Mutual Aid

I LIVE IN A TEMPERATE redwood rainforest. I see dozens if not hundreds of redwood trees each day. The same used to be true of tadpoles. I’ve seen rivulets so full of tadpoles, they were pushing each other out of the water. All spring I used to see hundreds of tiny egg masses from Pacific tree frogs and dozens of larger masses from northern red-legged frogs. No longer.

I was just talking to a herpetologist at U.S. Fish and Wildlife who knows someone who thirty years ago used to see thousands of rough-skinned newts at a time, and who now sees only a couple per year. At one point it would not have been a big deal to see a passenger pigeon either; after all, there were something like six times as many passenger pigeons as all other birds in North America combined. “Oh my god, I saw a passenger pigeon!” would have been met with, “That’s nice, dear, and did you see a mosquito, too?” Likewise with whales, who were once so common they were a major impediment to shipping. But as this culture continues to grind away ever faster at all that remains of the wild, we can fail to notice what’s gone missing, or never even know it was ever here at all.

Which is why I spent an hour or so today with my shoes, socks, and pants off, thigh deep in cold water. I did this because the tree frogs are being killed by a mold called saprolegnia. Saprolegnia is ubiquitous; normally it “cleans up” weakened eggs and egg sacs (in a Darwinian sense) by eating them. But lately the mold has been causing up to 95 percent mortality in eggs in places as far away as Spain, in the neighboring state of Oregon, and, also, the pond outside my house. I read that the reason the mold has been killing so many eggs is that increased UVB — caused by a decrease in the ozone layer, caused, of course, by the actions of the industrial economy — is weakening the eggs and their sacs. UVB radiation can’t penetrate glass, so last year I brought some egg masses inside to see if I could help. I might have lost one or two, but nearly a hundred tadpoles survived, and I fed them on lettuce and fish food till they were big enough to be released back into the pond. My efforts this spring were curtailed by ankle surgery, but as soon as I could walk without a cast or cane, in I went. I collected probably eighty tree frog eggs and ten red-legged frog eggs. I’ll collect more red-legged frog eggs tomorrow.

Next year my plan is to go in once a week from December through May and collect eighty eggs per species per week, then raise them with the same near-100-percent success rate. Let’s call it twenty weeks: that would be sixteen hundred large tadpoles released into the pond. If they have even a 5 percent success rate from that point on, that would still be an increase of eighty frogs per year into this fairly small pond.

Now, normally I wouldn’t want to interfere, for at least two reasons. The first is that, in contradistinction to many people in this culture, and the culture itself, I trust natural wisdom and think nature generally knows best, so I’m loath to intervene in predator/prey relationships. The second is that, if I did leave the egg sacs alone, in time those frogs emerging with a greater resistance to saprolegnia would survive and those without would not, so that in the long run frogs and mold would find a new balance. But since mortality at present is nearly total, in the short run the frogs would be dead. So we — the frogs, the pond, the forest and all its members (including me and, for that matter, the saprolegnia and other predators) — don’t have much to lose by this manipulation.

I also don’t particularly want to interfere because, to be frank, I’ve always hated cold water. I still remember being five and crying in the locker room of the YMCA before swimming lessons because the pool was always so cold. Another reason I don’t want to interfere is something called the giant water bug, nickname toe-biter. My bug book says they’re about an inch and a half long, but as I step in, my imagination puts them at closer to five or six inches. And I can’t stop thinking about the deflated frog-skin sacks I’ve seen (the giant water bug injects a substance that liquefies the frog’s insides, so they can be sucked out as through a straw). I have read the bugs sometimes catch small birds. So you’ll note I only went into the pond as deep as my thighs; I’m willing to risk a very painful bite on my toe, but there are other places I’d rather not think about being bit. The word I’m looking for to describe myself here is wimp. Nonetheless, I wade in, and I feel good about it.

I even now have a plan for the newts, who are dying of chytrid, a fungus that evidently hits them when they metamorphose. But I’ve read that they’re reasonably easy to keep in big tanks, and they’ll breed in these tanks too. In fact, captive-raised rough-skinned newts are sometimes sold as pets (as are wild ones caught by people I hope will be captured by space aliens and sold as pets on a planet far away). And it’s possible to combat chytrid by dipping individual nymphs into a diluted solution of fungicide. So I could also raise newts to release locally if it comes to that.

And now for the real point: In column after column, book after book, I always say we need to use whatever means necessary to protect the land where we live. Too often people assert that this is code language for violent revolt against corporations. And then they assert that this is no solution at all, and therefore assert that I have offered no solutions. But when I say protect your landbase using whatever means necessary, I mean it. It’s not that hard to figure out. Sometimes it might mean violent revolt against corporations. Sometimes it might not. Today it meant taking off my clothes, getting into reasonably cold water, and suffering the extremely minor chance of getting bit by a giant water bug.

And now here’s the real, real point: It only took me an hour. And it was a fun hour — an hour I spent serving my landbase instead of playing a game on a computer, or answering e-mail, or watching television, or getting pissed off and flaming someone in an online forum because of a column that person wrote for Orion, or wasting time in some other way that does absolutely no good for the real, physical world. The obvious and even more real point is that we can all find an hour or two per week we can give to our landbases.

Yes, industrial capitalism must and will come down. Yes, the oil economy must and will cease. And there are those who can and will hasten the collapse of capitalism and the oil economy. And I aim to be, and in some senses already am, one of those people. But that doesn’t alter the fact that I can spend an hour or two on a Saturday afternoon helping the local frogs to survive. And you can do the same for the plants and animals you love, who live where you live, whose home is your home, and in whose home you live.

Derrick Jensen’s most recent book is Mischief in the Forest, a children’s book, with illustrations by Stephanie McMillan.


  1. I concur with this article whole-heartedly in no small part because it is about:
    a) care for your place,
    b) recognizes the limits of your intervention in that place,
    c) resists in the form of love, and
    d) educates us so well.
    If I only we could do this with the Hemlocks in Pennsylvania. Or maybe…we can.

  2. Sorry, the link above was incorrect: I concur with this article whole-heartedly in no small part because it is about:
    a) care for your place,
    b) recognizes the limits of your intervention in that place,
    c) resists in the form of love, and
    d) educates us so well.
    If I only we could do this with the Hemlocks in Pennsylvania. Or maybe…we can.

  3. Thank you so much, Derrick, for addressing the matter of ‘action.’ I see far too much complacency in the world today. Too many capable individuals throwing up their hands saying “Oh well! there’s nothing we can do about it!” If you have 2 hands to throw up in the air? you have the tools to make things right. I might add that Caution should dictate that we observe first, think second (some of us should think longer and harder than others), act third. Fools tend to rush into situations, only to discover much later they botched things up even worse. I give as example, the US Army Corp of Engineers and the destruction of the ecosystem of the Florida Everglades.
    I wish you success beyond expectations in your frog saving endeavors Derrick. In my book, you are a Hero. Wether you succeed or not, may not be as important as the fact that you got off your butt, took off your pants, and tried to give a small part of nature, a fighting chance.

  4. You do know that passenger pigeons were originally quite rare, right? Their bones don’t show up in middens in large amounts until 1750. The pigeons are such easy prey that the Natives kept their populations down, along with the populations of other animals. For example there were no elk in Pennsylvania until 1700 since the Natives had reduced their population, then they were latter reduced down to nothing again by the new settlers in 1900.

    And hemlocks, well they are little good to anyone other than for the tannic acid in the bark. I live in Jefferson Co. PA and that area was a place where the boundaries of several tribes met specifically because the hemlock dominated forest offered no incentive for anyone to claim the territory. They can’t be used for lumber for cottage or longhouse, they aren’t good for rafts or canoes since they soak up to much water, they don’t produce a mast crop other than for the aforementioned passenger pigeons which ate the seeds, and because of that there was relatively little game to be had.

    The Natives were not weaklings “in balance” with the natural environment They were strong humans that bent it to their will. They selectively burned entire forests over generations, replacing hemlocks with mast crop producing hardwoods. They planed off hogsbacks over centuries and transported river sediment to the tops to enrich the soil. The Natives were strong, but when disease killed 95% of them their carefully controlled forests fell into disrepair and became the huge primeval forest that we think of as “climax forest”

    The first explorers mentioned how many natives there were, how there was not a stream or inlet without a net strung across it. How the land was open and “park like; since the natives used brush for kindling, burning to enrich the soil of farmland, and for charcoal. And this is not merely what explorers say, the Iroquois Confederation was a strong empire with an actual alphabetic style writing system. They were proud of their granaries, conquests, and wars.

    These were not pathetic “noble savages” that are depicted in movies these were proud humans and they were strong. To depict them as these tree hugging fools is basely offensive to the very soul of mankind.

  5. There seems to be contradicting scientific arguments on the passenger pigeons. describes thepopulation increase as a result of dwindling native american population, while seems to describe larger populations in the past.
    In any way – native american populations may have influenced the landbase they lived on, just as sheep keep grasslands present by grazing and squirrels keep forests alive by forgetting about some of the buried seeds or beavers erect small dams to create a habitat for themselves. It is natural for a species to influence the landbase they live on. However there are some distinctions between native american land “management” and modern agriculture and forestry. And that is the exclusiveness of use (in modern times it must have a use for humans – if it does not, it is eradicated), the unidirectional flow of use (civilized people dont return anything when they take) and most of all sustainability (the possibility to keep going forever, a common reference is the “seventh generation rule”).
    Of course the “indians” were not fools and of course they made use of the land and shaped it, but they did not destroy it, they were part of it, they knew that their lives depends on it, they did not hug trees for the sake of it but rather respected them because they knew that their own life depends on a healthy natural world and to ensure that this will remain so, they gave this concept a place in their spirituality as well. Humans are still part of it, but in modern times, they have come to behave in a way that is not sustainable. They regard themselves as detached from the land and thus believe they can take without giving and actually live without a healthy landbase. That is truely foolish!

  6. We are carbon units derived from oatoms fashioned in the solar furace of our long-worshiped sun. We are animal and not mineral or vegetable. Our closest relative in the Bonobo. We have the ability to kill this planet and seem unable to incapable of comprehending the processes that acomplish the deed.

  7. Nice to have enough land base to be able to interact with it in such a way. There are comparisons to be made here with the manner in which the human population is treated and parts of it sickened (spiritually with a big wide ‘S’, psychologically as well as physically) by the machinations of oil-driven hyper-capitalist neo feudalism.

    Example? In my town an announcement was just made that the mental health unit of the local regional hospital is closing its doors. This means that people, most of whom live on less than a thousand dollars monthly (plus food stamps) will have to travel almost one hundred miles or more to be treated for their debilitating and life long mental afflictions when they need in patient care. This means that more will end up in jail or worse. These are emergency intense, life-threatening diseases.

    Meanwhile, the hospital system that owns the psych unit (a “not-for-profit” system) is building a 7 million dollar building for physical rehab services and dialysis, plus a few other services that are money makers for the system and generally only serve the well insured or well-off, or take advantage of rather lucrative arrangements with Medicare (see recent NPR Fresh Air interviews about the system of dialysis in this country)

    What has this to do with frogs and salamanders? Until people who are “well landed” are able to put as much effort into rescuing people from the effects of hyper neo-feudalist capitalism, their efforts to save the environment will be for naught. It will always appear that they are more concerned about frogs than people (and sometimes, I know, it is hard not to be) and the poorest will always be in the column of those who could care less and who are actively a part of the problem of environmental degradation in the ways that they must behave in this culture of consumption in order to survive: hence the denuding of forests, the continued success of fast food and pre-packaged food like substances with all the packaging and plastics woes.

    So wade away in your cold pond to save the newt if you want, it’s a worthy cause, but remember there are plenty of poor schmucks (many more than you) whose needs and will to fill those needs will always supplant any efforts to save the frogs… unless you do something about it. In the mean time they are all being convinced to vote for Tea partiers.

  8. Although I see the point of the need to help people there are millions of people helping people and not enough people willing ti take their pants off to help the planet. There are too many people on this earth and a rapid dwindling of the natural world without which neither the poor or the rich will survive. Good job, Derrick.

  9. Loved this from Jensen; nice to see something more nuanced, and so gentle and personal and … vulnerable. (I don’t like cold water either!) As the other comment said, “resisting in a loving way”. Yes! I can’t say whether small actions are enough to change the paradigm in the long run – but as Jensen points out, in the short run they can matter a lot. More, please!

  10. Indeed thanks a lot for the article. Your actions there remind me a lot of my mother. She spends a lot of her time saving toads and frogs in her local area. She would never do anything people might call violent or in a legal grey zone, but she does what she does and as you said, it is all needed.
    Speaking of this, I wonder what the opinion on the post on helping people is. My take would be, that this also falls under the same category of “we need it all”, but @Bob Vance what you seem to imply is that helping humans is somehow preferrable to helping the natural world. Isn’t this idea – that the (perceived) human well beeing is always of higher importance than the well beeing of others – what got the world into this trouble? Humans starve, so we need more land for food production, people freeze, so more oil has to be burned, people loose their jobs, so the economy has to go on….
    By helping the natural wold, and this is often overlooked, one also helps people, as humans depend on the natural world. By helping a person, one can help that specific person at this specific time. This is all good, but I would not pose this higher than someone helping the natural world by which he will help many people albeit in a more distant future. Both have their legitimate place and both contribute to improving the future.

  11. they say that there was a cinega in Mexico, and when the human tribe that had lived there and loved it were moved away, the diversity level dropped fairly precipitously, and stayed dropped.

    we can be a loving servant of the good earth, and beauty will arise. And maybe spread like a tsunami.

    great piece, thank you Derrick.

  12. All I can say is that I am thrilled Derrick!. You are one person doing as much as one person can to stem a tide of extinction and I am so pleased to read of your efforts! Good on yer!

  13. Buzzard Bob: I am not sure how my comment could be misconstrued to compel people to think they must make a choice between poor people and poor frogs.

    The point is that, due to the overwhelming dominance of environmental stresses created by people, and largely by very poor people who must make inroads into relatively pristine environments to survive, any effort to save frogs in small ways may not amount to much but feel good bourgeois liberalism. And I do not buy into the over-population angle proposed by many who have not examined their perspectives enough to set boundaries far enough away from race and culture supremacy issues that groups who propose population is the primary environmental ill (see the SPLC under Dr. Tanton) to allow me to trust their proposals.

    Another example from my own neighborhood: for years the small farms that surround the scores of little tourist and ex-lumbering/mining towns where I live have been slowly made irrelevant in this age of hyper-capitalist agriculture. The farms are gorgeous and by their mere existence protect acres and acres of prime and relatively undisturbed grasslands, forests and watersheds all of which drain into the Great Lakes. Most, if not a broad majority, of these land owners and their children struggle mightily to get by and have succumbed in many cases to a wide range of social ills related to poverty that one might expect to be urban problems only.

    Recently there has been a wave of offers made to these families all over the area by oil and gas concerns to turn these underused but environmentally important lands into fracking sites for oil and gas exploration and extraction. Each “pad” for a fracking type well, as a recent Orion article very adeptly described, is a five acre parking lot. There is no way to dispose of the leftover toxic fluids injected forcefully into the ground to break up the deep layers of shale.

    Recently I found a place I’ve never visited before where the waters from these layers emerge from the sides of a hill in torrents. Clear sweet water. I drank from them without fear. These springs were more dramatic than any I have seen here, but there are whole river systems that are fed by wide areas of hills, covered with hardwoods and pines, and separated by wetlands, beaver ponds and little streams, from which similar springs emerge. All run into the Great Lakes which hold about a quarter of the world’s fresh water. There are still areas in the wetlands these springs and rivers feed where healthy populations of frogs live. The choirs are more and more poignant and beautiful with each passing year that their massacre seems to come closer. Do you think saving the frogs in your backyard pond will have much effect under such circumstances?

    Certainly providing a safe place for them regardless of what catastrophes are on the horizon is the good and right thing to do. But let’s not congratulate ourselves too much. It is not becoming in a nation that is the major feeder of the eleven huge gyres of plastic in the oceans and the by products of our consumption that fall on us and our amphibian friends from the sky.

  14. Yo, Bob Vance, welcome. I hope you can stay around long enough to motivate some Orion readers to put a ding in the universe.
    I’ve aligned myself with those in favor of population control in previous Jensen-related discussions. The planet can’t feed an unlimited number of people. But those who are already here should be cared for. Health care is obviously going to be a continuing political battle for the next few years. When the floods come it’s not an option to sit at home if there’s work to be done on the levee. The political spectrum seems to be clearly divided between those who think that everyone should be able to take care of himself , and those who empathise with the reality of human diversity. We’re equal but not equal. Humanity is part of the fauna we need to care for in our ecosystem. It will only happen thru careful attention and political action.

  15. I, too, have been hesitant to “interfere” with the natural processes. And my gardener self is constantly in discussion with my naturalist self, to the point that the community garden plot (Victory Garden) I fret over, is pretty much surrendered to the 70+ species of wild and medicinal voluteers that strive to take back the wetland wrenched from them for the war-effort (WWII). I merely try to maintain the chaos enough to get the 30×30 plot past the ‘garden police’.
    (Hummingbirds help guide what stays.)
    A couple of weeks ago I put up a Hummingbird feeder, because a photographer had thought he’d spotted a Rufous hummer, and wanted to see if it could be attracted. When I went to changed the sugar-water, there’s was the tiniest little (very unphotogenic) bird poop on the feeder. One can only surmise who the contributor might have been.
    The second bit of interference I’ve indulged this season, is to stratify a dozen Gingko seeds, from an urban, renegade female Gingko, in order to plant them in the Spring.
    It warms my soul.
    Derrick, thank you for your work in the world.

  16. Thanks, Derrick, for helping out with the cold-water-loving frogs! Please reply with more info about newts – we used to see them around our property (rural Sonoma County) and now I hardly ever see them – I’m kind of scared to intervene without more info on how to help them effectively.
    Your respondents brought up the example of mentally ill or poor humans – since I work with special ed. kids I feel like I’m already dealing with the proverbial canaries in the coal mine – it’s true that it’s really hard to refocus on animals, native plants, insects, when the kids and some adults are not doing so well! That still doesn’t keep me from planting stuff that helps keep butterflies going – and putting up bird feeders outside my classroom. Everything helps – especially if the kids get the idea that it’s important to keep trying!

  17. In past columns, Derrick has been criticized, including by me, for not offering specific solutions or actions. I was also offended that he seemingly dissed people who think composting is enough (well, by itself, it isn’t, but it is still a positive action). So he finally offers a solution and I love it! What I like is that it is small, particular, and local, but the kind of thing that, if just 100 people did what he did, the results would be exponential. I do not want to abuse this oft-quoted remark by Ghandi but it is one of my favorites. He said, “Everything you will do is insignificant and it is very important that you do it.” Derrick bothered with an “insignificant” action. Against the overwhelming enormity of the environmental crisis, it seems his action would make hardly a dent. But the best solutions are small and local, caring for where you live and these kinds of solutions repeated a million times in thousands of different places they will begin to add up. The hyper-capitalist mega machine is doomed by its very existence anyway, we can bring it down even faster by refusing to participate in it, and by working on solutions that are local and particular.

  18. 14 Bob: “… any effort to save frogs in small ways may not amount to much but feel good bourgeois liberalism. Yipes! Harsh dude. Also? not true.

    You mention the plight of the small family farmers in your town….might I ask if you have offered them any assistance, in any way? If not, why not? Have you held town meetings, joined these farming families together in a united front?

    You speak also of the impending ‘frog massacre’ that will take place in your area. Are you sitting idly by and watching? Doing nothing? As the old saying goes… “An ounce of prevention, equals a pound of cure.”

    It is my belief that we are presented with situations that challenge us to act. We can either sit comfortably in front of our glowing screens, pound away at the keyboard about the futility of it all, or ‘take our pants off’ like Derrick, and fight back. Each of us makes that choice with every ‘wrong’ we see or experience first hand. Do nothing or do something. It’s that simple.

    also? “But let’s not congratulate ourselves too much.” Derrick is doing no such thing. It is his readers that are awarding him ‘kudos’ Derrick is writing of his personal experience in an entertaining, motivational way.

    But then, perhaps? are you striking out simply because you are jealous that this one man, is doing something in assisting nature, making it sound like fun (which it is btw) and thereby setting a good example and maybe inspiring others to do the same?

    A great woman once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
    Margaret Mead

  19. restless renegade:


    I’ll tell you what. To make this easier for you and more entertaining for me and everyone else, why don’t you go ahead and make up the story about my activism. That way I can avoid the tedium of replicating my activist resume, my over 25 years in advocacy, and the deeply thought out, life long, lifestyle choices that I am proud of that are congruent with and reflect my convictions along these lines. I may have never attended the same conferences or participated in any frog saving ventures outside my own small pond in my little backyard in the poor neighborhood where I live, but I can bet you my activist cajones are at least as big as yours… and probably cost less in terms of carbon footprint.

  20. Well Bob, let’s see now… in my book? your resume has you down as the male Jane Goodall of the Universe. I highly suspect you need no one to extend accolades to you for all the good that you do, as you seem to think you are the cats meow and that is all that really matters, isn’t it? and no, I’d rather not enter into a pissing match if you don’t mind. There seems to be more important matters to tend to than to compare who is more planetary friendly. Was it so wrong of me or anyone here to publicly Thank Mr. Jensen for ‘doing’ something? The fact that it seemed to upset you disturbed me somewhat and I couldn’t let it pass without calling it out. Your problem, not mine.

  21. Wow! Now we have cajones comparisons. I think it’s safe to say this discussion has fairly well deteriorated. You may now zip up your pants fellas! Pleeeez!!!

  22. The word is cojones, and when things get as feisty as this I guess it applies across the board.
    The subject at hand, by the way, was eggs.

  23. And in Russian, the balls of a male are called яйца (yietza) or “eggs”.

    This is great stuff guys… keep it up!!

  24. Bravo. What you do is what you can do. Thank you.

  25. Which reminds me of my Russian Great Aunt’s special recipe for egg salad in which, during lean times, she substituted wet newspaper for eggs. No one could tell the difference until the morning and then the lines were excruciating and the madness in the family emerged like so many cojones locked up tight in the frog ponds east of Lake Baikal.

    One would have a good reason to ask what this has to do with anything, and since I myself am guilty of the sin of questioning in a rather inoffensive but badly written Socratic manner the suppositories of the writer who wandered willy-nilly into his bug-filled pond to catch the cojones of the frog and the toad, I must now set free my own family history of workers who had plenty to whine about but chose instead the more admirable coping strategy of drinking until they were dead or didn’t remember living. Whichever came first.

    Which brings me to Jane Goodall. I was hoping no one would ever uncover my connections to her and to her charges that were, after all, in this world of six degrees, my third cousins twice removed two times. So yes, I AM almost as haughty as any English monkey lady and still I admire her and you for stretching the truths you have no way of knowing into a comedy of plethoras… a whole plethora of plethoras….

    and while I know you cannot quite grasp any lack of linear understanding (the song of the death of poetry if not bad poets)and I do not expect you to sample that egg salad even in years flush with cojones, my motivation was always only to stimulate conversation. A dangerous proposal of course, both left of the left and right of the right, but then who wasn’t beaten up as a child? If you were born here you have been tortured or have been the torturer. Where is the balance in that? asked my great Great Aunt as she whipped those eggs into a frenzy of doubt and whoopla until she was taken away to a den of iniquity or Guantanamo whichever came first. So saith these virus infected pages. Hallelujah?

  26. .. choirs of coyotes sing… alleluia. we may never know what they offer up to the skies from their suffering souls… but it speaks to a distant star, when they gather and yip yip ooooOOoooo in an effort to release all that they know and all that they feel. too bad we as humans have not accomplished such a successful means of simultaneous communication and heavenly grace.

  27. Thanks for that link Mike, I read the first part of that interview, and will read the rest when it is posted.

    I’m convinced more than I was before that Mr. Jensen is not someone that you can lightly dismiss…but you can’t take him too seriously either.

    I find satisfaction in reading his expository style, but he continues to bob, weave and hide behind rhetorical walls when it comes down to plainly stating what he wants. Yeah, I know, he wants to live in a world, etc., etc…. BUT, where he slip-slides away is when the time comes to lay out what he’ll do to get there. I don’t hold that too much against him, just as I don’t hold it too much against myself. Like the rest of us, Jensen gets tongue tied when it comes down to how do we, exactly, get from A to B. Or, using his timeline, from B to A. Jensen has no more insights into why the world as we perceive it is crappy than any of us, the exception only being that he’s snagged a nice gig laying them out every month. Hell, does anyone NOT want to live in the world that he envisions? (O.K., maybe most of us aren’t too eager to adopt a hunting and foraging way of life, I’m betting.) What Jensen fails to internalize is that EVERYONE, FOREVER has regretted the destruction of the natural world to satisfy our ever increasing greed, numbers and needs. Not news to many dude. Even the ones that he’ll say are the true culprits, the “they” of maximum capitalism. “They” do too, even if only on some sad, idealized level. Shoot, ever known a rich man to not go out and buy up a big chunk of land and try to preserve it? It is almost a cliché.

    If wishing it made it happen, we’d all be there now, gigging for salmon and gathering peyote buds for supper. There is no way back to the garden Derrick.


    By the path unforeseen, and unbidden. We’ll get there, but we might not like the route.

  28. I am pretty sure reverting to large scale hunting and gathering would require more discomfort than merely putting up with some cold water and biting bugs, not to mention the guys in the next valley who didn’t plan too well for a rather natural outbreak that killed all the fish or fowl in their valley, or a stretch of summers like the one before the French Revolution in which there was no growing season at all and made “let them eat cake” a true reason to be angry at the king and queen (even though “cake” in that context was actually a small baguette or round loaf of bread).

    The widespread idea of peaceful coexistence with the wild things is a relatively new one. The Newtonian idea of “torturing” the secrets out of Mother Nature was a necessary one for the historical perspective of the time and there were few, in that longest era of short human life expectancy, who would dispute the need to tame one’s surroundings. All of the Netherlands is a result of such an idea.

    I think it is disreputable in the least to desire such a state of being that is the product of romantic dreams and not the reality of most people’s lives. That we want to come to terms with how our species, even in it’s most violent expression, is completely interwoven into the fabric of the environment and that its naturally occurring inclinations to conquer nature have turned into a kind of human coping strategy that is no longer useful and could also be self destructive is new and different in the large scale collective consciousness.

    Our problem is how to use such urges to our advantage, and to identify the behaviors and their antecedents, connective tissues and synaptic pathways (so to speak) that must be altered or re-imagined. Then we must concretely invent a new way to actualize a re-engineering of what is a part of our evolutionary heritage and way to survive. We must make wings out of tool- and weapon-wielding appendages so-to-speak… and do it quickly

  29. You obviously suffer from thinking that thinking is somehow a separate thing from being or creating or evolving… separate from doing. Mind body split. Another common evolutionary appendage that we may not be able to grow out of or have time enough to revise before we are doomed.

    I wouldn’t call it “donning garments of deity” as much as playing. But have it your way. I get a kick out of someone thinking I deify my little role in my little world. Why not? Maybe everyone should try a bit of that kind of fcuking around instead of bowing before their gods as if they are separate from or more perfect than us. (That mind/body split again I’m afraid) One thing the ancients and the pantheists had over us: imperfect gods. All things imbued with god. You too! god without god within god… now THAT’S romantic.

    Perhaps my error, if there is one, is in the use of the word engineer… I meant it as a process of conscious thinking, creating and becoming (or unbecoming) as opposed to using or building. Even our language, or at least my ability to use it aptly, fails to describe the actions we must engage in to stop this slide into whatever it is we are sliding into.

    Interesting that we are using this tool to have this little spat… the ultimate fcuking with creation kind of thing don’t you think? Perhaps you would think twice about how you fcuk with creation every time you tap out your little antagonistic messages. Or perhaps you are merely a sophist and an opportunist who makes excuses for how your life departs from your beliefs… as I do not get a good idea of either I’ll leave that determination up to you and others who know you. You, on the other hand, can go ahead and berate the things you think you know about me. It’s kinda fun.

    But then, maybe it’s just another evolutionary event.

    It would be nice to think that we could at least use the evolutionary advantage of our minds to survive our own natural inclinations to destroy our world and ourselves in it. First step? Stop thinking you can go backwards to go forwards.

  30. @ Bob Vance

    Too bad you feel compelled to rant against anyone who questions your posts. Perhaps you can re-engineer me after you re-engineer your self, Dr. BOB!!

  31. Your post is an interesting lesson about how to project your actions and feelings on someone else. But please, feel free to have the last word. Thanks for the memories; it’s been fun. Really.

  32. Dr. Bob is back to strutting cojones. Yawn. So what else is new? How about those German protests, anyone been following them? I am curious how that’s going to play out over the next year… seems to be pretty deeply resonant at all levels of German society, which is unusual.

  33. I’ll tell you something else for free about my impressions to date on this series of essays: Was it not that long ago that Jensen scolded readers about how ineffective small actions were (like taking shorter showers)? Get this man his own copy, would someone?

  34. I really like this article by Jensen. When I read some of his prior “why aren’t you all doing as much as me” articles, I have to admit this sudden urge to tell him to buzz off. When I read this issues article, I have this sudden desire to say “wait a second – I think I have some hip-waders in the basement, let me give you hand,” and started pondering whether the elementary school my children attend could raise Pacific Chorus frogs as part of their science program. And it is not just because saving frogs is easier than stopping out-of-control capitalism, it’s a measure of the difference between vision that inspires action, and whining.

    On a different note, I would really like to see us dispense with this notion that Native American culture was inherantly more “in balance” or in touch with the earth – or that Native American culture was anything, for that matter. Native American cultures – plural – were many and diverse. They represented dramatic differences in size, structure, technology, development et. al. And they were human cultures, consisting of human beings, who, like all human beings, could be noble or selfish, ignorant or wise, kind or cruel. Some had great vision. Some made the same mistakes as other cultures – built too much, too fast, and didn’t take care of the environment.

    For examples of the latter, look at the canal-building Hohokam culture from what is now Pheonix Arizona. They built an extensive system of canals to divert water from the Salt and Gila rivers to irrigate agricultural fields throughout the region, and became a thriving urban center and center of trade throughout the Southwest. However, the Salt river has its name for a reason, and over time the irrigation started to salinate the soils and degrade the very cropland it made possible. A series of climate shifts and flooding also caused the canals to be abandoned and the civilization there to collapse.

    One might also note that where I live, Cheif Sealth and the Duwamish people initially welcomed the Denny party and other white settlers to the area, in part because they saw white settlers as offering protection against slave-raids from Tlingit and other northern tribes who preyed on the people of lower puget sound. (Though the Duwamish were soon saying “with friends like these. . .”)

    Like all cultures, like all people, the native people of the Americas were complex, varied, and multi-dimensional. If we find wisdom in the voices of the wise, let us not do so by denying the human complexity and diversity of the millions of people and thousands of cultures that made up “Native America”.

    Final note:
    “By the path unforeseen, and unbidden. We’ll get there, but we might not like the route.”

    I like this thought. None of us have the wisdom to know how things will turn out, and maybe not even the best route. Like most human endeavors, it will grow in the making.


  35. Wade — Remember what Emerson said? “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” Give poor old DJ the space to be as inconsistent as the rest of us….

    “If wishing it made it happen, we’d all be there now, gigging for salmon and gathering peyote buds for supper. There is no way back to the garden Derrick.
    By the path unforeseen, and unbidden. We’ll get there, but we might not like the route.”

    Beautiful prose, Wade. If we rewrote it as verse, it would be revealed as a poem. And like all good poetry, it would sing of the infinite complexity and ambiguous and contradictory nature of each and all of us. It wafted me back to that last peyote ceremony I
    took part in years ago, by the sea on Maui. Talk about the wonder of the trans-rational reality that pervades the everyday!

  36. @bob goodall: It’s intriguing, educational and refreshing to come to this site and see many different perspectives on any given discussion. What is not pleasant is reading arrogant messages such as, “But let’s not congratulate ourselves too much.” or finding a condescending remark like, “To make this easier for you and more entertaining for me and everyone else, why don’t you go ahead…” or, “You obviously suffer from …” See what I mean?
    In your post #7 you state “…there are plenty of poor schmucks (many more than you) whose needs and will to fill those needs will always supplant any efforts to save the frogs… unless you do something about it.”
    What did you mean “unless YOU do something about it.”
    In your posts you list problem after problem after problem, but give not one instance of how YOU handled it. How YOU came up with a solution. Are we supposed to tackle your problems?
    These are obviously situations that are bothersome to you, so, why are you not doing something? and if you are doing something… what is it? Enlighten us! Share with the group! Don’t be selfish.
    It was inspiring to read how Derrick became personally involved with a local environmental problem. To follow his thought process, and doubts even. He didn’t just report on a problem, or whine about it. He DID something.
    It’s also exciting to see #39 John consider having his children’s elementary school become involved with helping to raise chorus frogs. (Although, I’d probably get a local DNR, or US Fish & Wildlife person to advise you first.)
    Our county’s forest preserve has two breeding /reintroduction programs in place for two state endangered species: Barn owl and Blanding’s turtle.

    @plowboy38: A tiny pebble thrown into the water, makes a rippling effect. The bolder on the shore, that merely makes observations, makes little to no effect at all, except to maybe offer up a place for a being to sit while contemplating life.
    ANY action, no matter how small or big, has rippling effects. I think Jensen fully understands this.
    Being an activist myself, it’s amazing to see how far, how wide these ripple effects can go! It can be truly surprising.

  37. Wade — BTW I agree that Derrick really doesn’t have a clue how to extricate us from the dead end road we have created for ourselves. Who does? But I think he is a little like me on this:
    When you face an impossible problem that nevertheless must be solved, what do you do? You do everything you can think of, and then some. It’s a lot like the search for “God”. When you have tried everything you can think of, and there is still no answer (that you can discern) then: just keep on knocking. One day the door might just fall down from all that knocking….

  38. John, your post made me smile and flash to a prehistoric scene: A council of Natives decrying the wanton destruction caused by excessive prescribed burns. What kind of world will they leave to their grandchildren? A bad end is predicted by all.

    Seriously though, I agree. You just can’t point to any time or population of humans and say that they were “in the zone”, ecologically speaking. All collections of humans, having biological needs, will exploit a resource until a limiting factor arrives on the scene. We’ll never know what long-term ecological mischierf the native populations of N. America were destined to get into if they had been left alone long enough to do it. Maybe most wouldn’t have, but we can predict with some certainty that some would have. Talking very, very long-term here, of course.

  39. Renegade — Yes. The Taming Power of the Small (I Ching). The little stone that felled Goliath. The peasant army that defeated a Superpower with all its technology in Vietnam. The Lilliputians that bound Gulliver. Paul Hawken’s wonderful book “Blessed Unrest” in which he extols the power of a million small groups that are working for a better world.

    Small is not only beautiful, its powerful. The atomic energy. The tiny grain of LSD that transported the mind of Hoffman, and so many others. The single crystal that transforms the state of a super-saturated solution. The rare mistake that gave Gandhi a first class ticket on a train in South Africa, that changed him into an activist who changed the world. We just cannot discount the transformative possibilities of the smallest act. Ripplesripplesripplesripples……….

  40. John Chapman — Thanks for the realism re: Native American Culture. We do these real human beings no favor in making them the fetishes of our own romantic fantasies.

  41. Look, about this piece by Derrick. I think DJ is playing to his audience. Like any author, he is now more interested in developing a following, rather than changing the world.

    Listen, DJ knows as well as any of us that this world is “burnt” as a direct result of industrial capitalism, which seems to have been the hyper-rational legacy of domestication and division of labor some 6,000 years ago.

    Now he just keeps adjusting the message to satisfy and maintain his readership. So, either fight him on his own terms or just enjoy the polemics as they arrive.

    And I don’t think I am just being cynical here.

    Just IMO, sandy

  42. ALSO from sandy krolick: And don’t forget to buy my NEW book on Amazon!
    So. Did what you post, pertain to you also?: “Like any author, he is now more interested in developing a following, rather than changing the world.”
    Interesting bio of SK: “…. he spent the next twenty years in the partnership and executive ranks of several of America’s largest domestic and international firms, including Ernst & Young LLP, General Electric, and Computer Sciences Corporation.”
    A splattering of alphabet soup at the end of ones name does not impress me.
    What have you PHYSICALLY done for the world lately SK? Besides write a book and give lectures? and act like the big, self important boulder at the shore line? Seriously. I am so tired of you guys whining about DJ ‘DOING’ some good. Get up off your degreed butts and make it a REAL competition, not just a whizzing match.

  43. Ren, thanks for the pitch. I don’t need the money, so much as I like people to see my perspective. But great pitch!

    Also, I have done Nothing to help the world. But then, I have never implored anyone else to do anything to help the world either The world does not need my help, and I don’t believe in salvaging any piece of Civilization. The appeal in my book is more personal… read it and see.

    Also, my reference to my corporate history is only to show that I am not some burned out whining hippie who is bitter because he could not make it in the big show; rather, that I was successful on their terms, but awoke from the dream/nightmare.

    Thanks again for the pitch!

    Oh, and why not tell us a bit of your background as well… so we know who we are talking to, my friend REN?

  44. Derrick’s essay this time reveals a side of him perhaps not so evident in his previous writing at Orion. This guy really deeply loves the inhabitants of the natural world. He feels compassion for the frogs who are in danger of extinction, and is moved to try to do something to help them, however temporary such aid may be, or seemingly futile in the larger picture of ecological degradation.

    What would be activist has not experienced moments of self doubt in the face of the enormous problems of human caused environmental destruction? Will my tiny gestures toward a different world really make any difference? Am I just deluding myself and wasting my time?

    I highly recommend Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest to anyone beset by such questions. My wife has been a frog saver for many years now. She maintains a couple of large plastic tanks where she nurtures freshly laid eggs to maturity. The little guys really are fond of spinach leaves. In season we are once again regaled by the by the joyous chorus of tiny tree frogs celebrating their abundant numbers. Their voices are ample reward for our efforts in their behalf. From our experience, I would encourage anyone to pick some fellow denizens of our natural world to befriend and help thrive. Your gesture of love will bless you, and also the world you are a small part of.

  45. Is Bod Goodall actually Robert Riversong? If not, the resemblance to his style is uncanny.

  46. @maps: goodall and riversong are two entirely different people.

  47. @sk: no pitch was intended. Altho you could do the ‘right thing’ and donate proceeds of those sales to a good cause.
    My past? I started my activism at an early age. I participated in the Chicago democratic national convention demonstrations before I was even a teenager.

    Years later, as a teenager, I had the same boss as Mr. Obama while working as a community organizer in Chicago. Barrack took a much higher and more visible path than I, (obviously) but our activism shared a common ground.

    The rest of my resume contains small headlines here and there. Victories and defeats. Ripples that are still expanding. Events that are still occurring. Life is a work in progress.

  48. Derrick? I am in total support of your project with the exception of ‘…dipping individual nymphs into a diluted solution of fungicide.’
    I wouldn’t introduce chemicals to these young critters, but that’s just me.

    And as much as I support most ‘species saving’ endeavors, it is still important to realize we still have the larger problems at hand: ozone layer destruction, land/habitat loss, unhealthy biotic communities, etc. and yes, I believe these problems occur mostly from overpopulation of humans and much too little education. So, if we address the bigger problems, we can be more successful with the smaller, local ones.

    2 simply solutions everyone can participate in: 1) Have only two children or less and 2) take your child outside and teach it about plants/animals/rain/sun and the need for a healthy, diverse ecosystem in order for us ALL to survive.

  49. As cranky as Jensen gets, I always enjoy his rants/essays/appeals–but this one more than usual, perhaps because he spikes it with more humor than we’re used to. But I like the notion of mutual aid in regard to interactions between human beings and other species (even though it would be good to see it between fellow members of our own species as well). Knowing when not to interfere is always useful; I recently sat back quietly whilst a hawk made a quick lunch of a young squirrel, when once I’d have run out screaming to save its pesky little life. But squirrels are so numerous around here as to be pests and more environmentally destructive than not. Newts and tadpoles are indicator species, and remind us that we’re not just killing them off, but ultimately ourselves–so finding a way to help them in their struggle makes good sense. Jensen’s piece was a bit of an anodyne after so much bad news of late.

    I do have one suggestion regarding the plight of the mentally ill in rural communities without adequate treatment resources. It probably wouldn’t take much to start some sort of local effort to engage the afflicted in the natural world, by arranging nature walks or other outdoor experiences. We do this with urban children, and I’ve seen the results first-hand: increased appreciation of nature, a reduction of hyperactivity problems, increased curiosity, etc. A few volunteers using existing programs and/or facilities might be all that’s needed to help, even if only in a small way.

  50. Renegade, thanks for raising the issue of dipping newts in fungicide. Derrick is aware that there is need to raise frogs that are resistant to the fungus harming them, but a bit below that seems to lose that train of thought when it comes to newts. If we go raise newts indoors, as he is planning, why not help nature by raising resistant newts? Forget about the fungicide. It’s the same logic that has made bacteria antibiotic resistant. We don’t need chytrid mold that is fungicide resistant. Dipping newts in fungicide is helping their enemy evolve!

  51. Plowboy – not sure about the counsel discussing “what kind of world we are leaving to our children” in quite the same way, but I am sure resource use techniques were a source of contention – and probably a source of conflict between groups. I was doing some research recently on the impact of recreational hunting in controlling game population, and ran across some interesting comments from game-management agencies in the southern Appalachians. Apparently there is a lot of conflict between deer-hunters and bear-hunters about land use – deer like edge, so patch-cutting increases their numbers, while Black Bear require more mature forest. I am sure some similar conflicts played out a thousand years ago, as native groups debated or fought over which resources to manage for.

    I think the real strength of Jensen’s recent article is the human quality of it. One of the challenges of environmentalism is making abstract concepts like species decline into something tangible that we can really connect to. Years ago I was on a Washington-State birding list, and had the fortune to trade emails with an 80-year old wildlife manager who had overseen the last-ditch attempt to save the Mariana Mallard via a captive breeding program. He actually flew the last surviving pair to California where they were doing the captive breeding. It ultimately failed, and the species is now extinct.

    I was trying to get this gentleman to write an op-ed piece for the newspapers about that experience – but there was an odd resistance to the idea. Everyone around the idea, even he, wanted to make it about “the issues” and couldn’t see the power in the story of being the one to experience the last surviving members of a now-extinct species in the last futile attempts to save it. That personal account would have moved far more people than the abstract economics of wildlife tourism, which is what he was focused on. Sometimes we can get so lost in the arguments, that we miss the human stories that touch our souls in a way that motivates people to care, and to act.


  52. There are two parts of an interview with Jensen on Democracy Now. One was sent about a week ago, the other one this Friday. You can download all episodes as video or mp3 from their website.

    Oh and I think that not all people agree with how it came that the planet is in danger or even see it as a threat. Environmentalists do, but the rest of the world not. There are still climate change deniers, people who think genuinely that eliminating some more species is all right if it helps humans develop interstellar space flight, that humans are just part of nature which means all the destruction they do is just part of a natural and desireable process or at least something we have no control over anyways. Even J. Lovelock who sort of coined the Gaia Theory turned away and now tells people to have fun instead of worrying about the environment as there is not much to do about global warming anyways. So I think, D.J. words are still needed.

    The native Americans – I think that they have indeed been idealized a lot. But even if they did experiment with agriculture – they abandoned it once they saw it does not work. It seems that it requires a failure to see that and the dominant culture is heading for that on a global scale. I think there are more elaborate and detailled analysis on how the native Americans related to each other and the land. But one thing is sure – they did not destroy their lands and they had mostly local issues. Saying that prehistoric America was a peaceful and harmonic place all over would be romantic but false. But it was a place of diversity and a place without wars on the scale industrial civilization fought them.

    Of course humans at some point inevitably get to the point they try out new things, but agricultural industrial civilization is one concept that looked promising at the beginning but is unfolding to be a disaster in the long run. Other civilizations collapsed and their descendants often learned from their mistakes – I hope this will be possible this time…

  53. Aurora, where did you pick up that Indians abandoned ag? Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember the “three sisters” cultivation? The east coast was full of ag villages… and the foragers too did all sorts of things to the landscape to make it more productive and people-friendly (often by burning). (?)

  54. This is a beautiful piece. Derrick at his reasoned best.

    The argument about not having enough time to care about the world is awful in many senses, including:
    – If you don’t care about the landbase enough to do something about its destruction then you’re insane.
    – It’s a matter of time management, not a lack of time.

    And if you really can’t find that hour to help the landbase, not due to wasting time in front of the Tv, but because of work committments etc. Then quit your job and get real. I’m so close to walking out of college for this very reason..

  55. While I agree that industrial capitalism is taking us down a road to ruin, I often wonder what kind of society we could replace it with that provides things like modern ankle surgery.

  56. Al Mollitor — Check this out:

    “As a matter of fact, there are money systems that encourage sharing not competition, conservation not consumption, and community, not anonymity. Pilot versions of such systems have been around for at least a hundred years now, but because they are inimical to the larger patterns of our culture, they have been marginalized or even actively suppressed. Meanwhile, many creative proposals for new modes of industry such as Paul Hawken’s Ecology of Commerce, and many green design technologies, are uneconomic under the current money system. The alternative money systems I describe below will naturally induce the economies described by visionaries such as Hawken, E.F. Schumacher, Herman Daly, and others. They will also reverse the progressive nationalization and globalization of every economic sector, revitalize communities, and contribute to the elimination of the “externalities” that put economic growth at odds with human happiness and planetary health.”

  57. Yeah, that’s the thing. I don’t know if fancy ankle surgery will survive long term. I suppose it depends on how the system goes down.

    But if you consider what could be done with all the still extant wealth and human energies if such a large portion was not being devoted to military exploits and predatory economic activity… I think it could be quite amazing and better than what we have today. I mean, think of Da Vinci… the bulk of his genius was devoted to designing killing machines and defensive ramparts and the like… he needed to make money, after all, and that is what his patrons wanted. Just think what he could have accomplished otherwise…?!

  58. Re Hedges:
    A few privileged people chain themselves to the White House fence, go to jail briefly. Activists proclaim “hope we can believe in.” MSM are fed and happy.

    Hopium, crazy hopium… 🙁

  59. Thank God we have people who Really Know how to fix our problems. Some of us are left to ignorantly do the best we can, poor saps that we are.

  60. @Vera: Without hope, the soul soon dies.

    @Mike: I know you were being sarcastic…. Because we all know that there are no quick fixes. There appears to be no one in power that can turn things around before it all falls apart. But we can always HOPE that we are wrong.

    Obama gave a desperate nation something it was nearly, completely out of: hope. In his election victory I felt an entire populous of minorities suddenly realize that anything is possible IF you work at your goals.

    As far as the hope of one man being able to turn this nation around, before it sinks like the titanic? well… that hope was dashed, or at least put on the distant, back burner. He faces too much opposition in WA. It was foolish of many to think that they would all ‘play nicely’ and pass laws that need passing. *sigh*

  61. Hey Renegade, I have nothing against hope that stems from reality. When it comes to choosing to save amphibians against publicity hijinks that go nowhere, I choose amphibians any day.

    As far as Obama… eh, don’t get me started. 😉

    “There appears to be no one in power that can turn things around before it all falls apart. But we can always HOPE that we are wrong.”

    Why? So you keep pinin’ away for something that just ain’t gonna happen? What good does that do? Put hope on local solutions, local people, then you have something. Nah?

  62. vera, “hopium” – cool word. And isn’t your position always basically that it isn’t cool to get involved in any movement beyond the local level? Of course local action is important. It will be of supreme importance WHEN the system finally crashes to the ground.
    Meanwhile, if we don’t look for and address the real source of the problem in some way – in many ways – that feeling of hopelessness is sure to infect even your local activism (local events don’t always go the way you want; then what?).
    Renegade is right that Obama is not able to single-handedly pull us out of coming disasters. The USA is not like France where the president has near royal (in the old sense of the word) powers. That just means that whatever pressure we hope to apply has to be applied at many different points – many politicians hoping for re-election, many organizations that would have more clout if we participated in some way.
    I’ll just never buy into your pessimism, vera. And I’m not a romantic idealist with rosy glasses. Nobody has a bottomless pit of energy or time on their hands, but we can still act on many fronts.

  63. Aonon, you know nothing about Indians. Of course, they were “tree huggers” and strong, healthy people– but no fools. I am part Indian. I know what I talk about. They loved the land and of course, they lived in harmony with nature. To say otherwise is ridiculous!

  64. I hafta agree w/Ed T on this one, Vera. (and yah, ‘hopium’ IS a cool word…yours?) I am the most pessimistic person I know! I spout doom and gloom where ever I go (no rhyme intended), but I can hold onto a fragment of hope in my back pocket as I go about shaking things up locally. My hope is in my efforts and those of others.
    and Vera? talk to me about Prez O. I want to hear all perspectives. I really do.

  65. One gets a little tired of hearing voices that are quick to condemn any attempts to make a difference, other than their own pet schemes. How about we let a thousand flowers bloom? I for one am not in a position to know for sure what may work in this incredibly complex mess we are in. I am in agreement with Jensen that we waste a lot of energy disrespecting and one-upping other activists who are making sincere efforts to put something positive in the pot. Who knows what small thing may have large consequences? Butterfly effect, anyone? Maybe a black swan will turn up at the party unexpectedly….

  66. Heh, no guys, I did not make up hopium, I wish! 😀
    Bummer you mistook my words for pessimism. I am not a pessimist at all. I am looking for stuff that works, and trying hard to avoid the same old same old that leads into a wall, like that band scene in Animal House… 🙂

    Mr. O? Eh… ‘Mr. O’Tool’ about wraps it up for me… but I don’t really wanta turn this forum thata way… (When I watched him assemble his cabinet, and give another big bailout to the rich ala Bush, that was it for me.)

    Ed, it’s not so much that I avoid anything above local level… it’s more that I distrust anything that does not germinate in and spring from the grassroots. My criticism of Hedges and other such actions comes from my utter distrust of self-aggrandizing MSM publicity seeking founded on wishful thinking of making a difference that way. What could he and the few others possibly accomplish? Hasn’t this sort of thing been run into the ground some time ago?

  67. Hope, like all things human, has two aspects — a bright side and a dark side. The dark side of hope is where it is used as a substitute for constructive action, or as a delusional belief in outcomes that are not possible. The bright side of hope is where it is entertained as a source of energy and commitment to work towards real solutions to our problems. So, the meaning of hope is contextual, and depends on our interpretation of its usage in particular situations. It can be an invaluable tool, or a stumbling block. To unreflectively extol or condemn hope is not the best way to consider this valuable human resource.

    Should hope only be entertained where certainty of success is guaranteed? There would be little real utility in it if that were the case. Often we need hope most in situations that seem to be “hopeless”. Hope bolsters our courage to go forward in situations that are difficult and discouraging. The alternative to hope is often hopelessness, and throwing in the towel. Has the word been abused by con men like Clinton and Obama? You betcha. But this falsification cannot tarnish the true value of real hope.

  68. @vera… ugh, I was disappointed also. THE bailout. I understand his take was that he wanted to avoid the worse depression in history AND that he possibly harbored ‘hope’ that his rescue attempt would win him allies, but what really happened? was that the very businesses he bailed out? backed the opposition in the next campaign with large contributions. Not even a “Thanks Boss!” just a knife-a-roo in the old back!
    I’m not making excuses (or am I?) but in my book, he’s only human and makes mistakes too. IMO he should’ve let it all fall like a house of cards. It still may do just that anyways, it will just take longer.

  69. “Yes, industrial capitalism must and will come down. Yes, the oil economy must and will cease.”

    Pack a lunch and find a comfortable place to wait. And while you’re at it stand in front of the oncoming trains marked “China,” “India” and wave those Hope signs. Just don’t forget to step off the rails.

  70. The necrophiliac longing for global collapse and catastrophic destruction, as mirrored in various movies and the fantasies of “doomers”, are symptomatic of the deep psychological stress and anxiety that often surface in those beginning to awaken to the realities of our present historical moment. Not giving in to these “consoling” and escapist daydreams, frees energy for seeking solutions to our problems.

    There is no guarantee that some version of “Mad Max”, or “The Road” will not be our future, but recognizing this should encourage our efforts to avoid it, not a sick fascination with these outcomes as some kind of “final solution.”

  71. I remember reading about Bono – the lead singer of the rock band U2 – getting angry when people talk about hope. Hope is worthless, he says, you have to get out there and DO something.

    The message seems to be getting through. Jensen, Hedges and even Kunstler have written recently about things they do (save amphibians), they will do (chains at White House), or we should do (move to small cities and towns and away from suburbs).

    Maybe we’d all be better off if we spent more time doing things than trying to write clever forum posts.

  72. There is a tendency among some to never put forward a proposal on how to deal with our multiple problems, without including an explicit (or implicit) trashing of other ways of addressing them. For example, those kinetic/somatic types who constantly enjoin ACTION, freely express their disdain for thinking or mutual discussion as a waste of time. They urge us to get out there and DO something, implying that thinking, planning, educating, communicating, persuading, inspiring — that these are somehow not DOING.

    On the other hand, some of us feel that sharing in a process of deeply sharing our concerns and creative ideas of how to address the complex problems we face is a very necessary process before plunging into mindless DOING that could lead to ineffective and even counter productive results. Actually nobody ever does anything without thinking/feeling some need to do so. Inspiring and informing hearts and minds is a very powerful way to produce lasting results. While properly honoring the role of physical activities to accomplish our goals, let’s not ignore the crucial role that thought, planning, and mutual discussion has to play in realizing our goals. We are so much more than simply muscles in action.

  73. Mike K: While I would never dispute the need for education, discussion, understanding, empathy, compassion, communication, planning, etc. (Without those, we get things like wars in Iraq), I maintain that we need more.

    Those of us who are concerned about the direction our world is headed but who are not among the luminaries and cognoscenti sooner or later feel a need to take action, even if that might involve muscle power. We read publications like Orion in the hope that we can find some guidance in ways we can act that might make a difference. (Even Jensen says that ‘taking shorter showers’ won’t make any difference.) I for one, will continue to seek leadership and inspiration to help me address my concerns in ways that project beyond my own navel.

    After all, those who would destroy the world for profit don’t sit around thinking about it. They do it.

  74. Al M — Nothing I said was meant to denigrate thoughtful, intelligent action. My concern is that some would have us rush in to do ill-considered actions that may not serve our real interests. Often such voices have an undertone of violence to achieve their (poorly understood) aims. The best way to achieve our goals imho, is to carefully think out (through a shared process) what we want to achieve, and how to accomplish it. Then, we can go forward with greater expectation of not only short-term success, but lasting benefit.

    I like the quote from Che Guevara: “The heart of the true revolutionary is filled with love.” And I would add, with wisdom too.

  75. I liked the part where he said that instead of flaming somebody on a discussion board he’d be doing something to help the frogs. Sounds like a pretty good plan. Perfect antidote for getting out of one’s head for awhile.

    I mean, sure, Mike K: who could argue the importance of inspiring and informing hearts and minds; and who could argue the crucial role of thought, planning, and mutual discussion? That’s very well said.

    Yet at the same time, it seems quite likely that these powerful tools (language and thought) have played a key role in the mess we find ourselves in. To wit: the thinking, planning and educating that happens in Western culture emerges largely from a worldview that imagines humanity as somehow separate from the earth. I think there is something to be said, then, for the simplicity and genius of those muscles in action. What can we learn about how to approach our multiple problems, for example, through the contemplation of these bodies of ours which, like everything else in the universe, momentarily take a certain form then change and change again?

    I think of the philosopher Kenneth Burke here, an aphorism of his that I carry with me always: “The cure for digging in the dirt is an idea; the cure for an idea is more ideas; the cure for all ideas is digging in the dirt.”

  76. I agree with the content partly, as it is true that from an economic point of view, owners of land behave more responsible to it

    Though i sense some romanticism in this, the old fashion hippie-doctrine ‘living of the land’thing that dissappears with most people once they actually have no other choice then living with nature(our great great grandparents). I believe they’d choose industrial capitalism immediately if they could.

    nature’s a bitch, not a mother and nature conservation is actually more a tourismindustry-thing than a way of saving the earth: we only protect nature that is harmless to us here

  77. RZ, who is it that feeds you? Who is it that provides the very elements that make your organism possible? If not mother nature,then who?

  78. And who is the Mother of mother nature? The Cosmic Mother?

  79. RZ: Nature is nature. It is not a ‘bitch’ as you put it, or a saint. Nature is the mother of all living organisms. If we upset (the balance) of the mother, then we imperil ourselves. Self inflicted = No pity.

  80. RZ: “I agree with the content partly, as it is true that from an economic point of view, owners of land behave more responsible to it.”

    I don’t think that is actually true. Owners of the land behave more responsibly toward the land only if they have a long term investment in a particular use of the land. If you plan to farm the land for the rest of your life, you will usually become a good steward. Thus owners become better stewards than short-term renters.

    However, if you view the owned land for its pure economic value then there is no guarantee of steardship. In fact, it is often economically more lucrative to over-exploit a resource in the present than to invest in long-term stewardship. Money derived from immediate exploitation of a resource can be invested in other areas or in financial markets and get a better rate of return than deferring the harvest of the resource into the future. If the land has marketable value after harvesting the resource (say by logging a tract of forest and then developing it as a subdivision), then the value of the harvesting now goes up further. Ditto if the residual value of the land goes down substantially post harvest and that reduces property tax liability (which is often the case for timberlands).

    It all depends on the goals of the owners, land-use regulations, and how the society prices externalities. Private ownership is hardly a pancea, though direct ownership (by a resident-owners) is often better than indirect ownership (absentee or shareholder).

    John Chapman

  81. regarding Derrick’s recent article on progress, I agree; I fled the culture and have lived in the Andes for a year because no one could step outside for new perspective and fresh air. Have done with disgust and analysis, moving on to disengagement, unplugging, rescuing what’s needed (tools,seeds.. .)and creating or finding a sustainable alternative – where and with whom? Zapatistas have computers, hygiene, basic necessities and defense, are surviving. The controling and submitting folks have no future.

  82. Hi Melodie!We don’t currently have the abltiiy built into PearBudget to allow you to change the start date of your budget year. That’s a great suggestion for improvement though, I’ll definitely add that to our list!

  83. We need run away expediently from civilization. Then have done so – an thus refreshed with wit -, return to visit upon it, our final due respects. Such as they may be.

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