Environmentalism without class struggle is just gardening.

– Chico Mendes

Featured artist: John Holcroft

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 288!

May 14 2024 | Link to this issue

Today, I’m going to echo Spencer R. Scott’s recent email with a reminder that where we keep our money matters. Let’s talk briefly about divestment.

Without actively choosing to do so, many of us have savings that invest in and profit from war, fossil fuels, child labour, deforestation and harmful pesticides.

Here in Australia, the 30 largest superannuation (retirement) funds increased their “exposure in their default investment options to companies developing new or expanded coal, oil, and gas projects by 50 per cent in 2022”. They increased their funding of fossil fuels by 50%.

As Spencer points out, this is the result of a system that fixates on optimising for a single metric. An investment is deemed ‘good’ if it yields high profits, regardless of the cost borne by future generations. It’s ironic that these funds boast of their long-term returns while in reality financing the bleakest of futures.

Understanding how funds use our money can seem daunting, but there are now many helpful resources that translate financial gobbledygook and lay bare where the money flows.

US American readers can use As You Sow’s incredibly useful directory to identify the biggest offenders and find ethical alternatives. Here in Australia, Market Forces does a great job of exposing the toxic underbelly of the big superannuation funds. (I switched to Future Super many years ago.) There is probably a similar resource in your own country/language. Start by searching for ‘ethical investment funds’ but beware of greenwashing and learn more about screening processes.

By the way, most of our big everyday banks are also in the ‘bleak future’ business, providing investments and financial services to climate wreckers. Look for more ethical alternatives in your country, including credit unions, where every customer is a co-owner of the bank. I use Bank Australia, a customer-owned bank and certified B Corp, that does cool stuff like offer better mortgage rates to people who buy/build energy-efficient homes.

Like many other system-level issues, divestment requires the privilege of time and brain space in order to educate ourselves about the fact that we’re unwittingly supporting a system of destruction. By switching your financial services to more ethical alternatives, we’re not just withholding money from bad actors, we get a chance to actively fund the future we want to live in. – Kai


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Apps & Sites

Swetrix →

Open-source web analytics

Swetrix is one of the many cookieless, privacy-focused Google Analytics alternatives. It’s open source, GDPR compliant, lightweight and easy to use. The lowest tier starts at just $5 per month. Friends of DD enjoy a 15% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

Active Pieces →

App automation

I rely on Zapier a lot for connecting different apps. It’s a solid product but also quite expensive. There are now numerous competitors and Active Pieces is an open source one (with an odd name). On the free hosted tier you get 1000 tasks and can buy 1000 more for just $1.

Regen Learning Hub →

Online classes on social & eco regeneration

The Regenerators is an Australian content production project helping educate and inspire action to ‘regenerate’ our broken ecological and social systems. They just launched a massive learning hub that provides over 100 online courses for teaching students, workplaces or communities lessons in environmental and social regeneration. From understanding persuasion when starting a movement, the importance of public transport, caring for local waterways and much, much more.

Music for Programming →

Ambient sounds

A beautiful little website with over 70 tracks of ambient sounds – I wouldn’t describe it as music – optimised for concentration and focus. “The goal is to present music that can engulf the listener, carefully selected works that can be fully appreciated (perhaps even enhanced) despite sometimes only having peripheral attention paid to them.”


Worthy Five: Spencer Bailey

Five recommendations by writer, editor, podcast host, co-founder of The Slowdown, Spencer Bailey

A concept worth understanding:

The traditional Japanese garden concept shakkei, which means ‘borrowed scenery’ and refers to designing a continuity between interior and exterior space. Given that the average US American spends around 89 percent of their time indoors, I think it’s important to consider how to bring the outdoors in. We could all use more shakkei in our lives. (h/t Teresita Fernández)

An Instagram account worth following:

Not only is Dan Rosen a raucously funny comedian whose Instagram video punchlines rip, he also has impeccable taste and a discerning eye. Brilliantly, he somehow unites humour and aesthetics to glorious, uproarious effect.

A book worth reading:

I first read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies when I was 17, and it was metamorphic for me. Reading it, I came to better understand the transformative power that language, words, and storytelling can have across cultures. These beautiful, exquisitely wrought stories are one of the reasons I ultimately became a writer.

A podcast worth listening to:

Helen Molesworth’s Death of an Artist brings the murder-mystery podcast genre to the elevated realm of the art world. Delving into the death of the Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta, Molesworth explores the question of whether Mendieta’s sculptor husband Carl Andre was involved. Revisiting Mendieta’s death and the trial of Andre that ensued, Helen provides a cutting sense of clarity within what was long a murky story, one full of silence and protest at every turn.

A quote worth repeating:

“We are a landscape of all we have seen.” This quote by the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) is a reminder that each and every one of us is an extension of the places we’ve been to, the people we’ve known, the conversations we’ve had, the hardships we’ve endured, the ‘wins’ we’ve celebrated, the food we’ve eaten, the books we’ve read, the things we’ve done.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Spencer Bailey in one click.)


Books & Accessories

How Do We Come Together In A Changing World? →

Essays on belonging

This collection of essays on belonging and connection at a time of polycrisis looks just wonderful: “In this era of compounding crises, the need to come together to build strong coalitions and communities is asking each of us to radically reimagine belonging. But finding meaningful connection within our culture of disposability is challenging. It’s within this context that we invite you to pause and consider: how do we handle each other?” Note that it’s a limited edition pre-order for delivery in June.

Material World →

The six raw materials shaping modern civilisation

Tracing the advancement of our species reveals how much we depend on sand, salt, iron, copper, oil, and lithium. For better or worse, those raw materials shape our existence. “We dug more stuff out of the earth in 2017 than in all of human history before 1950. For every ton of fossil fuels, we extract six tons of other materials, from sand to stone to wood to metal. And in Material World, Conway embarks on an epic journey across continents, cultures, and epochs to reveal the underpinnings of modern life on Earth – traveling from the sweltering depths of the deepest mine in Europe to spotless silicon chip factories in Taiwan to the eerie green pools where lithium originates.”


Overheard on Mastodon

As I’m getting older and time feels like it’s speeding up I’m reassured by how impossibly long an unskippable 30-second ad can feel.

@[email protected]


Food for Thought

Is Green Growth Possible? →


I often feel quite pessimistic about our ability to invest and invent our way out of the climate crisis. So listening to this conversation between Ezra Klein and a lead researcher at Our World in Data, Hannah Ritchie, felt – for the most part – reassuring. They touch on a lot of topics, including why changing people’s diet, just one puzzle piece but a crucial one, will be so much harder than building more wind farms.

Unpatterning →


Alex Steffen is known for this candid (i.e. not very optimistic) but thoughtful writing on climate breakdown. Here Steffen warns against expecting a return to normalcy and emphasises the concept of ‘unpatterning’ as interconnected systems fray apart in unpredictable ways, requiring us to ‘ruggedise’ against unrelenting change. “We live amidst discontinuities – unprecedented situations for which our past expertise and experience offer us poor guidance – yet we cling desperately to the mental habits of continuity. Even when we discuss vast transformations, we map them to our understanding of how the world used to work.”

American authoritarianism and how journalists should cover it →


I generally avoid US politics in DD – we’re still half a year away from elections and I’m already utterly exhausted hearing and thinking about it – but this is an insightful lecture by former BBC US correspondent Nick Bryant who covered Trump before and during his presidency. Bryant has some worthwhile advice for other journalists on how to report about him and how to avoid the many mistakes news media made in the past.


Aesthetically Pleasing

Mirko Saviane shares beautiful street photography, showing off the vibrant architecture of Burano, an island in the Venetian lagoon in Italy.

Althea Crome is an Indiana based fibre artist who designs and creates conceptual knitting at an extremely small scale. “In order to achieve the level of detail required for her pieces, Althea makes her own knitting needles from thin surgical stainless steel. Using fine silk threads, and her .01” needles, she can achieve a gauge of more than 80 stitches per inch which allows her to incorporate complex imagery and personal narratives into her tiny sculptural garments.” (via)

There is something really captivating about Tim Sandow’s paintings. I love exploring each scene, finding new details every time I look. “Feeding on ‘the tragedy of the everyday’, Sandow’s cinematic tableaus depict imagined realities inspired by film and photography. He is attuned to the details of human gestures and situations, arranging his scenes with a careful eye for the nuances of everyday interactions.” (via)

The elegant Asfalt comes in compressed all the way to expanded widths and has its origin in stencilled road lettering. “Asfalt’s elongated, tightly-packed forms draw from the design of painted road letters, which are stretched to compensate for the low perspective of an approaching car. From a driver’s seat, words like “STOP” and “GO” read perfectly compact.”


Notable Numbers


Google paid Apple $20 billion in 2022 for Google to be the default search engine in the Safari browser, according to newly unsealed court documents.


US Americans tend to believe crime is up, even when official data shows it is down. FBI data shows a 59% reduction in the US property crime rate between 1993 and 2022, with big declines in the rates of burglary (-75%), larceny/theft (-54%) and motor vehicle theft (-53%).


The newest population estimates show that the world’s largest city – Tokyo – has a population of 37,115,035. The city, like the whole of Japan, is experiencing a population decrease. Over the past year, Tokyo marked a decline of 79,070 residents, or 0.21%.



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