ANOTHER 120 SPECIES went extinct today; they were my kin. I am not going to sit back and wait for every last piece of this living world to be dismembered. I’m going to fight like hell for those kin who remain — and I want everyone who cares to join me. Many are. But many are not. Some of those who are not are those who, for whatever reason, really don’t care. I worry about them. But I worry more about those who do care but have chosen not to fight. A fairly large subset of those who care but have chosen not to fight assert that lifestyle choice is the only possible response to the murder of the planet. They all carry the same essential message — and often use precisely the same words: Resistance isn’t possible. Resistance never works.
Meanwhile, another 120 species went extinct today. They were my kin.
There are understandable personal reasons for wanting to believe in the invincibility of an oppressive system. If you can convince yourself the system is invincible, there’s no reason to undertake the often arduous, sometimes dangerous, always necessary work of organizing, preparing to dismantle, and then actually dismantling this (or any) oppressive system. If you can convince yourself the system is invincible, you can, with fully salved conscience, make yourself and your own as comfortable as you can within the confines of the oppressive system while allowing this oppressive system to continue. There are certainly reasons that those in power want us to see them as invincible. Abusive systems, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, from the familial to the social and political and religious, work best when victims and bystanders police themselves. And one of the best ways to get victims and bystanders to police themselves is for them to internalize the notion that the abusers are invincible and then, even better, to get them to attempt to police anyone who threatens to break up the stable abuser/victim/bystander triad.
And meanwhile, another 120 species went extinct today.
But those who believe in the invincibility of perpetrators and their systems are wrong. Systems of power are created by humans and can be stopped by humans. Those in power are never supernatural or immortal, and they can be brought down. People with a lot fewer resources collectively than any single reader of Orion have fought back against systems of domination, and won. There’s no reason the rest of us can’t do the same. But resistance starts by believing in it, not by talking yourself out if it. And certainly not by trying to talk others out of it.
History provides many examples of successful resistance, as do current events. The Irish nationalists, the abolitionists, the suffragettes — I could fill the rest of this column with examples. Recently, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has, through attacks on oil pipelines and the kidnapping of oil workers, disabled as much as 40 percent of the oil industry’s output from Nigeria, and some oil companies have even considered pulling out of the region. If those of us who are the primary beneficiaries of this global system of exploitation had 1 percent of their courage and commitment to the land and community, we could be equally effective if not more so. We have vastly more resources at our disposal and the best we can come up with is, what, compost piles? The world is being killed and many environmentalists still think that riding bikes is some sort of answer?
Some people maintain that resistance cannot accomplish anything unless we first change the underlying culture; changing culture, then, is where the real work must lie. Setting aside the fact that sometimes people, organizations, and institutions are just wrong and need to be stopped — the Nazis come to mind, as does the KKK at its peak of power, the robber barons, and so on — the more important point is that resistance and working for cultural change are in no way mutually exclusive, but rather are deeply complementary, which makes the complaints of the lifestylists all the more nonsensical. I’m not trying to stop them from saving seeds or handmaking scythes; I’m merely saying that those activities are insufficient to stop this culture from killing the planet.
Yes, there absolutely needs to be the creation of a new culture with new values (or, really, tens of thousands of cultures, each emerging from its own landbase, including the re-emergence of extant indigenous cultures). But the people involved in that cultural creation must see themselves as part of a resistance movement that supports and encourages action against the forces that are dismembering our planet, or, at least, that doesn’t actively discourage organized resistance whenever the subject is raised. Otherwise that nice, new culture is simply a fantasy, unhooked from anything in the real, physical world, incapable of ever being effective, and, ultimately, a position of privilege. Maud Gonne, for instance, was intimately involved with the Gaelic Revival, promoting literature and language preservation. She also did prisoner support, worked with the Land League, and got arrested herself. She almost died on a hunger strike and won some basic rights for Irish prisoners in the process (and her son Seán MacBride eventually became chief of staff of the IRA, helped found Amnesty International, and in 1974 won the Nobel Peace Prize). It is insulting to her memory and to the memory of so many other brave people to state categorically that resistance doesn’t work. Of course it works. But people have to actually do it, and keep doing it for the long haul.
Why are even those who call themselves environmentalists not talking about what really needs to happen to save this planet? Burning fossil fuel, for example, has to stop. This isn’t negotiable. You cannot negotiate with physical reality. It doesn’t matter how or why this burning stops. It needs to stop. We need to stop it — need to stop doing it ourselves, and need to stop others, especially giant corporate others, from doing it too.
We need organized political resistance. Power needs to be named and then dismantled systematically. This requires joint action of whatever sort is deemed necessary. While the frontline actionists are taking apart systems of power and fighting to defend wild nature, the culture of resistance is providing loyalty and cooperation and material support, as well as building up alternate institutions — from means of bringing justice to economic systems to food supply chains to schools to new literary forms — that can take over as the system comes down. The template is not hard to understand. It will take its own culturally appropriate forms. The same actions have been undertaken by resistance movements everywhere — the Spanish anarchists, the American patriots. It’s not conceptually difficult.
But instead of supporting the necessity for action (and we’re not yet even talking about what forms that action should or could take), or at the very least not attempting to discourage action at every turn, so much of the environmental movement keeps insisting that only personal lifestyle change is possible. No other oppressed group in history has ever taken such a stand. Right now, a small group of half-starved, poverty-stricken people in Nigeria have brought the oil industry in that country to its knees. They remember what it is to love their land and their communities — perhaps because they are not drowning in privilege, but in the toxic sludge of oil extraction. Is that what it will take to get environmentalists in the U.S. to fight back?
MEND has said to the oil industry: “It must be clear that the Nigerian government cannot protect your workers or assets. Leave our land while you can or die in it.” There is more courage, integrity, intelligence, and pragmatism in that statement from MEND than in any statement I have ever read by any American environmentalist, including myself. We need to accept the fact that making this type of statement (and being prepared to act on it) might be necessary to preserve a living planet.
Some people may be willing to give up on life on this planet without resisting. I’m not one of them.
Sure thing Derrick, all you needed to do was ask….
THE BURNING OF FOSSIL FUELS MUST STOP! NOW! I MEAN IT! REALLY!
(Umm, ‘kay….? What now?)
I’m a believer in both/and rather than either/or. I believe we need both active resistance and lifestyle changes. In fact, I see lifestyle change as a serious form of resistance. But what I’m talking about is radical lifestyle change–really disengaging from the system totally, not just taking shorter showers. When we disengage totally we attack the financial viability of the whole system. If the sytem is wobbling financially, then it makes the job easier for measures of active resistance to be effective. We have to attack the system on all fronts–and weakening it financially through radical lifestyle change is not only viable, but critical, IMO.
Derrick just cracks me up, continuously. Go man….go! His writings are more like temper tantrums than how-to manuals on reconstructing ecosystems. He must feel really, really exhilirated after firing off one of these, yessiree…Gawd, I was ready to smash my monitor and slash my own tires by the end of it. Whew!
Railing against the burning of fossil fuels, you warrior man you, on an electronic medium…hilarious…funnier than anything I’ve read this week so far.
Constructive (Hell..even DEstructive) advice? Not so much.
As Melanie pointed out, it is Both/And.
However, Jensen is always poking at the complacency component that
enables the status quo. There is
often a self-satisfied smugness that accompanies the individual
walking the Green Talk. Walking the Green Talk is important. But,
so what is more realistic?
Is it more realistic that millions of Americans are going to
disengage totally from the system…like in the next year or two? Or is more realistic that local resistance to BIG can impact
cogs in the wheels of corporatization? Until we get thousands in the streets WITH media coverage for local issues; AND hundreds of thousands in the streets, nationwide, that STAY in the streets, we will not effect real change.
Jensen evokes the Urgency of our
endangered Earth. Let’s do Both/And. But if I had to say what is more important now…it is
organized resistance to Corporatization on local levels.
Derrick reminds me more than anything of the self-styled “revolutionaries” that you used to find on every street corner way back in the day. They were extremely articulate about how we needed to “rise up” against “The Man” and how the sins of the nation could only be cleansed away by blood (to crib from John Brown before them) etc., etc. The impression I always took away was that they were more than willing to put MY ass on the line for The Revolution, but, thank-you-very-much, THEY had classes to attend, a dissertation to write, and a girlfriend to keep in the manner she was accustomed to, soooo….maybe won’t see them on the barricades that night.
Derrick, you probably make a modest but steady income with your appearances and writings…nothing wrong with that. You’re probably really comfortable in this world right now…maybe a dog or cat, hot cup of coffee in the morning and books that show up at your door. Good work boots…man’s best friend, eh?
So, I guess my rejoinder to your attempt to seperate yourself out from the vast majority of the rest of those you would no doubt view as sheeple is this: You first. I mean, if you think that bold, violent action is necessary in the defense of the Earth, don’t sit around flapping your gums about it..do it. Until you do, you are to me just the last in a long list of hucksters, soap-sellers and wanna-be dimestore revolutionaries who always seem to make themselves scarce when the lead starts flying. I God, we’ve got enough of those in this land already.
I don’t think that Jensen is incorrect in seeing what’s needed, but can he visualize the multitude of “hows” that will take us where we need to go. I myself have made “lifestyle” changes in the last six months, so that I have “commuted” my commute from 2 hours a day to maybe 60 seconds and my salary down to zero–which means zero ability to “consume.” That said, the long-term change will involve taking a class to gain a new skill that will be important in the years to come. That class involves a six-hour commute one day a week. So, I’m not fossil-fool free at this point, but aiming in that direction.
My point? Tradeoffs, as always, come into play. To make the connections needed in these times, we still need ancient sunlight — be it petroleum for mobility or coal for electronic communications. I guess we cannot have our descent and eat, too. At least, not yet.
The world financial crisis is our way in. We can use it to our advantage to bring down the system. It’s going to fail no matter what but we can help it along. Those of us pulling out of the system by making radical lifestyle changes–pulling investments, eliminating mortgages, going off-grid, growing our food, selling our cars, becoming self-employed–weaken it. Our friends who are of the more radical resistance persuasion (like Jensen)can come in behind us and take advantage of the cracks we’ve helped to create.
Say our lifestyle choices reduce the demand for jewelry…diamonds, gold, silver, rubies, etc. The corporate owners begin to suffer and they pass that suffering along to their employees by laying them off. The radical resistance can then organize with the disgruntled former employees to shut the mines down entirely. First we weaken the system through financial losses, then we shut them down.
Unrealistic? I think that’s the way it’ll ultimately play out no matter what. We can help it unravel sooner–that’s within our power. I get Jensen’s sense of urgency. Yeah, species are going extinct daily, CO2 levels are increasing, the time was yesterday to do something about it. But I don’t think he should be so quick to dismiss those of us making radical lifestyle choices. That will matter and will help the radical resistance.
Yes, Melanie…change most often encompasses more the both/and rather than either/or slant. And an “all hands on deck” approach is better than singling out only those who know how to sail. Whatever anyone does to slow things down can help.
But fear almost always accompanies change of any sort, even the least radical, so there have to be other ways to “sell” different prospects to people. It’s for each person to weigh what disengagement means — whether that means quitting a job that requires a commute or ramping up household-based production (where food and clothing are concerned)…all this is needed, and more.
Why is there only a link to amazon to buy Jenson’s latest novel?
Wasn’t all this dealt with pretty good back when the Big Monkeywrench wasn’t rusty? The surface is to the square, but the volume to the cube. Take heart.
That does it! I’m tired of being dissed by Derrick Jensen for composting. Not that he is against it, but I am tired of the way belittles it as totally ineffectual. Sorry, but I’ve always thought of composting as a form of resistance (and resistance must take a thousand forms). Compost and gardens will bring down the system. No matter where we in America live, or under what circumstances, gardens should be returned to the center of a local, sustainable food production economy along with community-supported agriculture, small independently owned organic farms, and food co-operatives, an economy that challenges, subverts, and replaces the current industrial food production system, the world of Monsanto, GMOs, ADM, and terminator genes. Get enough of us gardening an we could bring down this system without firing a shot, or committing one act of sabotage, tempting as that may be. To those who say we cannot put up an effective resistance by merely composting or riding our bicycles, I say, hogwash! I do admit that in some places, especially Nigeria that it may be necessary for survival to blow up pipelines and kidnap oil field workers when oil development is laying waste to the land, destroying indigenous society, and causing people to sicken and die while the money goes to line the coffers of corrupt government officials. Ditto for Ecuador where the same abuses are going on. Whatever form resistance takes it must match the particular situation. In Nigeria, sure, sabotage. As for America, compost piles, farmers’ markets and bicycles may be the weapons of choice, all we need to topple the corrupt, bloated, and enfeebled agro-industrial crackpot regime.
And like Derrick, I am horrified by mass extinctions. Humanity is in a crisis. But protracted resistance movements like that in Nigeria last for years. Meanwhile, 120 species a day are still going extinct. So resistance alone is not going to be enough. The only way, ultimately, we are going to get to a culture of sustainability, a culture of wildness is that humanity is going to need to evolve. However, the next step in human evolution is not going to be genetic or even to higher intelligence, which will make us even worse, even more adept at destroying the planet than before. No, if we are to survive and the planet is to flourish, the next step in human evolution will need to be to a higher consciousness. Not even the forms of resistance that Derrick advocates alone are going to do it, they will not be enough! Humanity is going to need to take the next step. Essentially, we need a new story.
Jensen is right about green consumerism. It isn’t going to fix anything. But neither is thinking that destroying civilization itself and voluntarily returning to the Stone Age is something that any practical agent of resistance can seriously recommend. And that’s basically what Derek Jensen advocates, and while it might sell a lot of books, and while it might look interesting and “provocative” in Orion Magazine, it’s not going to get us or the planet anywhere.
I agree completely with Jensen’s sense of urgency. And I am glad to see that he realizes that we need to create something different to take the place of the status quo which continues to greedily gobble up the earth and excrete it as waste as though it were all here for our own immediate comfort. I am not against people resisting and we do need to all radically change our lifestyle if we are going to live in harmony with the rest of the planet.
But I think there is another way, besides angrily beating people over the head with guilt and fear, to help people come to the conclusion that living differently is necessary. When your heart is open to the pain and suffering (and not just of people, and not just animals, but the plants and soil and rocks) incurred on our behalf by the “system” that currently sustains us, you want to do something different. Especially if you see another way presented that offers abundance and happiness through joining with the earth and with other people. When you realize that all living things are imbued with a spirit, like your own, then you want to figure out ways of living that involves less life-taking and more giving back.
The reason our culture turned into this gobbling monster in the first place is because we lost touch with the reality that we are all put here as a community of spirit-imbued life that is designed to work together for the good of all. Every indigenous people that I am aware of has this understanding and that is why they live the way they do.
We have a lot of work to do to get to that place again. It is uncomfortable and difficult work, of rediscovering our own souls, and of listening to Nature. But it is also the most rewarding, and the most likely to produce radically different results in our lives. Without it, we will continue to be rude children stealing from our Mother without asking, and without gratitude, and fighting among ourselves because we are afraid there isn’t enough to go around.
Isn’t this backlash against Jensen exactly what he’s writing about? If we continue to bad mouth Jensen because his writing unnerves us, we’re just murdering the messenger, simply resisting the resister.
Instead of hearing his message, too many people get caught up in his delivery – urgent, angry, and hell bent. What is wrong with such a delivery given the implications of our current MO?
Current studies that show that greenies often begin doing LESS precisely because they believe they are doing so much with their compost piles and bicycle rides. It’s greenie narcissism or the age old one-upmanship, where, instead of power in the form of corporate interest, we have power in an intellectualized sustainability hierarchy: I’m more sustainable than you are, na na na na na na.
Jensen does not posit that we lifestylers get off our bikes and take long showers and turn our thermostats back up to 70F. He says these choices are simply not enough.
Some humility here seems to be the point: I know my garden – for all its reduced carbon footprint and yummy deliciousness – is not stopping Plum Creek in Maine or Montana. Indirectly, perhaps. But really, really indirectly.
Jensen lives a green lifestyle himself. He ALSO takes direct resistance action against the powers that be. He’s worked tirelessly in his own state, in the courtroom, in the woods, and at his computer.
It would be a shame to lose his totally pertinent voice.
Lorna and Alpha Griz:
Don’t know if you read theoildrum.com (specifically, the Campfire discussions), but I’d said basically the same thing (as you, Lorna) there in response to a question posed this past weekend (2/27/10). We can have all of the PV arrays, electric cars, whatever in the world, and nothing will change unless we fundamentally heal the rift that lies within us. The key, I think, is having direct sensory experiences with the so-called Other…be it insect, rock, undammed water, tree, herb (“weed”), bird, meadow, forest, bay…
The question I have — and I agree we need a new story — is what IS the story? My knowledge of North American indigenous stories is scant, but what I’ve heard/read (the Turtle Creation, the way the Iroquois Nation was formed), these have deep resonance for me. So, I wonder if the “new” isn’t really just an update of the ancient that has been part of this land for thousands of years.
What do you think?
Don’t take it personally. Every action is needed. I think about all the folks in my area, 30 to 50 million of us, how we could help to restore the Chesapeake if we’d all use swales and rain barrels and green roofs to slow down the amount of runoff reaching that holy estuary. I don’t know whether we have enough time for accretion of individual actions, but the individuals make up the collective, so pay such dissing no mind. And try forest gardening or whatever form of permaculture will work where you live. You are on one of many right paths.
Some pragmatic questions:
How many generations does it take to change (evolve) a human species? (and I agree we could use some evolution…but…)
Who decides what a higher form of consciousness looks like?
Will either of these abstract ideas stop Plum Creek, for instance, from profiting off of the loss of Maine’s globally beneficial carbon sink?
I suppose evolution (or devolution) depends on what each generation experiences and how that experience plays out. As a species, we in the West seem to be so plugged in that we often give precedence to the versions of stories seen on the news or elsewhere than to our own experiences or feelings. We also neglect history generally, and ecological history specifically. Doing so fails to bring us face to face with the kinds of catastrophes that would give us pause, cause us to reflect. I don’t know much about Plum Creek, but it looks as though someone buying into such a place has big holes to fill, psychic, emotional or spiritual holes that will not be filled even if/when the goal of living there is achieved. It will take enough people to realize that they shouldn’t fork over money to live in a place whose “goods and services” are far more valuable in an unbuilt state than they would be otherwise to stop such a project — that AND outcry from Mainers. The irony is that people want to move to such a place most likely to be closer to nature. So, the idea that we can “have” (meaning experience) and “let go” simultaneously is probably the crux. When we think about it, we never “have” anything and we will always fail if we hit the pause button on “have”, because there is no pause.
As for higher consciousness? Who knows? Maybe more along the lines of Gaia dreaming? Or just being “at one with” everything, everyone else? And then acting on the principles such dreaming or such feeling implies?
If Jensen and I were just talking across the table over a pint, I’d put one question to him: If you knew, for a fact, that the sacrifice of your own life would reverse the trend of ecological degradation of the last 200 years, would you do that? If he, or anyone else (who was not already suicidal)said “yes”, I’d call them liars to their faces. You see, the paradox for those who love the world is that a self-sacrifice might save it, but at the same time, removes you from it. That is exactly the kind of sacrifice he is proposing, and I call b.s.
Those of us with immediate responsibilities to feed, clothe, nurse and house our loved ones are not permitted the luxury of day dreamed revolutions on the scale Jensen says are are “required.”
So, we do the best we can, schlepp along with half measures and small acts. Geologic time is the calendar we are on, and none of us will get to see the outcome, I’m guessing. If he, or anyone else wants to call me out on that, I repeat: You first my friend. What are you waiting for? Go strap some C-4 to your chest and throw yourself into the maw of a steam turbine electrical power generator. He might be fearful to guess that it wouldn’t change much. But I’m doubting that he’s real eager to put that to the test.
And that is the rubber of self-preservation hitting the road of radical environmentalism. I’ve suffered some poseurs in my time, but this cat takes the cake.
Both/and – absolutely! I just don’t get why people get so riled up over Jensen’s truth speaking regarding individual actions. Yes they’re important and no, they aren’t enough. We live in strange and difficult times. On the one hand there’s our individual (and family) lives, and there’s our place in the local community. The scale of these realities is “doable”. Changes we make feel potentially powerful. We can grow our food, compost our waste, implement projects and new ways of doing things. We can create and support CSAs, community currencies, etc. And we MUST!
At the same time there’s the global system, corporate controlled, elitist, greedy, uncaring, inhumane, a danger to all forms of life and the very survival of the planet. The only way our local/regional actions will ever impact that global system is by becoming so pervasive that so-called ordinary people in the developed world (though in the US would be an excellent start and have huge implications globally) can feed, shelter, clothe, and generally support themselves so that, en masse, we disengage from the system. When I lived in Vermont I believed this was possible because, at least where I lived, there appeared to be enough like-minded people with a diversity of skills that I could imagine it happening. But where I live now, no way do I see it as possible. Plus politics have changed so much over the past 15 years that despair, rather than belief in possibility, is the norm. And it seems even worse since Obama because that moment in time when things could have been changed due to the energy and enthusiasm of the potential is gone, and in its place is disillusionment. So the system seems that much more entrenched, more impossible to fight.
I remember when people actually did take to the streets in this country, but no more. Oh yeah, there are days when people converge on some institution to make a point but it accomplishes nothing of substance, especially now when the media refuses to focus on anything except the conservatives, tea baggers, whatever you want to call them. They may be in the minority, but they have all the political power.
I agree, the next phase of our evolution is a change of consciousness. I tell myself that this type of change needs to be put through the fire of despair and pain and loss in order to emerge. Holly, no one decides what a higher form of consciousness looks like, it evolves within enough human beings so that it begins (hopefully soon enough to stop Plum Creek but realistically, probably not) to have an expression and power of its own. Personally I believe the foundation will be compassion along with discernment and the kind of love that heals on all levels.
Re: a new story. As Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme have beautifully articulated, the new story will place the human in the universe and cosmos in such a way that we become part of it, much the way the ancient creation stories did, for our times given the knowledge and technology that we have today. If you haven’t already done so read any of all: The Dream of the Earth (T. Berry), The Universe Story (T. Berry/B. Swimme), The Universe is a Green Dragon (B. Swimme). Hopefully you’ll be glad you did.
Meanwhile I can’t help but hope we see more of that in-you-face activism in this country. While at this point one may feel we aren’t as desperately in need of it (as in Nigeria, for example), the time will come, probably sooner than later . . .
As usual,Jensen has managed to give me a good swift kick in my complacency (not that I’m all that complacent, really). He reminds me of William Morris in his heyday as a social activist, after realizing that he couldn’t redesign the world by making better wallpaper. In News From Nowhere (1890) he imagined a new and improved London (looking ahead to 2006) after a bloody revolution in the fifties that would lead to vast social and environmental change.
Of course it never came to pass, and by the fifties we had invented multiple ways of completely exterminating ourselves; a bloody revolution might well have ended all our present problems by ending us.
I don’t particularly want “us” to end, but we seem bent on doing ourselves in and taking vast numbers of other species along with us. Because of this, my resistance–perhaps futile, but I won’t live long enough to know for sure–has to take the form of composting and creating my own carbon sink to offset some of what I contribute, in writing and talking and teaching, in growing food, cutting consumption, and, yes, taking shorter showers.
I don’t quite see the effort as hopeless, but Jensen may be right nonetheless. I spent much of my youth fighting the good fight, but I’m old and tired now, and not nearly as sanguine as I once was. I can’t help but think that if it all ends badly, we’ll have truly reaped what we have sown, and my hope then would be that evolution would take a better course without us.
Plowboy, that conversation over a pint is something I’ve had, many years ago when my life was different and I’d speak and offer workshops at conferences around the country on what I call Gaian Economics. I remember someone asking me that exact question. And I really had to think about it. The thing is, if you’re dead how would you know your death accomplished what you were told it would? My response was that, yes, I would if I knew for a fact. But facts change as we all know. My problem wasn’t so much from not wanting to leave this life – my belief system is such that I believe physical death is not the end, plus I believe in reincarnation – but from a lack of trust. You’re right, too, that none of us will get to see the outcome. Ever. No matter what we do to the Earth, she will survive and life, of whatever sort, will continue and evolve and so on.
What we are attached to (speaking for myself anyway) is this beautiful planet as she is now, as I remember her in my childhood, as I pray my grandchildren and so on and so on get to experience her. I’ve traveled enough to see how ugly and toxic people have made some places on this Earth and I am very fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places (in the foothills of the White Mountains on the ME/NH border). Every day I wake up and look out my windows at the mountains and my yard, now under snow, my garden dormant waiting for spring, an ancient crab apple bravely holding onto life for yet another year. It’s not perfect, people cut and clear too many trees, pave too much Earth, build ugly, useless buildings to sell crap we don’t need made by child slaves overseas . . . you get the idea.
I can close my eyes, however, and see it ruined because I’ve seen other ruined places, that I’m sure were just as beautiful in their own unique way at one time. For every place a friend or colleague has saved or restored or protected many more places are razed and destroyed. This is the reality of today. It hurts my heart, it makes me cry, it fills me with despair. And sometimes I think the only gift I can give the Earth is the gift of my pain and my love. If I really believed my death would make it right, fine. But it wouldn’t, and you know it wouldn’t and the very question is absurd.
I’ve volunteered hundreds and hundreds of hours in conservation activism, including, specifically, activities directed at stopping Plum Creek as I live in Montana. I know some of what it takes and certainly know the need for urgent action. Moreover, I like stirring the pot myself in the form of blizzards of letters to the editor, for as Ed Abbey once said, “Life is like a stew, if you don’t stir the pot you get a lot of scum on top. But when Ed did it I laughed and got fired up, when Jensen does it I get irritated. This business of saving the Earth, despite the grim, really dire times we live in, need not be such a grim business. Activism is fun, it’s work too, some of it tedious, but I get a real charge out of it, especially when I get Republicans and right wingers really pissed off, which distracts them from their work of leading this country to ruin.
As for “higher consciousness,” I agree that a weaknesses of my earlier post is that I did not define what this is but left it up there, hanging, a buzz word with a lot of buzz (like “sustainability”). I will attempt to be more specific: I often imagine the next stage in human evolution, and it is not a physiological evolution, a genetic mutation, nor, like the last stage, an evolution toward a higher intelligence. I most certainly do not imagine humans becoming part cyborgs, grotesque, genetically and nanotechnologically manipulated degradations of our humanity. The only possible evolution I can imagine, if humans are to survive, is toward a higher consciousness (and I will define this in more specific terms). Humans will not look any different, but they will be wholly different creatures. A physiological evolution would be irrelevant. An evolution toward higher intelligence would make humans even worse; they will be even more adept and lethal at warfare and more devastating to the environment, ensuring their swift and sure demise. Therefore, I disagree with Barbara Kingsolver when she argues against the idea that making war is human nature. Making war, unfortunately, is human nature at least at this present stage in our evolution. Continued human survival will depend on a shift from being creatures predisposed (in our present consciousness) as we are now to violence, territoriality, tribalism, ideology, self-interest, and destructive use of nature to being creatures predisposed to awareness, mindfulness, compassion, peaceableness, generosity, love, mutual help and cooperation and, in Wendell Berry’s terms, “kindly use of nature.” I cannot imagine a successful evolution being otherwise. And it will hinge in large part on a better story.
And what is the better story? I think it may be to renew our connections with nature, to create a Gaia consciousness maybe, but more crucially I think to embrace life and to defend and protect the local watershed and community, the places where we actually live and know. and to treat those places with love and affection. I now know that love is the real reason I stand in staunch opposition to power-hungry evil, injustice, violence, the hoarding of wealth, and environmental destruction; and why I speak out for all that is life-giving, life-affirming—friendship, family, community, and the experience of the natural world. So the story I want to tell is the very hour my feet touched the Earth and I reconnected. It was August 1991. I was sitting in front of a campfire in northern Minnesota, watching the full moon rise over the silhouetted pines when I realized I was witnessing a primordial scene that put me in the presence of a far more ancient world than the one I knew. Now I understood and could name the vague discontent inside me, a discontent that, before, had no name. Once I could name it, I could no longer abide the way industrial civilization proposes to spread, grow, and dominate the natural world, ignoring nature’s arrangements in the process. My heart ached for wild places, and for the fullness of life. I think each of us who has these stories need to tell them. One of the most powerful is Doug Peacock’s story of his first close encounter with a GRIZ, when he had a gun pointed right between the bear’s eyes and decided to lower his weapon and put it away. At that moment the bear went his way, leaving Peacock to go his. The point of this story is that the bear is not a friend (as Tim Treadwell wrongly believed), but the bear is our teacher, and we humans need to renew that essential connection and not be afraid of the old animal inside us.
I think another problem with Derrick Jensen is that he does not give us any specific guidance. How can we resist when we don’t know what form it can or should take? And what form should it take? Maybe it needs to take the form of resisting the resisters because the major resistance movement in the country are the Tea Partiers and offshoots such as the paramilitary Oath Keepers who place NO value on the natural world, who advocate unbridled capitalism and all-out natural resource development. They advocate sedition, the overthrow of the government and their world will be no world that I would want to see. Maybe resistance could take the form of living on a household income well below the national median income, limiting our ability to engage in excess consumption and travel (so we have to ride our bicycles). And, yes, it can take the form of composting, raising your own food, shopping farmer’s markets because this bypasses the world of industrial food and threatens the existence of Monsanto. As for me, my entire adult life has been predicated on bitter resistance to late capitalism and modern industrial civilization. Not that I have been totally opposed to it, but Industrialism should be just a passing phase that gained us some beneficial advanced technology that can be put to good use. Perhaps the new consciousness in the post-industrial age will be something along the lines of wedding high technological sophistication with a Paleolithic sense of closeness to the earth, the marriage of the new with the very ancient. We need to hear the ancient voices to know what constitutes the appropriate use of technology.
And we need to be, as Abbey suggested, half-assed crusaders, part-time fanatics and leave time for friends, family, dancing in the street, and getting out in what is left of the wilderness. We need to simply embrace life and defend it against death-dealing
ideological, militaristic, nature exploiting, nature destroying homo economicus.
Susan, yes, the very question is absurd. You see very well, I think, the absurdity of sleight of hand artists like Mr. Jensen. As a vent for inchoate rage, he serves very well, but past that I don’t see anything useful in his veiled ultimatums calling for…what exactly?
To love anything as you should is to break open your heart, whether for a person or a place, or a planet. Yes, and rage is one reaction you can count on your average human to have. On the other hand, some of us have mined the broken heart for more useful things.
A.G…Your account of that evening in MN was a joy to read. I guesss that I got luckier than most, because I truly don’t remember a time when I didn’t have those experiences. They come less frequently on that grand a scale I regret to say, but I probably have a hundred smaller ones over the course of a day. I think that I could be content just looking at bare winter trees for the rest of my days. You are either grateful, or you aren’t. If you aren’t, your only hope is a conversion experience like you described, or a merciful death.
Alpha Griz and Leigh,
Don’t get me wrong – I’m with you in believing and hoping and working through shenpa for that karmically lovely pie in the sky where feminine power is balanced with masculine, animal with human, landscape and cityscape, and some kind humanized industry. I’ve seen the difference in action in small community settings like the one I currently live in when individuals approach problems with full recognition of the possibility of that higher consciousness.
However, I don’t look to Derrick Jensen for those Gaia-nesses. I do think it’s there, though, in his writing. It’s that deep and fierce part that is in all of us – an often marginalized emotion, but to me, one we should acknowledge as legitimate. When I read Jensen, I read knowing that I’m seeking that ferocity, that unapologetic, ass-kicking stance that asks us to act now.
And even over beer, I wouldn’t ask anyone to kill themselves. This strikes me as counter-productive if we are seeking a more just, lovely place to live for all species.
My partner asks the same question of Jensen – what exactly is Jensen directing us to do with all the bad news he keeps telling us. For me, I have to translate Jensen’s message to something useful in my life. I can’t expect Jensen to answer that question and I don’t go to him for answers. He is, after all, just a guy trying to do right in the world and to encourage more right-doing in the world. I go to Jensen to get fired up, to get worked up, to feel that anger that is there inside me. Then I have to figure out for myself how to use it to the earth’s advantage. He helps me fight Plum Creek and the extraction mind-set. He also helps me realize where my own extraction mind-set lies unacknowledged.
I was raised a Catholic, so that guilt stuff actually still works on me (there’s supposed to be a softening here and a smile if we were in human contact).
In love and solidarity,
Here we go again. Same as last year when I first read Jensen here and he’s the activist. Meanwhile in my small incremental way I’m still listening to and living on the land, and this ol’ world is still turning and beautiful. Could I please get a list, even partial of those 120 extinct species, that would be 43,800 in the last year, 219,000 in the last five years. Really? Did you get this report from the IPCC? I for one am tired of living in a state of fear. If we all just took care of our own, it would and will be just fine.
PS Plowboy, thanks for playing the BS card. If I weren’t a married woman I’d love to discuss creation with you, as unsustainable as that may be!
how can we do what it takes to shut down the burning of fossil fuels when we can’t even park our cars? I just don’t understand how these two things can be separate. I want to do more, Derrick, and I appreciate your call for me/us to do so. But what exactly is it you are looking for?
The question I have for Jensen is this: how many people who didn’t already give a damn, have been inspired to do something different with their lives by Jensen’s confrontational fear-mongering anger. I’m all for giving ourselves a proverbial kick in the butt frequently, but I believe that compassion goes a lot farther in getting people to agree with you than the approach that Jensen loves to take. I know people who use his approach in their personal and political lives, and all it does is make the people around them want them to go away. So I could go so far as to say that his approach is counter-productive. He is free to do what he wants with his own life, but if he is trying to convince others to do the same as him, he’d be better off if he stopped beating us over the head.
We’re lucky to have a stooge like “plowboy” here to tell us all how things **really** are.
Apart from the cheap-shot ad hominem attacks on Derrick Jensen, what has “plowboy” offered?
Facts? Naaaaah. Too much work for a spittle-casting angry apologist for America.
Logic? Nope. Not within the tool kit used by a dissembling poster of deflection and distraction.
Fear? Yep! 100% fear! “Plowboy” is afraid of what Derrick Jensen writes, and so he tries to undercut any support or following that Jensen’s writing may muster.
I wish I had fear of autonomy and personal responsibility. Then I might understand why “plowboy” is so incredibly frightened by words on a page.
Dialogue and spirited dialogue is much appreciated, but civil dialogue is valued. Calling each other names will not be tolerated here, please.
Yes, that’s perfectly understandable. In all polite societies it is perfectly acceptable to use implicit put-downs and denigrating remarks, as long as they are polite. Civility is key! Especially when it prevents people from saying what they really mean, or talking about how they really feel. Best to keep things under a heavy, wet blanket. Wouldn’t want any embers to spark into flames.
Mssr. Oxtrot, if you think that I’m advocating any viewpoint for anyone aside from myself, I apologize. (That is exactly the issue I take with Mr. Jensen.) We are all free to make our choices. What I AM saying is that I consider his position and his hucksterism distasteful. He might be a really nice guy to get to know on other terms maybe.
Facts? Hmmm. Well, let’s just say that both sides in this discussion are light on those. Fear? Gave that up at 40…entirely too debilitating, and doubled down on that when I had my first child at 45. You’ll find that the two are mutually exclusive, if you haven’t already.
I do have to point out though that Derrick started this discussion on a confrontational note. (See: Title) As such, I’m sure he needs nobody to defend him, as I don’t either. (Thanks for your civil interjection though Scott.)
Wild Rose, Thanks for that. Back at you.
I see no civility from Plowboy. Only more ad hominem. Welcome to Grist, the pseudo-enviro journal of Superficial Acts of Conscience-Salving! Please check your values at the door! Please leave all factual information in the bucket outside next to Plowboy’s plow!
I am all for Scott’s call for civility and spirited debate. But the situation is rapidly deteriorating. The level of discourse here is rapidly approaching the level of Newsvine (on MSNBC)–you’re starting to sound like a bunch of Tea Partiers, who stoop to name-calling and vitriole to make their point (whatever that is). I think we can do better than that. I am all for emotion but not for poisoning the well.
I appreciate Jensen’s passion (and it’s good to read the thoughts of everyone on this thread) but I simply cannot buy into the idea that living differently is not helpful. The logical flipside of that idea, then, is that living a mainstream, consumer-focused lifestyle is not harmful.
No, I’m not courageous enough to break a bunch of laws (we’re currently building a small house with no permit, which is scary enough for me) but I do believe in the power of example. And I have hope for the tipping point – that place where enough people, acting individually but in concert, create a critical mass that tips society in a new direction.
Composting, growing food, driving less, downsizing and buying less, working less because we have fewer bills and need (a lot) less money to get by, having less stress and fewer responsibilities … these are all meaningful things that – if done cheerfully and openly – are conspicuous to our neighbors. And as we do these things, the material aspects of life naturally fade into the background, and perhaps that new consciousness that you’ve been discussing naturally has more room to emerge.
As fewer people are fighting for their “fair share”, their “piece of the pie”, there will be less fighting, I think. And in its place there will be more cooperation. And cooperation goes hand in hand with understanding that we are all connected, that our fates are all intertwined and that the greatest joys in life come from experiencing this – not from a red sports car.
It might be slow going, each person changing their lives one life at a time, but I believe momentum will build around us and will propel our energy into the mainstream. Each of us should do what we feel moved to do, including those who are courageous enough to do what they see as “more”. Whatever you choose, please hold your heads high and be available to tell others about your lifestyle, and why you’ve chosen it. I want to be a proud little virus that shows others something different is possible (and fun!).
By the way, Alpha Griz, where do you live in Montana? My partner and I grew up in Thompson Falls.
Holly and Lorna,
Anger can certainly serve as the spark that leads to the fire of action. I sense you both know this and have experienced it first-hand. But we have to respect the fire itself. Anger cannot do the work of directing the fire. There has to be some plan, some course along which the fire travels, some entity for whom (on whom?) it’s generating heat. Anger undirected leads to paralysis.
In our culture, especially for women, anger is viewed as a nonviable emotion. This is wrong, of course, because anger represents a razor-sharp passion that something is off-kilter, wrong, unjust and needs to be changed.
I don’t really have to look to Jensen to get fired up. I see stuff around me every day that angers me. But I have not yet mastered what to do with it. Some of this is just bred in me; my father is the same, and I’ve long served as a witness to his outbursts and seen how people tune him out. Only recently have I begun to take a different tack with him and that is to ask, How does this serve you? How does it serve us? In this way, at least, we can have some discussion.
So my question: What do you do with the anger you feel?
Me, I write…members of Congress, state lawmakers, etc. I can’t say that it helps, but I hope it lets them know that there are other points of view they need to consider.
Plowboy’s illustration was brilliant, and highlights the dead end that Jensen has become.
In a carceral state, to use terms like “fight” and “destroy” are invitations to galvanizing martyrs to long jail terms, like the poor folk who are serving long, long terms in the current “Green Scare.”
If an action is not working, it should not be conducted, no matter how righteous it makes the optimistic types feel.
Write no more congressmen. Giving up little connections to the corporate extraction machine does nothing about the greater machinations of the corporate extraction machine – yet these truths about our collective predicament get attacked by the putative “reformers.”
The environmental movement has succeeded in developing the greenwashing movement, while, as Mr. Jenses correctly states, the ecology gets further and further devastated. So who is fighting what?
Leigh,you’re reading carefully – how lovely!
What to do with the anger? Very good question. Generically, anger can help me to identify sources of destruction in the name of capitalist profit. Without anger, I might otherwise internalize that destruction because 1) I sometimes drive, or 2) I use paper, or 3) I participate in activities linked to really destructive corporate practices, or 4) I have a loved one in my family that is part of a really destructive corporation and I still love him.
We are all reluctant hypocrites. But with anger, as opposed to feeling happy all the time, I can direct that energy into a few realms: 1) lifestyle changes so that I am less and less a hypocrite, 2) into political action which, of course, takes all forms – perhaps the reason Jensen doesn’t outline a formulaic, step-by-step plan for dismantling power.
Maybe it’s a letter writing campaign. Maybe it’s showing civil support at court hearings for Earth Firsters who have been marginalized by the media. Maybe it’s humanizing those same people – or, say, eco-terrorists, or, perhaps Jensen – to folks of the opposite ilk. Maybe it’s poster art. Maybe it’s influencing high school students through teaching or mentoring. Maybe it’s creating a forum for the political Left and Right to attempt to find workable, common ground. Maybe it’s organized boycotts.
Maybe, just maybe, lifestyle changes ARE political changes if we communicate them somehow beyond the insularity of our own lives, if we communicate well enough and with enough humility to create communities that can balance destructive power and its loads and loads of cash with life-affirming power, community-centered power, tribe power.
Maybe I don’t really know either…
Over and out – thanks for the intense dialogue…
It’s good to see a few readers finally waking up to Jensen’s counter-productive, misguided, and ultimately impotent rage.
Anger directed outward is projection of one’s unacknowledged inner demons and it serves nothing but its own desire to burn.
Funny that Jensen chose to deride compost piles, since that is exactly what we most need: to take our own (his own) crap and turn it into food, nurturance, sustenance through the alchemy of trans-substantiation. That’s the kind of slow burn that the world needs.
Resistance, he says, starts by believing in it. But resistance to what? First you have to believe in an enemy in order to tear it apart. Believing in a thing is precisely what makes it real. Fighting anything only gives it power.
By believing that the only “effective” way to live is to confront the “real physical world” is to perpetuate the Newtonian mechanistic illusion of reality which got us to this place. What keeps us victimized is our continued belief in the Matrix, which is nothing more than the manifestation of our collective belief. It is the ultimate self-referential fantasy.
That “higher consciousness” that some here spoke of is merely the stepping beyond that self-created Matrix we call culture – or the “story”. It is real only as long as we pretend that it is.
Jensen’s unfocused anger (and the evident apoplectic rage of his acolytes) is what feeds the beast. Which wolf will win the fight, said the Native elder, is the one we feed.
Thank you, Holly!
Riversong, thank you for speaking this truth. No point in feeding any beasties. With respect to this article, most of us in urban or suburban areas no longer live as close to the source of things as do those in Nigeria (or the rural U.S.). I can’t say but I that I wouldn’t act as they have. When you see the waters where you fish being polluted, do you take whatever action is needed to stop the pollution? I’m wondering whether organizations like MEND also “feed the beast” through their activities. I’m just not sure what recourse they have that would get immediate results. They can’t go to their lawmakers, who act in favor of outside powers that act irresponsibly and not in the best interests of the people who live there. Reading this sentence, I could just as well be speaking about Appalachians. I ask myself: What more can I do? The only person who cannot do more is the one who’s dead. So, what does that mean? Should I forego listening to music? Give up the computer? What does knowledge that we are implicated in various destructive activities require us to do? And how…in such a way that we do not empower the very thing (person, corporation, ideology) that is not acting on behalf of the long-term well-being of Earth?
“Right now, a small group of half-starved, poverty-stricken people in Nigeria have brought the oil industry in that country to its knees. They remember what it is to love their land and their communities—perhaps because they are not drowning in privilege, but in the toxic sludge of oil extraction. Is that what it will take to get environmentalists in the U.S. to fight back?”
Yes Derrick, that is what it will take!!
I guess what it all comes down to for me is that I do not want the frame of reference for Orion or any of us to be this angry place. Sure, things are bad, maybe worse than even the enviros say it is–I suspect that Derrick Jensn’s figure of 120 species going extinct per day may be conservative; in actuality, it may be far worse. As bad as things are, I nonetheless have little time for doomsday environmentalism. My hope is that Orion can provide essays on how we can build a sustainable society from the ground up, one brick, one vote, one garden, one CSA, one urban farmer, one wildlands preserve at a time through thousands of acts repeated daily. America has functionally gone to hell. Our task is to shore the fragments against the ruins and rebuild our society by going back to our communities, because all politics are local, after all is said and done. Our national government is so paralyzed, polarized, and dysfunctional that it can little else but serve the corporate, global macro-economic mega-machine. All we have is each other, but that is enough. I say live joyfully and have fun, because building a sustainable society is an exciting challenge and we need Orion to tell our stories and give us en-courage-ment by telling the stories of all our daily triumphs. This does not mean we cannot continue being harshly critical of the path American society keeps going down, but it needs to be constructive and we need to be living he way we have been changed, to be the embodiment of our alternative vision, the answer our own prayers.
I agree with Holly’s posting dated Mar 03, 2010: “Isn’t this backlash against Jensen exactly what he’s writing about? If we continue to bad mouth Jensen because his writing unnerves us, we’re just murdering the messenger, simply resisting the resister.”
I also agree with kultur’s posting dated Mar 03 2010:
“Right now, a small group of half-starved, poverty-stricken people in Nigeria have brought the oil industry in that country to its knees. They remember what it is to love their land and their communities—perhaps because they are not drowning in privilege, but in the toxic sludge of oil extraction. Is that what it will take to get environmentalists in the U.S. to fight back?” – Derrick Jensen
“Yes Derrick, that is what it will take!!”
Thank you Derrick Jensen for writing, for being.
Let’s get some history into this discussion, I would propose.
To all of you who endorse armed insurrection agains centralized economic and governmental power (and yes, that is the logical end game for the kind of politics Jensen is advocating, possibly even the point of departure for him) you’ve got no idea what you are asking for. If you did, you wouldn’t, that is just my opinion.
Let me ask all of Derrick’s acolytes out there a personal question, and you don’t have to answer it, but at least think about it some. Where in your experience (either cultural, ancestral or personal)have you known of starving times? Really, I think you need to think long and hard on that point. Another pardigm I would ask you to consider (enamored as you are with Nigerian rebels)is what experience do you have with large autonomous groups of young men with repeating firearms?
I’ll go first.
My ancestors, and not too long ago, got hammered out on the anvil of federal power and by the end of it they were swilling corn cob soup. If you think ecological degradation by Monsanto is bad, you need to read up on Phil Sheridan. If you think that violent insurrection is something romantic, thrilling, easily contained and effective, I would point you to a pretty stark counterpoint. It was located in Lawrence, KS.
Point is people, as bad as things are, and I’ll be the first to agree that there are some serious as a heart attack issues to confront, we all didn’t arrive here by happenstance. This country had some very serious growing pains and we’ve teetered and flirted with anarchy on many occasions, not just the ones I’ve mentioned. We’ve got short damn memories. You want to find out what real Hell is, you keep on going down that road and see what waits for you there.
If you want to know what I think the real alternative is, just ask me.
Plowboy–Thanks for your perspective. I think the points your raise is where the rubber hits the road (a cliche but a good cliche). I would like to know what you think the alternative is because I offered what I think the alternative is in my last post, namely, rebuilding our society from the ground up in our communities. Could you read that post and offer your critique of that view because I think after a lot of reflection that taking care of our local places, communities, watersheds, starting there to build a culture of sustainability, is the most viable and constructive alternative out there–armed insurrection would be folly as you well point out. I mean, what IS the alternative? We need to be talking about that (leave it to the Tea Partiers to entertain romantic notions of armed insurrection and that way we may be rid of them for once and for all and get down to the real business of constructive alternatives rather than engaging in suicidal folly).
A.G., couldn’t agree with you more.
I appreciate Orion offering up alternatives to the kind of things you and I propose, but there really is no choice in my mind. We can devolve, or choose to get smarter.
Orion has allowed one of the premier agrarians of our times a forum here. Wendell Berry offers nothing but hard labor and cold beans on one level, and his central message don’t exactly resonate with the young and the restless…but, there it is for any to follow. James Howard Kunstler, another Orion contributor, is of a like mind. These two (and they are complimentary…..although if you were having a shearing, you’d probably want Berry ramrodding the operation while Jim entertained the guests) have done more to influence my thinking on practical solutions than any others. And there are many, many more out there.
No, as I said, it is not sexy. Permaculture isn’t exactly the kind of revolutionary enterprise that will get a young man to jump out of bed in the morning, but make not mistake about it….the single, most revolutionary act within the grasp of the average citizen is the simple step of growing some of your own food.
This winter won’t last forever y’all. Get your seeds started.
Plowboy, thanks for the cogent and spirited remarks. I think you point out something important. In Jensen’s recent book (What we leave behind) he speaks of trying to stymie a particularly odious developer trying to slap mcmansions into the pristine woods behind Jensen’s place. Though he delineated beautifully the folly of the “legal battle” approach in Strangely like war, he strangely does the very same thing in this case. The developer kept moving ahead, and one gets the impression that the only thing that stopped (or slowed him) is the current economic slough of despond.
The developer went in and mowed down part of the woods for roads and sites. Where were the saboteurs then, blocking the big machines?! Where were the saboteurs dealing with the stable of corrupted local people enabling the lies and the cheating and the development to proceed? Easy to go on with angry talk. You are right… the paper revolutionaries have been the intellectuals looking for the “masses” to man the barricades.
Plowboy–I definitely agree with you on who offers a real model for building an alternative society–Wendell Berry and William Howard Kunstler, who have been touchstones for me as well. By the way, we’re starting our seeds, looking to the spring planting in our garden. I totally agree. That is the first place we can begin–by raising some of our own food. And I thank you for bringing some hard thinking, reality, and sanity to this discussion.
This is a voice from Orion here; we’ve enjoyed this discussion a lot, as usual. But you got us thinking about the number of species lost every day, so we looked into it, and, somewhat surprisingly, Jensen’s number is as good as anyone else’s. Estimates of species loss range from 75/day to 150/day. You can do a Google search for “how many species are lost every day” and come up with a lot of sources to support that number, which is bound to be a bit of a guess.
Alpha and Plowboy (and you, too, vera):
It’s so heartening to finally see some authentically perceptive voices of sanity following Jensen’s repeated diatribes and the mindless dittoing and personal attacks of his acolytes.
I continue to question Orion’s interest in giving voice to one such as Jensen who offers little towards renewal or redemption, and in fact perpetuates the status quo by giving it more power than it really has.
The contrast to Wendell Berry couldn’t be more dramatic. Even old Monkeywrench himself, Ed Abbey, brought humor to his resistance of the machine and refused to trade off living fully for the righteous indignation of many of his readers and followers. Where he and Jensen intersect is in the willingness to entice others into acts they themselves have not the courage to perform.
Yes, planting seeds – both literally and metaphorically – is the most radical (lit. to the root) act we can perform. The evolution of consciousness is not some pie-in-the-future-sky hope, but an in-the-moment reality for those who chose to reprogram their brains by a change of perception and attitude. Evolutionary change occurs within one lifetime for those who don’t remain stuck in old and dysfunctional paradigms (which still bind Jensen to a faith in physical resistance rather than metaphysical transformation).
So keep on growing your own and sharing the sprouted wisdom and don’t let the boisterous voices of “resistance” (which always creates more heat than light) distract you from the real work of personal, cultural and evolutionary change. While to those who walk in fear urgency can be the driver of desperate acts, those who know the difference between what is urgent and what is important will remain rooted in the land, drawing from its sustenance and composting their crap into food for the next seven generations.
I thought we had already advanced beyond the grossly inefficient light that incandescent resistance offers and toward the greater evolutionary efficiency of LEDs (light-emitting dialogues).
Scott-So Jensen’s figure on species lost per day is a kind of mean, or median and it could be as high as 150. But I still think the reality could be even worse. 200 a day maybe even a thousand–we really don’t know. All we know is that it is bad. Which is why I believe we can best resist by starting in our local communities. Sure, the ultimate effort needs to be global, but that would need to be the sum of local activity. National governments are the sum of powerful interests and these interests fuel deficit spending, both economic AND ecological deficit spending–they are largely unresponsive to the people or local needs. We need to resist in a thousand different ways, but the resistance should not be suicidal. That is the way of al-Qaida. We need a federation of local watersheds, each of which has its people rebuilding society from the ground up. What I am really proposing is an alternative government, a parallel government (and economy) bypassing national government and the macro-economy. Worked pretty well for the Amish! If we build this parallel society then we will have something in place when the industrial model collapses. One thing Jensen doesn’t touch on is the industrial model is doomed by its very existence. We just need to step aside, get out of the way and let it destroy itself. I realize it won’t be pretty, but we can at least be ready for this by being well under way to constructing an alternative. Nature will take a hit to be sure, but it will bounce back. This tough old planet has survived asteroids and all kinds of calamities and has come back better than ever. Even if humans figure in their own extinction (I hope to God they don’t!)I place my ultimate faith in this planet and the power and resilience of life itself! Life not death is the most powerful force in the universe!
Those numbers, like many “facts” on the internet, likely originated from one or a few sources and got promulgated exponentially.
The simple truth is that no one even knows how many species exist on Earth. Scientific estimates range from 3 million to 100 million, with the best current guess at 11 million. Only 1.9 million species have been currently identified.
Without a reliable baseline, we just don’t know the rate of extinctions. But we shouldn’t need a quantitative justification for the evident qualitative loss that all aware people are noticing and feeling and mourning.
However, except for one captive killer whale at Sea World, we don’t see those trillions of sentient creatures committing acts of violence or sabotage. But the longer we keep ourselves captive to civilization and – more importantly – the mindset that created it, the more likely it will be that some will be driven by desperation and alienation to violent resistance.
A.G.–The watershed issue is about as thorny a one as we’re likely to find, yep. Here in the deep South we’re reaping the foolishness of drawing property boundaries along arbitrary metes and bounds, without any acknowledgment of where the water runs. Was it Powell who lobbied long and hard, and futilely, to have the model overturned in the western states? All kinds of mischief has resulted in the arid trans-Mississippi because of it.
But I think you are right….local organization can undo a lot of our forebearers’ misguidance. If you and all your contiguous landowners wanted to pool your water resources along drainages..nobody is to stop you with any law that I know of.
“What I am really proposing is an alternative government, a parallel government (and economy) bypassing national government and the macro-economy. Worked pretty well for the Amish! If we build this parallel society then we will have something in place when the industrial model collapses.” – AlphaGriz
OK AlphaGriz, Riversong and Plowboy. Let’s say I agree completely with your scenario here. Just help me to understand the real bottom line of this Romantic Comedy.
Just the USA for starters. Let us say there are 300 million people in USA today. Let us further suppose we can get 100 million on board with the local watershed, permaculture, alternative economy deal.
Then the macro (current) economy crumbles. What do you think the other 200 million of your fellow Americans are going to do when they find your goodies?. They did not join in your little party; all they know is that you are holding valuable lands, etc, that they want. How will you address these 200 million gun-totting hungry people?
What did the Europeans do when they met another set of landbase indigenous inhabitants here… they killed them, stole their lands, and decimated their culture.
What will you do Griz, Plowboy, Riversong??
Help me to understand!
Well Kultur, let me respond to that with a question of my own: Are you better off with one third of your population with sustenance, or none of them?
Riversong said: “I thought we had already advanced beyond the grossly inefficient light that incandescent resistance offers and toward the greater evolutionary efficiency of LEDs (light-emitting dialogues).”
Clever analogy! 🙂 I believe that we also need “light-emitting doing.” As for resistance… there are times when defending those you love with all you got is the only remaining option. In that, Jensen is right.
So I would say… I’d like to see him move beyond the message he is writing at the moment, just like I would like to see JHK move past his endlessly repeated 4 points and increasingly ugly rabble-stirring incitements to … the next stage. What is the next stage, fellow rebels?
In case you are wondering also, I am a gun owner. This idea though that in times of economic and political collapse we can all just hole up with enough bullets, bacon and flour until the good times return is so much romantic nonsense. When the fat goes into the fire, what you will need is people around you that you can trust, not a bunker and canned food. If you really want to explore that from the point of view of someone who has been there, check out Dmitry Orlov’s blog. Seriously funny dude too.
Damned good question Vera.
Speaking for me-my-own-personal-self, it is to raise my two children to understand where they come from, what decency is, and an abiding appreciation and gratitude for how the sunlight strikes the planet. Then I’m going to die. 🙂
If everyone else would do the same, we might just have a chance here.
kulture–Whoa, boy! You raise a good point but… The idea is for those 200 million or so to join us, the idea is that we have something already in place they can plug into. If the alternative is not even there, then we all will be left holding the bag and have nothing!!!! Now, if they take us by force, when all they need to do is join up, then they’re dumber than I even feared (and haven’t learned from history). Then there is nothing we can do about that. So we have to create and embody the alternative and hope for the best. Heck, yeah, kulture, I fear the worst, but I can hope for the best. I can do that. Otherwise, what else can I do??? Romantic comedy beats the hell out of tragic folly anyday!!! Otherwise, why bother at all? Otherwise, we just sit back and let it all go to hell and devil take the hindmost (meaning all of humanity)!
Plowboy–You are one of the more sensible people I’ve encountered via cyberspace. You raise your children well, teach them and embody a sense of common decency, be grateful for the life you have been given and for a chance to live on this still beautiful and alive planet (an, correspondingly, to treat it with the care and affection it deserves for giving you life), and surround yourself with people you can trust (community). Isn’t that what it’s all about? What it means to be human and to aspire to our better natures?
Kultur: here is how I see it. The empire will focus its hold on strategic areas (urban and rural) and within those, the gangs and the zombies will be wiped out in short order.
It will no longer be able to control the outlying areas, and there… well, think of it this way. Are agrarians well armed? Do they know the terrain like the back of their hand? Do they have local support networks? Any urban gangs trying to infiltrate will meet with the fate typically reserved for armed stranger-bullies in guerilla territory.
Plowboy: I call it as my heart and mind know it: True community is the next stage. 🙂
A.G.-Thanks and I send the same back to you. There are lots of sensible people here, I’ve found, and not just the ones I happen to agree with. I’ll respect any point of view that takes into account all the hard lessons we hopefully have learned up to this point. My number one gripe with some proponents of some of these so-called new paradigms is that they obviously haven’t read too much history. If you’re a social critic and you think that your times are outside of history you are living in a fool’s paradise, in my humble opinion. They tell us that “this time it will be different”, or some such. If you’ve got a truly new approach, or an old one that still works, I’m all ears man. Jensen and them? An old, old story.
As I said, my people ran that one up the flag pole not too long ago and we still don’t know where all the bodies are….that tends to skew your point of view and temper rhetoric about “resistance” fighting.
Vera: “As for resistance… there are times when defending those you love with all you got is the only remaining option.”
There are two ways to defend those we love: by putting our own bodies in the way of an assault or by beating the assaulter to the trigger and lowering ourselves to his level.
Violence is never the only option but it can seem so to those whose perception is limited by either limiting circumstance or self-limiting beliefs. Acting out of authentic love always aims for the highest good, while acting out of fear or desperation always reduces everyone to the lowest common denominator.
That’s not a calculus I choose to live by, as it’s a mathematics of madness and death. I can understand and forgive kidnapping oil workers in Nigeria or pirating ships off Somalia, but otherwise intelligent and insightful first world educators like Jensen should be teaching a higher mathematics – the sacred geometry that creates new worlds.
Please do not confuse a “google” sesarch with serious research and true science. We’re experiencing that with climategate now. Estimates. What species are we documenting the loss of precisely? What about new species evolving, how many are we gaining a day.
Thanks again, Derrick, for the cattle prod to the conscience. Wondering what you’d think about strategic withdrawal as a part of resistance, deliberately not participating in our culture’s rituals of destruction. What’s possible, from your point of view?
The environmental crisis could be viewed as a spiritual crisis based on the presence or absence of love. Unselfish love gives you peace of mind and freedom of choice. Heed the history Plowboy speaks of and read a little on your own. Grow something! The sky isn’t falling.
“A man who is afraid will do anything.” Jawaharial Nehru
My problem with the idea of “revolution”: Who are we revolting against? Who is the “them” that “us” is fighting? Is it the evil corporations? What about the people who are choosing the products/services of those corporations, and/or making a tidy living working at those corporations, and/or making a profit from investing in stocks of those corporations? Is the enemy “consumerism”? Well, how do we separate “consumers” (people) from “consumerism”? Is the problem “economic growth” or every group/person who is counting on that growth? Possibly more than any other social ill, environmental destruction brings us to the old line from Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” So…exactly what/who are we opposing?
Corporations are “bodies” with many minds and one guiding principle – make lots of money. If some of those minds try to interject notions of humanity, or planetary consciousness, they’re ejected and discarded. The “body” moves on. On a planetary level corporations are singularly short-sighted. The corporation is devoid of emotions and thoughts of the viability of future generations of “these little humans”. The corporation is not even concerned about its own long-term future. There’s one guiding principle – make lots of money. The end will come when it comes. Planet be damned.
As a society we’ve agreed (by our laws) that this is an acceptable mode of operation. Rescinding this acceptance is not something to do by throwing bombs. And I never understood Jensen’s writing as being about bomb throwing. Corporations gained the right to operate as they do thru the process of law, and that’s how it will have to be taken away from them.
Plant your carrots but don’t be a carrot. Everyone has family, friends. Most readers of Orion are interconnected across the country, and some across the planet. Many eyes, many minds. And these are minds that do care about the viability of future generations.
I don’t remember the exact quote, but the Buddha’s advice for dealing with your own vices also serves for an immense problem like this: it’s like a small man wrestling with a giant – with all your force you have to bring him down and then continue holding him down.There’s no Disney ending here.
The same kind of energy that goes into writing clever responses to an article on the web can go into writing to congressmen, talking with neighbors, more distant connections.
The corporations’ one guiding principle is one that is NOT acceptable and should never have been allowed to gain the legal support that it has. The recent Supreme Court decision on financing of campaign ads has multiplied the power of corporations significantly. And still the giant must be brought down. It’s not about destruction; it’s about control. The political process of voting intelligently is a baby step in the right direction. More active participation is also necessary.
Until the people here criticizing Mr. Jensen actually sit down and read his books and figure out that he’s already answered their primary objections (i.e., “you first,” “why aren’t you out there blowing stuff up,” etc.), none of you have any room to talk.
The big question here isn’t “what is Derrick doing?” but “is Derrick right?”–if he IS right, and YOU are sitting there criticizing him on YOUR computer in YOUR comfy house next to a dog or a cat, tend to the beam in your own eye first.
If you don’t think he’s right, there’s no use calling him a hypocrite, because even if he were doing what you think he needs to do in order to save the world, he would still be wrong, so either way you won’t like what he says or does.
But if you’re calling him a hypocrite then deep down inside you must know he’s right, at least for the most part.
But he’s NEVER said that everyone has to go out and blow stuff up. What he HAS said is that people need to do whatever they can within the scope of their abilities. Derrick is a writer. What can the rest of you do?
Criticize the ones speaking up? Yeah… we got that. What *else* can you do?
One can only wonder. ‘Cause you just wasted fifteen minutes of your life to tell Derrick off that you could have been spending more productively.
Actually, Dana, this wass the most constructive discussion yet of a Jensen Orion article until you showed up.
What, pray tell, constructive words did you just add to this dialogue?
You did, in fact, exactly what your hero Jensen just complained about: resisted the resisters.
Wild Rose–I am not into doomsday environmentalism, either, nor do I necessarily think the sky is falling, but the environmental crisis is very serious and cannot be taken so lightly (besides, “climategate” is completely overblown, a conspiratorial fantasy dreamed up and promoted by the Right in this country). It’s not even a matter of perspective, it IS serious. However, you can choose the spirit in which approach this crisis–you can approach it with a fear-based belligerent, hostile attitude or you can address it with a hopeful attitude that maybe, just maybe we can turn things around and do so because we love the natural world and humanity (for humans will benefit as much as other endangered species from sustainable practices). As for freedom of choice beyond that, well, we have no choice now but to address the problem, because it is a common problem (even for the deniers who won’t acknowledge even the existence of an environmental crisis). Or to put it this way, you think government deficit spending is bad, that’s nothing compared to the ecological deficit spending that contemporary society is now practicing and insists upon!
I think I understand that there are two paths generally. One to opt out and become self sufficient, instructive, lessens carbon footprint, points others in the right direction. The other to take the fight, like in Africa, MEND etc. to the persons responsible for environmental destruction. Like propositions from two camps; one the agriculturalists the other from hunter-gatherers. However, I am angered that the gang (Plow’ River’) react with such virulence toward Jensen personally. Again and again the same point like no one is listening and particularly Plowboy, begin yelling until you have the microphone in you hands and will not desist and allow others opinions, it becomes an argument and attacks form not a discussion. Riversong, we get your point and you want everyone to listen to you, now what. You will defend your vegie patch but not the earths life support systems. Both you two turn a river into a swamp. Never will either of you be swayed and attack others who do not believe in your views. We all get your point,plant seeds, grow, opt out…personal change, not anything else. Works for you not the planets life systems, though I agree it forms an alternative for people to consider as populations exponentially grows and consumerism rages. The cultural experiment of the 60’s petered out do you really think this will save the Earths systems now with enough time? In closing, I expect your usual derision or to be ignored, this is your general reply as you continue to contribute to your own agendas without supporting open discussion. I did not want to directly reply to you both as it takes away from the points of others but you both will not desist. For all the love you preach you both show very little tolerance. Please don’t harp on about violence, it will happen with increasing population numbers with decreasing resources like the “mathematics” you speak of. Violence will become before love when you are hungry, your children are hungry. Those with something will be challenged for it, in the end. Preach your love to them.
We continue to delude ourselves that the world will be roesy. We all speak about consumerism and the Corporations like they are so many words that can just be erased off of the page. Let me ask you all. How many of you have Investments in the economy, in those corporations. If you say none of them, you are lying. We all have those investments, small or smaller. We all depend upon the economics of consumerism to recieve our daily bread, or beer, or tea, or whiskey. This computer I’m using… couldn’t grow it in my garden…damn. The telephone or cell phone I use… How many of yyou good people (Plowboy, Riversong, Vera, Dana, AG) use those things.
I personally believe the only way for this thing to end is in catasthrophe, and I believe the good Mother Earth believes that as well.
How many of you have dropped your insurances, on EVERYTHING, stopped driving your cars, and feeding the machine? Tell me?
Are you about to give up all you have.? Do you think those 2 Million people outside of our nice alternative socio-economic community are going to be in a good brotherly ‘ let me carry your load’ mood when this thing come crashing down on them. I don’t think so AG; I think you are scrapping for a full blown CIVIL WAR; Hobbes was correct, but he did not realize that he was speaking about us post-industrial; mena dn women after the fall of civilization.
If Hobbes only knew what Rousseau knew; we have already lost the best part of us… 35,000 years ago!
Kultur: which part did we lose 35,000 years ago? I am not saying I disagree; I would like to hear what you mean. — (Rosy? Who the heck here is thinking the collapse will be rosy?! But Hobbes was a liar. He never bothered to check the evidence in his own backyard.)
Alan: Virulence? Where is the virulence? We are here because we are really interested in what Jensen has to say. We also are critical of some of it. Is that virulence by definition, in your world?
Dana: Derrick knows and has said that “I am a writer” is no excuse. None of us is a dam-blower-upper by profession. And Derrick was getting ready to take down a dam a year or two ago. No problem there. Where I pointed my criticism is in his description of the land fight. He said to us that we need to defend the landbase with all we got. But when it came down to his own landbase, what did he do? He took the genteel, safe route he already knew does not get the job done: working the system. He lost a measure of credibility with me with that.
Riversong: “Acting out of authentic love always aims for the highest good.” I completely agree with you. What I am trying to get across is this: if the family down the road gets attacked by a zombie family trying to snatch what they have, I hope they do *everything* they can to prevail and live another day… and learn more about doing it via love. We have two tasks ahead of us: learning a new way of being, and also surviving long enough to actually be able to learn it.
I see Jensen as a kind of latter-day Socrates, or an archetypal trickster out to goad us into action.
In the Apology Plato quotes Socrates as saying “I was attached to this city by the god–though it seems a ridiculous thing to say–as upon a great and noble horse which was somewhat sluggish because of its size and needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly . . . I never cease to rouse each and every one of you, to persuade and reproach you all day long and everywhere I find myself in your company.” (Apology, section 30)
We’ve reached a point in our technological development where rebellion that leads to violence defeats the purpose if it destroys the society it seeks to change. We are what we do and if we do violence in pursuit of noble goals, those goals become moot. Jensen is a Socratic gadfly, biting us on our collective rumps. I’m happy to have him remind us of our situation, even if I don’t entirely agree with his solutions (and yes, he does offer some).
Excellent points, owlfarmer. But I think that we need to stop bickering with each other about exactly how we would deal with extreme situations and get off our duffs. Nobody is pure. Nobody knows how they will act when the chips are down and they are out of options.
There is another way to look at this. Does love not demand that we do *everything” in order to protect our loved ones? The mama bear will fight unto death to protect her little cub against other bears. That is what love does when against the wall! If we are more worried about our own purity than about actually DOING what it will take, what are we about?
Maybe we should all get up and out and stare into our computer screens a little (a lot) less, and look around, and we would find what we are supposed to do staring us in the face.
Aside from Jensen entirely read over this thread. Check how Plowboy begins, then when not listened to, yells his statements. Look how he ruins the ongoing discussion onto his constant agenda. Then Riversong joins with the same personal attacks and both steer the conversation onto their agenda and previous discussion ceases. Now we have repetitively useless banter because there is nothing constructive anyone wishes to contribute because it will be derided and snuffed out by these trolls. The moderator of this site I believe is negligent in allowing this behavior to continue for so long. It undermines the whole intention of this organization, it quashes debate. I see the actions of these two individual particularly as bullying, ignorant, self-serving trolls. They should have censored long ago for this behaviour.
Modern Homo sapiens appeared almost 200,000 years ago, and the earliest species of our genus, Homo habilis, two million years back; they lived in relative harmony with nature and with one another; and they lived without history or the terror of historical consciousness until its eruption with the birth of civilization. A later species of our genus was homo erectus, who went extinct roughly 35-30,000 years ago. What the scholars will not tell us is that there was something substantial lost with that extinction, and subsequently with the emergence of this new consciousness and the construction of civilization and historical thought approximately 5,500 years ago.
Try reading Kirkpatrick Sale, After Eden.
“First you have to believe in an enemy in order to tear it apart. Believing in a thing is precisely what makes it real. Fighting anything only gives it power.
“By believing that the only “effective” way to live is to confront the “real physical world” is to perpetuate the Newtonian mechanistic illusion of reality which got us to this place. What keeps us victimized is our continued belief in the Matrix, which is nothing more than the manifestation of our collective belief. It is the ultimate self-referential fantasy.”
So that means we only pretend that oil companies are ripping up the Earth and killing indigenous people everywhere? If we would stop pretending that was happening, stop believing in it, then it wouldn’t be happening? We’re only pretending that industrial capitalism is pumping CO2 into the air and causing global warming? This is some collective illusion? The US empire murders millions of people through war and plunder only because we insist on believing in this “story” that doesn’t exist except in our own minds?
Sorry, these things are not just projections of inner demons. They are happening. We need to act in the real, physical world to make them stop.
Do the authors of these articles ever participate in these discussions? I’d love to know what Mr. Jensen thinks of the responses here.
While on the one hand it does seem silly to call for revolt on the pages of a glossy magazine, on the other hand it’s not entirely clear to me why only someone already armed and surrounded by guerillas is permitted to call for revolt.
What I find most disappointing in this article is Jensen’s own refusal to identify, or as he puts it, name the power that needs to be destroyed. He mentions corporate power, true. But is this a call for anti-capitalist revolt? Or is he calling for capitalism with a human face?
I find the fallback to the apparent incontrovertible absolute of extinction of species to be lame. If one consequently follows the doctrine of evolution, the extinction of a species or a thousand is a matter of moral and ethical indifference. Indeed, there is more than one theory of evolution that points to the amazing explosion of special variation following mass extinctions. God knows (pun intended) what will follow the current ongoing mass extinction. It could be cool; it may well include radiation-induced variations, pcb-induced variations, etc. etc. etc.
oops, a sentence or two fell off that post somehow. they just said that perhaps, then, one needs to even reconsider how we think about extinction.