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Alex Trembath @atrembath
, 24 tweets, 12 min read Read on Twitter
I wasn't kidding.

#blackpanther /1
I like good movies, comic book movies, and mass-market cultural touchstones. So obviously I was gonna like #BlackPanther

And I was most interested in what it had to say about the legacy of colonialism and slavery, globalism and international responsibility, the refugee crisis, and race.

But, unsurprisingly, #BlackPanther also struck an ecomodernist chord.

I am not an expert in Africa or international development, but I have read and written a little about both.………

#blackpanther /5
What jumps out about #Wakanda is how starkly it contrasts with popular conceptions of African societies.

Wakanda is a rich, independent, technological powerhouse of a nation deeply rooted in its own history.

Afrofuturists have offered similar images of African accomplishment in contrast to, say, the whitewashed Lawrence of Arabia, Snow of Kilimanjaro, Out of Africa, or conflict-ridden Heart of Darkness, Black Hawk Down, etc.

But #Wakanda also contrasts sharply with the “sustainable development,” “appropriate technology,” and, frankly, Deep Green image of an African future.

Today, popular conceptions of Africa’s future are more influenced by E.F. Schumacher’s “appropriate technology” school and Club-of-Rome-style anti-growth vibes than they are by, say, South Korea or Thailand.

#blackpanther 9/
Africa is alleged to be the hotbed of 21st century “sustainable development,” a new model of growth less wasteful and destructive than what powered Europe, America, and the Asian tigers.

#blackpanther 10/
But “sustainable development,” at least according to its core text “Our Common Future” or the Brundtland Report (1987), insists that “a low-energy path is the best way toward a sustainable future.”

Suffice it to say, #Wakanda doesn’t look low-energy to me.

Nor should it. Modern energy consumption uplifts humanity and spares wild nature, by relying less on harvested bioenergy and low-yield subsistence farming.

#blackpanther /12
But the low-energy vision for Africa persists.

The UN defines modern energy access at less than 5% of what the typical American or European consumes.…

#blackpanther /13
This has allowed the international NGO community to rally around plans for “energy access” in Africa that look suspiciously like enduring poverty to me.

#blackpanther /14
The late, great @calestous wrote in last year’s @TheBTI Journal of this cynical “leapfrogging” narrative.…

#blackpanther /15
Advocates talk about “leapfrogging the grid” (as if that were desirable for some reason), but it amounts to leapfrogging infrastructure, income-generating activity, urbanization, and governance.

#blackpanther /16
It’s particularly pernicious when small-scale, low-energy technologies are alleged to leapfrog the need for modern institutions and governments, as @SierraClub did here…

#blackpanther /17
I don’t think it’s malicious. I think it’s misguided.

A fantasy of “leapfrogging” advanced by some of the richest people in history who fear their privilege cannot be extended to emerging societies for environmental reasons.

#blackpanther /18
Meanwhile, modern food advocates lambast multinational, industrial agriculture and biotech. They imagine an African future of small-holder farmers, even as the move of labor off the farm has been essential in every single developed country.

#blackpanther /19
Small-holder farmers (prohibited from using biotech) living in rural communities powered by small rooftop solar panels.

This is the opposite of #Wakanda.

#blackpanther /20
13 African cities are projected to surpass New York City in size this century.…

The future of Africa is much closer to #Wakanda than the pessimists think.

#blackpanther /21
Among other things, #ecomodernists imagine that the majority of people on this planet (i.e., non-US, non-EU) will end us choosing their own destiny, and that the rich world should not feel threatened by that.

#blackpanther /22
Here’s @charlesjkenny in the @TheBTI Journal on this “cooperative advantage”…

And us on how Asia and Africa can power a new kind of 21st century innovation…

#blackpanther /23

#BlackPanther’s resonance with #ecomodernism is not the film’s most important (nor, surely, deliberate) message.

But optimistic, pro-tech, anti-colonial visions of Africa’s future are elemental to both #Wakanda and #ecomodernism.

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