Resistance Resisters

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.

Derrick Jensen is a writer living in northern California. His most recent book is his novel Lives Less Valuable.


  1. Sure thing Derrick, all you needed to do was ask….


    (Umm, ‘kay….? What now?)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Signior Plowboy!

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Lorna and Alpha Griz:

    Don’t know if you read (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?

  15. Alpha Griz,

    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.

  16. 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?

  17. Holly,

    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?

  18. 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.


  19. 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 . . .

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. Holly,

    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.

    Cheerio, mates!

  23. 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.


  24. 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,


  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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?

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Dialogue and spirited dialogue is much appreciated, but civil dialogue is valued. Calling each other names will not be tolerated here, please.


  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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?

  38. 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…

  39. 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.

  40. 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?

  41. “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!!

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.


  45. 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).

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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).

  51. 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!

  52. Scott,

    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.

  53. 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.

  54. “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!


  55. 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?

  56. 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?

  57. 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.

  58. 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.


  59. 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)!

  60. 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?

  61. 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. 🙂

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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?

  66. 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

  67. 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?

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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!

  72. 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.

  73. Amen Alan!

    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!

  74. 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.

  75. 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).

  76. 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?

  77. 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.

  78. vera,

    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.

  79. Vera,

    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.

  80. Riversong said:

    “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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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.

  83. c.penders: Naming the power? Different people name it differently. Some say industrial civ, some say civ way back, some focus on more specific modern things, some go back to symbols… I recommend making up your own mind. Plenty of interesting stuff to read out there.

    As far as post extinction being cool, you may well be right. Problem is, what we are doing right now to the critters, isn’t.

    Stephanie: “We need to act in the real, physical world to make them stop.” True. All the same, there is that saying that says, what you resist, persists. There is truth to that too. We got to find a way that incorporates both of these truths, no?

    Kultur: I read Sale. He is a babbler, sorry. Erectus was into burning stuff, and went on to burn Australia… we gotta search harder.

  84. We need to resist with ways and means that don’t cause us to lose our souls. For me that means nonviolent resistance and it means not demonizing other people. The guy driving a bulldozer or working at a coal-fired power plant is not my enemy, they are agents of faceless corporation that needs to be either dismantled or transformed.

    But I bear a degree of culpability for the actions of those faceless corporations as does everyone reading this. Perhaps my pension funds finance some of these rapacious companies (yeah, I’m in the “social choice” fund, but it ain’t perfect). I am using electricity typing this and about half my electricity comes from coal fired plants.

    A them and us dichotomy doesn’t work for me. All of us, to some degree, are also them. We need to make huge changes and quickly. King and the Mahatma showed us the way. Let’s get to it!

  85. Mountain woman: don’t we need to actually get things done? I am worried not about my soul so much but about protecting those I love. If the tactics used keep on losing those we love, what is the point?

    C’mon about the us R them? Bull. The guy who just murdered that teen (news yesterday) and the teen are two very different people; one is a vicious murderer, the other not. Conflating the two is a bizarre thing.

    That we all are to some small measure complicit does not take away the truth that *some* of us are complicit (and causative) to a huge degree.

    We live in a world where a small number of people, some psychopaths, some less so, are behind a huge number of the problems that have descended on us over the millennia. Our stone age ancestors understood this conundrum well. Why can’t we?

  86. Alan–I think you are the one trying to shout down Plowboy and Riversong. I don’t much agree with Riversong but I believe Plowboy had something to add to the debate. Nobody has talked about a third way: continuing to make our case to mainstream society. We will likely continue to be shot down, but, who knows whether that might start taking affect, especially should some catastrophic ecological event occur that people realize impacts not only the environment. Sure, I advocate carrying out acts of resistance as long as we do so in a spirit of love rather than a spirit of hate and anger. Doesn’t mean, I don’t get angry (if you were ever around me you would be quickly disabused of that notion). But Ed Abbey also advocating fighting back when we need to. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but like the mother griz (with whom I have some familiarity) we do not want to be pushed. For now, I choose to make changes in our household practices, advocate for cultural change and for the protection of wilderness and wildlife, continue to put the message out there. Really, there is a threefold response 1) continue taking our case to mainstream society, 2)make personal choices to practice sustainability, and 3) to carry out acts of resistance. Different people will take different paths. But none of this should be carried out in a spirit of destructive rage.

  87. I concur with Dana that many of you would be quite well served by reading some of Mr. Jensen’s books. He addresses many of these issues and many more.

    And sometimes the people driving the equipment are our enemies, such as in the cases of hostile and even murderous loggers, including one instance mentioned in “Strangely Like War” in which a logger murdered a non-violent activist in cold blood and wasn’t brought up on charges. They may not be our enemies simply by virtue of taking part in the death culture, but it is a culture that creates a startling amount of psychopaths.

  88. Also, I would like to propose that Riversong’s insistence on his inner-landscape having control over the outer one may indeed be true, a hypothesis which seems bolstered by his apparently treatment of himself as some sort of all-knowing deity. As such, I suggest we also hold him to blame for all of the woes inflicted by civilization, as he clearly caused them. In ancient Rome, deities who displeased the people had their images tossed in dung heaps as punishment. Any of that “clean coal” slurry still sitting around?

    And before you complain about misrepresenting your words, I suggest you think about how often you’ve twisted others’ words in extremely malicious and abusive ways. At least my way was for humor. 😛

  89. Aw… how ’bout accepting a number of truths here? Yeah, Alan is right, Plowboy was a bit carried away with the sarcasm. Yeah, Griz is right that Plowboy had some important stuff to add. So does Riversong, et al.

    So Daniel, how about moving past the mud flinging, and say something new?

  90. I have no need to say something new. The questions have been answered, as I said, in Jensen’s writings.

    Plus, I’m in a silly mood. Therefore, I will be silly.

    And how about instead of dictating how others should converse, we just converse?

  91. Hey Vera,

    I am all for resistance and I think that the most effective resistance is nonviolent and involves building a movement that will be around for the long haul. I imagine a lot of us are doing just that at the community level.

    I don’t think resistance means directing my anger at my brothers and sisters even if I’m not crazy about how they earn their living. I angry about a system that is destroying the ecosystem we and many other species depend on and I want to spend my energy on changing that, not blaming folks trying to pay the mortgage.

    Is there a difference between the victim and victimizer? Sure, but I am not a fan of retributive justice. Violent people may need to be institutionalized (perhaps for life in some instance) but that does not mean they need to be punished.

    We need restorative justice, for people and the planet.

  92. In one of Starhawk’s early books (it could have been The Spiral Dance, but I’m not sure), she wrote about “raging love”. It struck a chord with me then, and it still does.

  93. I heard about this party being held at the home of someone known as Heavenly Orion, or HO. It was hinted to be some sort of Socratic love feast or something, so I dropped by to check it out. There was a good little crowd there, and there was excitement in the air. People all talking at once, forming little clusters, or wandering around declaiming to nobody in particular.
    As I tuned in to some conversations, I realized that not everyone was a happy camper at this affair. One was angrily denouncing the guest of honor (someone named Jensen) and demanding that he banned from the gathering, and not even allowed to send a letter to the group. drifting to another group, I heard someone saying that the one who denounced this Jensen should himself be banned instead. Over the general clamor I heard words like troll, mole, ignoramus, rightwing idiot, agent provocateur, and other negative language in the same vein. Maybe this was not going to be the love feast I had expected, but more like an intellectual food fight? Come to think of it however, some rather rude characters tended to show up at those affairs Socrates attended. That Thrasymachus was no cupcake in the Republic.
    I left the main room and walked out onto the empty terrace to consider what I had observed. Scott Peck said “In small groups is the hope of the world”. I had also eavesdropped on some meaningful conversations where people were treating each other with respect and mutual care, in spite of sometimes sharp differences of opinion. Fostering these types of interactions could lead to deeper mutual trust and learning that could contribute to deeper understandings and even possible solutions to the very real and critical problems that everyone seemed concerned with. But was the answer to silence or ban the voices we found uncomfortable, dead wrong, or otherwise obnoxious? I remembered a story about Gurdjieff. When he set up the Institute for the Harmonius development of Man at an old chateau outside Paris, it attracted a mixture of artists, intellectuals, and spiritual seekers from various countries. Into this group there appeared a man who everyone without exception found absolutely unbearable. In time they found a way to make their feelings so clear to him that he decided to leave, and set out for Paris. Someone told Gurdjieff of this, expecting that he would be pleased. However G. instead ordered several people to take a fast car, overtake him and persuade him by any means to return. When his students sought an explanation for this (to them) inexplicable action, G. informed them that this man was the most important person among them,and that he was of inestimable and irreplaceable value for their work on themselves.
    The creative artist of life must accept and work with the materials and conditions life presents to her/him. This includes some rather recalcitrant human material.
    The dogs bark, the caravan moves on………

  94. We are not far apart, Mountain woman. I think though that the most effective action is the one that gets the job done.

  95. A new culture is evolving alongside the old one. The early adopters (us) are largely already onboard the new culture. We’re the ones promoting Slow Foods, bioregionalism, backyard CSA’s, local currencies, bartering networks, going off-grid, defending the local ecosystem, etc. as well as taking shorter showers, composting, riding our bikes,and (some of this group) actively sabotaging the old culture.

    Then there are the people who are just starting to dangle a leg out, thinking about jumping over to the new culture. They’re the ones who may *only* be composting and taking shorter showers just now. They’re the next wave of adopters.

    Lagging behind them are those so entrenched in the system they haven’t begun to make any changes yet. So be it. In What We Leave Behind, Jensen talks about the 100th monkey and emphasizes the fact that it has been totally refuted. The actual phenomenon with monkeys–okay–but you can’t deny there are real tipping points when it comes to human behavior. Get enough people onboard with something and eventually it tips–look at Facebook, for just one example.

    The two cultures are bound to run in parallel for awhile. My opinion is that the old culture has already planted the seeds of its own destruction and it is coming down, and soon. I don’t particularly feel that the best use of my energy would be in dismantling the old system. I’m geared to constructive action, and like many here, peaceful action. Those who are more geared towards violent or more subversive stuff should focus their energies on speeding up the end of the old culture, perhaps. I think there are many dangers there however–and the risk of many unintended consequences. Personally I’ll stick to those things I know with a deal of certainty will “Do No Harm”.

    I wouldn’t underestimate what we can do. To the commenter who wrote hypothetically about getting 100 million Americans to adopt the new culture, I think you’re forgetting something. The 200 million who haven’t yet adopted would not be an isolated enclave of people hunkered down with their guns and stockpiled food. They’d be your parents, or children, or brother, or sisters, or next door neighbors, or co-workers. You would know them. More importantly they would know you and likely they would turn to you when it all went downhill. And if you were truly serious about creating a new culture, in that moment you would welcome them, be a mentor, share with them, etc. Sure, there would still be survivalists hunkering down, but I don’t think realistically it would be more than a small faction.

    One thing we really have going for us is the fact that in the past decade we’ve become so globally connected. Something as banal as Facebook can’t be discounted as a means to push towards a tipping point. Those of us already onboard the new culture are examples every time we use social media. For instance, I recently mentioned on Facebook that my son’s school lunch program is including organic vegies and milk and growing an organic garden this spring. A friend back on the east coast noted that her kids’ school doesn’t even serve *any* fresh vegies, let alone organic. She’ll be more likely to fight for changes in her school district because of what I shared with her. She engaged with the idea through me…and that’s a first step towards action. We are mentors when we share our journey with others and social media widen our sphere of influence.

    I’m also active online with a number of simple living and homesteading forums and I am heartened by just how many people have already made significant changes, and also by how community-oriented people are. This is where I see momentum and the most realistic opportunity to push for change. Motivating people to destroy the old system goes against many of our ideals; I think relatively few people are geared for that kind of work. But most people are geared towards cooperation and truly want a better world. I’m all for focusing on that. That is the most likely way we’ll reach a tipping point IMO. Trying to get people riled up to destroy something…not so realistic.

  96. Thanks for sharing, Melanie. I admire your quiet activism. It shows me something I need to bring into my life. I also like that you did not feel the need to dis anybody to make your points. I have an affinity for the Quakers, who I lived with for a time. Your post reminded me of their presence.

  97. Melanie–Excellent post! You articulate very well one of the points I have been trying to make all along, but was not communicating very well. The tippling point argument is compelling, and I think valid. A few people at first, then more as the old culture fails and is absorbed into the new. I think the tipping point applies to our personal lives as well–we start out doing a couple of things, then a few more, and after awhile we are embodying the alternative. Soon friends and family notice, and begin adapting these methods. 30 years ago, sustainability was a fringe concept, promoted by a few radical agriculturalists, but hardly marginal types of people–such as Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson. Now is is being talked about in the mainstream. Colleges and universities are absorbing the concept into their curriculum and actual practices. The old culture is dying, and it may simply fade away, without anyone firing a shot. Maybe I misinterpret what you are saying, but this is what I think.

  98. All,
    There has much been said and gone and it’s to time consuming for me to address all the many excellent points but to say thank you. One thing I wanted to say was for what ever reason you are here I know you care, you contribute, from whatever position. I also want to say some may state they have to much to lose hence their position like none of us have families or dependents, it is precisely why I am here. Like I say to the people who I discuss the environment, usually the response is “well I’ll be dead and won’t have to worry”, I reply “well you look in the eyes of your kids and tell them you don’t give a f__k!” We care. A few realizations of late I’d like your comment on. A truism from a movie, when George Clooney in ‘Three Kings’ explains in a word what is the one thing in the world that dictates human behavior, “necessity!” We do what we do for the pay off. I suggest the only reason we are alive, have the things in our life, our family is only through the grace of others. Law does not protect us only moderate crime. We are never without threat. The only reason we live is because we are not between a person driven enough and their need. That need is paramount, given the meaning or function for the other. The other factor linked is that persons sense of control in their life. Take either of these, starve someone, have the money they need, have the car they need / want and you are no longer relevant, your life is inconsequential. We live in a system which supports social norms, though failing, and provides for our needs. Millions of people live in our cities without any way of providing for themselves the basics of life, and increasingly so, we live on a tightrope. If, no when, disruption occurs (think Katrina) watch the reality change. Each day we have the gangplank extended by more mouths to feed, destroying soils and natural buffer systems etc. Love and peace exists presently only because our needs are currently met and our sense of control, though limited, enables us to live relatively peaceably. Love is one side of the coin. Many of us don’t smell or see the spray of blood of the animal we will consume. We don’t tend the land with poisons and fertilizers. I think we are domesticated and don’t know the cost of our lives for the planet. For all the amazing things we have accomplished as a species, amazing technology, stunning constructions it has all come at an inestimable cost to all the other lifeforms. The loss is to staggering to contemplate, the billions of lives that have been taken to give this construct. The irreplaceable beauty and complexity that has been so utterly destroyed. To focus, lets take the Mona Lisa, valuable, cultural icon. I’ve seen it, it is beautiful, it’s a painting. Then look out the window and find a tree that is native growing from a naturally dispersed seed. The product of millions of years of evolution and adaptation. Millions of years. Perfectly adapted organism, not only that living in concert, in relationship to other lifeforms there in an amazing synchronicity, its worth is beyond measure, far beyond a painting or anything we can possibly make, yet is simply disregarded and swept away by the blade of a bulldozer. I find that loss cripples me deeply inside. I feel something ache in me. I want love to exist but it will not in the future, only chaos. As sure as commercialized food production we too are increasingly farmed, pushed further away from connection into total reliance and hence our fate. A statement I heard recently I take as true “life is war!” Or as the Buddhists say all life is sorrow and loss, same thing really. We want love and peace but don’t think it has a cost. We want one side of life without it’s cost. If we genuinely look down the road, what do you see? Please feel free to take this apart, I’d love to be wrong. I think the fight is now or later, not never.

  99. Alan, I really appreciate your sharing your feelings. Too often we hide out in the safer realms of intellect. I think many of us have places inside that hold powerful feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and despair. Places so full of pain that we we want to navigate around them. When I first began reading Culture of Make Believe, I was so shocked and revolted by the horrifying description of the atrocities committed by a southern lynch mob, that I put the book down and nearly decided not to read any more of it. I felt I had been pushed face down into something so vile, evil, and toxic that it would wound me fatally in some deep part of myself. A voice inside me said “I don’t need this”. But, since I had previously read A Language Older Than Words, and gained respect for Derrick Jensen, I decided to read more to see where he was heading with this nightmare stuff. It turned out that a major theme of the book was to examine our tendency to turn away from the horror of our culture, and entertain instead more consoling dreams of make believe. After all, not many of us would leave a book of explicit photographs of the Nazi holocaust on our living room coffee table for our guests to peruse.
    I bonded with Derrick when he recounted how in the depths of grief and despair he spent a long time hugging the old tree near his house. When I commune with one of the old trees on our place deep in the forest, I know that this is my ancient grandfather/mother older by millions of years than my puny tribe of humans. I give thanks that these ancient parents have protected and nourished us all this time. I feel shame that we have treated them so cruelly, and ask for their forgiveness.
    Let’s remember that Derrick is one of us, and realize that some of his anger and retaliatory ideas stem from the deep hurts he has suffered at the hands of our abusive culture. He is nevertheless a valuable witness, and a good awakener for those still fast asleep in a culture of make believe.

  100. Alan, I too thank you for sharing what’s in your heart. I disagree, however, that love is only there because needs are taken care of. From what I heard, there was lots of love on the streets after Katrina, people taking care of one another. However, the media focused on so-called “looting” and later, on some violent behavior of relatively few. My theory on that is two fold. First the mainstream places more value on things than on people. Taking food, water, other “stuff” because a natural disaster has caused you and yours to have nothing cannot be considered “looting”. Second, the mainstream media seems to want the rest of us to see poor people, especially when they aren’t white, as “other” and focusing on the violence served that purpose. There was a lot more going on than the media reported on. The same thing happened in Haiti. And in both instances the government/ military played a huge role in keeping the caregivers and supplies from providing what they came to provide.
    I think most of us act out of love and compassion most of the time. Perhaps that is just me, but it seems to me that the worst disasters bring out the best in people. It’s only when things start to “get back to normal” that we retreat back into the old ways of doing things.
    Re: the tree and Mona Lisa. I agree totally and I feel the same pain. It is beyond me how people can be so uncaring about nature. A few years ago the landowner next door cut every tree on his property, even the ancient (old growth) oaks that had been keeping the river banks of the Old Saco intact. When they were done I walked down there and didn’t even recognize the place. I miss those old trees, but who misses them more are the birds who returned in the spring to find their habitat gone, and the hibernating creatures who woke up (if they weren’t crushed to death by the machines) to find themselves in a strange, unfamiliar place. Very few people even wonder about the wellbeing of other creatures when we pave, dig, blast, build things that, to my mind, are simply unnecessary, especially considering what we’re losing, and how rare intact forests and fields are becoming. It hurts. And what hurt too was that I had no power over what that landowner did. It would have done nothing for me to put myself in front of their saws because it takes a number of people to make a difference that way, and even then the saws are there when the protesters are arrested. Some tree sits in old growth forests offer exceptions and I rejoice for them. (Julia Butterfly, for example.) But then some idiot tried to chop Luna down wounding the ancient tree.
    It sucks that most of environmentalism seems to exist to protect or save the Earth for humans rather than for itself. Even the climate change activists seem to focus on the impacts on the Earth because of the impacts those changes will have on people. We are only one species here, and we have caused the destruction. So if any species deserves to suffer it is ours. But somehow I manage to have hope, though it is tinged with despair, because I believe in the power of love and the life of the Earth, Gaia, and the potential of human/Earth participation that goes beyond what we understand generally as possible today. It’s that evolution of consciousness folks in this discussion wrote about earlier on that I’m counting on. And since it’s not a physical evolution we’re waiting on, but a spiritual one, it can happen quickly. Like others have said, numbers are key here and the numbers are increasing . . .

  101. For those of us who may not have read anything by Derrick Jensen except the brief essays in Orion, and for those who have read and perhaps reacted mostly to his stuff on bringing down civilization, I offer a brief quote from A Language Older Than Words:
    “A message from the stars that sustained me as a child–that the cruelty we take for granted is not natural–sustains me to this day. For I know that beneath the fear and hatred, beneath the urge to control and destroy, far beneath the scarred shells that protect and define us, people are good. Deep down our needs are simple: apart from food, shelter, and clothing there are the needs to love and be loved, for community, to be open to the world at large and for it to be open to us,, to affect and be affected, to understand and be understood, to hear and be heard, to accept and be accepted. It is only when we fear that these needs won’t be met that we grasp at them, and in grasping lose any chance of satisfying them”. (page 98)
    This from a guy who was horribly abused throughout his childhood. He has come a long way in his healing, and is still growing.
    Love, mike k

  102. Alan and mike k respond with a depth of intellect, feeling, and soulfulness here that is beyond my own capacities, but nonetheless enrich my own thoughts. I think we can honor the depth of Derrick Jensen’s feeling, his anger. I just wanted to point out (see my first post)that I have always thought of composting as a form of resistance as well as one of the things we do to augment our garden and raise our own food. I felt he was belittling that choice. But I cannot object to his willingness to look at the hard realities of our humanity, the horrors and atrocities, and we must face those if we are to move beyond them (if we can).

    Another thought: I believe a dim awareness of human environmental atrocities is entering the popular consciousness. I found it interesting that humans, not the aliens are the villainous creatures in “Avatar” (I can hear the groans but stay with me). The main character abandons his species and becomes one of the aliens species and helps them defeat the corporate interests that want to mine the planet. The aliens expel the humans and the main character comments how they are sent back to their “dying planet.” I find this culturally significant. In “War of the Worlds” hostile aliens from a dying planet (Mars) invade Earth and the humans destroy them. “Avatar” is a reversal of this theme. Humans have become the hostile aliens from a dying planet invading another planet that is ecologically intact and they are driven off. Movie going audiences are cheering against the humans! Humanity is in a crisis and at a crossroads and now even the mainstream culture has a more than dim awareness of this. A lot of anti-environmentalist backlash in the country is the result of how unthinkable this notion of humans being the “bad guys” has become and deep down inside these people know it is true and they cannot face this truth so they lash out in pain and denial. A lot of people, such as the Tea Partiers, place no value on the natural world, and have the attitude that humans with a right to live on this planet. This is tragic. But for many more people the truth hurts so much so they lash out. Some of us, though, devote their lives to changing their ways, or like Derrick Jensen advocate for resisting those who will not change their ways.

  103. Susan, you said, “And since it’s not a physical evolution we’re waiting on, but a spiritual one, it can happen quickly.”

    Don’t you think it’s both? And mental and emotional, too? I have a hard time separating these, believing that one affects the others and so on. I was speaking with my partner this morning about why so few of us see that our lives depend on so many other, diverse lives, that our economy depends upon our ecology — and its health. His parents don’t see the connection and he didn’t used to, either, he said. (This speaks to what Melanie says about the other “200 million.”) My father — a person who helped to ignite my own awe for Earth — only recently said about some water project out West: Who cares about some minnows? (If the project goes through, the minnows will die.)

    For me, it does come down to intrinsic value, but even I have a hard time with this: Spiders in the house? Find something to get them in to take them outside (or, sometimes, just leave them alone). Silverfish? Nuh-uh! I have too many books that I don’t want them chomping on! So, I’m a hypocrite, too. I suppose if someone could explain the role of the silverfish in my evolution, I would gladly listen and might even consider a catch-and-release policy.

    Maybe what stands between us and our ability to evolve is our fear. But isn’t fear part of our evolution? Fear creates stress, which can prompt physical, emotional, mental and spiritual changes. If we are honest with ourselves, we accept that we fear, try to understand why, then see how we could be better served (and serve others better) than through focusing on our fear. Fear drives so many things: healthcare “reform,” the wealth industry, even energy (the recent Mid-Atlantic and Northeast storms and the loss of power…who really knows how to keep warm anymore without some fossil input?), etc.

    I, too, have hope. I visited Harrisonburg, Va., this weekend and was heartened to see the emphasis on restaurants that support local foods. One was a co-op. And these places are just a hare’s hop from some of the largest factory poultry farms in the Mid-Atlantic.

    Speaking of spiritual evolutions, I’d highly recommend a book for which Derrick Jensen wrote the foreward: Not in His Image by John Lamb Lash. Victim and victimizer are closely related, two halves of the same being, really. I guess I’ve long been able to see myself stepping into the shoes of someone less fortunate, but going the other direction, I have a hard time with, though I suppose I could just as easily have been born the son or daughter of a copper mining tycoon. It’s hard to stretch, but stretch we must!

    Thanks to all here for a great discussion.

  104. Griz, I don’t think you are out of your depth at all in this discussion, although your modesty is refreshing in a world of so many over developed egos. For me, your thinking is quite acute, and right on target. Thanks for sharing, I am learning from you.

  105. Even at the lowest point of the Great Depression FDR had to practically beg the people to get out in the streets and MAKE him do what he knew had to be done. Today if half of the people who tell pollsters that they are in favor of the public option in health care reform would get out in the streets and SHOW everybody they want it congress and the senate would not be so willing to just ignore their wishes. The same with climate measures. We have the numbers, but the numbers are just sitting back talking to their TVs and computers. Sometimes that’s enough. Usually not. And voting right is just the first step.
    I haven’t been reading Orion very long and I had started thinking of the readers as being fairly apolitical. Understandable. Politics is dirty and idealists are turned off when they see how rarely things turn out well. I do understand the point of view that the many “little” things that many of us do could eventually tip the balance, and I felt the same way back in 1969 when I went to live in the woods. As a fairly serious student of biology and history I do see gradual changes in human attitudes over the centuries. But we don’t have centuries to fix the planet. The captain and crew of the Titanic saw the iceberg before they hit it. Big ships turn very slowly.

    Then I clicked up in the left corner of this page and read the first featured article – “Change Everything Now”. In Gus Speth I found someone who is saying the same things I’ve said. Corporations ARE the problem. We can affect them somewhat by our lifestyle choices but the deck is really stacked against us. It’s not a fair game, and serious measures have to be taken to redo the rulebook. These changes can only come thru the political process. In a democracy like ours where we depend on elected officials to act on our behalf, most citizens don’t seem to realize that these officials still need to be prodded and guided almost every step of the way after they’ve been elected.
    You know how much time, energy and resources you have available (of course most people don’t have much). Balance that against how much you really want to see changed. This is the tipping point we have to work on.

  106. All, Unfortunately I lost a considered and lengthy reply that scrubbed everything over a typo in the authentication, I hope this can be looked at by the Moderators to prevent such a loss in contribution here. Again, Susan I agree with the sharing at Katrina. I probably such an event changed the community positively, it enabled such a sharing and care not able before the disaster, there would have been many positives that occurred because of it. My follow up question is what if the rescuers needed rescuing, what if the system collapsed? I suspect as resources depleted predation would be the only means, the humans animal re-emerges? The other point is it is not that we don’t care and respect each other in a whole range of conditions, the majority do, but we, though partly responsible for the calamity befalling all life now, are not driving the problem, its a minority. The same minority that send brave young men to die in wars. Too soon the realization is that the adventure is folly and the soldier turns to his comrades, to help each other, to keep their friends alive through the tragedy. Meanwhile, sitting elsewhere those responsible sit insensate. No responsibly for the actual costs. The Earth is withering under an onslaught driven by a few. The effects slowly, inexorably move up the food chain, from those who cannot speak or defend themselves etc. Further than this they actively prevent alternatives. To stop any system arising that they cannot harvest. This system has been running long enough now to create the very worst of entrenched systems and persons within those systems, the question is what method to tackle it. This equation of the prevailing conditions and the reply of the respondent will always be specific, as to what each is capable of. But I hear Doctor Phil’s fond saying “do you want to be right, or resolve the situation?” I agree alternatives need to be to get the mainstream something to jump for. In addition the question of best approach, I came across this idea by Jungian Analyst, Joseph Henderson when talking about human connection to nature, “Nature has lost her divinity, yet the spirit is unsure and unsatisfied. Hence any true cure for the neurosis…would have to awaken both spirit and nature to a new life. The relevance of this theme to today may be that it is a problem we are still trying to solve on too personal, psychological a level, or on a purely cultural level without fully realizing it is at bottom a religious problem and not psychological or social at all”. What do you think about this? This does not address the time constraint, but it changes making compost into something greater. I think we need religious fervor. We need a massive empowerment and commitment. In history what has motivated humans, created conquests, routed evil, changed social conditions, uprooted power, allowed a route for construct and contribution, if anything this world needs is a new religion with nature at it’s heart. Instead of the specific what about the meta, of creating a new god?

  107. Alan: I agree with your understanding that a relatively small elite bear the major responsibility for the disaster that our culture has become. To hear a wise voice who is pretty much on the same page as Jensen, check out Chris Hedges on truthdig today. In regard to your interest in a nature based religion, I began dreaming of this when I lived in Hawaii in the sixties. I spent a lot of time deep in nature there, and was inwardly devastated with grief for what we were doing to the priceless and deeply spiritual beauty of nature, our real home. Recently I have become aware of a group that surprisingly has been around for a long time. Check out the Archdruid Report on the web. This outfit is no joke. They are into what you and I have been dreaming of. Thanks for sharing your dreams.

  108. Thanks for that link Mike K…sounds like you have some serious time in, studying these problems.

    Alan, you might want to highlight and copy your text before submitting. (Yeah, I’ve had that happen too. Once is enough) If the submission eats your work, just paste it back and try again.

    Speaking of Pogo…just returned from an extremely edifying splash in the Okee, far from the old folks at home. What a place. Blew the kids’ minds, for sure. Well, guess mine was blown also.

    I’m enjoying the discussion, as I think some others might be enjoying it as well. To those who want to scream “troll” when an opposing viewpoint crops up hearabouts (as my Granny Wade used to say)…….. pshaw. Tell me why I’m wrong, I say. There’s nothing that I abhor more than a will to ignore history, unless it is automatic thinking. There seems to be some sloppy analysis going on here, on this subject, which is just my own take on things. Your views may differ. If your skin is too thin to hear those, we’ll not bother, O.K.?

  109. Read the Doerr article, it is much better then DJ’s frothy mix.

    The shadow is connected to you, you can’t fight it off. Dance with it. Life is precious and we only have so long to live it.

    The words that encourage separation come from fear. Fear is the heart killer. Can DJ love the earth more then I can? No.

    DJ’s story is one of heroic effort to overcome the monsters. My story is one of water flowing from rain to stream to river to ocean and back. The icicles melting into pools of amber. A stone tumbling into the vastness of the sea.

    No need to feed the monster. Let’s have a beer instead.

  110. Leigh, I agree – mental and emotional too. What I meant about it not being a physical evolution is that we don’t have to wait generations for our bodies or brains to evolve the necessary changes. We have all we need right now, in the physical sense. Evolultion of opinions, feelings, and awakening of an Earthen spirituality can happen quickly, sometimes literally after one ah-ha moment/experience – as long as it’s not discounted afterwards by the logical mind.

    Mike, I’m going to check out the Archdruid report next.

    RE: religion. People tend to get their hackles up with regard to religion, so I avoid that word and use spirit or spirituality instead. Religion implies dogma, hierarchy, and more separation. Spirituality can be more open, fluid, and no less important and life-altering for that. Over the years I’ve been “accused” of worshiping trees and the Earth and fact is, I do. But it more has to do with trees and Earth as manifestations of spirit, which we humans are too.

    And yeah, I get the distinction between spiders and silverfish, or between bees and potato beetles. The former, I love and welcome. The latter I crush between my fingers. But if I didn’t then I’d lose my potatoes pretty quickly. On the other hand, I am very conscious of what I’m doing when I’m doing it. I’m not spraying poisons that would also kill the bees and I’m taking direct responsibility for the my actions.

    Spiders, I love, and ususally don’t move them. I’ve found they have a real intelligence in relationships, seeming to know where they can be and where not. And if they move to where it’s not okay, I apologize as I remove their web, careful not to harm the spider, and tell them to keep it back more, or in the corner or whatever. And usually they do. In the summer I might move them outside, but not in winter. Then we co-exist.

    To me it all has to do with relationship and being conscious of our actions and choices. And believe me, I have a very long way to go.

    Talk of the system we’re caught in is pretty disempowering because it’s so big and all-encompassing. I go back and forth, and ultimately see the need to build/create alternatives while at the same time working to dismantle the system. Admittedly, recently, the main extent of what I’m doing to facilitate change is through my writing and publication Gaian Voices: Earth Spirit, Earth Action, Earth Stories (and the website: And the personal stuff: gardening, herbs (learning, using, sharing), and yes, composting, and such. I used to be more of an activist in certain “movements” (bioregional, community economics, free trade, and so on), but my life changed and the place I live now is very different and not geared towards the kinds of things I used to do in Vermont. And I’ve changed too. I realize one person can’t do everything, though it’s tempting to try. And my passion is being with the growing things, listening to them, sharing what they have to say, while at the same time putting the more Gaian/Earthen spirituality out there for whomever cares enough to seek it out. I still research the “system” and what I consider the worst corporate abuses, and put the info out there, too because I have to, and it makes me so angry. At the same time it also contributes to a feeling of hopelessness and despair. And I recognize that giving into those feelings accomplishs nothing and in fact, only contributes to the negative energy in the world. So I try to keep it in check, while succeeding only part of the time.

    Meanwhile, I can’t wait for the snow to melt and the Earth to thaw so I can replenish my spirit and body by digging in the garden and being with the growing things for a few months.

  111. Susan,

    I can embrace your path as I’m on something similar. I’ve never lived in Vermont and am trying to find my “tribe” where I am, because it is true, we cannot go it alone. But it’s lonely at times, because I’m not accustomed to making myself vulnerable by allowing others to help me or reaching out to ask for what I need. It’s something I have to work hard to change, and I suspect, in the long run, the benefits will be far greater than my initial discomfort…the benefits will accrue not just to me, but to myriad others.

    Alan, I have long shied away from religion, probably because I don’t care for “group mind,” which I see as more dogma than, say, bringing together a bunch of like-hearted folks to join in a conscious focus of healing themselves and Earth. I know I could easily tend toward fanaticism. For example, reading some of the posts here last week, I asked myself: How much more can I do? (I compost, garden, try to minimize purchases that benefit faraway corporations, though that’s difficult when it comes to gasoline and electricity.) I thought — yet again — whether I should give up recorded music. But the question that comes up is, Should we give up that which brings us joy? Some of the people on the discs I will never get to hear live either because they are far away (in Brasil, for instance) or long gone (Jascha Heifetz, Jim Croce, and others). So, it’s a dilemma.

    But I do agree with you about commitment and fervor: I need to make a committed effort toward changing, first me, then making myself available to others who want to learn and change.

  112. Susan, I thought my wife and I were perhaps the only ones crazy enough to entertain spiders as guests in our home. Good to know that we are not alone!
    What you shared about growing things, listening to them, and sharing what they had to say struck a deep chord in me. Years ago when I used to spend weeks at a time alone deep in nature, the creatures/spirits there spoke to me. And it broke my heart. Your words have opened again the memory of that experiencing, and encouraged me to once more open that door to my heart, and to begin to work to fulfill the promise I made to them then. Maybe this is why the Derrick Jensen who speaks in A Language Older Than Words means so much to me. The living presence of nature is pleading for us to change our deadly activities. If we will only listen and heed those silent prayers in time…..

  113. Alan, this sentence of yours caught my eye:

    “Earth is withering under an onslaught driven by a few.”

    I have no problem accepting that life on Earth is withering. I do take issue with the belief that it is driven by “a few.” To me, that may be the conceit at the heart of Mssr. Jensen’s serial epistle that really sticks in my craw.

    I think that behind every attempt to fan embers of discontent into flames of wrath is the requirement that the incensed identify themselves as the righteous, willing to battle the “others.” Here on this website I’ve read reams of comments that seem to aim at only convincing the reader (and maybe the poster his/herself) that the poster is “greener than thou.” As if that renders absolution. Like my daddy used to say too, there is always going to be somebody smarter, richer and better looking than you, so don’t bother keeping track.

    I certainly accept that the failure to recycle an aluminum can is not the equal of mountain top removal mining, but don’t you think that we are all sinners? I happen to believe that the tipping point only comes when every blessed one of us grasps that central premise. At the final reckoning, the Earth, its plants and its critters won’t care if you contributed some or a lot to the final outcome. By definition, if you are on this planet, you contribute to the problem.

    If I have any optimism at all it is when I see two seemingly divergent interests acknowledging that “we” have a problem to solve here.

  114. Mike, you’re definitely not alone. I know lots of people who entertain guest spiders. I was especially pleased to learn that ex mother-in-law (in her 80s) actually warns the young man who helps her with cleaning about where the spiders are so he knows to leave them alone.

    Yes, those the voices of nature can break your heart, and that’s when the love comes in . . .

  115. I have always lived with spiders. My dad would never kill them and I never kill them even though I am an arachnephobe (which is a totally irrational response I try to ignore rather than act upon).

    Gary Snyder in an essay, “The Etiquette of Freedom,” writes: “But wildness is not limited to the 2 percent formal wilderness areas. Shifting scales, it is everywhere: ineradicable populations of fungi, moss, mold, yeasts, and such that surround and inhabit us. Deer mice on the back porch, deer bounding across the freeway, pigeons in the park, spiders in the corners… Civilization is permeable, and could be as inhabited as the wild is.” Snyder goes on to say much will be lost, but the wild will persist.

    Edward Abbey once said: “Concrete is hard, but grass will prevail.”

    So, be of good cheer, mates! Industrial civilization is doomed by its very existence. Life is more powerful than death. Life persists in the face of 10,000 deaths, 10 trillion. The Earth will survive this civilization as it has survived other calamities, collisions with asteroids etc., only to come back better, more full of life than ever.

  116. That people who have great power are doing enormous harm is obvious. That those who point this out are only doing so to exalt themselves and deny any shortcomings in themselves is not obvious to me. My own sense of those who post comments here is that they are not motivated to do so in the self serving way indicated above. This is also my opinion of Derrick Jensen. I think he is sincerely motivated by a desire to help all those who are being victimized and often destroyed by psychopathic perpetrators who call themselves the “leaders” of “civilization”. And yes, there are very real victims and very real perpetrators. to state that we are all guilty and leave it at that is to dishonor the very real differences between people, which are the ultimate basis for what hope we may have of coming out of the nightmare that is the current world situation.

  117. Mind you Mike, I’ve always considered myself an ecologist even from before I even knew what that word meant. I’ve trained myself to deny myself many things that I would otherwise consume, although I realize that there are as many who would consider my habits austere as there would be those who would deride my profligacy. And on the whole (and here I do agree with Jensen) ground continues to be lost.

    Also like Jensen, I guess, I’ve decided to honestly appraise things as they stand. As one doctor likes to query, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”, so to speak. We know that the effort is not yielding the results we would like, as quickly as we would like them. So what do you do? Do more of what is not working? In the alternative, Jensen’s is the old, old solution that leads to a pretty predictable conclusion, in my opinion. Me, and those like me, are chosing the third way.

    If you come to somebody with an oppositional attitude, you can expect them to oppose you. In that struggle, you both lose. We lose. You can read about it in the paper any day you choose.

    What goes along with this enlightenment (if I can flatter myself by calling it that) is the recognition that there are no sociopathic-whatevers charting your destiny and the doom of life on Earth. They are people and they can be as trapped, fearful and desperate as we all can be, as eager to have change as you are, and feeling as powerless as you feel. Figure out a way to empower them and you are on the road.

    Yeah, that’s right,you guessed it, it is the old “change from within” spiel. Nothing too exciting about it, true. In the end though, it really is all we got to work with.

    Let’s take a real life example here.

    There was a time once when the ingestion of poison was widely accepted as not only a necessary evil, it was touted as downright healthy. Only a few nut cases dared say otherwise. Lots and lots of money sustain this status quo. Billions were made and billions spent to keep us ignorant of the true societal costs that were being out sourced. These men (and they were mostly all men) weren’t evil sociopaths. They believed that what they were doing was a cumulative good, their way of life was a tradition handed down to them by their fathers and mothers. The stakes could not be higher and those in opposition couldn’t imagine anything that would break the hegemony of these entrenched interests.

    Little by little and slowly, average people woke up to what was being perpetrated against them. They marginalized the practice through education and (here’s the clincher) societal pressure. Each new generation was less and less inclined to help sustain the practice. They opted out in every growing numbers. Yes, there was some legislative action, but only after a significant shift in popular opinion. In the span of less than an average human life they (we) turned around the view of what was once thought of as a “given” in American life.

    Sound familiar?

    Nobody got shot doing it either.

  118. Plowboy, there is an interesting film called The Corporation that is shown on link tv from time to time you might want to see. In the film the diagnostic criteria for Psychopathic Personality Disorder is displayed, then the film documents step by step how the corporation fits every criterion perfectly. Now you could say that those who own direct and hugely profit from the psychopathic behavior of the corporation would not thereby necessarily be psychopaths themselves. On the other hand what would you call these worthies as they carry out the poisoning and destruction of our planet and the innocent children and others on it, at the same time strongly asserting their righteousness and spending untold sums to cover up their crimes? Unconscious perpetrators of atrocities? No, that won’t work, that’s part of the definition of psychopathic behavior. These folks are lacking any trace of a real conscience that could tell them they are doing wrong. Do you think George Bush goes to bed at night thinking “I can’t sleep for remembering that I am a mass murderer?” Fat chance. One observation of therapists who are foolish enough in the face of mountains of evidence to try to help these people is that it is almost unknown for these folks to change.
    I’ll be brief with the real world example. It would have been nice if we had had the patience to wait for Hitler to see the light as Chamberlain, Gandhi and a few others counseled, but we had to rush in and make a big mess perhaps unnecessarily. Pardon the heavy irony, nothing personal. Its just that points that should be obvious require vigorous presentation to be made perfectly clear. I would not have bothered to reply if I had not felt that some basic ethical understandings need to be defended in public discourse. Like Voltaire, I will defend your right to hold and express your ideas strongly. I value your input in our discussion, even if I strongly disagree with some of it.

  119. Mike k, Thanks for the links, I will check both out. It is probably an also idea, religion, and Susan I like the idea of religion specifically because of it’s historical intolerance. One maxim or edict that keeps resurfacing in my mind is “for the good of the Earth”; all in relation to that ideal. It takes humans out of the center of focus, reemerges us into connective relationships here and now as in truth we are. To integrate with the web of life that we are forever a part of. Check out the outpouring over Avatar, there is a huge thirst out there for re-engagement, I recommend you the Avatar forums. I think we need something powerful that can be constructed, a new (old) myth. With all the ferment and disparate ideas: paleolithic diets, barefoot running, parkour, continuum concept etc. It would be nice, nay, powerful to gel together under some umbrella system. Something that forms a separate alternative that people can opt out of our current society into and live through. It could be a concept that is adaptable to other nations and peoples and wholly specific, guided by simple edicts of for the good of the Earth. A vehicle that provides for the massive healing that must take place, that focuses, that brings together, that’s the idea. Susan I am thinking of something that is practical based and specific, relatively free from dogma, as simple as a cake recipe, something that talks now, bringing a rewilding and repair focus together. Leigh, I understand how things can run away in current religion, something no one can touch, just lorded about. I am thinking like a hyped up permaculture movement but more healing focused, with realigning actions (like mentioned above) to re-educate ourselves, that brings together the human animal, the earth, and creates a momentum to heal the Earth. Mike k, you posted “I used to spend weeks at a time alone deep in nature, the creatures/spirits there spoke to me. And it broke my heart.” Yes that’s where it’s at I think, the truth and what we need to protect and hook into as real, now. Any suggestions? Plowboy, I don’t mind differing opinions and ideas, I prefer a discussion where the idea is debated and not the person. I see your point of the few as a easy target, but how truthful is it? I believe that the rest of us are living in a relatively pre-formatted culture. Who is formatting and who has interests in continuing it? Who locks up who? Who is financing this culture? We are culpable but I think we are more users, set by limited options. Look at the price of a house, a car, they are not just shelters anymore. Who says we need the latest fashion and why. What is behind this culture? I think we are in part if only to get what we need; a life partner, respect from others, security etc, but overall look ahead, where is this taking us, that’s the real question I think. There is no doubt with taking the focus of our own needs and putting the health of the planet back as center it will require relinquishment, to put it mildly. What we do for the Earth we do for ourselves and preserve this Earth for others, friends, family, fellow creatures, there is no welcome parade or thank you party, only the blessing of conscience that we/I did our best inline with what matters for the continuance of the magnificence of life. I don’t know how connected you are to your landbase but I think you would feel the sadness of losing childhood haunts. Of seeing long standing forest destroyed. Of seeing the ever increasing problems with the environment, and historically how these collapse situations have played out. As for greener than thou competition, that takes away from the point of doing the actions, those quibbles for me have no relevance because they achieve nothing that both are really aiming at as an outcome. I don’t think we are really on the same page, you wrote “I think that behind every attempt to fan embers of discontent into flames of wrath is the requirement that the incensed identify themselves as the righteous, willing to battle the “others.” What do you see around you? Is the world in peril, are we globally heading for a precipice? Is anything changing? I don’t mind if the oceans collapse, the ice melts, that the neighbors steal all my food but as long as you arrive at some idea of the urgency of this situation. From your post I see multiple rejections that come from different angles yet I am trying to see the target. What is your umbrella objection please. Your suggestions seem to stop at questions, and your final suggestion is “acknowledging we have a problem” which leaves me with , and?? I fear you are constructing a web of comments to derail this conversation. Alpha Griz, I agree, I smile when I see a sapling poke up between a road and curb. I wonder how they will cope in how much we change things. The loads of toxins each day. The exponential damage each day. A singular tree for me does not replace the ecosystem that it belongs in. It performs it’s encoded function of seed set and growth but it’s environment, the other half of the equation, is very poor, ruined by humanity. That is the half I think we need to try to fix. What do you think on this please?

  120. Alan, I find your recent post full of good stuff. On the path to ecological/human sanity, support, new ideas, and a process for discovering/creating answers are essential. You might call it a sangha of the truth seekers. I have sought out and participated in a bunch of such groups over the years. I am currently participating in three such groups who meet regularly (in the flesh) and this ad hoc discussion group around Derrick Jensen’s stimulus. Learning to share together and develop mutual trust so that we can go deeper in our mutual exchanges is vital to developing group processes that yield real results. I am heartened by the posts from you and others that model this open and respectful attitude. Thanks to all of you who are making this possible. Unless we can learn to get along in a small group holding somewhat similar interests, how can we hope to foster a peaceful world? These small groups are a precious opportunity to develop these qualities of heart and mind.

  121. Hey, folks, it would help with reading your posts if you split it into paragraphs… have mercy on us with older eyes! 😉

    For the person agitatin’ for voting: Emma Goldman understood this 100 years ago. “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” If you must vote, vote local. At least there you can ask neighbors what kind of a person you are really voting for. And as for voting for the lesser evil… forgetaboutit. All we have been doing is legitimating a bad system.

    Plowboy, we are all sinners, but some of us are mad. Since they have been driven mad with excesses of power, the last thing they need is “empowerment.” They need to be depowered. Basic stuff, no?

    Good to see a real discussion unfolding.
    — Another Friend of Spiders

    P.S. I cured myself of pretty severe arachnophobia by actively and open-heartedly observing spiders in their environment… truly *seeing* them, seeing their beauty and grace. 🙂

  122. mike k,

    Please share how you’ve been able to foster in-the-flesh group meetings. I would like to do this in my area, but haven’t found the venues (yet) for such connections. There is a church I could work through, but I don’t enjoy church and would feel disingenuous if I only attended to take part in their community activities.


  123. Welcome to the Spider Lovers Club vera. The Emma Goldman quote is a gem. Wasn’t Spider Woman a wisdom figure in some native american stories? The Kiss of the Spider Woman is one of my all time favorite movies.

  124. Mike K……

    Really, my only point is refutation of Derrick Jensen’s central (I think) point: That real and lasting change can come ONLY through violent confrontation. He is insisting that we need to choose up sides, now. Either you are with us, he says, or against us. Hmmmm….reminds me of someone we had to listen to not too long ago….what WAS his name…..?

    (I don’t expect to sway anyone who agrees with that. It is sort of like the indvisibility of the Holy Trinity….you either believe it or your don’t. BTW,I’m not sure which side of that equation you would place yourself…..or if you subscribe to both, in some measure. Not saying you have to say, understand.)

    I’d just reiterate what I’ve already said: I think we all have three choices here. You can continue to subscribe to the old traditional methods of battling ecological degradation through legal, legislative and other “soft” oppositional strategies, which we all here seem to be agreeing are not returning results at a rate that is acceptable. Or, two, you can go down Jensen’s path. Or, you can go a third way. I’m for the third way.

  125. Thank you, Mike. That little spider I watched years ago sure changed my life for the better! 🙂

    Plowboy: “my only point is refutation of Derrick Jensen’s central (I think) point: That real and lasting change can come ONLY through violent confrontation. He is insisting that we need to choose up sides, now.”

    I don’t read him that way. He has always said that we need to protect those we love with everything we got. He is against the sort of wishful thinking exhibited by folks who think that letter writing campaigns and chants and cute protest signs will do the job. He says, get the job done. And in that, he is right. If you can get it done via a third way, then excellent. If not… then perhaps another strategy is needed. The proof is in the pudding.

  126. Hello Leigh, you might want to use your own home to meet initially. Or, if there are a couple of others interested you could rotate in each others places. Having one consistent place is probably better in the long run, as it is easier to advertise that way.
    To get the word out, you can print up a bunch of small slips on your pc, and stick them in the kind of books your target people might read in a local bookstore. Posters are good too, and the ever popular word of mouth.
    Here is the basic format of a group I helped start we call Spiritual Growth Network. We have been meeting every Sunday afternoon from five to six thirty for twenty years now, so it seems to be providing something we value and look forward to.
    Folks arrive a few minutes early, and we chat until start time. Then we sit together in silence for 5 or 10 mins. until someone ends the silence. Then the one who broke the silence may choose to read something from a folder of short thoughts, poems, etc. that we have gradually accumulated. Then we open the circle for folks to share if they choose whatever is on their mind, with no interruption or comment from others. This is the familiar american indian style sharing; we don’t use a talking stick, but one could.
    After this round when everyone who cares to speak has done so, we have a second round which is more an open discussion with back and forth comments. We meet for an hour and a half, and close promptly with a short silence ending when someone choosesforces to say a short prayer or thought.
    A good book on this kind of process is available at Amazon.
    Wisdom Circles. If you have further questions, please ask. I am delighted to share whatever I can. I wish you the best of luck on your venture. Positive forces will gather to aid you. Those who seek truth are never alone on their quest.

  127. Leigh, sorry for the typo near the end “chooseforces”. Forces was part of the are you human code that jumped up there.

  128. Leigh, PPS I forgot to mention that some of us go out to dinner together in restaurants nearby. This is of course optinal, like everything else we do together.

  129. Hi, Mike K.

    Twenty years?! Wow! I’ve been involved in reading/discussion circles around various eco topics (sense of place, food, simplicity, general sustainability measures), but they last only so many weeks and I’d rather have something ongoing and develop relationships with people, something more spiritually driven.

    It sounds fairly unstructured. Do you open this to men and women? Would you see value in having both separate groups and combined? When you sought members, did you say anything about spirituality or just leave it open-ended?

    Thank you for the book reco; I will check that out. The book I mentioned earlier, Not In His Image, which has a foreword by Jensen, speaks a lot about the mystery circles of old, eight men and eight women. My sense is that these groups were grounded in nature spirituality and wanted to achieve balance between matter (body) and spirit.

    When you sought members, did you say anything about spirituality or just leave it open-ended?

    This is really cool! Thank you, again, Mike.

  130. Mike, that sounds like an excellent process, and congratulations on keeping your group going for so long. I tried something similar here a couple of times (we called ourselves the Gaia Group), but it fell apart when people couldn’t come for a week or two or three, and then it there was a split, kind of, between people who wanted us to do something out in the community and others who wanted to keep it a discussion group.

    Strangely, I was terrified of spiders growing up. And bees and hornets, though I’m still am not fond of wasps. Observation is key, really. Learning about spiders and how they live, what they eat, how they help out in home and garden. Some are so beautiful, especially the garden spiders. After a time a relationship developed. Now spiders and I ‘get’ each other, or so it feels to me. The same with the bees. The only time I was ever stung was when I stepped on one with my bare foot. Now I’m more careful. It’s quite wonderful to not have that fear anymore and it’s even more wonderful to have such love for these creatures, and to share it with those who visit my garden.

    Leigh, I would open your discussion circle to men and women. I would be clear it was an “earthy” group, the purpose to discuss earth relationships though place, food, etc. I think the issue of spirituality will come up naturally. If it’s important to you that it be part of what the group is about, then I’d bring it up at the first gathering, perhaps by sharing a reading of something you wrote or something by someone whose work you admire. I know I get frustrated having to talk around it so as not to make anyone uncomfortable, or to avoid unpleasantness if people are threatened by it. Personally, I would not continue to come to a group that didn’t acknowledge some sort of Earthen or Gaian spirituality.
    Good luck!

  131. Hello Leigh, Our group is open to anyone. Right now there are about equal numbers of men and women.
    Back a few years ago, we put on a series of gatherings we called Many Faces of the Spirit that invited people of many persuasions to present their stuff. Sufis, native americans, wicca (two catholic nuns did that one!), yogis, Bahais, Pagans, you name it.
    All this took place at the Newman Center near the U. of Kentucky campus. Wayne Teasdale who wrote a beautiful book on the unity of world religions based on their mystical roots gave the keynote address one year. On another occasion more recently we invited Huston Smith to speak in a large auditorium on campus, and he of course gave an inspiring talk.
    I guess I am bragging a little here, but don’t get the impression we are a large or prestigious group. We also do weekend retreats four times a year. We have no dues or fees. No one is “in charge” of any of our activities. We have no doctrines or even “membership”. If you want to come, just come.
    People getting together to share their search for a better world and a deeper spirituality just seems like the most natural thing in the world to do. Isn’t it?

  132. Susan and Mike,

    Thank you for further suggestions. Closest I’ve come to this was last year at a nine-month herb class that met once a month. I’d love to continue with those women, but we’re all fairly spread out geographically. I guess, Susan, it’s best just to be honest about my intentions when I seek out people. One person I approached nearby, whose background included Lakota, said, “They’re around,” referring to like-hearted people in our area, and wished me well. I’m aware of the schism among First Peoples who say any outsiders who want to follow their spiritual traditions are just furthering the theft that’s already taken place and those who disagree with them and welcome outsiders. Frankly, the traditions here were so rich that it would be difficult to live on Turtle Island without having that energy seep in and fill one up, especially one who’s open.

    Mike, I don’t see that you are bragging. It’s wonderful that you all have been able to bring together large groups as well as have prominent people come speak and share. The potential for more of this is broad and deep and probably, as always, depends on how committed people are, how desirous they are of learning.


  133. Hi Susan,and Leigh, somehow our growth group groked that spiritual growth was both inward and in the world. Kind of reflecting the unity underlying the transcendent and immanent aspects of Spirit. Nobody should think that navigating the ups and downs for gathering a group is easy or without crises. One essential is to have two or three core members who will be there come what may.

    With regard to schisms; no one is constrained to attend a group. The upside of that is that those who come want to be there. If participants wish to leave, wish them well, and go out and seek some new blood. This is one of the mechanisms that has allowed AA to grow to its present size.
    Did we let folks know of our spiritual intent? The name we chose for the group (after much serious deliberation) made that known. A sub-group of a few of our members has studied Ken Wiber in depth, and is now taking up Sri Aurobindo, and discussing his book The Synthesis of Yoga. We attracted some members to this group that were not interested in our parent group. That’s another way to deal with schisms; have members who straddle both groups.
    Good luck in your group nurturing experiments. Its not easy, but very rewarding. I look forward to every session of the groups I am part of.

  134. What I found culturally significant about the film Avatar is not the usual reasons people have such as state of the art special effects, etc., (and certainly not the storyline, which was pretty unoriginal–it was certainly not my choice for movie of the year), rather, what I found culturally significant is the idea that the humans are the villainous creatures and the main character actually abandoned his species to take on the form of an alien species, the Navi, and join their society. he completely rejected the ways of humans. This is a reversal of War of the Worlds, where an alien invader from a dying planet tries to exploit the Earth and is defeated. In Avatar, humans are the alien invader from a dying planet and are driven out by the natives of this other, ecologically intact world. Basically, movie audiences found themselves in the peculiar position of rooting against their own species–something unprecedented in a sci-fi film. What this signals is that a consciousness shift is showing up in the mainstream culture, a recognition of the ecologically destructive tendencies of modern human civilization. I would go so far as to argue that anti-environmentalist backlash is one expression of this awareness–the Tea Partiers, global warming deniers, and other conservatives do not want to believe humans are causing massive ecological destruction even though they know it is true and they lash out in anger, denial tactics, and insisting we exploit the environment with no restraints. In essence, they are taking out their anger on the planet and those who want to protect it, but deep down, they know that their defense of capitalism and industrialism is a defense of a destructive way of life. I would say, then, that anti-environmentalism is an expression of fear. The good news is that the awareness is there; the bad news is that this awareness leads to denial and backlash among large numbers of humans.

  135. Alpha Griz,

    Isn’t the process you’re talking about fairly typical of a dialectic that occurs when major shifts take place? The more consciousness shifts, the deeper will be the backlash? I just accept this as a given that signifies fear, as you said, fear originating from, maybe, the realization that the underlying values that support destruction are not as sacrosanct as they have been presumed to be. We may fight to protect “our Amurican way o’ life,” but Earth really doesn’t care about that. I see “digging in” as a sign of change and welcome it.

    I see this dialectic taking place in my own family, but I don’t let it bother me. I figure it’s something to work through; it’s just a matter of finding the words, the proper means to connect with those I love. At least in human relations, there’s a middle ground to be tapped via language. But we cannot argue with the earthly systems that sustain — or destroy — life. I see metaphors in the recent wave of tectonic activity. The earthquakes are there in and of themselves, irrespective of our actions (or inaction), but they also remind us how easily life can be extinguished, how quickly things can change, and how we need to cultivate a spirit of change, not get stuck in believing something is permanent. Nothing is.

  136. Mike,

    I imagine it’s probably been difficult to maintain a core of two or three people who always show up. And I would think in the group dynamic, I personally would be inclined to project certain “family of origin” issues onto others as challenges arise. I would hope that by being aware of that, I’d be able to deal with it. This just sounds like a tremendously worthwhile thing to do. I hope I can start soon.

  137. Leigh, my wife and I rarely have missed a meeting in these 20 years. Maybe once in six months, or when severe weather has trapped us on our farm. The other anchor is a married catholic priest/psychologist/storyteller in whose country home we meet. Most of us drive between 15 and 50 miles to attend.
    You better believe that family origin stuff and other aspects of our personal shadows tend to surface in our mutual rubbing against each other. We try to be aware about this and work on it consciously together. At some point if you are interested I will share with you our “preamble” which explains why we come together and how we try to process the issues that arise. Even more than learning more about the foundations of spirituality or the problems that call out for our help in the world, our process helps us in our personal growth to realize and move beyond the inner problems that limit our spiritual/human full realization of our potentials.

  138. Yes, Mike, the preamble would be good. I did order Wisdom Circles, so thanks again! How far folks travel was going to be my next question. Fifteen to 50 miles does not seem unreasonable; many of my previous closer-by friends live within that distance…it’s traffic that would be the concern. I’m also curious about how you time your meetings as one of my ideas was — this is more geared toward a women-only circle — to use the new moon as a time to get together to make the most of increased awareness during that time of the month and also to do handcrafts that we already do or to learn new ones. A good friend and I are planning one of these meetings next week, but it’ll be just the two of us, not a large group. I’m eager to see how it goes. She and I both write, but we’ll use the time to draw instead…a different medium that, I hope, will get us out of our heads, something I struggle with.

  139. Hi Leigh, our group meets every week, but of course other schedules are possible. The only possible problem would be if energy tends to fade with too infrequent gatherings. On the other hand our Aurobindo study group has been meeting for almost five years now. Try things out, and see what works.
    “To venture is to risk defeat, but not to venture is to lose one’s soul.” Kierkegaard

  140. I forgot to write that the Aurobindo study group meets every other week.

  141. (Vera, I’ll break it up, let me know if that is sufficient). All, And so a trickle into a flood. I have noticed how in the pages just past the interest in forming and aligning. Kind of reminds me of happy memories of holiday camps sharing around a fire and how mesmerizing and happy an occasion it was to hear people reflect in a relaxed way with time…time to be, feel and share deeper thoughts than the everyday concerns. About who we are and what we have become.

    I suspect this helps bring together people deeply. I feel good just reading these ideas.

    Alpha Griz, Yes the outpouring on the Avatar forum pages is bringing together civil engineers, teachers, students, fathers, mothers, you name them they are there. It seems indiscriminate, the effect, that yearning to be out of this Earth destroying culture and feel that deep freedom and connection. It is a massive upwelling. Many hold the vision as life sustaining and say they have become irrevocably changed by it. Many are even learning the Na’vi language. The urge to separate from current culture is massive. There is a truth there and a means to realign seems necessary.

  142. Leigh, the preamble is at:
    The website is mostly the work of one of our members, so doesn’t represent the ever changing and various views of our other members, although there is much I agree with in it, including the preamble.
    Best wishes for your Path. On this Quest we never walk alone.

  143. Mike,

    Thank you for including the location of the preamble. I like the tone of it, especially its lack of judge-mentality, so to speak. If there’s an opportunity in future comments to touch base on this subject again, maybe I’ll have more experience at that time and will be able to help others in the same way. So, many, many thanks for this.

  144. Just a note of thanks to all you good souls here who have pushed this conversation in a more positive direction. I’ll be the first to admit that being righteously pissed feels great….but for getting real work done, it usually hinders more than it helps.

  145. Thanks Plowboy and all of you for your helpful contributions. There is a great message for all of us on the web. Google Clarissa Pinkola Estes Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times.
    For those of us realizing the importance of looking deeply into the dark side of our culture and ourselves, look into The Dark Mountain Project (on the web). The title is from a terrific poem by Robinson Jeffers, which is reproduced on their site.
    If anyone has checked out the Archdruid Report, I would be interested what you think of their trip?

  146. Nice intellectual exercise. A few more thoughts…one from “A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution” ISBN: 978-0-309-14488-9, 112 pages, 6 x 9, paperback (2009)

    “Now more than ever, biology has the potential to contribute practical solutions to many of the major challenges confronting the United States and the world. A New Biology for the 21st Century recommends that a “New Biology” approach–one that depends on greater integration within biology, and closer collaboration with physical, computational, and earth scientists, mathematicians and engineers–be used to find solutions to four key societal needs: sustainable food production, ecosystem restoration, optimized biofuel production, and improvement in human health.”

    and one from Mother Maybelle Carter’s theme song–

    Keep on the sunny side,
    always on the sunny side.
    Keep on the sunny side of life.
    It will help us every day,
    it will brighten all the way
    If we keep on the sunny side of life.
    – words by Ada Blenkhorn, music by J.Howard Entwisle(1899)

  147. O.K., first off, I always thought that A.P. wrote “Keep on the Sunny Side!” Now, you’re tellin’ me Ada Blenkhorn (whoever in hell that is) did? Whoa. I also didn’t know it was written in the 19th century. Things you learn hearabouts.

    Yep Mike, thanks to you, I’ve been sucked into a vortex of fascinating reading on the Archdruid Report blog. Great stuff. Just the kind of opinion pieces I like to see: Short on actual opinions and politics, waaaaaaay long on science and history. Just today I was (re)learning the fallacy of believing in solar power’s ability to pull all of our chestnuts out of the post-oil fire. Yeah, it will pull some of them out, but not all of them. Of course, that could change. So far? Well, let’s just say it has been tried aplenty.

    Thanks for that link.

  148. Hi, Mike.

    Used to read John Michael Greer more than I have lately mostly because my priorities are shifting. But I truly appreciate his long-term perspective on what’s happened, what’s happening, what may happen.

    About that dark side: Our dilemma stems from being able to hold opposites together without flinching. Melding dualities. This includes the parts of ourselves we like and dislike. This is where healing begins…within.

    In the big scheme of things, I wonder whether our perverted love for the negative will derail us. In practical terms, for example, many people earn a living acting on behalf of Earth, but they would be out of work but for the problems that exist. If we ever get out of “mop up” mode and truly address fundamentals, many people will be out of work (no news there!), and that points to the need for systemic economic change. If we progress as a species, there is and will be much work centered around healing. But at some point, I would hope, more work will center around the maintenance of movement toward balance or equilibrium. As someone trying to leap into the “healing economy” and out of the one that’s destroying us, I feel acutely how hard this is. For me, it means realizing and internalizing what is enough. Having just enough. And I’m grateful for what I do have, but need to do much more internal work, which is a lifelong endeavor.

    Back to the notion of story, though: Story requires motive, requires someone be thwarted from a goal, requires conflict (recall from high school: human v. nature, human v. human, human v. humanself), and if we cling to this, I wonder what it will mean for us. Story tends to be conflict-driven. One thing I like about Orion is that it provides an alternative look at conflicts. Like the recent Barry Lopez short story prompted by or even the bizarrely beautiful photographs of mountaintop mining devastation. This is a long way of saying that our art will be up, is up for, reinterpretation, too.

    Brooke Medicine Eagle in Buffalo Woman Comes Singing recounts the Hopi tale about the new world where only the good-hearted people are allowed. But a little girl from the bad-hearted people shows up and they decide to let her in and that corrupts the new world. She ties this to the question of whether we will be willing and able to have everything. And to have everything, of course, means acknowledging and embracing the dark side. I personally am not there yet, but more and more I find myself shying away from people who complain a lot. I find I do not have the energy to listen.

    Would love to know what you think, but I won’t have access to e-mail the next few days.

  149. Leigh, there is much that I want to respond to in your recent sharing, but I am going on retreat from Monday thru Wednesday. I will get back to you then…

  150. Greetings fellow Orionians! I come bearing a strange gift. This gift is of the nature of a koan, which was recently dropped on my email plate. Taking in a koan has been described as like ingesting a red hot iron ball which you can neither fully swallow or spit out.
    Reminds me of the unpleasant gizmo that was surgically inserted into Neo’s body near the beginning of The Matrix. You could imagine the damn thing boring into the core of his being. Turned the movie off the first time I saw it. Too gruesome and scary.
    Fortunately, there are a couple of pills you can take, a red one and a blue one. One pill will invite you deeper into the koan, and guarantee that it goes deeper into your heart and mind. The other pill is a sedative that will protect you at your present level of “comfort”. Here is the koan:

    “Let’s consider for a moment that many hundreds of millions of poor people
    are going hungry today and at the same time that a tiny minority of a few
    million foolhardy, arrogant and avaricious people among us are recklessly
    engaged in conspicuous consumption, excessive hoarding and wanton pollution
    activities which lead to natural resource dissipation, environmental
    degradation and climate destabilization as well as threaten to ruin Earth
    as fit place for habitation by children everywhere.

    It appears that we are presented here with two problems: addressing the
    needs of hungry poor people and the looming ecological wreckage that could
    result from unbridled greediness of the rich and powerful.

    How can we simultaneously overcome both of these human-induced global

    Any thoughts? Plans of action?”

    Which pill will you take?

  151. Hmmmm….well, I think that the first point of acknowledgment from my point of view needs to be that no human on earth has monopolized greed, pollution, exploitation of a resource or wasteful behavior. Conversely, no human on earth has been able to ever live completely free of those activities and behaviors. It is what we do.

    Your koan is premised on the idea that one group must give (by reducing consumption) so that the others might get more. If there were a direct cause and effect at work here, I would be much more content with all the choices I make that (I hope) limit my footprint on this planet. Thing is, it is much more fuzzy than that.

    I think of it this way: The kilowatt of power that I don’t consume by switching off all unecessary lights and appliances, is that power going to then be rerouted to the mudwalled village hut somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa where a poor child will be able to read his elementary school textbook? No.

    To use the example of a food supply, if I grow some vegetables organically in my yard this summer will that, except in the most attenuated way (so as to be almost inconsequential), supply calories to a starving person somewhere? No again.

    Even more vexing is the nature of human desire, which tells us with some certainty that IF, somehow, my forebearance of these luxuries would directly result in some worthy soul receiving them instead, would that person decline them? Probably, and even certainly, not. They’d exploit them for all they are worth, and hope for more.

    In my opinion, if we fall into this fallacy, we are no more sophisticated than the child who believes that eating his peas will somehow feed a starving child in India.

    And this is not to say that these are entirely futile acts or that they are not, in my book, absolute virtues.

    I’ll ask one back atcha though Mike: Why do we as Westerners always have to link desireable behaviors to an external balance sheet? i.e., I’ll invest in this activity by foregoing something or other, only because I want to see a return on that investment, e.g., healthy, educated children in some third world country.

    Why not present these activities as virtuous in and of themselves? That is, as their own reward. If they indirectly help our world, that is just a bonus. Help yourself to be a better resident of the Earth and you can’t help but help others, but don’t expect that this approach will motivate the stubborn or self-absorbed with hopes of reclaiming the blighted spots on the globe. “Out of sight, out of mind” has never more aptly described an attitude than here. Too, you can’t overlook the fact that an appeal to this kind of lgic is guaranteed to have the opposite result in a large segment of the U.S. population…perverse, but true.

  152. Mike k said: “It appears that we are presented here with two problems: addressing the
    needs of hungry poor people and the looming ecological wreckage that could
    result from unbridled greediness of the rich and powerful.

    How can we simultaneously overcome both of these human-induced global

    Any thoughts? Plans of action?”

    I’ve heard it said that nature tries to enact control over humans but we have stepped over many of the traps. Namely medical interventions, sanitation, artificial food and water sources, that give us freedom to strip our environment. Boom and bust is a natural cycle and is one we as humans seemed to have slipped into. If you take a traditional birth rate of many offspring that counters expected early childhood mortality as in Africa, and give ways to over come some of those limiters then you get a cultural norm running out of control into massive population that destroys it’s land base when under stress. Western countries have also followed this model. Probably the best way to control an organism is to control it’s environment. For example if you remove health initiatives populations wither. If you take away mines, the consumers from the markets, or the markets themselves then that controls the greedy (?). Or maybe there is another way to control these rapacious people?

    It’s easy to see the harmony that once existed ie, many early deaths, has been disrupted, out of sync with nature and stretching parameters individually, not together that could give some balance but technologically without social or cultural change has created a human tumor for the Earth.

    Can we instate a new cultural or social system centered on the health of all life? Or must we excise the tumor?

    Thank you all for your consideration and care here also.

  153. Just to be clear, I did not write the material I posted in quotes, and characterized as a “koan”. This message appeared in my email a few days ago, without any overt indication of the identity of the sender.
    I happen to agree with the content of that message. A relatively small number of people are raping and destroying life on this planet. This is not new, but due to the power unleashed by modern technologies, this “elite” (only elite in power, not in ethics or compassion) are well on their way to accomplish their ghoulish mission.
    What is truly unsettling is that the majority of mankind is deep asleep and unaware that this is even happening. The disinforming narratives that these psychopaths have wrapped themselves in have put the populace in a trance of unknowing.
    The blue pill takes many forms, junk tv, deceptive “news”, nascar races, new electronic toys, wars against our ever present “enemies”………..the list goes on.
    The red pill is about waking up. One of its disturbing, but ultimately healing effects is the awakening of what Guurdjieff called “real conscience”. This is not the superficial socially imparted right and wrong etc., but something deeper and truer. This function of your authentic self will not only enable to you to see through the culturally induced trance of illusions, but it will demand that you act on what you can now see. It will become an internal gadfly reminding you of your real duty as a human being in a world that is being destroyed.

  154. Anyone interested in practical solutions to problems of sustainability, activism, and community-building would do well to read Sharon Astyk’s book, Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front. (New Society Publishers, 2008). It’s thoughtful, provocative, and full of advice about what people can actually do.

  155. Thanks for the book tip owlfarmer. I looked inside, then ordered it from amazon. By the way, how do you farm owls?

  156. The heart

    that breaks open

    can contain the whole universe.

    Joanna Macy

    Want to volunteer for some open heart surgery? Read Martin Prechtel’s beautiful trilogy:

    1. Secrets of the Talking Jaguar
    2. Long Life, Honey in the Heart
    3. The Toe Bone and the Tooth

    These are the real life stories of how a young man was made shaman of an ancient mayan village, And what eventually transpired when “civilization” came calling, bearing the usual soul destroying “gifts”.

    If this medicine doesn’t open your heart, I don’t know what will.

  157. Mike, I have a bad feeling about Prechtel. I think what he is doing is similar to Castaneda… So, no harm in reading it, but read it with a grain of salt. He is too self-aggrandizing for it to sit well with me. (The ole fantasy about a clueless westerner going to live among the indigenous and being welcome as the long-called for apprentice of the key shaman…!)

  158. Although I agree with Plowboy–there’s not necessarily an apparent direct connection between my actions and what happens elsewhere–when we behave in certain ways on a massive scale, the very mass of the action creates harms that we would not actually choose if we knew better.

    What we need are feedback mechanisms. The global economy exports feedbacks, as was explained this weekend in the permaculture design class I’m taking. So, much of the potential feedbacks we could have are obliterated by the conflation of money as “medium of exchange” and money as “store of value.” One, we want to use. The other, we want to hoard. Two competitors, too much competition wrapped up in one thing.

    We were also shown the “just enough” curve many of you are probably familiar with. Bill McKibben and others have written about it. We exceed “just enough” (basic needs met, plus a few comforts) and range into luxuries, but we are no happier and maybe even miserable. Beyond the “just enough” curve, of course, is the gift economy, meaning we share the gifts that come to us so that they get passed on and on without end.

    Taking steps to relocalize money, food and other goods and services may have no direct, immediate impact on someone’s access to food, but the consciousness underlying the choices will. It can grow, spread, change hearts, maybe eventually change minds.

    As to Plowboy’s question about the intrinsic goodness of one’s actions, I’ve often wondered this myself. The things that I do feel good about, I continue doing because I like feeling good, not because a church or my peer group urges me to. Also, I think knowledge of harms creates its own action/knowledge/more-action momentum.

    I don’t know about Prechtel except what I once read in an interview with him. What stuck with me about that was the emphasis on the changeability of housing in a village where he’d lived and how everybody pitched in on neighbors’ houses to keep them in livable shape. Someone mentioned the Amish earlier, and the village support model certainly mirrors that kind of social structure.

  159. We are the way we are because of fear, fear of change, fear of not having enough, fear of separating from a herd mentality, fear of loss, fear, fear, fear…

    The health insurance issue is a perfect example of the nonsensical mentality that develops when one is fearful. There are Americans paying for health insurance they cannot afford to use because the deductible is too high; some people cannot even afford the $20 co-pay, yet they continue to pay because they are afraid if something happens they will not be able to cover the cost. The problem is until they pay the deductible the insurance company will not cover their cost. Fear has them blind to the fact that they are paying for a service they cannot afford to use, yet in their conditioned minds cannot afford to lose. They may not be able to use their health insurance, but they can at least say they have health insurance. They would rather pay into an inefficient system than to be seen as one those unfortunate souls that do not have coverage; they would rather have quasi-coverage than no coverage at all. Nonsense!

    Also, little personal changes do help effect larger changes. Where would we be if Martin Luther King had not surmounted his personal fears in order to take center stage and fight for the disenfranchised? He didn’t just wake up one day and decide he wanted to be the face of a movement, there was a journey to that point, and because he was human part of that journey required surmounting his own personal fears-we all have them. Look at it this way, if everyone got their own individual house in order, there would be less fear and more willingness to do what is best for the human race, because at the end of the day the planet will survive, heal, and thrive, it will be the human race that perishes.

    We are a fearful species and it is that fear that will ultimately be our down fall.


  160. To AnAverageAmerican:

    Are you “average”? Really? Your example of healthcare is quite telling and spot-on! I unplugged from watching any further “news” about the so-called debate back in mid-December. I no longer have health insurance, because I no longer work where I have “benefits.” Most days, I don’t even think about it. When I do, I probably drive a little more carefully! ;-> Otherwise, I felt responsible for own health even when I had insurance, so there’s no effective change in the way I behave.

    The whole gamut of “fears” is something I continue to explore. The way out would be to reframe the questions. Instead of asking, however subtly and constantly, “What’s the worst that could happen?”, we need to shift our thinking–maybe our hearting–in a more positive direction to ask, “How do I want to live? How do I want to be? How will I be? How will I live?” That would seem to get us away from fears and push us in a better direction. We need to form this as a habit just as we fall to fear-based decisionmaking as a habit right now. We need the new to supplant the existing. If all we envision is the worst, that’s what we’ll get.

    So, outside of developing a responsibility to get our individual houses in order and having that consciousness spread, how do you suggest encouraging folks to do this, AAA?

  161. Hi Leigh,

    Thanks for the response and the question.

    In 2009 I became a certified nutritional health counselor. You can check out my bio at Right now I am working on a series of lectures to talk to people at my present place of employment (I work at a college) about health, food, and nutrition. My focus is our government’s role in the decline of the health of the American people (and the rest of the world since they have decided to adopt our eating habits) due to its relationships with agribusiness and the pharmaceutical companies. I have also decided to go back to school starting this May to study for my masters in public administration so that I can better understand policy and eventually have a hand in helping to shape food policy in this country.

    What will your claim to fame be?

  162. Hi, A-A-A.

    Sounds like a good path. You are correct: When folks freak out over such things as raw milk or cheese or on-farm processing of livestock, I wonder to myself if they knew how they got here. We and all other species are constantly evolving against and with various others. From an energetic standpoint, we need to help our bodies cope with multiple stressors…those stressors should NOT include fake foods, though of course any the bodily combustion and breakdown of any food is itself a stressor. When we eat — as when we do anything else — we need to ask, Who benefits? I find it heartening that so many folks are catching on to the links between agribiz (“pharming”) and the pharmaceutical industry and much mainstream medicine. I don’t claim there’s any conspiracy, but things appear to have aligned, with the help of regulatory agencies, to make us all “units” passing through the various stages.

    My way of “resisting”…and this leads to my eventual ‘claim to fame’: herbs. Actually, I don’t want fame. I just want to be able to help people feel empowered enough to take responsibility for their own well being. I see herbs — whole herbs, not just constituents — as being key to that process.

    BTW, I like your approach. I heard a WAPF speaker once say there are are so many different diets and the key was to understanding whether one is sympathetic-dominant, parasympathetic-dominant or in between. That’s a little too technical. Most important is cultivating the listening skills you mention…and that can mean wiping out the processed stuff before tuning in. This is cool…I wish you much success with this!

  163. Hello Vera. I can assure you that Martin Prechtel’s story and his current open teaching have nothing to do with the fantasies of Carlos Castaneda, with which I am quite familiar. DeMille and others, including Carlos’ wife did a thorough job of disconnecting his dream world of “sorcerers” from anything in the real world.
    If you google Martin Prechtel critics, as I just did this morning, you will find that the reality of his time in the village he wrote of is confirmed by anthropologists who would like nothing better than to expose him as a fraud if they could find a scrap of evidence to do so.
    On the contrary, there is a picture of Martin with his teacher, who has been confirmed by several other knowledgeable people to have been the long-time spiritual leader of this Mayan village.
    I have a close friend who is a catholic priest who served years ago in that village and others in the area. That was after Martin had been chased out of the area by the death squads of the government.
    If you were to overcome your suspicions, and actually read his story, I think you might realise that far from being a self-promoting egoist, Martin is a sincere person with a deeply moving spiritual message about what we destroy when we (the West) “civilize” an ancient culture.
    It is too bad that Castaneda poisoned the well for many folks that might find soul-nourishing sustenance in these authentic stories.
    Without bragging, I can tell you that I am one of the most bullshit
    aware persons you will ever encounter. I did do a thorough vetting of our subject, in spite of my soul’s voice telling me that this man is a truth teller. After all, Robert Bly and other’s I respect could have been wrong to give Prechtel their endorsement and support.
    Thanks for your feedback.

  164. Mike, you will find the following notice on the Guatemalan Scholars Network News: “Dr. Nathaniel Tarn and Dr. Robert Carlsen wish to disassociate themselves completely from the latest activities of Mr. Martin Prechtel. When they worked with him in the 1970s, Mr. Prechtel was an honest and knowledgeable collaborator… Mr. Prechtel, now calling himself a “Maya Shaman,” has in the 1990s… written (or had written for him) a self-puffing volume without any scholarly basis whatsoever… His claim, in essence, is that all costumbre is now dead in Atitlán, but it lives inside him. Therefore he is the only Atitlán that is left…”

    I think he is knowledgeable. I also think that his stories are fact and fiction intertwined. IMO, of course.

    I think I did not express myself clearly. I did read his story. I found some good things in it. I did not appreciate the self-puffery.

  165. I am all for enacting change and improving the world we live in, but I still think you need to get back on the meds.

    Also curious as to how you post articles on the internet without electricity, a computer, or an internet connection – all byproducts of the handbasket we are currently living in.

  166. are we reading the same article?

    from the words in the essay, it appears to be an attempt to articulate the need to unify and dismantle systems of power, violently or non violently, and create a culture of resistance, because the planet is being murdered.

    most of you are just slinging projections and avoiding the real point of all this by attacking derrick personally, so that what…? you don’t have to acknowledge how deep things run?


    the earth is being killed and that is worth getting fired up about. if that doesn’t get your blood boiling how desensitized are you? what’s flowing in your veins?

  167. Hi, Filthy.

    What many people have responded with are their own forms of resistance. And I’m speaking about the West (US, Canada, UK, Australia, etc.). Personally, I don’t feel like sacrificing my life (and doing violence, when I’m not a violent person) when I know it’s not going to do any good. The entrenched folks who have $$$ to blow generally get their way. I don’t even think it matters to them if they, say, are waylaid by cancer or if their own children have some congenital defect that was caused by the mother’s exposure to hormone disruptors somewhere along the way, thanks to the chemicals their companies made, market and sell; they don’t necessarily make the connections between their actions and such effects.

    Also, the vested interests (corporations, governments, even NGOs) don’t make it easy to keep up with what’s going on. They shuck and jive with language and obfuscate meanings and do it all in the law. This is what happened during W’s tenure with respect to mountaintop removal: “Valley fill” is a sanitized phrase for burying streams with “debris” (trees, shrubs, animals, other biota).

    Language is just one of many fronts along which we need to resist. But we need to resist smartly and not make ourselves targets. We also need to understand that this is part of a centuries-old cycle: the struggle between those with money and power and those without. Maybe we can look to the past to see how it was done before. Or not…I think of the all the so-called witches (read: wise women and wise men) who knew how plants could help stave off or cure disease and who were summarily slaughtered.

    Another thing: the blood-boiling helps to spur people to action, but behaving emotionally does not serve to push for the changes that we need.

  168. There were several contributors to this discussion who basically agreed with Jensen, but we were soon drowned out by what evolved into this cozy group of feel-good esotericists. While I can appreciate their attachment to the land, the spirit and local communities, and I believe that what they’re doing is part of what everyone who hopes to survive in the future will need to do (minimal footprints, new ways, etc.) I don’t believe that that’s enough. You can’t just tune out politics, corporations, etc. unless you really don’t care about future generations. Your buying habits won’t affect more than 5% of corporations’ footprint, and if you do everything you can imagine you’ll still have a personal footprint five times bigger than the average African.
    And once again, I don’t see how anyone’s reading violence into this. It just looks like passion to me.
    In my experience the simple life is not a life of sacrifice, but a life full of pleasure. I think this is what the esotericists don’t want to be pulled away from.

  169. Hi, erstwhileterrestrial.

    I thought Jensen also indicated that, in parallel to other forms of action, we also need to be working on alternatives so that we have somewhere to go. I’d be willing to bet that many of the people who take seemingly small steps — and “small” is a relative term, because what’s small to someone else maybe a huge step for me — are also trying to teach others by example. I don’t think it’s a matter of tuning out politics or corporations, but rather taking steps to circumvent them…opting out of the system to the extent possible. As Virginia farmer Joel Salatin said this week when he spoke in Annapolis, Md., If we had a fast-food-out for two days, we could bring industrial ag to its knees. That said, there are many farmers now in that system who may be looking to their cohorts who have opted out of it and who have developed relationships with eaters in their areas and wondering how they, too, can make the leap. Such folks need help and support, not scorn, both from fellow farmers and from eaters.

    I do read violence into such activities as kidnapping and bombing pipelines, but I also try to understand MEND’s action and can’t say that, were I in that exact situation, I wouldn’t do the same thing.

    We have more than 500 years of developing toward what we are today. That won’t be dismantled overnight. We also have to get beyond this idea that “my backyard is separate from your backyard.” I may not be directly affected as the residents of Cordova, Alaska, by the Exxon-Valdez spill, or as the residents who can no longer live along the Emory River because a coal-ash impoundment maintained (or not maintained) by the Tenn. Valley Authority broke. But I am affected. We all are. Too often our assistance is mediated through money and that, itself, provides no feedback.

    Also, I’m a little confused by this: “In my experience the simple life is not a life of sacrifice, but a life full of pleasure. I think this is what the esotericists don’t want to be pulled away from.”

    Are you implying that the “simple life” (whatever that is) should not be pleasurable? And who’s to say, that even though it may be pleasurable, there aren’t sacrifices, for instance, of one’s time?

    It would seem that “pleasurable” would be attractive to many more people than “sacrifice” and somehow, by being pleasurable, a simple activity — one done under one’s own power — could help to offset the deep-seated fear many Americans seem to have of being inconvenienced. I wish I had a good answer for this conundrum, which is short-term thinking and immediate results as against long-term thinking where the benefits may be enjoyed by future generations, not only humans, but others, too. My own answer is just to keep learning as much as I possibly can, both in terms of staying informed about what’s going on and using that information to choose differently, but also acquiring skills that I can put to use right away.

  170. The bottom line covered in fossil fuel sludge is we must exercise revolutionary thinking followed by action. Corporate pollution far exceeds individual pollution and while new lifestyle of organics and recycling is a great idea, it is NOT ENOUGH!

    Bringing down the giants who believe they are too big to fail should be a common goal. Corporations have no problem laying off workers to maintain shareholder value. Let’s show them stakeholder values.

    I am a jeweler who has been in the profession since I was a teenager and I routinely tell people to sell their diamonds. Diamond expressed love fulfills many unsustainable lifestyles. A tradition of slavery, strip mining and eco destruction, not to mention a complete lie regarding rarity and value. Anyone who tells you your love can only be properly expressed through two months of salary is pulling you into their subversive world and you support the obscene actions of a trade which cleans up dirty diamonds so the consumer to feel good about “conflict free diamonds.” There is no such thing. All diamonds are based in a system which seeks to maximize profit and does not care for the planet or its citizens. Earth Google Diamond mining sights and look at the destruction.

    I have seen my earnings decline as I have become a vocal activist against the transgressions of the gem trade. I am happier and no longer concerned with the material trappings of so-called success. If I can change people’s thinking about something so ingrained as diamonds as symbols of love then I am successful.

    Hit them where they live, in their wallets and maybe then we can save our ourselves and our fellow sentient beings before it goes to pieces. I applaud this article and the agree we all need to think more like starving revolutionaries instead of lazy fat cats in the industrialized world afraid to lose our Tivo in we revolt.

  171. I want to share where I am regarding Derrick Jensen, as a result of this forum and the process of consideration it has evoked in me, for which I am truly grateful.
    I have read five of DJ’s books and come away with a profound respect for him as a writer, an activist, and a person. I consider myself his friend, student, and admirer, although we have never met. He is a deep and clear thinker, and an outstanding polemicist. I doubt there is anyone who could win over him in a debate. He has a deep and compassionate heart. He is a true asset to all who seek a way to a better world for all beings.
    Perhaps his greatest gift is the ability to strip away our illusions that protect us from confronting the nightmare that our culture (world-wide) has become. He is a merciless exposer of all our blind spots, and protective layers of denial. He forces us to see our complicity in the horrors that are being committed every day around us. We really need that awakening of real conscience and awareness of our responsibility to act to end the abusive culture that we are part of.
    Having highlighted what I find admirable in DJ, now about his dark side.
    For true believers in DJ’s complete “message”, what I have to say may be anathema, but we should learn to listen even to those we disagree with. A portion of a poem by Holderlin has meant a lot to me:

    Many of the holy ones
    Have we named,
    Since our life has been a conversation,
    And we have been able to
    Hear from one another.

    Let’s keep in mind that we all have a lot to learn and share with each other, in order to make a better world for all.

    Having received a lot of abuse in my early years, I think I can understand perhaps better than some where Derrick is coming from on the “violence” issue. Obviously this question is the one that has most divided sharers on this blog. As well it should. It is a crucial fork in the road.

    If I were to sit down and share with Derrick, there is one question that I would sooner or later have to ask him about his early relationship to his father. Didn’t you hate him and wish you could kill him? I sure did feel that and think that about my father. In all his pretty open sharing about his early days, he has never answered that question. With great trepidation (for I know how people, often rightfully, question the validity of “armchair analysis”) I want to venture a guess based on what he has shared, and my own experience. I hope if he should read this he will consider it as a sincere gift offered in love by a fellow sufferer. I Truly would never do anything intended to hurt this man who has done so much to further a cause that is dear to me.
    So here goes. I think Derrick may be trying to release his anger at the abuse he suffered. It is interesting though that in all his suggested strategies and tactics there is nothing that qualifies as full bore “kill the bastards” violence. Its pretty tame stuff by the standards of one who thinks maximum destruction and death to the evil destroyers of the earth and all that is worth fighting for. One would have thought that would be the first card off the top of the deck from one who went through what he did. There was a time in my life when that was the first impulse I would have. A lot of inner work has changed that for me, but I will never be without the scars that hatred worked on me for all those early years. Recovery is a never ending process.

    So that’s it. I had to get that out. Take it for what its worth. I know that each of is profoundly complex, and to know another is to enter into a mystery. Only Derrick could confirm or reject the possibility I have indicated. I in no way think less of Derrick, whatever his reaction might be.
    I know I have stuck my neck out in writing this, but something inside made me do so. So be it.

  172. Yes, the children Mike. I see pathologies being acted out all around me, every day, and the cause is no more complex than a child who was once rejected by a parent. In some ways, that experience is the best teacher for someone who wants to take the radical approach Jensen advocates…….but….no, there is no profit in that. You’ve got to heal yourself, if you can.


  173. Resisting the resisters? Somewhere in his writings Derrick mentions the anti-globalization protests in Seattle. He speaks approvingly of the “anarchists” who broke windows of firms they had targeted including Starbucks. He also derided those in the vast majority who had assembled and trained for a non-violent protest, some of whom apparently tried to intervene to stop the vandalism. As a result of the actions of these few, the police were encouraged to beat, tear gas, and harass a large number of peaceful innocent demonstrators who were exercising their constitutional right to be there. Not that police were not looking for an excuse to “do their thing”. Amy Goodman was among those unlawfully molested.

    Some of Jensen’s rhetoric implies that those who are deeply committed to non violent approaches should passively sit by while others violate their cherished principles. He also seems to demand a double standard, whereby he is free to marginalize and generally trash the ideas of “pacifists” (a straw man that he sets up to demolish), while seeking to deny the resisters of the resisters (who are the REAL resisters in his mind) the right to criticize his own position.

    These tactics on his part and some of his supporters tend to devalue the need for a broad and open discussion of what various approaches are appropriate and viable to deal with the world crises. Those who are enthralled with the energy and “passion” of ACTION, tend to imply that thoughtful consideration is ineffective and a “cop-out”. They want us to narrow our focus to their supposed unifying theme of “bringing down civilization” without considering the vastness and depth of what they are so confidently proposing. It has the attractive simplicity of saying that if there is a problem, you merely have to destroy those who (you think) are causing it, and presto! It is solved.

  174. I think you’ve nailed it Mike, yeah.

    Jensen’s followers carry the burden of having ingested the American mythology of salutary revolution. (Along with many others we hear from these days.) As I said, my perspective on this is almost wholly driven by my view of history as a Southerner. While sitting on Jefferson’s back porch last Sunday, watching his fields catch sunlight and trees wave, I thought about that experience. That he and his peers succeeded in that (so far so good) shouldn’t detract us from the reality that very few have followed since. His Southern progeny, citing his writings and his words, championed those same ideals for resistance. Only but the most unreconstructed consider that choice now a good one. It always, always goes where you don’t expect it to.


  175. Well, some of the snidelies are back. Erstwhile, if it is in you to take down a dam, then yourself a big favor: don’t blab about it to anyone.

    I read Jensen advocating doing effective things. If a peaceful sit-in does not get anything done, you gotta come up with something that does.

    Filthy is right on: WE NEED TO QUIT FIGHTING EACH OTHER!

    As Leigh said: But we need to resist smartly and not make ourselves targets.

    Exactly. Here it is, in a nutshell…

  176. I’ve seen basically no-one in this discussion simple focus on
    the kinds of political processes necessary to change the
    economic system which is destroying our environment. It
    gradually acquired its characteristics and it can be made to dismantle them piece by piece.
    Jensen says, “We need organized political resistance. Power needs to be named and then dismantled systematically.” This is not about blowing up dams. This is what the greatest part of the change movement is about here and now. The lifestyle people are right to continue learning and practicing how to live with a small
    ecological footprint. They’ll definitely need those skills in the future. But no matter how many people do this on their own, and no matter how many teach others by their example, the monster will grow exponentially until we face it head on. None of the important changes in history were brought about by a single action , violent or otherwise. Most didn’t finally happen until a large percentage of the people stopped kidding themselves about how they were going to be able to do this in some comfortable way.
    Political change is tedious and time-consuming. In my corner of Pennsylvania hundreds of young people knock on doors every afternoon and evening, make phone calls, make sure people know who their political leaders are and how to deal with them. It’s not likely to give you much pleasure to tear yourself away from earth-related activities and redirect some energy toward Earth-related activities. And you can only give
    what you can give of yourself. No shooting stars needed – take care of immediate survival first. But get real about the nature of the problem. Our children will still be working on the solution. The more we do now the less they’ll have to do. And as much as you might manage to do they’ll still have plenty more to do.

  177. Lots of really good posts recently. I am learning a lot from this. I am on my guard not to assume that there is any one solution or program to address the problems besetting the human experiment. There is no major dimension of human knowledge that does not have significant relevance to finding solutions that go deep into the causal roots of our planetary karma. We have not just screwed up in a few aspects of living, but are way off the tracks in every aspect of healthy mutual living.

    With regard to the injunction “we must stop fighting each other”, I hope we are not concluding that anyone who disagrees with us is “fighting” us?
    That would be a real dialogue killer. That could slide into GWB’s famous “Either you are with us or you are against us”. Let’s not go there. That kind of “unity” feels a little stifling

  178. Erst, there are no “political processes” that have not already been monopolized by the politically savvy elites. Going door to door to let people know who their “political leaders” are? Puh-lease. I am all for looking at the roots of the problem here. I am not willing to keep pretending that more of the same that did not work in the past will work now. So apart from some young people going door to door, what do you suggest?

    Mike, I was not referring to disagreements. I was referring to derailed dialogue by the uncivil.

  179. Vera, I’ve looked back at all of your comments, and I see that nothing I can say would affect your apocalyptic view. It seems to add up to doing whatever it takes to defend yourself and yours in your territory. I’m in a different movie – there’s a tank in my town, too, ready for yours when it comes, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

    You said “the most effective action is the one that gets the job done”. And since you haven’t proposed anything specific, I’m just picturing you there with your guns loaded waiting for all hell to break loose.

    It won’t be one action that’ll get the job done. If it gets done it’ll be because enough people have not given up on making government control corporations. Step by uncool step.

  180. erstwhileterrestrial,

    Are you assuming that the “lifestyle” people are NOT politically engaged, maybe because they have not gone door to door?

    I don’t consider myself a “lifestyler,” because this is not a “lifeSTYLE”…it’s my life. And it’s not the only thing I do to try to get us back on track–a track which, if I had to pinpoint, we left tens of thousands of years ago, not just in the last, say, 500 years. So, all this work is going to take a while, which is, of course, no excuse for not jumping in.

    I admire the people you speak of who go door-to-door, but that is not necessarily my path at this time, though I haven’t eliminated it from my future. Anyone who wants to tackle the political aspects of these issues is really in for a long, long ride, with many setbacks and few victories.

    But persistence is the key in politics as in many other realms. It’s also important to write with authority (that is, to educate and inform people) and to show them their role in a nonjudgmental — dare I say, fun? — way.

    As mike k said, there isn’t just one solution; there’s a multitude and, I believe, all are needed. And they’re all going to take time, because there’s a learning curve involved in each one, not just for the person taking on something in whatever way (raising awareness being the underlying theme), but for those (pols, neighbors, friends, family members, churches, community organizations) the person is trying to make aware.

  181. Thanks for the clarification vera. I agree, ready- to- fight egos derail deeper consideration and mutual sharing.
    Leigh, your posts show me a balanced, clear and humble mind and heart. I continue to learn from you.

    A note to those who are reluctant to become more deeply aware and informed about the dark side: Its not all “out there”. What we don’t know can definitely hurt us, and others. We cannot work to transform material we refuse to acknowledge. Putting on a smiley face will not solve all our problems. Of course a proper dose of smiling is very beneficial, and highly recommended. But overdoing it could be a fatal mistake.

    After all, there are gems of essential wisdom, and a beautiful virgin (your own soul) awaiting deliverance from the fearsome Dragon holding them captive in the dark cave (of yourself). Happy hunting!

    Thanks for the clarification vera. I agree, ready- to- fight egos derail deeper consideration and mutual sharing.
    Leigh, your posts show me a balanced, clear and humble mind and heart. I continue to learn from you.

    A note to those who are reluctant to become more deeply aware and informed about the dark side: Its not all “out there”. What we don’t know can definitely hurt us, and others. We cannot work to transform material we refuse to acknowledge. Putting on a smiley face will not solve all our problems. Of course a proper dose of smiling is very beneficial, and highly recommended. But overdoing it could be a fatal mistake.

    After all, there are gems of essential wisdom, and a beautiful virgin (your own soul) awaiting deliverance from the fearsome Dragon holding them captive in the dark cave (of yourself). Happy hunting!

  182. Erst, I was previously trying to clarify that I am not a pacifist. If you jumped me in a dark alley, trying to clobber me, I’d try to clobber you harder. And I don’t have guns, and am not worried about any tanks in your town. Sheesh. Don’t read my past posts, suggest something that makes sense.

    I was critical of erst’s going door to door telling people who their leaders are… because, well, people already know who their leaders are: scum! 😀 You young folks, don’t waste your time trying to fiddle with a corrupt system. Learn from the wasted efforts that went before. Think of something new and sneaky to do.

    Mike, after I wrote last time, I thought, well, maybe I did mean more with “we must stop fighting one another.” I think, in addition, I also mean that we need to learn to collaborate much better than we have been able to in the past. This does not necessitate sameness of belief; I think though it necessitates skills and attitudes that are often in short supply. After all, the powers that be have always found it in their interest to keep us divided and bickering…
    What do you think?

  183. Hi vera. “Think of something new and sneaky to do”. I like that. We need our own radical way-outside the box think tanks to work on solutions to this mess we are all stuck in. Small groups are great for this. The development of deep mutual trust, and the freedom to think in really far out dimensions are essential to grow such groups. The more such groups the better. In diversity, properly utilized, is strength and unlimited possibility. My own feeling is that we don’t have all the answers we need at this point, and we need to have a crash program to find them….before its too late. By the way, my “Doomsday Clock” is set pretty much where the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has put theirs, pretty close to midnight. And I don’t just mean the atomic sword of Damocles hanging over us, but all the other karmic bills coming due soon..

    I agree with you that we desperately need to develop the cooperative skills needed to work effectively together. Small groups are a wonderful place to learn these skills. Unfortunately the powers that be need to do little to encourage divisive bickering and over-sized ego agendas to divide us. The guys in a prison I once had a group in came up with a saying: If you are in a mess, you are the mess you are in. Work on ourselves is an essential requirement for real impact on the world that is more than a futile expression of our anger and frustration over the patient preparation we need.

    Thanks for sharing, you make a lot of sense.

  184. Gardening is extremely important. The resistance will work up quite an appetite. No war has every been fought without each side having its own economy and supply lines.

  185. More and more, I see and understand what Mike K is talking about. I see it in my own family, where one key member offers up stoicism in response to just about anything and everything. She cannot seem to muster any forgiveness for herself, to grieve for her losses, so that, in turn, she can support those who have come after her.

    To the extent that a person lives, breathes, eats and drink such lack of feeling-sense, she or he will not “get” the destruction that Jensen and others write and speak of; that kind of destruction simply will be beyond the grasp of understanding for such a person.

    And so, Mike K., I do see your point about Jensen writing through his abuse as perhaps a form of therapy, with the added benefit that it does sharpen the feeling-sense, the anger — maybe the spur to action — for many others.

    I remember reading sections of his interviews in “Listening to the Land” more than ten years ago and just crying my eyes out, because I felt both within myself and for others such deep pain, so much loss…so much loss, in fact, that many don’t know (and I include myself in this group) what we’ve lost.

    I seriously doubt that such pain can ever be healed, but only by becoming aware of it can we hold space for other activities…for nurturing our selves and others, for trying to heal…. Maybe part of the “shadow side” also includes recognizing that there will always be losses and learning how to navigate them. The more we try to push them away, the larger they grow. Denial has that effect.

  186. Hello Leigh. Our culture has taught us so well to suppress and deny our feelings. It usually takes a lot of personal work and support from understanding others to open one’s heart. A small group of sympathetic friends is an excellent resource for this. One’s chosen family, rather than the one you grew up in. Our feelings are a basic source of intelligence, without which we are often blind to the real sources of our unhappiness, for example a dysfunctional culture and its toxic narratives.

    As we change and grow in awareness and understanding and compassion, we become able to help others to grow also. If we only help two friends to change, and they then help two others…….the world changes. By helping friends change, I don’t mean trying to persuade them in some aggressive manner. Your silent example does a lot, even if you never say a word. But if you form a small group that agrees to meet regularly to hang out and share what is in their minds and hearts, mutual constructive change is guaranteed.
    Try it you will like it…. Whatever topic you might choose to focus on initially is less important than allowing a deeper process of mutual sharing to naturally evolve.

  187. Hi, Mike K.

    I agree with you and am in the process of gathering such a group of folks. I only wish I could, say, achieve the same sort of understanding and mutual support with members of my family of origin. I see small cracks in the stoic edifice here and there, but they are not letting in any light in the person who, I would guess, has the most work to do in this area (or, at least, it appears that way to me). Still, if the others are able to become aware and grow, their own healing will serve them — and others — well.

    I’m finding that even people who’ve done a lot of work still have difficulty recognizing and naming what they feel. But, as with many other issues discussed here, none of us became that way overnight and it will take a long time, probably many generations, to change.

    Thank you…I enjoy your posts and even-handed, compassionate voice.

  188. Hi Leigh. Sometimes those closest to us in our family of origin are the hardest to reach. I had a brother who was alcoholic, and knew that I was treating my own problem through AA. But I knew that I was the last person on earth who could say any thing to him about it. I was able to share with others in AA the pain I felt in being unable to reach him, and they shared their own similar experiences. That helped me a lot in eventually accepting the unfortunate reality of a very troubling chasm between the two of us. I hope you find some solace through sharing with others in similar situations. Letting go of a strong desire to help one you love is not easy.

    I am glad to hear you are pursuing forming a small group. There is some work involved, and a lot of patience required, but in the end it will be very rewarding. Think of the difficulties involved as part of your path of spiritual growth. Forces do gather in unexpected ways to support such an endeavor.

  189. Hi all,

    I last posted under Alan on post 153 Alan on Mar 12, 2010. There is another Alan posting 186 Alan on Mar 27, 2010.

    I will change my Tag to Alan. S.

  190. With respect, because I have up to now read this column with enthusiasm and hope: passion for change is what we need, but with passion must come wisdom. This reads like warmongering. Kidnapping, blowing things up—these are almost universally counter-productive. Courageous? I cannot agree. Destruction does not breed love and hope. War is devastation to the environment, and when we declare war, it is always against our own species. They too are our kin. The resource wars will come soon enough. I beg that we do not promote them.

  191. Sally said, “…with passion must come wisdom.” How true! I have never considered myself a pacifist, per se. Were I under direct attack — keep the word “direct” in mind — I would have no trouble, at least as I can perceive such a situation beforehand, from defending myself or those I care about. “Direct” is slippery; for instance, there are any number of manmade, funky chemicals floating around in our air and water, which, even if they haven’t been used directly on people, affect all of us in various ways. Someone could interpret use of such chemicals as a “direct” attack.

    What sort of wisdom do you see the need for? When I think of wisdom, I think of a way of living that allows for complexities of all sorts — ecological, human-psychic, etc. — and in a fearless sort of way, isn’t afraid to address complexities. And violence is generally too blunt an instrument to address those complexities. History yells at us in all kinds of ways to note how violence doesn’t suit and often leads to even larger issues, which then require more energy and more wisdom to deal with. Revolutions come to mind, even WWII, which is held to be sacrosanct.

  192. Hello Leigh and Sally. I see a progression happening now that has recurred throughout history. When the hubris and dominating tendencies of the ruling elites become increasingly unbearable, small numbers of people begin waking up to the ugly reality that has so far been justified and concealed from the masses by the skillful propaganda (lies) of those same elites. This growing segment of the population begins think thoughts of revolution to overthrow their rulers.
    This inevitably raises the question of how to accomplish this, by what means: violent or nonviolent? At this point all sorts of debates (often quite heated) break out among the would-be revolutionaries. Meanwhile the “authorities” are feeling a nervous need to increase their repressive “security measures” as the masses are beginning to toss and turn in their sleep, and threaten to awaken full of anger at whoever they feel is disturbing their sleep. (tea partiers etc.)
    So here we are. The brilliant and well meaning Jensen would have us pitch in heartily and facilitate the violent collapse of civilization, which he predicts will soon happen. Almost a secular version of the “rapture” obsessed Christians who work to hasten “Armageddon”. I noted in a previous post why I think he came to such a bizarre conclusion, given the highly sensible and realistic quality of the rest of his valuable output.
    I had an interesting discussion with my wife about this problem this morning. She was deeply involved with the events at Berkeley during the sixties, and recalls the passionate appeals of the Weathermen and other radical groups at that time. So the issue of violent or nonviolent is crucial, and an individual or group’s course of action and hence results will be deeply influenced by how they resolve this question.

  193. I meant the kind of wisdom which looks behind to learn from what worked and didn’t work in the past, to fathom the motivations and needs of human nature, and to look ahead with enough of a vision to devise what means are acceptable to achieve what ends. I agree, it also includes the wisdom to understand when violence is the only or best solution–I was very moved and agreed with (most of) Obama’s Nobel Peace speech, but I don’t think it should be the first thought, we shouldn’t shoot from the hip. In general, I think violence begets violence and destruction begets destruction. If we can’t do better, I see little hope.

  194. Leigh, I found the wiki piece on consciousness raising groups very relevant to what we have been discussing. The power of small groups was strongly demonstrated by the success of these women in transforming long held beliefs and structures of consciousness. This also proved the power of small groups to change real world political and cultural institutions. Talk about a “soft power” revolution , this impact was tremendous! So much for those who would pooh pooh deep sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences as ineffective and I irrelevant. If we could only seed, model this kind of activism on the issues crying out for our attention today……..

  195. Regardless of the form that “resistance” takes, it seems the larger issue at this point is its size. There’s a recurring idea throughout this conversation that living a lower-impact lifestyle is not meaningful enough – that somehow this path will not take us far enough, fast enough, down the positive-change road. I agree that it’s not the only answer, but to say that consciously cutting our consumption has a small-to-the point-of-inconsequential impact is only true if you believe that the number of people living this way will not/cannot grow.

    I personally believe that Abbey’s Monkeywrenchers weren’t acting out of an expectation that they would change society. I think they were acting out of pure rebellion, out of a need to live in union with their conscience – while getting the thrill of direct conflict with mainstream American values. While perhaps inspiring, I always felt their actions were somewhat selfish. They wanted instant gratification, if you will. But their type of action brings about – in the larger population – a hardening and contraction, a withdrawal and shrinking away from the very problems they fight.

    Their type of rebellion, though it might pack a big bang when it comes to assuaging guilt, seems a hard sell when it comes to attracting new “followers”. And attracting new people is the most important thing any of us can do. Growing the movement is, to my way of thinking, far more important than what that movement looks like. And showing people that a simple life is not a life of sacrifice – that it is fun!, and far more inherently fulfilling than the lives many people are now living – seems a far more attractive way to sway people’s choices than violence or constant frustration or anger-based action. And each of us who models a simpler life is providing an outlet, a ray of hope, an actionable alternative to others as they finally lose their hope in our current popular culture.

    Of course, political involvement goes hand in hand with positive action for change. To those who believe we must disavow our “system” – I say that is to lose all power within it. We must stay involved and connected with our government personnel – to make sure they hear our voices and know that we are here. This is the system we have; to abandon it is to leave its power in the hands of people who still choose to be unaware. I choose to infiltrate, not abandon. The smallest crack in the largest dam can suddenly bring its downfall!

  196. Bringing down things without much of clue on how to replace what’s being brought down shows a certain naiveté on the part of Jensen. A recent quote I saw from no less than LBJ back when he was trying to establish Medicare seems to apply. The quote was, “Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one.”
    If all your selling is a vague idea of environmental utopia where we all spread out over the continent trying to grow our organic vegetables for the local farmers’ markets, shear our own sheep, spin wool, make clothes, can pears, etc. etc. etc.; it won’t sell beyond the already-converted. Way too many people (maybe even you) have a certain amount of vested interest in remaining in the city (Crescent or otherwise).
    The whole idea of “bringing the system or corporation down” is also very indicative of a wealthy (by world standards), arrogant Norte Americano worldview. The US population is less than 5% of the world population, and there are a lot of folks outside the US who have no interest in seeing “the system” brought down; rather, they often (not always) want a part of it. Bottom line, the corporate systems you want to “bring down” don’t really need us North Americans anyway as has become more and more clear over the past several decades of outsourcing.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Unless you can get a lot more people than readers of Orion to jump on your train, Derrick, you’re just trying to slow the forward motion of the train down by running backwards through the cars.
    As history has repeatedly shown, revolutionaries are great at promoting change, but usually replace one bad idea with another and, on top of that, can’t govern their way out of a paper bag once change happens.
    Some clear and realistic goals (emphasis on realistic) on what a new world order would look like after the revolution is a starting point for change. Then unfortunately, the hard work of building support and momentum among a largely clueless and apathetic population (all the while countering a continuous flow of “propaganda” from vested interests) begins. Clarion calls to reach undefined ends will never cut it.

  197. Good thoughts, everyone! I like the flow of this conversation. Just a couple of points: Mike, women’s consciousness raising did many good things, but it did not affect the evils of civ one iota. So let’s not fool ourselves that sitting in pleasant circles discussing things will change the system. It won’t.

    Lisa says: “To those who believe we must disavow our “system” – I say that is to lose all power within it.” Exactly. We don’t want that kind of power! Their power-over is just same old same old. We move away from power-over and build new political relationships among us based on power-with. (Though if you have the skills of infiltration, good luck. But keep in mind, they are far better at cooptation than any of us.)

  198. Lisa, you make some very good points. I also would think that “lifestyle change” would be a central concern of individuals or groups trying to create a better world. To really change, we have to change who we are, or who we think we are. And that inevitably requires we change how we are living. But change is difficult: we are addicted (Buddhists would say attached) to who we are and what we do.

    Anne Wilson Schaef wrote a book titled “When Society Becomes an Addict”. If we think deeply about it, our lives are profoundly in thrall to myriad addictions. Who has not experienced the struggle involved in relinquishing something as simple as chocolate, not to speak of One’s TV or sacred automobile? Having group support and being part of a program, a community supporting such change can be invaluable. The women who were part of consciousness raising groups achieved deep changes in their minds, hearts, and behaviors. All these little groups, without any overarching administration changed the nation and the world in truly significant and valuable ways. The power of the cell, the small group to change the world has only begun to be realized. This tremendous potential is out there for any who choose to take it up………

  199. The visioning or envisioning aspects to change are probably the most important, for, as others have noted, if we don’t know where we want to go (or what we want to become), then we leave ourselves open to abuse, to cooptation, to vacuums that beg to be filled, maybe by people who don’t share our visions or who lack imagination and would succumb to inertia.

    I like to think we can do better, Sally, because we have access to many layers of information about how people in the past treated such situations. We have no guarantees that we won’t make the same mistakes, but an awareness of the mistakes makes it, I think, less likely. But, then again, are we living in unprecedented times? Are they all that different from what Romans or Egyptians encountered?

    Mike K. brings up an interesting point about a secular version of the Christian rapture…Do you, then, think that Jensen has a linear view of our situation? The issue I have with Abrahamic traditions is the linearity of their structure: A happened, then B, then C, and we’re leading up to D…because they are “salvationist” and always posit that help (or salvation) comes from outside, instead of from within. I don’t hold this view of time/humanstory, which I tend to see as a spiral and I certainly believe that each of us can tap the vastness within ourselves to solve our problems.

    To Lisa’s point, “new blood” is really important, but how do we attract new folks? I don’t think we get there by preaching, but maybe by getting out of our comfort zones and asking questions. What kinds? Maybe the kinds of that link everyday life to the larger picture? I’m fuzzy on this one.

    There’s great potential in “soft power” approaches. I know I need some self-discipline in not regarding too much the negative (negative news, things that reinstate human foibles, even evil)…not to neglect the “shadow side,” but to emphasize the creation and spread of good models, be they of design, of human behavior, etc.

    A path to examine may be the approach posed by Orion writer Rebecca Solnit in “A Paradise Built in Hell,” about what we can learn from our responses to disasters.

  200. Oh, no, Plowboy!

    I was thinking somewhat about these arrests when I was writing my last post, but I didn’t want to go there! Why? Guess I’m not looking for today’s negative news! I mean, who really is these fellows’ target? And why target the police?

  201. Vera, the little circles that women sat in back then were probably not always pleasant, but they sure were effective in advancing women’s rights, and that is a crucial step towards creating a better world for all of us.

    I sometimes think of Lenin sitting in his frigid little room in Switzerland, scratching out his little “Communist Manifesto”. You think one little guy can’t send a powerful shock wave through the word with “mere” words. Hold on now folks, I didn’t say I am now or ever was a member of the communist party. I wouldn’t want to give Big Brother an excuse to disappear me….

    By the way, another reason I respect Derrick is his willingness to stick his neck in the noose that the Distant But Ever-present Watchers have waiting for the enemies of the state. I am fully cognizant that DJ’s doings, and even this innocent webpage are under official scrutiny. After all, the FBI (aka the secret police) have designated “eco-terrorism” as a top threat to “homeland security”. So watch your steps greenies.

  202. Right Leigh. I only posted that link to emphasize a point to any out there that think that they’ll somehow actively, and possibly violently, oppose ( or whatever “resisting” means to Jansen) centralized power and be given a “pass” on the consequences. At the least, I don’t see a whole lot of discussion from Jensen et al of what the down side fallout would be to that course of action. Well, here it is.

    Like I’ve said here repeatedly, and what this emphasizes, is that the fed don’t play around. If you are ready to see a closeup of the inside of federal walls here’s a great example of how to get it.

    I mean, sedition? Now there’s something you don’t see every day in an indictment. I would suggest that it is only a preview of coming attractions. Word up.


  203. Plowboy’s right. Watch your step. Be sneaky. Don’t blab. As the system keeps on unraveling (no thanks to Jensen and his friends), the search for scapegoats to blame will be on.

    Mike, like I said, they did accomplished some good things. They did not do a damn thing for the salmon, as Jensen is fond of pointing out. I am all for personal growth, but without action, it does not amount to squat when the destruction of the planet is concerned.

  204. Vera, I am not too clear where you are coming from. I hear a lot about what you think will not work. What kind of “action” do you endorse? Not trying to be confrontational, just curious…….

  205. A perfectly reasonable question, Mike… 🙂

    Let me think it through to word it right, and I will be back.

  206. Maybe one could look at it this way: Humanity is now going through a crucial Initiation. Whenever intelligent life evolves to a certain level, the knowledge it develops gives it tremendous powers. Unless these powers are wedded to wisdom and compassion, they become fatal to the possessors of it. The number one problem in our world is the abuse of power. The old wisdom stories have warned us of this time.

    This Initiation is real. It is not some hokey new age fantasy. The ending of mankind on earth will be the price of failure. There will be no bail out, no God from the machine, no rapture, no second chance. History makes clear that this is a pass or be eliminated trial. This is our opportunity to prove we are worthy to go on and join the higher destiny of evolving intelligence in the universe.

    A deeper connection with the Love/Radiance that pervades creation, and the manifestation of it in all our affairs will be absolutely essential to our successful passage through this dark night. If you think this is untrue, you might want to think more deeply about it.

  207. If I thought it was untrue, why would I want to think about it? Duh! 😉 But as it happens, you summed up a key issue, and admirably well at that.

    Here is where I am coming from. I am not interested in tweaking the prison system we live in for more livable changes for the inmates, even as I recognize such tweaks have benefited me. That sort of thing will not get us the changes needed. The prison system itself must go. How?

    Become the kind of person who lives, actually lives, another way in the world. Give up the ways of power in how you relate to those who are your true kin. Practice compassion with the compassionate. Practice “tough love” with the psychopaths and empire-heads. Stop giving away your personal power in exchange for shiny trinkets. Undermine the prison system… there are many ways to do it without getting your head chopped off; see this for example: Learn about the ways of power so that you see the traps set for the rebels, and avoid them. Stop watching the spectacle… start paying attention to alternatives to it. Like Joe Bageant says, “we can refuse to participate in a dead society gone shopping.” Remove your energy and allegiance from the system; give it to humans and the rest of the living world. Grow self-reliant skills. Build resilient communities.

    I’ll finish with a favorite quote: “Six billion of you wake up every morning and start devouring the world. … You can’t afford to fool around with ‘healing’ yourselves. You’ve got to start living a different way, and you’ve got to do it very soon.” (My Ishmael, Quinn)

  208. Many people interested in the environment in the past 40 some
    years have felt confident that, drop by drop, we’d fill the bucket and tip it by way of example, showing how little we needed the wasteful world of consumerism. This obviously did have some effect. Many things have changed, either from teaching by example OR from parallel efforts on political fronts. 2010 is a very different world from 1970.
    But from a power standpoint, we’ve lost ground exponentially to the
    corporations. Capital has a big advantage, and the most subtle
    creations of our scientists and social engineers are employed in its service. Normal people are understandably intimidated. Many react with escapism or bravado. And more and more we ignore the other bucket that we need to fill – political action. More of the same – much more of the same. For some reason the spring dried up and our bucket isn’t filling. People have opted out of political action, yet haven’t come up with a substitute that effectively focuses on the main problem.
    Like victims of other kinds of abuse, victims of corporate abuse (all of us to some extent) can come to see themselves as impotent and even vaguely guilty. Why is it so hard in a discussion in Orion Magazine to get people to think about the possibility of political reforms as one of the main pathways to a solution of the problem of corporate destruction of the environment? There’s no glamorous heroism involved, for the most part it’s not particularly creative, yet, just like the drop by drop progress that comes from choosing a way of life that’s more environmentally friendly and showing other people how to do the same, things would also gradually improve if more people started paying more attention to and using some of their energy to influence political change.
    Just like with learning to live close to the earth, there’s a learning curve involved, harder if you weren’t born into it. Anyone who reads this is already on the web. Simply start learning how and then gradually do what you can. We’ll all be better off if you do.
    Mend is an extreme case. We haven’t been pushed that far yet.
    There’s no need for such violent responses. And there’s no need for
    despair or escapism.

  209. Hello ewt. The problem with political action is that a huge majority of our population has been so brainwashed by the corporate/political spin machine that they can only think within a left/right, repub/demo box. This explains why such a tiny minority voted for any independent candidate in the last election. Unless we engage in some consciousness raising process that lets people wake up to the fact that they have been conned by the traditional parties, voting will continue to be the ritual farce it now is. How to awaken large numbers of sleeping people is the key to transforming politics so that it becomes an agent of real positive change. Ignorant deluded people voting for other ignorant deluded people is guaranteed to continue to produce the miserable results we are living in now.
    I am suggesting thousands of small intense consciousness raising groups as a means to create awakened people. Those people would be politically active as well as active in many other constructive dimensions. I have used the feminist groups of the sixties as an example to show how such groups can have real world impact.
    The revolutionary movement in the sixties actually accomplished some very solid and worthwhile changes. However that wave fell apart and ended in disarray. One of the underlying reasons for this collapse was that those involved were blind to their own deep deficiencies, and the need for a lot of work on themselves to become the agents for a deep and lasting change in the consciousness of the world. I would say that feminism lost a lot of energy, and fell apart into bickering factions for the same reasons.
    We can do better. We must do better. Just shuffling the same old cards we have been playing with won’t do it. We need a whole new deck.

  210. Sorry about the delay. My post (see above) was temporarily eaten by the censor program.

    A whole new deck of card is needed. Yup.

  211. Thanks for the clarification vera. I agree with a lot of your ideas. I follow Farnish’s blog, and have Astyk’s book.

  212. Talking to a true blue revolutionary is like talking to any other type of fundamentalist; they are not really listening to you. They are just waiting for you to stop so they can tell you that you are wrong. After all, they knew that from the moment you started talking. You should have just shut up and become available to their indisputable wisdom. As part of that wisdom, they will be glad to tell you that thinking deeply about anything is just a waste of time. Just ACT man, don’t sit there thinking about it. Sounds a lot like the army, doesn’t it?
    Speaking of the army, has there ever been a greater stupefying fascist hate machine invented? I sometimes think Derrick would make an outstanding marine recruiter. Woe be to any “pacifist” protester who showed up at his station. In his recent essay, he seems to be saying “just let us do our thing, we don’t need a lot of thoughtful critics”. After all, we woudn’t want to take any of the steam out of the exuberant folks out to kick ass, and stick it to the man. We have to remember that revolutionaries have been so successful throughout history that they have bequeathed us this wonderful world we have today. Oops, I forgot the standard comeback, “this time it will be different!”

  213. I sure do like the way a lot of you think, and I’m so impressed with everyone’s ability to express your thoughts. I just want to say that simply knowing you all are “out there” and are thinking about these things – and taking the time to have this protracted discussion – makes me feel a little more optimistic about our future.

  214. Hi Lisa. in rereading your comment #197, I am again impressed with what you shared and how well you expressed it. Keep telling us what you think, we really need every one’s wisdom to grow our own.

  215. From Mike K: “[True blue revolutionaries] are just waiting for you to stop so they can tell you that you are wrong. After all, they knew that from the moment you started talking. You should have just shut up and become available to their indisputable wisdom.”

    This is tough, Mike. I find often that I would love to talk to such folks, if only to probe the cracks in their armor and find some common ground. But then I wonder, would that be the best use of my time/energy? As it is, I’m not in the “working world,” so I have very few opportunities to meet people with views different from mine. (Of course, I see some of their comments on other sites and wonder at the level of vitriol and hatred going through them as they type…and then I turn away; I want no part of it. And then, I wonder: Where’s my shadow side in all this? LOL!)

    Seriously, feeling safe among one’s own choir, where does that lead us? I’m bothered by how polarized we are today and I can’t help but think that these polarities best serve corporate media and then corporations in general. But unless we reach out, how are we to find common ground and maybe a wedge to use as leverage, the kind that Donella Meadows wrote about?

  216. Hi Leigh. I guess what I said did have a kind of hard edge to it. Too hard. My frustration in the near impossibility of reaching some people. Not to “convert” them to my point of view, but just to have an open dialogue where we listen to each other and try to feel into where the other is coming from. Have to let go of that. Let go with love.
    We all need to find our group, our chosen “family”, folks we can communicate openly with and trust to support our journey. I think everyone is looking for something like this in their own ways, but often unconsciously. If we make that search conscious, and if we introduce a modicum of regularity and process into our togetherness, then this need can be met and we can share with each other so as to help each of us realize our spiritual potentials. There is a magic in such circles that is beyond what each individual brings. I think a lot of the discontent that leads people to seek therapists could be met better by what can be a deeply healing process. And beyond personal benefits, such groups work best if they are designed to reach out and help others, and add something to our troubled world.
    The sacred circle has a history that goes all the way back to our earliest beginnings. It may yet make a crucial contribution to the possibility of our future….

  217. Here’s a thought. What if it does not make sense to put energy into trying to convince people? Trying to convince people assumes that beliefs are crucial. But if actions are crucial, if “living it” is crucial, then we need to reach out to people who are ready to live differently. And that means that we must be already be living differently ourselves. Then we can reach out by example.

    We need to put our efforts and energies into our kind of people. It’s not preaching to the choir. It’s supporting those who already carry the seeds of the new world.

    Let’s put our energy into finding and supporting our true kin. And into living differently. Our example will draw others in. Our example will be far more convincing that any abstractions, ideas and arguments.

  218. Mike K, I’ve used the word esotericist in the discussion (for all I know I invented the word), and I didn’t want to offend anyone. I was just trying to characterize the feeling that we can’t seem to talk to anyone who’s not at our intellectual level. Much like what Leigh is speaking about.
    But in speaking about the environment we should never forget the fact that we’re all in this lifeboat together. Without a doubt, as you say, “a huge majority of our population has been so brainwashed by the corporate/political spin machine that they can only think within a left/right, repub/demo box”. We have to deal with these people (or
    maybe we can see the way to live out our own lives without bothering, but those of us who have children and grandchildren
    can’t rest very easy on this account).
    The “little people” (in some groups I would be one of them) must be drawn into the struggle. We can’t win it without them. And we have to speak their language to make contact. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, because it means we can’t underestimate them even tho their lives have been co-opted by the social engineering of the
    corporations. Innate human intelligence is everywhere. No one
    reacts well to pandering. And they’re not particularly fond of
    vocabulary that seems to exclude them. So the consciousness
    raising groups would have to be totally “disguised”, maybe as groups “working to help you and yours prosper and live a peaceful life”. Whatever. Let’s think about how it needs to be presented, and
    Also, I’ve watched a lot of European elections and, frankly, our system is NOT designed for more than two parties. And, as I said earlier, voting is simply the first baby step in the process. After you help get somebody in office you still have to MAKE him/her do the right thing. Tedious, tedious..

  219. Erst, I like your disguised circles idea.

    Voting? Why? The country is run by corporations, and the politicians are in their pay. Voting?! Wake up and smell the coffee, for cryin’ out loud…

    The work ahead of us is not tedious at all. In fact, if it’s tedious, you are probably trapped in a dead end street. Beware tedium; it usually signals more of the same that did not work in the first place! 🙂

  220. Thanks, Mike K., for the encouragement. As I read this conversation, I honestly don’t know what I think relative to all the various ideas. The one confident position I can stake out is that I will just keep doing my best as I envision it, and as that vision evolves, so will my “best”.

    The irony is clear, but one place where I am finding I can interact with people with a myriad of backgrounds, lifestyles, and political beliefs is facebook. I post photos and little anecdotes about day-to-day life here with the gardens and animals. Right now I’m learning to make soap and cheese and I share my experiences with my friends. Of the 263 people I’m facebook “friends” with, my partner and I are the only ones living this type of lifestyle, but I do hear regularly that people are fascinated with what I share.

    I also use it as a platform for sharing political viewpoints, news items, etc., that seem important or strongly resonate in the moment. These posts often generate some extended (and sometimes somewhat heated) discussions. I’ve found facebook is a great forum for exploring politically touchy subjects that most of us never broach in our regular interactions with the people we know.

    So, for me, facebook is a way to “example” and interact with people from many walks of life.

  221. I just basically keep repeating myself. No use continuing that much longer. Voting is one step. It’s never enough but it doesn’t make any sense to me to give up on it. Beyond that there are many more steps to take, ways to push government to do the right thing.
    I’ve been in unions for 25 years. The old members got fat and lazy,
    and were often ready to make concessions to the business,
    concessions that wouldn’t take away from their (the fat union
    members’) prosperity but would seriously undercut the newer
    members. The younger ones don’t even realize how many people got
    their heads bashed in in the 30’s when the unions were being
    formed. All they can see is that the union isn’t watching out for
    them now. And they don’t realize that if the union had never existed they wouldn’t be earning half of what they’re earning now.
    In the same way many protections we have thru our government were won after long and difficult fights. These things can slip away.
    And then many people will react like the myopic younger union
    members, complaining that the process isn’t serving them any.

    I’m going to say this one last time: if we ever manage to significantly change the environmentally destructive practices of corporations it will come about 5% thru changes in “consumer” buying habits and 95% thru strengthened government regulations.

  222. I am off to the big city to be with a couple of groups I am involved in, so just a quickie: Our problems run a lot deeper and more global than most of us realize. If we want real solutions, we need to identify and work with those roots. Narrow, superficial fixes will prove to be worthless diversions. “taking down civilization” is one of those false panaceas. More later….

  223. Maybe this forum is winding down for now? Lets hope Derrick sends us another jolt of stirring incitement soon to get the sleeping elephants aroused and on the move again. What elephants? The small herds camped out in living rooms all over America.

  224. Hey! 🙁
    And here, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for your exposition on how “taking down civ” is a false panacea. Doggone it…

  225. I’m really not into the critics and the naysayers who all agree that the problems are real but find fault in Jensen’s response.

    As if you need to have your hair smartly coiffed before you take on the selfish shortsighted materialist money grubbers that have got the majority under mass hypnosis.

    An ensuing fired isn’t consigned to the shape of its igniting spark.

    It’s high time to get started with formulating a method in which civilization, ie death-dealing, can be turned around.

    So roll up your sleeves and forget about wiping your shoes, grace is found not comporting to the ways of rome, but in preserving what good is found while overcoming it.

  226. Thanks, Derrick, for speaking out loudly and clearly to the family of humanity about what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the reckless dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of the planet’s frangible environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding synergistically at a breakneck pace toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world’s gigantic, ever expanding global economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic ‘WALL’ called “unsustainability” at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.

    Many scientists have remarked eloquently on the collapse of civilizations. The global challenge we appear to face today, one that singular and unimaginable, is that the collapse of human civilization in Century XXI is not simply the end of another human civilization. What is occurring now is likely not only the collapse of a human civilization but also the human-driven destruction of the natural resource base, the ecology, and biodiversity of Earth.

    Concern for the future of life as we know it and for the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the children leads me to point to the great value I attach to the open discussion of the global predicament looming before the human family. We simply must make good use of the best available science to adequately explain the population dynamics leading to the collapse of our civilization. Without such knowledge, I cannot see how necessary changes in the behavioral repertoire of humankind can be made.

    Is there doubt in the mind of anyone in the Orion community that the future will ultimately be brighter for children everywhere if people choose now to consume and hoard less; to protect, preserve and share more; and to effectively check the unbridled increase of unsustainable large-scale production capabilities as well as to humanely regulate the propagation of the human species?

  227. Brilliant Article.It has made me think about where i stand on this path of resistance against the many corrupt systems that are present in Ireland. I don’t necessarily want to be part of a critical mass mob movement, nor do I want to keep quiet- somewhere in between. We are all weak sometimes. Some are stronger than others.This is natural.The history of resistance has always been this: the Strong have to carry the weak.Some prefer to use other ways of resisting by “not “doing certain actions. It is important that in the face of resistance, those that are resisting the system, remember those people who are weaker- and help them, as opposed to criticising them for not acting. After all, the great motto of Cromwell, “Divide and Multiply” rings clearly here. Thank-you.

  228. Just knowing that Derek Jensen is alive and writing here at the last edges of the endless forests is a great comfort to me.
    The water is dying of grief and there is only one water. Can’t you feel it?
    “White man’s language is the language of war”, a native american said. It is the language that internalizes culture’s war against nature and my true nature, yet Derek is able to invoke what I desire most. I will continue to do as I am led to do for what I love, the place where I live.

  229. mike k wrote: “Narrow, superficial fixes will prove to be worthless diversions. “taking down civilization” is one of those false panaceas”

    Taking down civilization is certainly not a panacea – it solves only one ill, the destruction of earths life support systems.

    If that singular issue is solved then at least we have the space and time to work on the myriad of other problems that will persist despite the collapse/taking down of industrial civilization, and indeed, the many problems that will be created by pulling civilization out from underneath the feet of all those (us) who depend on it.

  230. I think it’s not so much a taking down of a death dealing civilization, but more of an overpowering of deadly civilization.

    I think that’s why in times of trouble, people are always looking for a messianic figure to funnel a greater power and deliver them from a status quo they find to be oppressive.

    The “messiah” is, however, in all of us. We all know in our hearts when we are corrupting our purity and when we are presenting an example of it to others.

    Acting on the awareness of the difference is all it takes to turn the destruction around. Personal sacrifice – which is to say, sacrificing the known for the unknown – creates rather than destroys. Good luck, everyone.

  231. Do any of you people even bother to check if this guy is just making it up? Because if you look in the back of his books you will never find a citation of a peer reviewed journal article, you know those things that are the basis of the way that the scientific community publishes its findings.
    He only sites newspaper articles and other books by like minded individuals who also don’t site a reputable scientific journal.
    Where are the mass balance equations that describe the loss of top soil to eolian process? Where is the data that indicates that we are above carrying capacity? All he does is repeat “it’s so obvious, and if you don’t agree you are in denial”. He offers nothing, brings no data to the discussion. Jensen is an idiot with no understanding of chemistry, biology, ecology, geology, and the scientific method in general. And you all follow behind, so assured that he is right without actually checking for any relevent data.

    The Empire had no beginning. When man first pulled himself from the muck he found the Empire waiting. The Empire will know no end. Every time men foolishly destroyed a limb of the Empire, they would grow to become new a branch of it. Even if you burned the Empire to the ground it would not die. Its roots were too deep to reach and too strong to remove. In time it would sprout again in the hearts of those that had burnt it. The Empire is me. The Empire is you. There is no escaping it. The Empire is humanity.

  232. It might be simpler, and less violent, to design a new system before getting rid of the old one.

    Perhaps that could be the subject of Derrick’s next article.

  233. On post 234: to me, an argument against the desperate struggle to gain another convenience and gain another moment of mediocre life tangled in a morass of de-gassing plastic needs not the support of data tables and replicable models construed by a systemized thought structure – especially since this structure is the very one from which the argument seeks liberation.

    To me, the argument is about naturally refined taste, the sublime qualities of life and their eternal resonance. Comparing them, to say, a happy meal is pointless. It’s just a matter of what you like.

    However, the problem is not proselytization, but survival for those who find the rapaciousness of life forms concerned with base gratification no matter the consequences. The problem is that their practices share little or none with other breeds.

    Capping the consequences of the system they practice limits their use to a fair share.

    The so-called “mainstream” is neither main nor the only stream and it should not be allowed to engulf the others.

  234. We already have a better system and many of work hard to live within it while still under the “invisible hand” of the Masters of the Universe falso economies.

    A better way isn’t some ethereal mystery but, rather a shaking off of the yoke of oppressive corporatocracy.

    Simple things are grow your own non GMO food if you can. Wear the clothes you already own instead of making the Gap shareholders richer at the expense of sweatshop labor and unchecked pollution as by product of production. The greenest product is the one you already own.

    I am camping this weekend 11 miles from home on the still beautiful California coast. A conscience decision to minimize my gas use and still have a vacation with friends.

    The new civility is about sharing, about re-evaluating our needs and the true cost of said needs and a thicker deeper richer enjoyment of life. I leave you with that as I pack up my well worn bed roll and mended clothes and head out with my bicycle in my car to ride up and down the coast this weekend.

    I will also take time to remember those who sacrificed and died in the service of their country…right or wrong and know that it is up to me make that in the future patriots don’t die for Exxon, Halliburton or Bechtel.

  235. Happy holiday! Wouldn’t it be nice if our Rulers used it to declare a moratorium on war? No way. That is not even “on the table”. Ever wonder why? Read what is below, and see if it rings a bell. If it doesn’t, you may have to wait for some tremendous shock to wake you from a profound cultural trance…

    The word “fascist” will probably not be used again to proudly describe a nation-state or program (except by a few die hard fanatics). The reason is not because of the nightmares of the holocaust, but rather because Mussolini and Hitler were defeated. To lose a contest for domination is the ultimate shame for those dedicated to victory and rule at all costs. So don’t look for swastika arm bands or heil Obama cheers in the white-house or elsewhere.

    The heart of the fascist mindset is a total, ruthless pursuit of power and domination. “Full Spectrum Dominance” as our beloved military so candidly expresses it. The ultimate goal is to control (enslave) every human being on the planet. The fascist is resolutely masculine and (not so secretly) despises all that is feminine, because to him this equates to weakness, the ultimate sin. Thus cooperation, compassion, love, spirituality, are only seen having value in serving to manipulate the naive. A peace parley would be seen as a good opportunity to assassinate one’s enemies. One’s “allies” are understood to be a temporary expedient until such time as they too must succumb to your domination.
    All this is to somewhat flesh out my belief that abuse of power has been from the beginning of the human experiment the fundamental cause of our most serious problems. By whatever name, this poison pervades the whole gamut of human relationships, and unless processes are engaged to heal it, we will fritter away our time devising ever more elaborate band-aids to cover over the rotten wound at our hearts.

  236. Actually, that’s what Gandhi did: he confronted the English, told them waht they were doing was evil, and informed they had to stop or else… when England scoffed/ignored Gandhi, Gandhi did what needed to be done. This is what needs to be done in the U.S. First, we try legal means. Then we confront them when they bend laws or act unconstitutionally. Then we warn. And then we act. It’s not a matter of winning or losing so much as it is doing what’s right. Just like during the Vietnam War, young people shouted, “1,2,3,4… we don’t want your Fucking war!” Sure we were chased by police on horseback who had billy clubs. Sure some kids got hit. But we never gave up. Wave after wave of young people got up, shouting slogans… day and night. And the war finally ended. Permits for demonstrating? Hell no! We didn’t need a permit according to the Constitution!

  237. “Plowboy” criticizes Derrick for not taking up arms himself right at this moment–a fact which “proves” Jensen is a fake revolutionary. Question for “plowboy”: was Malcolm X a “fake revolutionary” because he preached similar arguments–in favor of actual physical resistance to oppression–but did not take up arms against the power structure? Fuck no. What people like Malcolm were doing then, and what ppl like Jensen are doing now, is to build a radical resistance movement capable of organizing, acting, and winning this struggle. Jensen is not a plowshare activist–no disrespect to them–and he probably doesn’t see any value in doing one illegal action which would land him in prison for the rest of his life to make a “moral statement.” He–like all serious people–wants to win. That’s all that matters. And any movement needs people to organize, speak, write, and deconstruct the myths and lies of the dominant culture. That is what people like Jensen have been doing. And that is what they should, in my view, be doing.

    A lot of these comments suggest that many “progressives” and “environmentalists” are beyond redeemable in their strange commitments to the tired, old, and just plain stupid, capitalist-serving, power-serving myths about “personal responsibility” and other dogmatic pacifistic lunacy. As the world burns…

  238. Wow! And I thought this old thread was dead. How about bringing some of that kick-ass energy over to the comments on DJ’s latest essay? The old folks need a couple of M-80”s under their Lazy-Boys to get off their butts and clear the cobwebs in their brains….

  239. Mike K!

    You must get notified, too, huh?

    Well, to bring this full circle to circles…you gave me some inspiration last year. A group of friends and I have had a wisdom circle going since May last. Are we solving the world’s problems? Who knows? But every time we meet, we become a little more aware, our holes get both a little more exposed and we get a shot at either filling them or recognizing that they can’t be filled and dealing with that. The questions are provocative and always breed more questions. I’m amazed at our commitment to continuing. I only wish we could meet more often.

    So, a big mid-Winter Thanksgiving Day (aka Valentine’s Day) wave of gratitude heading your way…

  240. Hello Leigh — Wow! You have really made my day. When you scatter some seeds, you really don’t know if anything will ‘take.’ I am so happy you got a small group going. I hope it will keep going and give you as much deep pleasure and inner growth as I get from the ones I attend. Please, please let me know some more details of what you folks are doing. So good to hear from you. You could use the Orion comments to reach me, or if you prefer, email me at:

  241. Leigh — The site capitalized the first letter of my email address. It should be lower case. Should have buried it inside a line.

  242. As we can all see , there are many things wrong with how our society is run, and by whom it is run. Our own government as it would seem no longer cares for our people. And now look what they have done, shut down the government along with numerous non profit organizations. many thousands of people that work for government organizations and now have to worry about putting food on the table for their families. There are a few fields that i believe we, as a nation need to work on. First, we need to get rid of the taker economics point of view, we as a country are more focused on getting the newest thing and following the trends. corporate interests are harming the united states along with other first world countries, When I say this, I mean how companies always make products for them to break in the long run, we need to focus on benefiting mankind in the most sustainable way, ways like say, legalizing marijuana. Marijuana has thousands of uses that would benefit us in the long run, uses like food, building materials, medicine, and even gas to run our cars on that would be as cheap as 50 cents per gallon. another thing would be to change the way public education works, the way it is set up now is only making things worse. how it is now only sets us up with the same bits of information, we need to work on building skills essential to the future such as leadership skills and to encourage young to challenge set boundaries and ask how did this happen, why is it like this and to push further into different things like, colonization of alien planets and even discovering warp speed. we need change.

  243. The problem can be brought into the realm of nature/culture dualism. Binary language is the modern problem that often creates such harmful tension and hypocrisy in environmental activism. Language has nothing to do with the body. Memory has nothing to do with what actions you plan on taking in the future. We are only motivated to increase on our bitchy-ness and not in our activities and duties, or also understood as responsibility. We are embodied beings who have life given to us, never possessed in the full existential sense, always being received, always excessive reception regardless of it we choose to worshipfully receive or not. I went from a philosophy/theology student to the head of a farm to fork farm operation that implements permaculture to help the land increase in diversity and fertility. Believe you can do something and start learning how to do the damn thing, its not complicated. Receive of glory of God, receive creation for the gift that it is, and listen to history, its memories, its past, its evolution, its patience, and its hope for what it desires itself to become, through our becoming in relation to it. We manifest our human-ness through our relationship to God and his creation. Listen to what already works and find ways to stop the labor pains and the groaning’s of creation.

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