I’VE ALWAYS kind of hated that quote by Edward Abbey about being a half-hearted fanatic (“Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast . . . a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic”). Not so much because of the racism and misogyny that characterized some of his work. And not even because of the quote itself. But rather because of how that quote has been too often misused by people who put too much emphasis on the half-hearted, and not nearly enough emphasis on the fanatic.
The fundamental truth of our time is that this culture is killing the planet. We can quibble all we want — and quibble too many do — about whether it is killing the planet or merely causing one of the six or seven greatest mass extinctions in the past several billion years, but no reasonable person can argue that industrial civilization is not grievously injuring life on Earth.
Given that fact, you’d think most people would be doing everything they can to protect life on this planet — the only life, to our knowledge, in the universe. Sadly, you’d be wrong.
I think often of a line by the psychiatrist R. D. Laing, “Few books today are forgivable.” He wrote this, I believe, because we have become so very alienated from our own experience, from who we are, and this alienation is so destructive to others and to ourselves that if a book does not take this alienation as its starting point and work toward rectifying it, we’d all be better off looking at blank pieces of paper. Or better, actually experiencing something (or someone). Or even better, entering, as Martin Buber might have written, into a relationship with something or someone.
I agree with Laing that few books today are forgivable (and the same is true for films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on), and I agree for the reasons I believe he was giving. But there’s another reason I think few books (films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on) are forgivable. There’s that little nagging fact that this culture is murdering the planet. Any book (film, painting, song, relationship, life, and so on) that doesn’t begin with this basic understanding — that the culture is murdering the planet (in part because of this alienation; and of course this murder then in turn fuels further alienation) — and doesn’t work toward rectifying it is not forgivable, for an infinitude of reasons, one of which is that without a living planet there can be no books. There can be no paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on. There can be nothing.
The conservation biologist Reed Noss has called his field a “combat discipline”: we are in a crisis, and our attitudes and actions need to reflect this. And so I sometimes try to apply the Ed Abbey quote to the work of a firefighter. If you were trapped in a burning building, would you want the firefighters to be reluctant enthusiasts, part-time crusaders, half-hearted fanatics? Should the mother of a very sick child be reluctant or half-hearted in defense of that child?
I’m not saying we don’t need recreation. I’m not saying we don’t need amusement. Hell, I have three mystery novels in my backpack right now. I’m not saying a firefighter doesn’t need to rest — having hauled seven unconscious people out of the burning building, we could hardly blame the firefighter for grabbing a quick drink of water or sometimes taking a day off; and I’m not saying the mother doesn’t need to sleep or take some time away from the stress of caring and advocating for her child. We all need the occasional escape, or even indulgence. But we must be able to pursue those escapes and indulgences with the knowledge that others are rushing into the burning building, that others have taken over the job of advocating for whatever is necessary to heal that child.
And that, frankly, is part of the problem: there aren’t nearly enough of us working anywhere near hard enough to stop this culture from killing the planet. Obviously, or the world would be getting healthier, instead of being desecrated with ever increasing speed. If there were more of us trying to stop this culture from killing the planet, then those who are working themselves to death could afford to take a little time off and not feel as if things would fall apart while they climbed the mountains or ran the rivers.
“It is not enough to fight for the land,” Abbey continued; “it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there.” But this part of the quote might actually bother me more, in part because of its fatalism and in part because we — humans — are not the point. Yes, absolutely we should enjoy and commune with and make love with and touch and be with and absorb and be absorbed by the land. Yes, absolutely we should sit in the sun and feel it warm our bones, and we should listen to the whispering voices of trees, and we should open our ears and our hearts to the voices of frogs. But when the forests are being flattened and the frogs are being extirpated, enjoying them isn’t enough. So long as there’s still something we can do to protect them, shouldn’t protecting them be far more important than enjoying them? Because, once again, we are not the point. The trees, the frogs, do not exist for us. It is our culture that is killing them, and it is up to us to stop it.
Have you ever had anyone you love die or come to grievous harm needlessly, from some unnecessary act of stupidity or violence? I have. And in the aftermath I have never wished I had spent more time enjoying this other, but rather wishing I had acted differently such that I was able to prevent the unnecessary losses.
As my artist and writer friend Stephanie McMillan wrote in her essay “Artists: Raise Your Weapons”: “If we lived in a time of peace and harmony, then creating escapist, serotonin-boosting hits of mild amusement wouldn’t be a crime. If all was well, such art might enhance our happy existence. There’s nothing wrong with pleasure or decorative art. But in times like these, for an artist not to devote her/his talents and energies to creating cultural weapons of resistance is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.”
I would extend her comments beyond art: in times like these, for anyone not to devote her/his talents and energies to defending the planet is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.
The questions I keep coming back to are these: in this time, as countless multitudes of humans and nonhumans suffer for the profits and luxuries of a few, and as species go extinct at rates greater than any in the last scores of millions of years — as large-vertebrate evolution itself is being halted — what does the world need? What does the world need from me?
I want to be very clear: I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t love the world or each other (human or nonhuman). Or that we shouldn’t play games or have fun. I’m not saying we shouldn’t rest or go hiking or read good books (and Desert Solitaire is a great book). I’m not even saying I have a problem with Abbey’s quote as such; my main problem with the quote is the many would-be activists who use it as an excuse for inaction.
We are in a crisis, and we need to act as such. We need to rescue people from the burning building. We need everybody’s help.
This seems like an awfully short-sighted perspective, sort of like treating the symptom instead of the problem.
Isn’t the real issue that most of us are paralyzed by a fear that we’ve lost agency and nothing we do will matter?
We’re also not trained as activists, we’re trained as complacent beings. I don’t see would-be activists being half-hearted, I see people not knowing how to be activist at all.
â€œâ€¦..in this time, as countless multitudes of humans and nonhumans suffer for the profits and luxuries of a few, and as species go extinct at rates greater than any in the last scores of millions of yearsâ€¦.for anyone not to devote her/his talents and energies to defending the planet is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself. It is unforgivable.â€
For me, the heart of Derrick Jensenâ€™s work is a call to awaken conscience in us. Not the superficial conscience that is full of alibis, rationalizations, denials, and all sorts of thinly disguised cop-outs, but the true deep conscience still alive in each of us, even though buried for so long under all that superficial garbage.
True things are not always nice, and nice things are not always true. The awakening of real conscience is usually painful and inconvenient. It disturbs the relatively smooth flow of our unreflective living. It asks us first to change our thoughts and feelings, and then to take action, often in difficult and insecure directions. That awakening may open up a gap between oneself and some of those who have been close to one. Oneâ€™s life could be changed in really major ways. The wish to ignore and rebury these disturbing new insights will become strong. For those who choose to persist in this awakening, life will never be the same again.
I have never read the Abbey quote the way Derrick Jensen says people read it, as an excuse for inaction. I read it as a tongue-in-cheek warning not to burn out, to be all-consumed by activism. Even more that that, I take it as a call to enjoy life, to take the time to enjoy it to recharge so you have even more energy to defend what you love and what is intrinsically worth defending, for its own sake, not just ours. Personally, I find that activism is fun, resistance is fun. I get a big charge out of doing it because I know I am participating in the defense of what is most defensible of all. I wouldn’t raise a finger to defend capitalism, or even the nation-state, but defending life on Earth is something I can feel passion for. That is the one thing worth defending against the death-dealing ways of our culture and economy. Therefore, I like the spiritedness of this piece by Jensen–it feels less gloomy, even though he draws attention to a grim reality, and less harsh than some of his earlier pieces and for that reason it speaks to me a lot more than some of those others have. I am glad he admits we should find enjoyment in the things we are defending.
Now I do not think every book or film needs to begin with the knowledge of a planet-killing culture, that we can tell other stories. However, I believe we need to live with this constant awareness in all that we do even when we write books or tell stories about different things. Especially since humanity is now going in the opposite direction, caring less about the environment, and being in greater denial, even as things get worse. For example, the oil spill is destroying the economy, culture and most of all the ecology of an entire region and yet there is little shift in consciousness. Hardly anyone is saying, enough is enough. There is talk of continuing to drill deep into the Gulf and into the sea. The spill has not altered human environmental consciousness in any meaningful direction. Makes me wonder if humans are even genetically capable of it, which, if we are not, then we are hard-wired not to survive as a species. In order to survive, humans will need to evolve toward a higher consciousness that makes us capable of feeling the connection to the Earth and all life on it. I am beginning to wonder if our species gets it, is even capable of getting it. They may be at an evolutionary dead-end. As for me, I am going to assume this is not true. I am going to assume we can all be like Derrick Jensen and start bringing the awareness of environmental destruction to the forefront of our consciousness so we can reshape our cultural practices accordingly and take a great evolutionary leap forward.
On comment #3, “In order to survive, humans will need to evolve toward a higher consciousness that makes us capable of feeling the connection to the Earth and all life on it. I am beginning to wonder if our species gets it, is even capable of getting it.”
I’d want to caution against conflating a dysfunctional culture with all humans. There are still cultures out there that teach their members to feel a connection to the earth as an extension of their bodies. Unfortunately those cultures (and their languages) are becoming extinct as fast as species are. But because those cultures contain members that are as human as I am, I am inspired to believe that it doesn’t take an evolutionary leap, just an ability to look objectively at what we are doing, an ability to determine the longest lever of change available given the tools and resources at hand, a lot of courage, and a whole lot of hard work. Not that any of that is easy but at least we don’t have to change humans, just the culture that a lot of us are living in. And culture is going to change anyway so why not jump in there, give it everything we’ve got and try to make it a positive change while we still have the chance?
I agree with Mike K that ‘the heart of Derrick Jensenâ€™s work is a call to awaken conscience in us.’ The trouble is, this essay is not going to be read by the multitudes. It is here in Orion, where many of us readers are, like Derrick himself, those same exhausted firepeople whose consciences are already so strong that we feel guilty every moment we are not doing something towards putting out fires. I struggle with this on a daily basis. Even giving my all never feels like enough. So as Alpha Griz points out, we must give ourselves permission to stop regularly and re-charge. Burnt-out firepeople don’t do their job well.
I feel about Derrick Jensen the way Jensen appears to feel about Edward Abbey: much to admire, and much to critique. Often when I read Jensen, I think, “He’s writing this for himself; that is, he’s telling *himself* what he needs to hear.” He has made a career of being a prophetic voice, but even prophets need to rest, laugh, and fall in love. Take a day off, Derrick.
We’re all embroiled in a system not of our creation, and it’ll take some time to dismantle it. Derrick flies around the country giving lectures (you can’t do it all by bicycle) and sells books that kill lots of trees. So it feels annoying to have his voice be the one always goading the rest of us fallen souls to wake up and change our ways.
Jensen frustrates and pushes me. I’ll always eagerly read his columns – and have the sense that he, like most of the rest of us, is working out his own pain.
I’m not exhausted.
I do what I can when I can.
Sometimes it has effect and makes a difference I can see; sometimes it is more of a gamble or an investment.
There is no reason not to feel joy about the miracle/s of the earth, and even the humans on it, while working hard in various ways and on various levels against the evil (yes evil) that men and women as individuals and in the collective sense do.
It is all right to mourn great losses, and mourn them hard, fight hard and fearlessly and then get up and jam with the best of the rock-n-rollers, have an occasional sensory, non-violent and low energy use bacchanal.
I reject the puritan in much of what passes as acceptable attitudes about activism. It is how we use what we use, and in what form we expect profit to come to us that are at issue, not the seeking of pleasure and living well on a planet that can easily provide us with what we need as long as we stop thinking that we must have more of it than it can give.
It is okay to be hopeful and still understand that we may not be successful, we may lose, it may not be in the cards… but also that there are many forms of winning and that in losing perhaps the best outcome may still occur. Suffering may be epidemic, but so is self actualization. And sometimes, maybe even often, they are part of the same package and neither can exist without the other.
And it is fine to do these things in small ways. Rain drops fill lakes. Small waves make big canyons.
Emma Goldman said much the same thing as Abbey: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
If we do not live life to the fullest, even in the midst of a slow-motion catastrophe (remember that civilization has been with us for thousands of years), then we have already surrendered to death and may be colluding with it.
An activist, above all, must understand the difference between what is urgent and what is truly important. If a house is on fire, it may be urgent to respond in the moment to protect life and property (though sometimes we firefighters allow a building to burn and simply prevent it from spreading), but not all fires must be fought (wildland firefighters know this â€“ some are natural and beneficial). And a firefighter who does not enjoy life has no incentive to protect it.
Thomas Merton, the silent contemplative whose life of not-doing had more impact on the world than a thousand fanatical activists, knew this: “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation with violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys her own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
And we know today that when we shift into “fight or flight” mode we are controlled by our reptile brain and our higher brain is cut out of the loop. In other words, we become dumb and reflexive. We also know that one cannot live in a constant state of arousal without destroying one’s health and ability to be responsive and responsible.
Jensen would have us wallow in regrets, guilt and the distracting wishing that we might have averted the loss of a loved one, rather than celebrate the time we had spent together. Death and loss is as essential an element of life as the birth of a new creature or a new love. It is from loss that we mature and develop empathy for others, and learn to appreciate the evanescent, ephemeral nature of life.
If living fully is an “escape or indulgence”, as Jensen would have us believe, then I don’t want to be part of his revolution. And, in any case, while we firefighters are drowning the inferno, other dreamers and visionaries must be also be hard at work designing the new house and creating better tools for that manifestation. What good to undo our culture without at the same time creating another one to supplant it?
We don’t need more full-blooded fanatics who are always so sure that they are doing God’s (or the Universe’s) holy work. We need warriors who know how to maintain their own inner harmony so that they can truly be peaceweavers and not war-mongers. The most powerful warrior, after all, is the one who never unsheathes his sword.
In principle, I agree with Jensen. We ARE murdering the planet, if we haven’t done so already (see Bill McKibben’s “EAARTH” for a compelling and traumatizing argument for the latter claim).
But we don’t live “in principle.” We each live in complex realities of interrelationships and dependencies, including the complex reality of our own thoughts and feelings. And so adopting a single linear approach–“RESIST!” is likely to backfire quickly, and the first casualty will be our own peace of mind, as we become more and more frustrated, bitter, and hateful.
Instead, we need a more complex and nuanced coping strategy, more adapted to the actual complexity of our daily lives and relationships. My own recipe for this challenge is to develop strategies that skillfully combine Vertical Healing–healing of body, mind, and spirit–with Horizontal Healing–healing of self, community, and planet. A unilateral focus on Vertical Healing will turn us into self-indulgent bliss puppies, sitting in a lotus position while the planet burns around us; a unilateral focus on Horizontal Healing–neglecting our own emotional state–will turn us into bitter, angry, frustrated, and hateful people, ignored or avoided by all around us. But a skillful mix of the two can create the next Gandhi, the next King, the next Mandela, or the next Wangari Maathai–self-integrated, planet-healing bodhisattvas. And THAT is what we need, not more angry fist-shakers.
I appreciate Derrick Jenson’s call to action. I think there are several reasons why American’s are hard to mobilize. One is that we have been infused in a culture of personal choice, so that simple doable things become issues of individual choice instead of group decisions that would move us closer to a livable planet for future generations. For instance, it is quite easy to air dry clothes year round here in Montana, but not many are committed to it. They haven’t made the leap to joining forces with their neighbors and community members. They are still in the thinking mode of one person, one family.
Further, I think we have trouble mobilizing ourselves because we have been taught though many cultural messages to expect to see results from our actions, often immediately. I hear and see in print the statement “I don’t know what difference I can make” all the time. I think this translates to “I don’t know what I can do that will guarantee a result” (or at least one I can see). OUr form of capitalism has taught us to expect and seek immediate gratification and results. But activism, like all other endeavors of the heart, is not like that. It’s the long haul, it’s knowing you may NOT see any visible result for a long time, or even in your lifetime. I love Lily Yeh’s quote, in response to the question “What should I do?” Her answer: “Do something.”
Finally, I appreciate those, including Derrick Jenson, who are brave enough to call this moment an emergency. It is, and we need to respond as though everything was at stake, because everything IS at stake.
Our planet cannot forever support a growing human population, no matter how self-integrated, planet-healing, or mindful we are. The biggest kindness an individual can bestow in their lifetime is to resist the urge to procreate beyond replacement.
As an environmental lawyer and professional classical musician, Derrick’s piece cut to the core and caused me considerable self-doubt. Is performing the music of Bach a frivolity when the need for environmental action is so great? Perhaps. But what if the only thing that reaches a deadened world is our music and art?
I’m reminded of Leonard Bernstein’s quote: â€œThis will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.â€ I’m reminded of Vedran SmajloviÄ‡, the cellist of Sarajevo, who as much as any writer or activist touched people’s consciousness.
I’m reminded of this wonderful essay by violinist Karl Paulniak: “[Music] is not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we canâ€™t with our minds.”
If we do not celebrate that which is beautiful about life, both in nature and humanity, what is the point of preservation? If humans hasten their own demise, would not the earth be better off? Is it not, at the end of the day, as much about us as it is the oiled dolphins of the Gulf coast?
And yes, dammit, we who work for and care about the earth should do more. In the face of this catastrophe, I identify as much with H.L. Mencken who said “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” We are past time for raising the black flag.
But who will join us?
Perhaps that is Derrick’s real message. Not that the activists are insufficiently active, but that we are insufficiently powerful and our message is not being heard.
I am trying to reconcile Derrick’s passionate plea with my own inner sense that my well-being and that of others is less to be found in the law than in the arts. And yes, the real fear, as Tom Auer wrote in the comments is that “we’ve lost agency and nothing we do will matter.” Perhaps it is that above all that we must overcome whatever our chosen work.
Here’s Karl again: “If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I donâ€™t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because thatâ€™s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.â€
I always enjoy hearing that others are invisibly standing beside me in my journey and struggle through this life, and what I have always seen as my life’s purpose. Of all of the comments, I think that Bob Vance’s inspire me the most to go on, and give me a little more juice to struggle my hardest.
I feel very strongly that our culture is killing the planet. But what can I do about it? I’m as caught up in this way of life as anyone else, only now I’m really starting to think about the consequences. I live in my air conditioned house and drive my car and I work in a stupid ass luxury automotive accessory shop; how do I get out of it? What can I possibly do to make a difference? It seems so hopeless…
I’m hearing the same tired old voices calling for us to be “peaceful” and “not shake our fists” that I always hear after one of Jensen’s essays.
You still don’t get it, do you.
I don’t think you’re mentally deficient, though. I just think you haven’t learned to make the leap. You’re like any other human being, only believing what is right in front of your face, because we’re a visual species and must be guided by our eyesight. (I wonder sometimes how that translates for blind people. Maybe it explains why their other senses become sharper–to perceive that-which-is right in front of them even though they can’t see it.)
So if someone busts into your house and threatens you and yours with immediate extinction, naturally you’re going to do what it takes to make them back off. Sometimes acquiescing helps. Sometimes begging helps.
But sometimes you just have to hit the bastard. And I just *bet* that despite all your admonitions for peacefulness and your singing “Kumbaya” over and over and over… if you had to hit the bastard to save your family, you would do it.
Now you need to extrapolate this concept to cover the entire planet. The planet is your home too. More to the point, you are a part of the planet, literally a cell in an organ of the part of its body that is living.
There’s a cancer in the system. It isn’t humanity so much as it is one of humanity’s ideas which has spiraled way out of control. But it is a cancer, and it will kill its host–including you, and everyone you care about. Now mount that immune response.
Don’t just sit there and do nothing because you’re “peaceful.” Immune cells do not sit still.
Hopefully that sinks in. I doubt it, but I can hope. Hope may be all we have left.
It is the advocates of violence who “just don’t get it”.
Not only are we each a cell in the body of Gaia, we are each a hologram reflecting both the beauty and the dysfunction of the Whole.
What you don’t “get” is that the cancer is not out there somewhere where you can attack it as a foreign body. The cancer is within you. If you attack another you destroy yourself. That’s not an immune response, it’s chemotherapy.
The immune system always acts to restore harmony. Western medicine, like warfare and the actions of fanatics, creates a terrible amount of collateral damage.
You cannot defeat the real enemy with anger or outrage, because those responses are two of the many faces of the enemy. Every true warrior knows that the only way to win a fight is from a place of inner peace and the goal is never to destroy the other but to restore harmony.
That’s not “kumbaya” – that’s universal wisdom.
The human world on planet earth is suffering from a profound inner sickness that will very likely destroy most of the life on our world including ourselves. We are embarked on a path of colossal failure. Anyone who fails to see this is either hopelessly uninformed, deep in unconscious denial, or deluded by wishful thinking. To fully awaken to this ongoing crisis is a necessary first step towards discovering a cure for what can only be called our terminal madness. Anything that helps this awakening is incredibly important and valuable. Derrick Jensenâ€™s contribution is of this kind. Rather than nit pick his message, let us use his (sometimes) shocking directness to galvanize our energies and rouse us from our slumbers.
As far as how to deal with our global emergency, I would hope that forums like this one at Orion would be motivated towards coming up with some of those answers. We clearly do not have those effective plans and methods worked out yet. We are hungry and waiting for breakthroughs in crucial areas. Letâ€™s put our forum energies into sharing our best ideas of how to stop this death march of civilization, before it is truly too late.
Mike K: if someone did have solutions to the global emergency, but weren’t scientifically “qualified”, would anyone listen to them do you think?
The quantitative bias of science is causing the global emergency by applying its bias to the qualitative living reality of life on Earth, yet we look to science for answers. The only place science is leading us to is the extinction of H.sapiens. The 6th extinction is more accurately The First Unnatural Extinction. It’s got nothing to do with natural processes. Not only is science engineering ecological simplification, it is also engineering cultural simplification (which Prof. Harry Recher names as the Mac-culture). Climate change is symptomatic of evolutionary meltdown, not carbon emissions. Evolutionary meltdown is the main issue of our times. It is the unrelenting destruction of the qualitative web of life, over three billion years in the making, and only around four decades in the unravelling (corresponding with the ascendence of Corporate Empire’s absolute power) It is time we acknowledged the visionary right-hemispheric faculty – the feminine principle of mind – and its power to see through the illusion of materialism to the causal spatial dynamics of the at-least ninety percent of reality that is qualitative. Humanity has to survive its own rationality’s anal need for ‘proofs’, and start seeing what IS right before its eyes, and begin to read between the lines. The language of the right-‘brain’ is metaphor. Metaphor enables us to see the Big Picture of Life, and fit all of its parts within their rightful place.No two ways about it; we’ve got to evolve our visionary perception folks, before it’s too late!
“I think often of a line by the psychiatrist R. D. Laing, â€œFew books today are forgivable.â€ He wrote this, I believe, because we have become so very alienated from our own experience, from who we are, and this alienation is so destructive to others and to ourselves that if a book does not take this alienation as its starting point and work toward rectifying it, weâ€™d all be better off looking at blank pieces of paper.”
I am surprised that no one has yet addressed what appears to be a foundational insight of Derrick’s project here, and more generally.
He is strongly suggesting here, perhaps more clearly than he has stated in other forums, that our species has been inflicted with a disease that has attacked our very sense of who we are and from whence we have come.
There is a self-estrangement that has us believing we are who (what) we are not. Perhaps it is due to a hundreds of generations of civilized enculturation. I believe Derrick would not object to this characterization of the situation. But, what has perhaps occured as a result of this is a forgetfulness of who we are (as a species). As others have pointed out more clearly, our original home was the Pleistocene. We are hunter-gathers, egalitarian, kinship grounded, politically anarchic, tribal animals at our base. But the conditions which supported this life, no longer exist. The physical conditions have been destroyed as much as the psychic conditions have been covered over and forgotten through the repeated developments and adumbrations of the institutionalized madness which we call civilization.
But, still Derrick and others are able to reach out and touch that genetic memory trace, that “feral core” that remains instinctively within each of us, buried underneath the scaffolding of our civilized ways.
So, the question becomes, how do we awaken that memory trace within the larger segment of humanity? How do we touch that alientated feral core that is still there but lost deep within our brothers and sisters? Or don’t we dare?
Perhaps the pyschic fallout from the large scale recognition of this alienation from our feral selves would create even more havoc now. Perhaps we have gone past the middle point. Perhaps it is not just the case of peak oil, but peak humanity. We have gone too far to be capable of turning back.
So, the question then is, how do we move forward? Is there a forward towards which we should, could, must move? But that raises another tricky issue. Part and parcel of the problem of our alienation is our civilized commitment to progress, to the future and to moving forward. Are we not deliberately deluding ourselves to think this is just another rung in the corporate ladder? Our evolution to a new plateau? I don’t know the answer. But I am suspicious of the presumption of the need to more “progress”.
Certainly there are things we can do as ‘individuals”to recollect that feral core, to change something significant about how we live socially, physically and psychically in the world. But, the question remains about what can we achieve collectively. I am cynical. I do not believe there is any salvation for the human race at this juncture… we have gone too far. And, again, to look for science or technology to save us is, as Einstein noted, to do the same thing and expect a different outcome… madness.
Anyway, these are some thoughts for us to all consider; they have occupied my own reflections for quite a number of years.
Derrick Jensen. Where does this man find such vast reserves of hope and vision? How does he remain steadfastly optimistic and positive in the face of our current realities? I am not being sarcastic.
I do not live in a dry place. I do hang clothes to dry when I can. I have no idea what joining forces with my neighbors would be or how one would do it.
I could not begin to think of how to organize a neighborhood into a yard sale and the community garden a few of us mustered together down the street is rife with weeds for want of participants.
I do not have television and my friends think me mad for continuing to use the same old cell phone that still works as a phone despite its broken camera and lack of “capabilities” and “apps.”
And so I throw money quite randomly into the demanding envelopes that organized groups send to my mailbox. And I spend even more to put a solar-thermal system over my head and under foot.
None of these things gives me the least bit of assurance that I am having one iota of impact on the capitalist corporate machine of dominant culture.
I have not bred and never will. This gives me the most assurance for the future. I am not worried about “my children and grandchildren.” I harbor no anthropocentric illusions about our species’ role on this planet. The planet will survive. We might leave it a charred barren hunk of rock, but it will still go ’round as though we’d never been. It saddens me that we feel obliged and entitled to take all other life forms with us when we go, but go we must, and go we will.
If more of us could not only accept the very finite nature of our existence, but Make It So, capitalism and consumerism would crumble. If more of us organized around the idea of carefully and conscientiously checking out for good, all the other species we feel “responsible” for would get on much better than they would with us gnashing our teeth and advocating for them yet refusing to simply leave.
I am too nosy or curious and probably too hedonistic for suicide, and it would make so little difference anyway. By failing to produce the “future generations” who will more likely perpetuate than remediate our wrongs, I am making so much more of a difference than I could by hastening my own paltry inevitable death.
I love this piece by Derrick. As a writer and publisher of a small journal, every time I begin a new piece of writing, or start putting Gaian Voices together, it’s for the Earth. Even when working in my garden, which keeps me sane and reminds me, everyday, of the beauty and resilience of Nature, I cannot escape what our so-called civilization is doing to the Earth. And especially now as oil poisons the Gulf and ultimately so much more, and the death, the images seared in my mind and heart forever.
I’ll never forget an experience I had many years ago. My sister had been in a terrible car accident and lay in a coma, her fate according to the doctors, was to be a “vegetable” (she isn’t). Our mother was dying of cancer, a process that happened very quickly after my sister’s accident. I was pregnant with my youngest son. It was a very painful, stressful time. And yet my (now ex) husband and I had gone out to lunch and were sitting talking while we ate and I found myself laughing at something. And I caught myself in that moment: How can I sit here, enjoying myself if even for a moment, while my sister lays in a coma, while my mother lay dying? It was an important lesson in being alive. And the few moments of levity I had during those months were essential to my health and sanity. So, yes, we need to have fun and laugh and celebrate even while the shit is hitting the fan. So feeling guilty for enjoying myself and my family on occasion isn’t an option for me anymore. Neither is feeling guilty for reminding my family and friends of the dire situation we are in â€“ something I’m apt to do every day.
For me the very hardest part of all of this is knowing that so few people in the westernized, capitalist world really understand, or even seem to care, about what we are doing to the Earth and to the more-than-human species who share it with us. This brings me a great deal of pain and can throw me into despair. Because I know that if enough of us were to wake up and realize what’s going on and the importance of it and that, given enough numbers and commitment and will, we really COULD change it, but that’s not going to happen. People are too caught up in their own dramas, real or imagined. The Earth, nature, is so far removed from so many people’s lives these days. It’s something they see in videos or in photos or maybe, if they’re lucky, on vacation to the shore or the mountains. And even those of us fortunate enough to live in the country, most take it for granted or are too busy trying to deal with the daily grind. The oil disaster is waking some people up. But again, I hear over and over, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” I feel the same way, though I didn’t always. I used to believe I really could make a difference in the larger picture. But the larger picture is now so controlled by elites, by corporations, by big money, and money is all that matters after all. Sure it’s possible enough of us will wake up. But what will we do once awakened? How will we come together when we’re scattered all over the place, each with our own lives, our own situations (me, for example, taking care of my now-disabled sister, I can’t just up and walk away, I can’t just pack a few things and move to a tent city, I can’t even move to a small cabin somewhere and live off the grid because no way could my sister deal with that and I promised my parents, both now deceased, that I would take care of my sister. One doesn’t casually break promises one makes to dead parents. Perhaps you can tell I’ve thought of all these things, often?
I do believe we can turn things around. We, humanity, have the power though I believe lots of that power has to do with spirit and consciousness rather than money and politics. But that belief is tempered by a huge dose of realism. I believe it’s possible, but I don’t necessarily believe it will happen. . .
It is fascinating and heartening that DJâ€™s short essays draw so many deeply felt and thoughtful responses. A true teacher functions best as a catalyst to awaken and facilitate the creative capacities latent in others. In his book â€œWalking on Waterâ€ Derrick describes his teaching methods with students in prison and school. It is a stimulating and often hilarious wild ride that reveals what education could be if we removed the stifling straight-jacket it usually operates within. Having shared/facilitated in several prisons myself, I found his experience really eye opening. A dead educational system is one of the foundations of the mess we are in. I think that changing this and bringing real educative experience to our societies is one of the key levers to deep awakening of hearts and minds that would help birth a new world.
The process of open dialog in small groups has tremendous potential that many â€œactivistsâ€ fail to appreciate. Changing minds can change the world. The creative directions we need to discover may be forged in the fiery crucible of mutual sharing. There are essential truths that can only be realized and developed in interaction with others. This is not all â€œintellectualâ€ knowledge.
I want to thank all of you who are investing your hearts and heads in this mutual creative search. Letâ€™s not leave all the think tank energy for the right wing spin machine!
there are plenty of us who are awake enough..so here is my question…why are people splintered into groups of save this and save that, with a variety of publications EMPLOYING writers all speaking the same truth…environment…usually as if it were a separate entity from the rest of life?
There is a plexiglass ceiling dividing the Exonn Walmart Monsanto ETC group from those that want to live in harmony with Gaia
Look at what you spend and on what. If the product is not from your own garden, or attained through your personal harvest, then investigate it’s source. America must stop purchasing from outsourced industry, from the sick agribusiness and slaughter, stop eating GM food.and many other stops…go find out how your consumerism is tied to them… In order to stop the machine, you must take away their paycheck. See how big box stores have changed the laws that prevent small biz from thriving in your communities. They will not stop until the consumer stops.
Deal with the addiction. Don’t just talk about it.
Save the planet? The planet does not need saving. Humans are fodder. if we want to be more than that, we have to start acting like it.
I disagree. There are lots of us who are awake, but obviously not enough. If there were, things would be different. There are those who are beginning to twitch out of their deep sleep. Maybe if enough of them awaken? Who knows.
I like the idea of our feral core. To me this is the essense of what it means to be a human being, as a species. But while most people are aware that we are a species, they don’t really grok what that implies, or don’t want to.
And there are many of us who already pay attention to what we buy (or don’t buy and why), where it comes from, who don’t by GMO food and who avoid patronizing box stores with crap from China, etc., and factory farmed meat and vegetables, etc. It’s not possible to be totally pure but I know lots of folks who put in a commendable effort. We are making those changes that individuals can make. But change needs to happen beyond that and instead I see more and more isolation when the opposite is what is needed.
The big box stores haven’t changed the laws (to my knowledge anyway). But they do have the bucks to push and push and push until they get what they want. And they don’t care if the town wants them or not, they find a location and in they go. Again, it’s money talking and that’s all most folks, especially those who have managed to get elected or appointed, even in small towns, care about. Someone like myself, for example, might have supporters, but not enough to be put in a place of “power”.
Dealing with the addiction is easy if what you’re buying isn’t something you need. But unless we make all our clothes & shoes, grow all our food, and preserve it too, live where there’s no need for a car to get to work, or from point A to point B (or are young enough and strong/healthy enough to cycle everywhere, even in winter in New England), never get seriously sick & have excellent knowledge of herbs/natural remedies for non-serious illnesses, etc. (you get the point), we’re going to have to interact with the consumer system that has so many addicted to overconsumption. This gets me down big time, too. Just saying “get over the addiction” doesn’t do it. Again, there’s only so much one can do as an individual.
I understand, too, the frustration of all the different groups “saving this and saving that”, seemingly dispersing all that energy so it’s meaningless. I don’t have an answer except that people are reached by different means. What rips my heart out may not rip yours out, so whatever it takes, right? Some will contribute or act on behalf of old growth, others on behalf of sea turtles or polar bears or against that heartbreaking plastic world in the ocean. But it all needs doing.
And as a writer, believe me, there’s not a lot of money to be made writing about the environment these days. I used to be able to support myself (kind of) as a freelance writer. No more. Unless it’s a slick publication with fancy ads the writers get paid a pittance, if at all.
I love this. Of course, “Protecting nature should be more important than enjoying it” is clear to anyone who knows (s)he is part of his/her landbase. Ask any traditional indigenous person. And/or ask anyone who has reawakened to his/her true humanness, who has decolonized his/her mind.
Oh, and one can find true inner-peace ‘while’ protecting his/her landbase and loved ones as much as one can find inner-peace while using any means necessary to stop some psychopath from raping a loved one. Think of how peaceful one must be after having stopped such a monster!
Good to hear from you again Susan. We need your gentle wisdom and insight. Are you familiar with Paul Hawkinâ€™s book Blessed Unrest? He advances a strong argument that the total impact of all the small groups and individual efforts for a better world may be much more effective in the long run than we realize. Several commenters have expressed varying degrees of discouragement, pessimism, or despair about whether we will be able to restore our world to health. His book could provide some solid basis for a qualified but realistic optimism.
On the question whether it is useful to share our darkest fears and assessments with others, I think it is very healthy. To keep our â€œnegativeâ€ thoughts and feelings to ourselves does not promote our healing. Those seeking to heal the planet must take care of their own and others healing. I am heartened that folks feel free to express the truth of where they are in this process deep ecological concern. Make believe cheeriness is no substitute for emotional honesty. There are dark passages in our journey towards a better life for all. Letâ€™s not deny that, but rather embrace the truth of it and use it as an opportunity to share more deeply and support each other in this Work.
#18 Honour: You are right; perhaps the most difficult challenge we face is how to awaken the sleeping population. Fortunately, it is not necessary to awaken everyone, or even a majority. Only the arousing of a sufficient number of influential persons will be required. We can take comfort from the fact that such awakenings have happened before.
To mention only a couple of these phenomena: the feminist movement in the US. The movement that overthrew communism in the Soviet Union. Alcoholics Anonymous. The end of apartheid in South Africa. We can learn from all of these and others. The defeat of an industrial â€œsuperpowerâ€ in Vietnam. The growing movement in South America to overturn the ruling oligarchies.
There is real possibility, historical precedents that give hope. Nor are these examples of change the only avenues by which a major change in consciousness could be catalyzedâ€¦.
Riversong said: “What you donâ€™t â€œgetâ€ is that the cancer is not out there somewhere where you can attack it as a foreign body. The cancer is within you. If you attack another you destroy yourself. Thatâ€™s not an immune response…”
I have defended your words before, but this is just plain silly, R. The healthy immune system kills cancer cells, just like it kills viruses and other threats. Violence plays a role as last resort. Being dogmatic about non-violence is just as unwise as dogmatism in other areas.
So Derrick says: â€œyouâ€™d think most people would be doing everything they can to protect life on this planet.â€ — Is he himself doing this? It would be nice, for a change, to hear less exhortation and more self-disclosure.
â€œWhat does the world need from me?â€ — Derrick answers (in other writings), it needs me to write. I think that is a partial truth only. It equally needs each of us to live differently.
Jason R. wrote: â€œPerhaps that is Derrickâ€™s real message. Not that the activists are insufficiently active, but that we are insufficiently powerful and our message is not being heard.â€ & quoted: â€œIf there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because thatâ€™s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.â€
Seeking power is a two edged sword, be careful what you wish for. As for the artistsâ€¦ sure, foster more understanding. Absolutely. But if you think that is enough, then you are part of the problem. We are not knee-deep in crap because we donâ€™t have enough understanding or art or words. We are there because we are not *living, behaving* differently.
Callmecynicist wrote: â€œI have no idea what joining forces with my neighbors would be or how one would do it. I could not begin to think of how to organize a neighborhood into a yard sale and the community garden a few of us mustered together down the street is rife with weeds for want of participants.â€
That is exactly where the frontier lies. This, we need to figure out, and do. Thank you for putting it so well!
Susan M-L wrote: â€œHow will we come together when weâ€™re scattered all over the place, each with our own lives, our own situations?â€ and â€œ. There are lots of us who are awake, but obviously not enough. If there were, things would be different.â€
Pardon me, but when was being awake enough to get something done? Waking is but the first step. The next is to embody our new understanding. One does not need to run off to a cabin to do that, nah? 🙂 And you are right, we all are embedded in a spidersâ€™ web of dependencies on the system we deplore. That is part of the dark magic of creating a prison without walls and bars. We gotta counter it with magic of our ownâ€¦
Mike K: â€œThe creative directions we need to discover may be forged in the fiery crucible of mutual sharing. There are essential truths that can only be realized and developed in interaction with others.â€
Unfortunately, none of the movements you extol did anything to change this civilization. They improved things for the inmates. Other times, changes are made that worsen things for the inmatesâ€¦ that seems to be one of the characteristics of the time we live in. Go to the root, friend!
Hello Vera, good to hear from you. Did you read the previous post on this thread which pointed out that we americans tend to want the whole thing right now, and it better be perfect! Sound familiar? The truth is (as far as I can see) nobody has the answer to the problems of civilization all wrapped up. More like we donâ€™t have a clue. So if you have that kind of comprehensive plan, please let me know what it is?
Why do so many of us seem to be groping around in the dark on this one? Well, this is a really, really BIG problem. You see it involves the whole karmic history of humankind, and that goes WAY back, and is comprised of GAZILLIONS of threads, most of which are not obvious on the surface for easy noticing, but buried deep in our amazing evolutionary nervous system, just waiting to mess with us in unpleasant ways if we try to tamper with them in our oh so deeeeeep Ignorance. And thatâ€™s just the easy version of why we are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO screwed.
Now I know that Derrick has kindly simplified this whole deal for us: â€œJust bring down civilization!!â€ Wow and I thought it was so complicated. Whew, guess I donâ€™t have to fret my head over that one anymoreâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.NOT!
So try to be patient with some of us Vera, we may just be too slow witted to grok the obvious that others grasp so easily.
All in good kleen fun, Vera. Donâ€™t get pissed at me?
Hey, Mike K, merry meet again. 🙂 Karmic history of humankind is full of cooperation. We couldnâ€™t have survived the endless challenges the planet threw at us without it. Bring it on! — Ehâ€¦ bringing down civâ€¦ well, I think he is right about this civ. Maybe there are other possible civs that are not toxic? â€“- Heh. Slow witted yer not. I donâ€™t have a comprehensive planâ€¦ those belong in this civ. They are part and parcel of the domination worldviewâ€¦ But I do have a dawning of somethingâ€¦ mmmâ€¦ yeah. Heck, if bats can do it, and dolphins can do it, why not humans? Radical cooperation is possible.
The fundamental question, challenge, initiation, koan posed to humankind from the beginning is: love or perish. There really is no substitute for solving this problem. Develop a consciousness centered in mutual love and sharing or end by destroying yourselves. Be in that mind that was in Jesus, or Buddha, or Lao Tzu, or Gandhi, or MLK, or whomever or whatever lives from love and truth. Unless you build your life and your world on that basis, you build it in vain. The failures and short comings of religions are well known. It is not necessary to be â€œreligiousâ€ to work towards a mind and heart of love and truth. There are well known paths and methods for engendering this inner change. If for whatever reasons folks choose to ignore this essential undertaking, then the inevitable karmic results will result. The world we see around us now shows forth those tragic results. So, there is an answer to our seemingly impossible world dilemmas. All that is lacking is enough people awakening to this fundamental need for dedication to and practice of love and wisdom. No one can be forced to take this path; it is by nature non- coercive. There really is no substitute for this answer. The whole history of humankind clearly demonstrates the validity of this approach. We disregard it at our peril.
Anything that helps bring this truth to the consciousness of people is useful. Anything that denies or ignores it is harmful. We are faced with a fateful choice: love or perish.
Gone to the root on one fell swoop! 🙂 (sound of two hands clapping…)
That’s the nutshell. So we know the what. Now we come to “how”.
Mike k, been liking what you say for some time. Are there other places you write?
We are a world of followers. Who leads is who has the world’s attention. Capitalism is not adult behavior, but no leader will say that in the western world. Socialism implies ‘growth’ also, and eco-socialism is way too complicated a concept, or word, for the TV-modified mind. This is the Age of Entertainment, reason’s narcotic. A world without a recovering monetary system, without energy for heating water, without petroleum for roofing, without daily meat or seafood, without cars, without newspapers, without the internet…. how much can be seriously publicly thought about by leaders?
None of it. We need a new kind of leadership. I am tired of savvy exhorters: Chris Hedges, Korten, Derrick Jensen, Van Jones, Robert Johnson, Jeremy Scahill, Dar Jamail, the broad spectrum…. on and on and on… It is you who have the world’s attention. I want you all to take office, make a party, make a march in the streets. YOU folks are the folks with the megaphone. DO something.
Why do you wait?
The way out is the way in
The way in is the way out
Either way is hard to find
But you canâ€™t miss it
If you donâ€™t find it
You might have missed it
When you didnâ€™t find it
Because you found it
While you were still
Looking for it
i love Derrick Jensen so much. and i know it’s not about him, or me, it’s about saving our collective lives, stopping the mass murder and terrorizing of so much life, of so so so many lives of all species on our fair shared parent planet. but i do love this guy so much!
as for me, i am one sadly lazy activist who tries to live most moments responsibly and wholistically, very disentangled from the disastrous nightmare web the evil-psycho-sicko bosses and their few billion lacky-consumer-workers contrive.
here in Toronto our brilliant, heroic, beautiful-hearted, rebel youth have been abused by the hundreds to protect the pimps in their selling of our world’s families and communities of all species to the pervert ‘johns’ of big business.
but doncha just love the upswelling in the streets of mass love and participation for a healthier way?
goodnight and thanks.
Thanks for sharing Ira. I have watched with dismay as the Canadian government has lurched to the fascist right. It is good to hear that there is active resistance to all that. Derrick Jensen is here to inspire people to actively oppose their â€œrulersâ€.
Does it appear to you that we could move toward sustainability in a much more sensible way if we stopped willfully ignoring extant science of human population dynamics; stopped consciously refusing to communicate openly about peer-reviewed evidence of the human overpopulation of Earth? How on Earth do we reasonably address and overcome the human-driven global challenges looming before the human community if top rank scientists with appropriate expertise reject their responsibilities to acknowledge and deny their duties to examine published evidence and report findings?
Professor Emeritus Gary L. Peters and Professor Emeritus Albert A. Bartlett have chosen a different, seldom taken path, one that is morally courageous, because they have broken the silence by speaking out so loudly and clearly while many too many of their outstanding, similarly situated colleagues have remained electively mute.
After 40 years of activism I share Jensen’s frustration that the vast majority of US seem to be too afraid, uncertain, complacent and/or distracted with materialist matters to be effective change agents. Except for the relative few (like Jensen), people have to have the rug pulled out from under them before they’ll take action and even then, its often in seeking escape, revenge or blame (thus the rise of the tea party). Things may have to get much worse even than BP before they get better, or (as I’m feeling more and more these days), we are simply screwed. Maybe its time to face that reality. In the words of Wendell Barry…
Shrink us to our proper size.
Without it we are half as large
And the world
Is twice as large. My small
Place grows immense as I walk
Upon it without hope.”
We are not bound to win but we are bound to be true; we are not bound to succeed but we are bound to live up to the light we possess.
-President Barack H. Obama, (quoting former President Abraham Lincoln)
Truth is not only violated by falsehood;
it may be equally outraged by silence.
Speak out as if you were a million voices.
It is silence that kills the world.
-St. Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380
Steve, unfortunately I donâ€™t think hammering folks with abstruse scientific truths about the relation of population density to planetary well-being is going to awaken very many to taking action about this problem. The reality of this relationship is so blatantly obvious that it really doesnâ€™t need elaborate proofs. It calls to mind all the work George Lakoff and others have done on the dynamics of persuasion. It turns out that presenting people with the facts about a subject, no matter how obvious they may be, is not an effective way to influence their minds to embrace a new way of thinking and acting. Despite science being the new religion of the modern mind, it turns out our unconscious framing of problems always trumps our rationality. Advertisers and spin doctors are keenly aware of this, and avoid reliance on reason like the plague: it just doesnâ€™t work.
It seems that in the battle for peopleâ€™s minds we are driven to using their emotional natures if we wish them to change. As you are aware powerful social entities have already shaped peopleâ€™s largely unconscious responses to questions about reproduction and population. The church, capitalism, and nationalism come to mind. Countering the persuasive influence of these institutions is the real problem of those seeking to foster new attitudes in this area.
In short, we need some really good spin doctors and the funds to get them heard!
Mike said: “In short, we need some really good spin doctors and the funds to get them heard!”
What?! If our truths need spin doctors, then surely we are sunk.
Dear mike k and vera,
I am too damn old to learn to be a good spin-doctor and old enough to appreciate George Lakoff’s work even though I have no intention (or possess the rhetorical artistry) to start mimicking him. Referring people to scientific evidence is what I do. I have been doing the same things over and over again since the AWAREness Campaign began in 2001.
For all members of the human community who recognize the threat posed to humanity and life as we know it by the unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers in our time, there has been no more dangerous or pernicious a policy promulgated in the past twenty-five years than the GLOBAL GAG RULE. Please recall that this gag rule was formally instituted and became effective in the mid-1980s under President Ronald Reagan. It was rescinded by President Bill Clinton and immediately reinstituted by President George W. Bush on his first day in office in 2001. Recently, President Barack Obama overturned President Bush’s ruling. When the Global Gag Rule was in effect, no funding was provided to organizations that performed, discussed, or referred a client to an abortion provider. Organizations were also prohibited from lobbying for increased abortion rights in their respective countries. If they refused to comply with these stipulations, their funds were revoked, usually resulting in closed clinics (with a tip of the hat to the Population Connection).
That such a global gag rule is a form of coercion which limited freedom of speech and choice was disregarded.
Now there appears to be yet another global gag rule that issues from the elective mutism of experts within the ranks of the brightest, the best and the most knowledgeable in the communities of science of the potentially profound implications of the human overpopulation of Earth. These experts have access to the best available scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation but are consciously refusing to assume their responsibilities and perform their duties to science by examining certain scientific research and reporting findings.
This is precisely why the open expression of intellectual honesty and moral courage by mike k and vera is so vital. Despite pressures to follow those who have been engaged in a conspiracy of silence with regard to scientific evidence of human population dynamics, they have stepped up and spoken out.
The research of David Pimentel and Russell Hopfenberg, in particular, needs to be rigorously scrutinized rather than denied. Can anyone even imagine a way for human beings to address and overcome human-induced challenges if the best available, relevant science is not so much as acknowledged? If the science is somehow fatally flawed, so be it. We need to know that. On the other hand if extant evidence of human population dynamics extends, however slightly and tentatively, our knowledge of the “placement” of humankind within the natural order of living things and deepens our understanding of the way the world we inhabit actually works, then we can choose to be guided by that knowledge in responding ably to any human-forced challenge rather than continue down a “primrose path” toward the precipitation of some unimaginable sort of colossal ecological wreckage.
Thanks to Derrick Jensen and everyone who is participating in this discussion. Perhaps necessary change toward sustainability, and away from what could fairly soon become patently unsustainable, is in the offing.
Hi Vera. Two (east) Indian ideas may help here. Sometimes we need to use upaya (skillful means) to bring folks to the Truth. The straight undiluted stuff might be too strong for them initially. The other idea is embodied in the saying, â€œsometimes it takes a thorn to pluck out a thornâ€.
BTW this Orion blog is mainly where I post. A lot of the other blogs I am familiar with are way too contentious, and nobody seems to really listen to what others have to share. Not to speak of the tendency of some to use the space as a barf bucket or latrine for their seething bile. The Orion crew, by contrast, is a pretty mild mannered and thoughtful bunchâ€¦â€¦â€¦like yourself!
Hi new to the site. Much like what Vera said. I am all to familiar with our current situation and our Entertainment Tonight minded folk that need the message. The average person is whom I am referencing. If our truthters need spin doctors and bright lights and the latest fad, and free rides for the kids, old folks get in free, prize giveaways, etc. And oh I forgot, can you all listen to this for a couple of minutes and try to ingrain this into a new way of thinking and action? If the truth has to be co-opted by so much junk just to get the pill down, then like Vera said. We are truly sunk. You average person has a very gutter base way of thinking that frankly disgusts me. Many of you are the exception, but I don’t think it’s enough.
Hi Steve. I really didnâ€™t mean to discredit what you are doing to awaken your scientific peers to the need to speak out on the population crisis. In the wise words of the I Ching, â€œeverything furthersâ€. There does exist an influential strata of players who are influenced by the findings of the scientific community who need to be reached with documented evidence of our situation. Like so many aspects of our global disaster, no one line of approach will be sufficient to turn the tide. I certainly commend your contributions in this crucial area of reproductive sanity. No need for me to say, â€œkeep up the good workâ€. Your consistent years-long dedication tells me you will continue on, come what mayâ€¦.
Dear mike k,
I do not know if I am right or wrong to ask directly and repeatedly for truth, as each of us sees it, to be spoken loudly and clearly so that people can share an understanding of the global predicament looming ominously before humanity. But, it does appear to me that if people with knowledge lose faith in God’s gift of science by denying its presence and remaining electively mute while selfish, shortsighted leaders go forward unsustainably on the basis of specious, preternatural thinking, then the human community has no chance whatever of responding ably to the human-induced challenges before all of us.
I am trying to encourage the lighting candles because the darkness enveloping the “primrose path” many too many so-called leaders are so adamantly advocating and recklessly pursuing is anathema to me.
Hello Zeph Ant. If I thought give-aways, etc. would serve to awaken folks to reality, I would not be above endorsing it. But as you pointed out, people are much too conditioned and inadequate in functioning clear consciousness to respond even to such alluring enticements. Alas, a healthy functioning mind is a lot harder to acquire than that. And thereâ€™s the root problem. Our whole educational system is based on rote â€œlearningâ€ and TV essentially. Most of us have not learned to think clearly, critically, and creatively. Our present culture just doesnâ€™t encourage that. All the better to fool you, my dear! (as the poorly disguised wolf said to red riding hood). We need minimally trained wage serfs to work the industrial empire, and naÃ¯ve young folks to fight our resource wars, and unreflective consumers to buy our tons of useless junk.
So once again, to truly state the problems with civilization we are faced with disabuses us from thinking there are quick and easy solutions to this tragic mess we find ourselves in. Lack of true consciousness is the root problem. Spiritual paths of development are an intrinsic part of any real lasting solutions. If the word â€œspiritualâ€ gives your materialist soul the willies, then think of some other word that suits you better. The real work (on ourselves) remains the same. Only better people can create a better world.
Steve: There is no doubt that real science has a crucial role to play in creating a better world. But as you are well aware the distortions, perversions, and misuses of science also pose one of the greatest threats to the continuation of our species. Hence the role of spirituality, or ethics if you prefer, in guiding and directing the fruits of scientific investigation. We canâ€™t do it without science, but it needs to be a kinder, gentler science. Your efforts to awaken scientists to their duty to speak out in favor of humanity are commendable.
In my opinion, there is not a single major institution of todayâ€™s society that is not in need of drastic overhauling. The source of that revolution, if it is to be benign and sustained, can only come from individuals who have overcome their own dysfunctions and thus become fit agents to facilitate the transformation of others.
I’m just tired. I noticed your positivity shining. I pick up on people who radiate that. Essentially its’ not the norm. I’m not old at all. Yet I have lived the life of a 40 year old. I have no hope for the human race. I’m past cynicism or skepticism. I know the heart of man. And I know why good people become misanthropic and loners. Like someone else said earlier. I have no desire to procreate. I can only hope that the upcoming generations will curb the problems of our current “civlization.”
I know for a fact that the young people of today have numerous more potential than the freedom fighters of the ’60s and ’70s did. Like you said education and social conditioning is the main culprit of our problems. We are in a Period of mass manipulation. I could go on. I’ll stop on that point though. I have my own opinions about the future.
Zeph, all I know about you so far is the two comments you have shared. I donâ€™t believe in â€œgiving adviceâ€, but I feel moved to share something with you.
Long ago, when I was profoundly depressed and contemplating suicide, I asked myself why I could possibly want to go on living. Unexpectedly an answer came back: â€œyou might want to know what is going to happen next as history unfolds.â€ That answer reminded me that I had always been intensely curious, it was my defining passion. Whether that inner voice in that crucial moment was the reason I decided to hang on another day, Iâ€™m not sure. But I did go on, and in time my life unfolded in ways that I could never have anticipated, and would not have believed then were remotely possible. What do I take from all of that?
Just this: you never know what can happenâ€¦.
Uh. I commmend you for sharing that when you didn’t have to. I stand by my previous comments though. You wrote, “You never know what can happen” Not putting your comment down, but I don’t believe that. More so that depends on the situation. There are plenty of instances where you fully know all the options that are and will be available. Including the grand chance that is Universe. So thats a sweeping term that I don’t buy into. I have a pure objective view of history (all history) with no mixed emotions about anything. In other words if it smells like trash it gets put to the curb. The fact is most people don’t. And I have a problem with that. I apprecite you sharing that though. Cheers.
Zeph: Didn’t mean to intrude on your world view. Maybe your sharing triggered some of my own stuff. My apologies.
Hardly intruding. Like I said I noticed your positiveness in earlier messages. It isn’t a front. It struck me. You know were guys in the 21st century. Were “supposed” to be jerks. Derrick is correct though. Certain fanatics with the right sense of being grounded can accomplish amazing feats. He is talking about influence whether be from an Artist, Orator, Writers, politicians, or people we know. He’s talking about influence too.
It isn’t that artists and writers arent’ doing enough. Its the ones who are on your T.V. everyday aren’t doing enough. So the influence and fansticism he is talking about can not and will not exist on the scale that we need for even small change. Theres Fanatics, but their not the kind that are going to accomplish anything that hes mentioning.
Good to hear I didnâ€™t piss you off. What you are sharing makes sense. I can learn from you. One thing we definitely have in common: we have a lot of admiration for DJ and what he is doing. If I could ever contribute as much as he has, I would really feel good about it.
#39 Hannah Sykes: Thanks for the Wendell Berry poem, he is a national treasure. We are screwed, and thing will get a lot worse. Any vision that does not acknowledge that is delusional and dangerously misleading. But that doesnâ€™t have to mean we are dead meat now. It isnâ€™t over till itâ€™s over. The fat lady hasnâ€™t done her final aria yet. Much of beauty, love, and truth remain to be unfolded and savored. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes put it in her â€œLetter to a Young Activistâ€ â€œWe were made for these timesâ€. Check out her letter on google, itâ€™s truly beautiful and inspiring. Maybe you already know of it?
More crap from Jensen that is full of flagrant exaggeration or a complete lack of doing the research.
I’ve noticed that Jensen and several other people mention â€œthe sixth extinctionâ€ in their works. This designation is linguistically incorrect and does not reflect the magnitude of extinction event that is currently in progress. It should be noted that calcitic cosmopolitan marine invertebrates are the organisms that are used to correlate stratigraphic successions and determine which extinction events constitute a mass extinction. Therefore it is not applicable to compare the extinction of megafauna or insects, which are usually not preserved in the fossil record, to previous mass extinctions because there is too little data available to compare them on those grounds. Since the number insect or plant species that are going extinct in remote areas is not known there can be a standard deviation in the measurement of the total number of species going extinct as high as one order of magnitude(ie 110). The twenty extinction events in the Ordovician to Devonian, the four trilobite biomere extinctions in the Cambrian, terminal Miocene, Ecocene, and Pleistocence extinctions were all of greater magnitude than our current extinction, both in the total number of genera that went extinct and the percentage of know genera that went extinct. The six largest extinctions were the terminal Cambrian, terminal Ordovician, Late Devonian, terminal Permian, terminal Triassic, and terminal Cretaceous. Since a greater number of genera went extinct in any one of these events that have during the entire Holocene.
Palmer, A.R. (1965), Biomere: A New Kind of Biostratigraphic Unit , Journal of Paleontology, vol. 39, pp. 149.
Raup, D. & Sepkoski, J. (1982). “Mass extinctions in the marine fossil record”. Science 215: 1501â€“1503.
Rohde, R.A. & Muller, R.A. (2005). “Cycles in fossil diversity”. Nature 434: 209-210.
Stitt, J.H. (1971), Repeating Evolutionary Pattern in Late Cambrian Trilobite Biomeres, Journal of Paleontology, vol. 45, pp. 178.
Mike K, et. al.
“Only better people can create a better world.”
This is just a loaded and presumptuous statement. How can you live with yourself. It presumes the same ethic of “progress” that has delivered us here in the first place. It also assumes that we should “create” the world. We are not here to create, but to participate in the given. We have already tried to “create” a better world, and look where we are.
We have already upset the apple cart, Eve is dead and the snakes are loose in the garden!
A fundamental reality is that a vast minority of the human population consumes the vast majority of the earths resources (see: http://earthtrends.wri.org/updates/node/236). While a factor, population is not the most critical and, in my experience, deflects from the real problem. Consumption and materialism driven by global market capitalism underlie this madness. As any ecologist knows, populations can crash in the blink of an eye and its now clear that our corporate government couldn’t care less. After 40 something years, I’ve lost my youthful optimism folks. This is what we’re up against.
to Hannah Sykes
The problem with that pie chart is that it doesn’t reflect the production of goods and services, only the comsumption of them. If you did a pie chart of prodcution it would look about the same. IE the citizens of the US, EU, Japan, Russia, and South Korea consume the most and produce the most. Right behind them would be China. In truth both Germany has twice the raw Industrial output of China and the US has 3.5 times the industrial output of China. But most of these products are shipped to China for assembly into other products. But the trade dynamics of the 1st and 2nd world aside, the reason the 3rd world consumes so little is because it produces almost nothing. South America exports soy/cattle/fruit and the Arabian Peninsula exports oil. The rest of the 3rd world has few mineral resources compared to the US, Canada, or Russia; and poor soil compared to China, India, the US, or Russia. They have nothing to put into the global economy since even their labor is devalued by automation. You can’t consume if you don’t have money. And you can’t make money if there are few resources to exploit to make products.
In response to Anon, re the pie chart….you just confirmed my point that a materialistic obsessed few consume most of the earths resources. We need a consumption reality check before we start blaming “overpopulation (i.e. the “poor masses”). Foolish, self-absorbed humans that we are, unable to see our own hubris. That’s why we’re screwed with or without “calcitic cosmopolitan stratigraphic succession”. Hey, guess what, I have a doctorate too. In science! What’s with the academic snobbery?
Of course we should keep working on it but we had the scientific knowledge we needed 40 years ago. Spirituality can lead us to action but its too often naive and a self-soothing distraction. We need a major recalibration of our ability to imagine and BE the change NOW. I hate to keep saying this, but we’re screwed. Doesn’t mean I’ll give up but I’m not under any illusion that we’ll get ourselves out of this mess.
Perhaps the moral offense is most egregious in moments when the ‘brightest and best’ people with knowledge, wealth and power willfully choose to remain silent and, thereby, consciously deny extant, unchallenged scientific evdence of human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth in our time.
It’s more that the populations of the first and second world have plateaued or are increasing at a rate below 1.4% percent compounded yearly. That is an acceptable rate for the moment. The reason the third world population continues to grow is because it has not been stressed to the population that having fewer children is in those children’s best interests because it is easier to pay for their education. A lack of rubbers also contributes.
I’d like to ask something. Since I don’t see any citations of peer reviewed journal articles in any of Jensens or Zerzan’s works, how are they drawing their conclusions. I’d have to see the data before I can make any assessment of their statements.
Given the expected temperature increase of 1.9-2.7 degrees farenheight and a rise in eustatic sea level of 1 meter over the next century, I can’t see how the expense of mitigating the warming or stopping hydrocarbon use is less expensive than dealing with the beach erosion and the infiltration of saline water into some coastal aquifers that will result. And frankly there will not be increased drought due to the temperature increase. More evaporation and transpiration due to the higher temperatures will mean more total global precipitation, although some areas could become drier or wetter. This precipitation will be more seasonal in its distribution, so building more reservoirs to hold the excess runoff in the wet seasons for use later in the years would be a way to mitigate that change while also holding more water for human consumption. Frankly, given the expected warming trend we will come out of this with a net gain in arable land.
Now the biosphere will eventually be consumed by human artifice, but this process will take 300-500 years. And I may ask, what is wrong with the death of the biosphere if it is necessary for the property of humanity. Given the ability to breed U238 and Thorium into usable U237, U239, and Pu 239; I can’t see how we will run out of electrical production capacity within the next 20Ka. And with enough electricity, replacing the life sustaining functions of the biosphere becomes a viable alternative.
It’s not that people are ignoring the situation. Some people are biophiles and want to maintain the biosphere regardless of the circumstances. Others are technophiles and want to usher in an age of machines. Most just don’t care, and will accept whatever is cheapest and easiest at the moment. Right now utilizing the biosphere is cheaper, so we do that.
Dear Anon, Let us begin with the comments of Dr. Gary Peters on the research of Russell Hopfenberg and David Pimentel, which is found in the journal, The California Geographer, 2009. The title of his article is, Population, Resources and Enviroment: “Beyond the Exponentials” Revisited.
“The worldâ€™s population in 2009 was close to 6.8 billion. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, we can expect about 55.7 million people to die this year, so in purely demographic terms 300,000 deaths amount to just over half of one percent of all deaths. Furthermore, there are about 15,465 births per hour worldwide, so again in a purely demographic sense those 300,000 deaths can be replaced in less than 20 hours.
Paradoxically, the very fossil fuels that have allowed us to feed the vast increase in world population over the last century or two may 113 The California Geographer n Volume 49, 2009 also be starting to increase mortality rates, even if only slightly so far. Currently we add about 80 million people to the planet each year, and we know that population growth exacerbates most environmental problems, including global warming (Speth 2008, Diamond 2005, and Friedman 2008).
Pimentel (2001), Hopfenberg (2003), and others have established in a series of articles that human population growth is a function of food supply, yet we continue to expand food supplies to accommodate future growthâ€”even if that growth threatens the planetâ€™s socioeconomic systems, ecosystems, biodiversity, oceans,
and atmosphere. Continued expansion of food supplies has come at considerable cost both to people and to Earth. As Pollan (2008, 121) commented, â€œClearly the achievements of industrial agriculture have come at a cost: It can produce a great many more calories per acre, but each of those calories may supply less nutrition than
it formerly did…. A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species.â€ According to Heller and Keoleian (2000), it takes seven to ten calories of input, mainly from fossil fuels, to produce one calorie of edible food in the United States. Looking at the American landscape, Babbitt (2005, 100) observed that â€œ[I]ndustrial agriculture has been extended too far, and the price has been too high for the land and waters to bear.â€ In many places, agricultural landscapes are no longer what Tuan (1993, 143) had in mind when he wrote that â€œIn common with the vast majority of humankind, Americans
love the small intimate world that is their home, and, immediately beyond it, a rich agricultural land.â€
According to Pimentel (2001), humans already use more than half the planetâ€™s entire biomass, leaving less and less for other species. From there, as Hopfenberg (2009, 2) noted, â€œIt is not a far logical leap to determine that, if human population and resource use continues to grow and we continue to kill off our neighbors in the biological community, one of the many species facing extinction will be the human. Thus, the impact of civilized humanity on the rest of the
biological community can be seen as lethal to the point of destroying our own ecological support”. It is a reminder that, as Bush (2000, 28) noted, â€œIf there is one lesson that the geological record offers, it is that all species will ultimately go extinct, some just do it sooner than others.â€ With the expansion of human numbers has come a steady increase in the background rate of extinction.
But even among environmentalists, population has been dropped from most discussions because it is controversial; it has been snared in the web of political correctness. As Speth (2008, 78) somewhat ironically pointed out, â€œBy any objective standard, U.S. population growth is a legitimate and serious environmental issue. But the subject is hardly on the environmental agenda, and the country has not learned how to discuss the problem even in progressive circles.â€ Cobb (2007, 1) put it this way, â€œEven if some politicians, policymakers and reporters in wealthy countries can see beyond the daily mirage of plenty to the overpopulation problem, they do
not want to touch it.â€
It is one thing for “politicians, policymakers and reporters” not to touch research of human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth. It is something altogether different when the elective mutism of scientists with appropriate expertise hides science in silence.
How on Earth are global challenges of the kind we can see looming before humanity in our time to be addressed and overcome if any root cause of what threatens us and life as we know it is not acknowledged?
Of course, it could be that Professor Peters’ assessment of the research by Pimentel and Hopfenberg is incorrect; that their work is fatally flawed. If that is the case, we need to know it. On the other hand, if that is not the case and the research is somehow on the correct track, then discussion of the research needed to have begun years ago, at the onset of Century XXI, because this research appears, at least to me, to possess extraordinary explanatory power with potentially profound implications.
Thanks to those within the community of scientists and to those in the population at large with a perspective to share who choose to examine the evidence to which your attention is drawn and report your findings.
Comments from one and all in the Orion community are sure to be welcome.
Peer-reviewed articles published in widely recognized journals regarding research on matters related to the scientific study of the human population can readily be found by clicking on the following link, http://www.panearth.org/
For peer-reviewed articles, please click on my URL. If anyone has problems finding the research on human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth, please contact me directly at SESALMONY@aol.com
Hi Sandy. If all progress is bad, maybe G-O-D should have thought twice before he planted that fateful tree in the midst of the primeval garden, and added a talking snake just to make sure He had an excuse to kick us out, and on to this uncertain evolutionary adventure we are white water rafting our way through now. Or maybe itâ€™s the big bang that He should rethink. Why not just leave the primordial â€œatomâ€ be instead of blowing it up and projecting everything on this crazy, scary, wonderful trip? God only knowsâ€¦ And to make it worse he posted this Angel dude with a flaming sword to make sure we woudnâ€™t even think of trying to go back to peacefully munching non-forbidden fruit for eternity.
BTW There was no cart in the Garden. Wheels and such were only invented after we were kicked out. Damned creativity! Just buying ourselves more troubleâ€¦ And Eve is not dead, Sheâ€™s my wife. And yes, snakes and toads and spiders and a whole ecosystem of critters are loose in our long-tended organic garden, with our blessing.
Perhaps I am mistaken about the scientific research to which I draw attention. If that is shown to be case, I will end the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population immediately. I make all of you the promise that from that moment forward you will not hear from me again. Given the human-induced global challenges that appear, at least to me, to be looming before humankind in our time, it will just fine if it turns out that I am indeed the fool so many people take me for now. Such an outcome has certain benefits. Fool that I am, still I will be free of a “duty to warn” and gratefully released to fulfill the promise I made years ago to my long-suffering spouse: end the AWAREness Campaign.
One comment in response to this qoute from the article itself.
“But thereâ€™s another reason I think few books (films, paintings, songs, relationships, lives, and so on) are forgivable. Thereâ€™s that little nagging fact that this culture is murdering the planet. Any book (film, painting, song, relationship, life, and so on) that doesnâ€™t begin with this basic understandingâ€”that the culture is murdering the planet (in part because of this alienation; and of course this murder then in turn fuels further alienation)â€”and doesnâ€™t work toward rectifying it is not forgivable, for an infinitude of reasons, one of which is that without a living planet there can be no books. ”
The problem I have with that is that art is not something that easily follows rules. Art – be it writing, visual arts, theater, what have you – is something that comes from the heart and soul of the artist. If the artist is inspired to make art centered around saving the earth, and many are, then by all means they should. But if that is not what inspires your art, so be it. If what inspires your art is to paint roses, or perform dances about human relationships, or write historical fantasy, then paint or write or perform as your heart calls for you – and fight for the environment in other ways.
When not doing your art, we can still write letters to the editor, lobby lawmakers, demonstrate, speak out, hang from trees, stand in front of bulldozers, convert your house to solar energy, buy local foods, plant gardens, etc.
But art is often a poor servant of intellect, and trying to tell people what should inspire them is a mistake. Art made from guilt or ideology is usually bad art. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t artists whose inspiration comes from addressing social and political issues, from connecting to a movement and making art that deeply conveys the issues and purpose and spirit of a movement. But to insist that all art become a tool of politics is ultimately totalitarian.
So lets not try to force every action and every form of expression and every relationship to conform to a cause, but seek to live and love and fight for the future in the way that we do best. Let us not expect all art to conform to a cause, but expect everyone to do their part, in their art or outside of it.
Hello John Chapman. I agree with your insightful comments. I think Derrick got carried away in that paragraph with his passion for total war against â€œcivilizationâ€. Itâ€™s an example of the â€œjust drop everything and give your life totally to my tripâ€. Almost a guaranteed prescription for early burn out. Donâ€™t tell me in my role as artist (which is really beyond definition) how I should do my art. If I wanted to follow someone elseâ€™s ideas, I wouldnâ€™t call it art. Art is all about unfettered freedom.
Having read a lot of Derrickâ€™s stuff, including â€œWalking on Waterâ€, his account of teaching various groups creative writing, I feel sure that Derrick would agree with your criticism of that paragraph also.
Funny how we tend to forget our own good ideas in the heat of battle.
It will take some time to find and read all the citations that you have provided, and make an assessment of their conclusions. So I will only address a few points at this time.
Your the sources you cited regarding demographics and population growth provided data is consistent with other peer reviewed sources. You have already proved yourself a better scholar than Jensen or Zerzan by providing these.
The argument isn’t about population growth rate as much as it is about what the carrying capacity would be under certain circumstances. If you only wanted to do organic agriculture you could support 1 billion humans indefinitely. If you want to use nuclear breeder reactors to provide electricity to fix nitrogen, produce petrochemicals from organic carbon, and run machines then you could provide for the current population or even tens of billions of humans indefinitely.
If you want to cover the planet in photoelectric cells, mine all the thorium and uranium out of the lithosphere, and use a majority of the worlds water as convective medium in geothermal power production then you could provide for 100 billion people or more.
All those things are technically possible, but are not economically feasible at this time. The human race is in no risk of extinction, since it is possible to allow the population to plateau at a level that can be provided for at any one moment and then allow it to grow once more resources become available. Population growth need not be graphed by a simple equation, it can fluctuate depending on the availability of resources.
“A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species.” This quote was used by the authors to discuss vitamin and complex carbohydrate deficient processed foods(particularly snack foods). Alternately processed foods can be fortified, at a greater expense. A cob of corn will have the same nutritional value per gram whether it was grown using organic or industrial agriculture.
“it takes seven to ten calories of input, mainly from fossil fuels, to produce one calorie of edible food in the United States” Indeed but as previously mentioned that energy can be supplied by any source of electricity. Although it is slightly cheaper to produce pesticides with oil or fix nitrogen using the Habner process utilizing natural gas. The plants have to take in nearly 200 calories of sunlight to produce tissues that can be metabolized by humans to produce 1 calorie. This energy loss is inevitable do to the Gibbs Free Energy law.
The only statement you sighted that is blatantly inaccurate is “humans already use more than half the planetâ€™s entire biomass” Pimental is obiviously exaggerating since 78% of all biomass on the earth is bacteria in the soil and phytoplankton in the photoic zone of the oceans. Humans do not regularly feed on those organisms directly, although other prey items are dependent on them. That brings up on solution to your concern about feeding billions of humans. Through the cultivation of phytoplankton and bacteria we could easily feed more humans than exist today. They already due this in some areas such as India were green vegetables are expensive. Euglena is the most common organism cultivated for this purpose.
If you are interested in climate change modeling I suggest you look for articles collected in the Journal of Climatology and the Journal of Paleolimnogly(lake study). For articles on the use of Breeder Reactors the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is a good source. Progress and its Sustainability. Choen’s Breeder reactors: A renewable energy source, American Journal of Physics, vol. 51, (1), Jan. 1983 and other papers by Cohen give a good description of the potential of Breeder Reactors. However I must warn you that Cohen is the Edison/Tesla of nuclear power, he is a shameless self-promoter, although with good reason. He often words his sentences to play up is inventions, note that every statement is factual but worded in a way that may be misleading to those unfamiliar with nuclear reactors. Example: Cohen would state that there is a 5 billion year supply of fissionable uranium assuming that all the U238 in the lithosphere was recovered and used in breeder reactors. However given estimated recoverable U238 reserves, an increase in electrical consumption of 10% compounded yearly, and the halflife of U238 there is only a 23,000 year supply. Of course even that assumes that all the 10% yearly increase will come from nuclear energy.
I’m not trying to downplay the situation. To you the death of the biosphere is a terrible thing. But to those like me who are indifferent, if the human race can prosper into the foreseeable future then we have little other concern.
I am curious what field is your doctorate in? I assume that it is Geography from the citations you provided.
Not wishing to disrespect anyoneâ€™s belief in the religion of Science, but while we are waiting for Godot to appear and deliver us from all our problems, the elites who are impoverishing the vast majority of us, and working feverishly to destroy life on our planet may not leave much to save. Ah Scienceâ€¦.promises, promisesâ€¦
It is consoling to believe that these super-smart people are coming to save usâ€¦..kind of like the audiences at a Greek tragedy in the old days could count on the deus ex machina to be lowered onto the stage, where upon a wise and stately God would intervene to resolve all the difficulties encountered in the drama they had just been absorbed in. Surely Science will ride in to magically rescue us just when our plight seems most perilous!
The technology described above doesn’t need any new advancements in material science or physics to create it. It only takes a capital investment. For the next 75 years there will be enough oil to produce gasoline at price of 4.00USD/gal, assuming an increase in the rate of consumption of gasoline of 5% compounded yearly. So it will remain economical to use oil for at least 50 years. There are still 200 years worth of coal(75% of which lies within the boundaries of the US). There is at least 125 year supply of conventional natural gas, and far more if the shale reservoirs in the the US, Canada, and Russia are exploited. Expect a shift to new electric production technologies gradually over the next 50-100 years, as they become more viable. As mentioned before the biosphere will probably die, but as things are going right now it may take a very long time.
If anyone has an interest in hydrocarbon reservoirs, the best Journals to look in are the AAPG Bulletin, SEPM bulletin, and the Journal of Sedimentary Geology.
If there was enough oil to last a thousand years, it would only make me more concerned for our poor planet and the spiritually diminished folks inhabiting it. It is not how much money you have, but what you spend it on, and how you share it or donâ€™t. As Hannah rightly said, population or peak oil are not the only critical problems we are facing. Solving both of those could put us in even a deeper hell, lacking a real change in people. We happen to be the species with the greatest potential for good or evil. So far the dark side is clearly ascendant. The inability to see that is one of the most symptoms of our wide spread loss of soul. The denial that anything like â€œsoulâ€ even exists is a regular feature of the afflicted.
Only better people can make a better world.
Anon, so we can feed many more billions.. Why can’t we feed the billions that are here now?
I say this as an environmentalist: “this culture” is not “killing the planet.” This sort of rhetoric gets us nowhere.
“This culture” is killing certain things, many of them, in fact. Undeniably. I think even anti-environmentalists would agree; many of them like to kill things and do so with abandon.
But how do you reconcile this condemnation of “killing the planet” with the natural fact that many times much of the planet’s biosphere has been wiped out, much of its flora and fauna devastated. Extinctions have been of wild proportions. They lead to great fluorescence of life afterwards.
And still the earth toodles along.
We are not killing it. Even a nuclear winter wouldn’t do it. Other things would come to life, new wild species would evolve and life of some sort would go on. It may not be the life you want, but it’d be some form of life.
This is not a trite critique: I think the left and the environmental movement have never come to terms with the legacy of Darwinism. No life is more valuable than any other, except by arbitrary systems of value, which in the end they all are.
My favourite recent example: the sad protests against culling hundreds of bunny rabbits at the University of Victoria. How could they kill the bunnies! But there is no protest of the hundreds of rat traps and poison bait stations that likely litter that campus.
I would like to see people like Mr. Jensen think a little harder about that fact. Otherwise his essays remain semi-well-argued emotional appeals.
I’m going to side with Edward Abbey on this one. Not that I think Derrick Jensen’s points are entirely invalid. And not that I think he writes all this to take a shot at Abbey(though the charges of racism and misogyny do seem more like cheap jabs than matters crucial to the plot). I’m siding with Abbey because I believe, if we’re going to worry about a hierarchy, that the “half-hearted” part is more important than the “fanatic” part, that enjoying the land is more important than fighting for it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not equating enjoyment of the land with any human-centered, destructive act meant to provide a cheap thrill. And I’m not equating half-heartedness with self-destructive passivity. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t become so assured of and comfortable with our own purity as to succumb to some fire and brimstone kind of zealotry. I’m just saying that to defend a place out of a militaristic duty rather than from an abiding sense of joy is to embark on a mission doomed from the start.
I like Jensen, albeit frustratedly. Endgame is on my bookshelf now, and I take the time to read and consider his columns in every Orion issue. But the rhetoric in this essay worries me. I mean, we’re introduced to the online version with reference to environmental “crusaders.” There’s a word saturated with associations if there ever was one. Then there’s the whole “fanatic” call, as though the world needs more people who think, with violence as a practical resort, that they are righter than other people. And who is it that determines, in light of the murder of our planet, what lives (books, films, paintings, songs, relationships, etc.) are and are not forgivable? This is all rhetoric I’ve heard before, and I suppose it takes little imagination to figure out where.
I find Jensen’s invocation of Martin Buber interesting; I only wish he would have taken Buber’s philosophy to its full extent: If anybody other than the choir members are going to take Jensen or any other environmentalist up on this call for fanatics, then Jensen and other like-minded environmentalists are going to have to replace their current, patronizing “I-it” relationship with the members of this industrial civilization with the “I-Thou” relationship, a relationship that is not possible assuming that most lives are unforgivable.
We may be able to endure until the last red dwarf burns out.
I think you may be getting the wrong impression of scientists. Contrary to popular belief our religiosity is about the same as the rest of the population.
Science is by definition the study of natural phenomenon through objective observation and reproducible experimentation to create predictive models. Any supernatural phenomenon which may or may not exist cannot be assessed by the scientific method. Moreover even if supernatural phenomena could be observed objectively they could not be reproduced or used to create a predictive model, thereby making the attempted observation entirely pointless. When a scientist is utilizing the scientific method they do not spare a thought to the existence or nonexistence of supernatural phenomenon, because neither possibility has any impact on his observations. Science is not a worldview, it is not a philosophy. It has taken us too long to remove all philosophical and subjective content from the original Natural Philosophy to jeopardize the extremely effective tool that science has become.
A real scientist is not an atheist, believer, or agnostic when working. They do not think about supernatural things, because doing so would be pointless.
All that said, it is my subjective religious opinion that God wants humanity to conquer the universe all 800 billion galaxies of it. But even if we have not be given dominion by divine mandate it makes no difference. We have the power to take it, we have laid claim to this planet. And we will lay claim to all others, until the last gram of hydrogen is ours. It will take a very long time, but if we remain true to our dream and are very lucky we have hundreds of billions of years to do it. For those who would say that is impossible I can only bring up an article that supports your own pro-biosphere views. http://people.oregonstate.edu/~muirp/cornucop.htm They’re math checks out, if we could maintain the 1994 population growth rate “after 6000 years, the mass of the human population would equal the estimated mass of the observable universe”. Although this is impossible to sustain at one time, an high population growth rate could be sustained each time we find new resources. The planetary mass of every new stellar system visited would be consumed only a few millenia after it is colonized, then the inhabitants could live around the star until it burns out. Even at an average velocity of 0.1C we could still consume the universe before it cools. At least that’s the endgame many of us are working for. No magic faster than light travel, no enlightened space empire, just a slow methodical expansion as far as we can make it. We won’t know if it is possible unless we try. In the distant future the remaining lifetime of Sol may seem to be a very short period. In a universe dominated by entropy “sustainability” is a myth. But we will live much longer if we try.
Anon: I wonder who you work for? Stratigrapher (?) sounds like a fossil fuel guy. That would help me understand where some of your more bizarre thinking about the environment and the purpose of human life come from.
Where the “anonymous” guy is coming from is obvious. He is one of those who believes that 20k more years of control and planetary manipulation are better than the 2MM years that preceded it. He is the ideal of the disembodied (but greedy)scientific observer. He would rather we all float around, just brains consuming commercial distractions, with no bodies, on an uninhabitable planet. All I know is that when the forced extermination of a few billion humans becomes necessary, he should be among the first. [Can’t wait to see his reply… it is sure to be self servingly..SCIENTIFIC!!]LOL
Sandy: Agreed. Our dysfunctional â€œcultureâ€ is bound to produce some truly off-the-chart types. Even the over-heated imaginations of the old comic book and SF authors would be amazed at some of our current products. Like the ruling elites who go around thinking they are the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me, rather than the loathsome scumbags they are. At the risk of offending some of the easily fooled lefties among us, Obama reminds me more and more of Mussolini jutting out his chin as if he is way above it all. What a fraud. And given the psychology of the human ego, the folks who voted for him now find it impossible to see him for the corporate tool he is. How easily deluded the undeveloped mind is. And people think all the problems are â€œout thereâ€.