James Rockford and sustainability in the twenty-first century, or “the reel of the desert”

james_garner_as_-jim_rockfordJames Garner was a cool American actor. He had starred as ‘Maverick’ in a 1950s comedy-drama Western TV series. In the 1970s he was James Rockford, a private-eye (“two hundred dollars a day plus expenses”) in a genre-shifting TV show called ‘The Rockford Files’ (1).  What the hell has this got to do with sustainability in the twenty-first century, you are asking.  Have I been click-bait and switched, you are asking.

No, you haven’t. This;

There’s an episode [called ‘The Great Blue Lake Land and Development Company‘]where he is out in the Californian/Nevadan desert, trying to recover some money that was stolen from him.  There is some kind of con going on, involving real estate, with worthless land being boosted.  The real estate con artist is showing Rockford sagebrush and cactus, urging him to get in on the ground floor. Within a year or two all that he sees around him will be sub-developments, houses and malls.  Rockford, playing a long game, manages to keep a straight face.  The con artist also mentions there is going to a lake for recreational purposes and – in the middle of the fucking desert – offers Rockford a cheap deal on a boat.  As I recall, James Garner is able to give this beautiful look of not-quite supressed incredulity (2).

Anyway, that’s how I feel a lot of the time.  People are describing the “desert” (3) that is the acceleration of the already unsustainable (in every sense) trajectory of industrial omnicide and then sell me the boat of sustainability. I’m also (supposed to be able to be) playing a long-game, am supposed to be able to keep a straight face.  But I’m ready for a straitjacket.

Footnotes
(1) See ‘The Nice Guys’ for a recent homage
(2) Think Guy Pearse in LA Confidential  when James Cromwell   asks him if he knows of a Rollo Tomasi).
(3)I use desert in the loose/inaccurate/metaphorical sense of ‘lifeless/barren’, not in the actual sense – there’s a lot of life, if you choose to see it… That’s the real of the desert.

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