silver bullet solutions, we are inadvertently doubling down on deeply-entrenched injustices.’

Citing electric cars as an example, she stressed that, as demand for them grows, so too does the need for cobalt; 70% of which is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This, as she writes, has led to an explosion in human rights violations, from child labour to miners being buried alive when tunnels cave in and workers making as little as £2 a day.

Suggesting that we ‘zoom out from the [greenhouse-gas releasing] combustion engine’ and focus our attention on ‘redesigning mobility’ instead, she argues that this would result in more accessible solutions serving the majority of people; ‘not just the handful who can afford a new Tesla.’

If we made cities less vehicle-friendly, she says, they could be both safer and greener.

‘Imagine if we prioritised community allotments, local gardens, playgrounds, public transport, and cycling infrastructure, all of which lead to cleaner air, improved climate resilience, and healthier, happier people. Sustainability should not be the end goal, but the means to creating a more fair and equitable society.’

Clover’s commentary is entirely valid, of course, as it calls into question the very real issue of major corporations swaying us with their greenwashed solutions to an emergency that would be far less serious if we simply phased out fossil fuels.

Rather than interfere with big coal, oil, and gas, however, people in power and those with the financial faculties to actually do something about ecological breakdown have continued to push for more quick-fix technological innovations (despite the harmful repercussions of this for people and planet, as Clover correctly highlighted) like Elon Musk has done with Tesla.

Interestingly, the electric car mogul and CEO of X has been the one with the most to say in response to Clover’s proposal that we pivot away from distracting machine advancements and towards geoengineering.

Proving her point that tech companies touting themselves as being sustainable often have corrupt intentions, he replied with a meme branding her a communist.

Additionally, a ‘community’ note below Clover’s post states that her claims are ‘not true’ and that ‘most automakers are transitioning away from cobalt.’

Increasing the probability that Musk’s army of bots is behind the ‘context people might want to know’ that readers supposedly added, it goes on to say: ‘for example, > 50% of new Teslas are already cobalt free, with plans for 100% well underway.’

He then followed up on this in a similar vein with a tweet of his own, appearing to forget that Tesla has been facing allegations – which it hasn’t yet been able to shake – of human rights abuses linked to its cobalt supply chain since 2021. You can’t make this up.

Alarmingly, this argument that Clover is spreading misinformation has been echoed by other users, who have also called her a communist, adamantly disputed her assertions, and urged her to ‘do her research.’

But her encouragement that we look beyond the seemingly promising novelties of the tech industry and confront their manipulative distraction tactics is nothing new, in fact it’s what experts, researchers, and scientists have been saying for some time now.

‘It’s frightening because they see this as a new business opportunity, a new way to make money and continue as before,’ Pierre Friedlingstein, a climate researcher at Exeter University told the Guardian after last year’s notoriously problematic Cop28 summit in Dubai.

‘There is no alternative to reducing emissions massively. These technologies are a distraction, a way to pretend we are dealing with the issue, but we aren’t. Scaling them up is not trivial, but we don’t need a magical new technology for the first 90% of this problem.’

So, when you’re scrolling on social media this weekend, make sure you don’t get swept up by the memeification of a situation that’s representative of a stark – and deeply troubling – reality: that hiding beneath the surface of these ‘shiny, silver bullet solutions’ is yet another attempt to keep us in the dark.

To control our perception – just as Musk is doing with the platform he shouldn’t really have acquired – of the crisis and our way out of it.