This Culture Is #/?*#-+

THIS CULTURE IS @†‰Ø the planet. The latest studies show that global warming will be far #+?þ than anyone has imagined, and could easily lead to an increase of #-+^)@ Fahrenheit by 2100, which would effectively spell the ?*#-+@* of life on Earth. Yet our response — including the response by most of the #/?*#-+^)!@* community — is utterly incommensurate with the #216;‰§« posed by #/?*#-+^)!@*. For crying out loud, most @?#/?*#-@ can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge that the @†‰Ø system is inherently unsustainable, much less that ?*??#-+^)!@ itself must be !$#/?*#=-+^)!@*.

I’m #/?*#-+^)!@* of it. I want to talk about what we #/?*#-+^)!@*. But before we can talk about what we #/?*#-+^)!@*, it’s necessary for us to talk about why we don’t talk about it.

One big reason is censorship — from without and within.

The United States government is said to have been founded on free speech and freedom of expression. After all, doesn’t the First Amendment to the Constitution state that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”? Pretty clear, no? And haven’t we seen landmark case after landmark case declaring that even such vile material as the most degrading pornography is protected free speech? And don’t corporations have the right to use their money as “free speech” to influence politicians — that is, buy elections? Actually, by extension, so do you — never mind that Koch Industries (84 percent of which is owned by the infamous Koch Brothers, who provide significant funding for climate denialists and the “grassroots” Tea Party) had an estimated $100 billion in income in 2010, while you have $524 in your checking account and $850 rent due in two weeks.

The truth, however, is that those who will stop at nothing, including the murder of the planet, to increase their power and perceived control will — no surprise — also not hesitate to prohibit speech that might lead people to attempt to decrease that power, or to decrease the ability of the rich to exploit the poor and to murder the planet. And — again, no surprise — they will not hesitate to punish those who break this prohibition.

The history of the U.S. government (and state and local governments) prohibiting and punishing such speech is nearly as old as the United States itself. Congress didn’t even wait a decade after the ratification of the First Amendment before passing the Alien and Sedition Acts, which, among others things, punished anyone who spoke critically of the government. These were merely the first of far too many acts aimed at prohibiting speech dangerous to those in power. We can fast forward to the Wobbly free-speech fights of the early twentieth century, when local governments passed ordinances disallowing union organizing, causing union members to flood the streets of, for example, Spokane, Washington, where they were arrested for such unpatriotic acts as publicly reciting the Declaration of Independence (and where police later were said to have turned the women’s portion of the jail into a brothel, with policemen soliciting “customers”). Then there was the Espionage Act of 1917, primarily used not to prohibit espionage but to prohibit speaking out against U.S. involvement in World War I. One woman was sentenced to five years in prison for saying that “the women of the United States were nothing more nor less than brood sows, to raise children to get into the army and be made into fertilizer.” A film producer was sentenced to ten years in prison for making a film called The Spirit of ’76, in which he showed British atrocities against colonists during the American Revolution. The judge said the film questioned “the good faith of our ally, Great Britain.” The name of the case? U.S. v. The Spirit of ’76. And union organizer and presidential candidate Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years for advocating nonviolent opposition to World War I; he ran for president from prison and received nearly a million votes. More recently, of course, there is the Patriot Act, among others. It goes on and on.

Part of the problem here is that government censorship — for obvious reasons — applies only to those who oppose atrocities committed by those in power. Those who support atrocities that further the ends of the state need fear no such censorship. For example, the scientific philosopher Sam Harris has suggested that a nuclear first strike against Islamic nations, killing “tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day . . . may be the only course of action available to us.” And, in an essay titled “In Defense of Torture,” he envisions scenarios where “torture may be an ethical necessity” and imagines something he calls a “torture pill” (he also calls it a “truth pill”) that would “produce transitory paralysis and transitory misery of a kind that no human being would willingly submit to a second time.” Did he need fear punishment for suggesting these horrors? No. Why should Sam Harris get in trouble when John Yoo, Dick Cheney, and George Bush haven’t been brought to justice for not merely articulating but planning and implementing programs of systematic torture?

When I give talks, I routinely ask audiences: Do you fear the U.S. government? Do you censor yourself for fear of government reprisals? If you spoke honestly about the near-complete corporate control of the United States government, and how so-called elected representatives better represent corporations than they do living, breathing human beings, and about what you believe is necessary to halt environmental degradation, do you believe you would be arrested or otherwise harmed by the United States government? Nearly everyone — and I’m talking about thousands of people over the years — says yes.

Let the implications of that sink in.

The truth is, we no longer need the government to censor us; we now preempt any such censorship by censoring ourselves. This self-censorship has become utterly routine. We see it constantly with journalists employed by the corporate media. As the world is being murdered, they act as pitchmen and -women for capitalism — that is, when they aren’t pitching mere gossip. Many, if not most, nature or environmental writers self-censor as well. How else could otherwise intelligent and sane people describe in great detail the harmful effects of the oil-based capitalist economy on the planet (through global warming and many other means), then propose solutions that run from overinflating tires to more capitalism? I’m reasonably sure that in many of these cases, if the writers didn’t self-censor, they’d probably lose their funding, their teaching jobs, or their book contracts.

But fear of state repression or loss of funding are trivial, I think, compared to our primary reason for self-censorship: fear that we’ll lose credibility. We are, after all, social creatures, to whom credibility can be more important than finances or even safety (when global warming is threatening to turn the planet into Venus, the weakness of our responses makes clear that safety has long since been left in the dust). So strong is the stranglehold of capitalism on our thoughts and discourse that to suggest that the real world, that life on Earth, is more real and more important than capitalism is to commit blasphemy. It has become almost unthinkable for far too many people.

I can’t imagine any of the victims of this culture — whether they’re salmon, sharks, subsistence farmers, or traditional indigenous peoples — proposing solutions that favor capitalism over life. But the people who are proposing these solutions are not the victims but rather the beneficiaries of this way of life, and they identify more with the industrial capitalist system than they do with life on the planet. It’s an effective system whereby the loyal opposition gets to speak truth™ to power™, and those in power get to trumpet their tolerance™ for free speech™, while they continue to concentrate their power, steal from the poor, and murder the planet. It works great, except for the poor, and except for the planet. If we allow it to continue, then we’re truly #/?*#-+^)!@*.

Derrick Jensen’s most recent book is Dreams. He also coauthored Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet, with Aric McBay and Lierre Kieth.


  1. “The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. “Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”
    — Aldous Huxley (Brave New World Revisited)

    “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”
    — Aldous Huxley (Brave New World)

    “In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or the propaganda might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies – the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.
    Huxley — Brave New World Revisited

    How clearly Huxley saw it all back in the 1930’s! There is no need for censorship by the powerful now. That would only be necessary if their captive populations were not perfectly brainwashed, as in fact they are. The American people chose the blue pill long ago, not even realizing there was a choice. If you have ever tried to tell one of our citizen zombies the naked truth about our current reality, then you have experienced how perfectly conditioned and insulated they are from anything outside of or contrary to their programming. What a perfect instrument to deliver that programming TV has turned out to be!

    The only possibility for a better world is for people to come together in small groups to explore the possibilities of awakening from their fatal trance. The problem is that folks are too enthralled by the flickering images on the walls of their caves to venture forth into the light.

  2. Derrick Jensen is an amazing writer and man. He is a prolific visionary and cuts through to the truth every time. His critics are scared of his direct opposition to this industrial civilization and believe they have a better more peaceful way to make it all better. they don’t. environmentalists dont want it to be hard they want lifestyle choices to be the thing that saves us from ourselves because it’s easier then fighting. we have been brainwashed and our lives and been taken away from the real world and sold on the white market of free enterprise for a few bucks. As always DJ is a breath of truth through the haze of inaction that we are all in.
    The amazing thing is how many people are going to write how we should do this or that and Derrick is too extreme or whatever. This is bullocks, Derrick is one of the few who are working tirelessly to bring down this death machine that is our civilization.

  3. gb– What kind of fighting do you have in mind?

  4. With thanks to Andy R…….

    A New Look at Population Bombs and Bulges
    A fresh look at humanity’s cresting growth spurt and its implications, for good or ill.

    Planet Earth has a colossal problem, whether one thinks of it as a bomb or a bulge, but everyone here understands that much already. Even so, silence is still dominating the science of human population dynamics. No questions are asked. No words are spoken. This is the way silence kills the world, I suppose.

  5. It’s definitely getting more intense, with the propaganda, and then the reality, at least what I see it as, and the future. Huxley looks like a prophet. It’s a dream (to me a nightmare) and no one, it seems, is able to wake up.

  6. I fear our government. I don’t speak out.

    Though I don’t speak out because I love traveling overseas. I don’t want my government to take away my ability to travel.

    When I travel, I am more afraid of being stopped and not being able to leave than I am about not being able to enter into or being kicked out of another country.

  7. Fighting back can take the form of legal wrangling, social protest, or hayduke-like actions. Whatever we choose, we’d better hurry. This place is going to #%% in a handbasket.

  8. The Dow just dropped 500points..Is this the only way to cut carbon??Dottie Lamm has an editorial in the Denver Post that could use some comments in support..How do you get a chief climatologist fired?Gary Mcmahnus in Oklahoma still will not even discuss global warming…

  9. As the Soviet émigré Mikhail Epstein pointed out many years ago in Transculture and Society: a society like ours, a culture that commodifies everything it touches, “is able to absorb and assimilate even revolutionary challenges [through] the mechanism of commodification.” In this way, any radical challenge to the system is instantly transformed, “denial itself, turned into another commodity.” Or, as Allan Bloom suggested with a slightly different twist in The Closing Of The American Mind, a liberal democracy is capable of taking even the most countercultural activities and absorbing them into the mainstream, transforming such acts into acceptable cultural practice – with appropriate rules, policies and procedures.

    It is not an unreasonable bet that this is what happens time and again to the resistance movement in the United States. It is turned into a commodity to be hawked through new media like Facebook and Twitter, proffered for consumption by the mainstream corporate press, and corralled by the establishment of new political movements like the Tea Party gang. Resistance becomes hoodwinked and then mainstreamed; brought in under the Big Tent. Here we have the taming and suppression of the human spirit. Even in full battle mode, those seeking actual change have simply become a spectacle to be observed, tolerated, enjoyed, even lauded; then clicked off once the next commercial bursts onto our screens. So much for radical politics and real rebellion in America: even our most sacred acts of defiance, of insurgency, are now routinely transformed into objets de art, objets de cultura – commodities to be used for entertainment, distraction and propaganda.

    The entire apparatus of our culture – a “culture of make-believe” as Derrick Jensen has dubbed it – may be brought to bear at any moment in defusing resistance, not through authoritarian suppression or banana-republic brutality, but through more subtle means of control, persuasion and marketing: allowing it, praising it, and repackaging it for distribution to the public. This in turn further stabilizes and emboldens the system, reinforcing its faux image of cultural, political or religious openness. As Allan Bloom well noted, openness becomes the enemy of the good; but it also becomes the enemy of any real challenge to the system itself. Openness betrays its true nature, as a core element of that “inverted totalitarianism” that Chris Hedges is so fond of discussing these days.

    Ours is a system that gives much lip service to openness, reform, and fairness; but in reality it is one in which real change has become a genuine impossibility. Unfortunately – and what Hedges may have missed in his own acts of resistance – even our best attempts at “disrupting” the State or its mechanisms are easily hijacked by the regime and quickly turned into political treasure. In other words, while the State’s police forces and other Homeland Security thugs gingerly manhandle the rebels themselves (according to more or less agreed upon rules of engagement), the acts of rebellion are commoditized and re-packaged by the media, our politicians, and their puppet masters for general consumption by, and medication of, the populace.

    In this way, any legitimate internal threats to the State are effectively disarmed through commodification and effective marketing. And the snake oil works! We demonstrate, we disrupt, we challenge, we take our lumps and go to jail for a night; and we think we are free and have a bona fide voice in how this entire show is produced. But the truth is they have us right where they want us; and us, what do we have? We have nothing but our medications and our enslavement to the State!

  10. I have felt this “Self-Censorship” always since learning of the raids by the IRS on those who don’t pay their taxes. And recently I have really felt it through political correctness. On social networks where we are sometimes discussing political issues I am always monitoring myself as I fear that I will be placed on some type of terrorist watch list. I am glad that Derrick put this subject out in the open.

  11. Please, carefully examine and crunch the numbers regarding the stupendous increase in absolute global human population numbers durring the past two centuries. The numbers derived from science are to be valued more than whatever numbers come to us from preternatural ideology, however attractive and self-serving the ideology may be.

    If we simply stop to see the numbers from science for what they disclose to us about the world we inhabit, it does not take a rocket scientist to understand that we are witnessing the explosion of a dangerous and ultimately destructive population bomb, not a benign bulge of human population numbers on a road to automatic population stabilization and a natural end to population growth on Earth a mere four decades from now.

    Look at the hundreds of thousands of years it took for the human population on Earth to grow to 1 billion. Now compare that time frame with the one which presents the increase of absolute global human population numbers from the 1 billion mark to 7 billion in 2011. What do you see? How do you account for the skyrocketing increase in human population numbers in such a short period of time? Did an increasing supply of food for human consumption cause the increase of human population numbers because the best available, unchallenged scientific evidence indicates with remarkable clarity and simplicity that human population numbers are a function of food supply; that the greater the food supply, the greater the numbers of a species? The population dynamics of the human species is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species.

  12. To Steven Salmony:
    Your observation about population (I use that word in its ecological sense)sizeholds true until you get to the consumers of the “northern diet.” Here, instead of the population increasing (in fact it’s decreasing)with the increase on food supply, we have the phenomenon of the individuals within the population increasing (obesity).

  13. KultureCritic — Good comments. I agree with all you say, but when you concluded, “But the truth is they have us right where they want us; and us, what do we have? We have nothing but our medications and our enslavement to the State!” that had a kind of no exit feel to it. What we can do is awaken deeply to our situation, and create small groups to share this awakening process with others. Those asleep to the realities of our world are easy to control. The first step to freedom is to wake up to the truth of our self-perpetuating ignorance. When we realize that we are in slavery, there begins the possibility of our liberation. Before we can effectively cast off our chains, we need to realize that we are wearing them.

    Solitary individuals awakening will be inadequate to challenge the system. But if people come together in small groups, cells if you will, and share their understandings of their position and the possibilities of freeing themselves, then these groups may proliferate and become a diverse grass roots viral movement hard to stamp out. Doesn’t it make sense to come together with like minded others to deepen your mutual understanding of our situation and explore ways out of it? If those somewhat awake fail to create situations where they can share their understanding with others, how will this clearer consciousness ever spread. Face to face interaction is the way to facilitate the changes in ourselves and others that can lead to a new way of living in the world. Small groups have the potential to facilitate our movement towards a new way of sharing our existence on this fragile planet. The ways to structure the experience of being in such a group and encourage a fruitful and involving ongoing process of regular meetings are available. If anyone who reads this is curious how to begin such a group, and design its procedures for maximum freedom, interest, and creative effectiveness, I would be glad to share my experience in such groups, and how they function.

  14. Mike K – In truth, I was describing the general populace. Those who have discovered the levers of control and deception should do what they can to escape the madness and make arrangements for survival after the collapse. Certainly, small tribal units are the way to go; but it is probably best if they were grounded in consanguine and real affine relations.

  15. The Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” codified the power of capitalist owners to purchase political power. But this is not the only diminishment of our freedom of speech. Government restrictions are more explicit than this article maintains: read, for example, Will Potter’s important book “Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege.” Potter effectively chronicles the Justice Department’s adaptation of post-9/11 anti-terror legislation to fight environmentalists’ freedom of speech. Our government’s broad definition of terrorism support allows as great an assault on free speech as those used in the Red Scare of Deb’s time. It is not self-censorship when the government jails you for speaking out in support of the environment.

  16. In agreement with Mike K let me add briefly the following comment about how the world God blesses us to inhabit is being destroyed on our watch.

    Attractive preternatural thought, theory and ideology are knowingly substituted for scientific evidence when needs of the super-rich and powerful require it. Broadcasts of what is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable and culturally prescribed are articulated so often by absurdly enriched talking heads in the mass media that what is illusory becomes readily mistaken for what could somehow be real. On such a occasions no questions are to be asked, no pronoucements of what serves the interests of greed are to be doubted, no words of what could be real are to be spoken. This is the way silence kills the world, I suppose.

  17. It is not only critical that we speak out, but that we also follow through on our actions. Many advocates will join organizatons which represent their views. This is followed by an expectation, that laws or policies will change. What we fail to recognize is that our voice can be lessened by tagging it to a larger group which in the end will represent the calmer, more wait and see protest.
    Therefore if we are to speak out and follow through I would suggest keeping it as local and intimate as possible, and then branching out while you have the support of a smaller, but proactive community.

  18. Radical authors such as George Orwell, Naomi Klein, James W. Loewen, Ursula K. Le Guin, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson did not have to swear to get their point across. Instead they were highly articulate and utilized their words to persuade their audiences. Consequently, Derrick Jensen’s use of swear words is unnecessary and detracts from his message. John Zerzan, another green anarchist is far more eloquent and doesn’t feel the need to include such degrading language yet Jensen receives far more press. On the other hand, Jensen is passionate and has great love for North America’s land-base and wishes to preserve it. If his swearing leads to more people saving the land-base, the ends justify the means. If his swearing does not lead to more people saving the land-base, it’d be more effective to adopt another approach.

  19. Mark Abell — When an author puts his stuff out in public, its hard to say how to appeal to all those who may read it. Then there is the issue of authenticity, using your own real voice rather than trying to assume a tone that you think will reach more people. After James Joyce and Henry Miller, there are not as many folks that will judge a writer’s content on the sole basis of a little strong language.

  20. Armida — I agree; small is beautiful. Read the article Small Change – Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted, On Malcolm Gladwell’s website (his piece for the New Yorker).


    A 50,000-Foot View Of The Global Crisis
    By Paul Chefurka

    08 August, 2011

    We are now well into a global crisis that may mark the end of this cycle of human civilization. In this note I present a summary of what’s going on as far as I can tell, as well as a scenario for how things might develop over the next 75 years or so.

    The issue is enormous, so an overview like this is inevitably going to be skimpy on details. This is, after all, not an academic journal. However, like every other fact in the known universe, those details are just a Google away…

    Because the global predicament manifests itself in some way in virtually every area of human endeavour, any useful approach to it must be massively cross-disciplinary. Fruitful areas for investigation include:

    Human Issues:

    Finance (especially the characteristics and behaviour of money)

    Energy and Resource Issues:

    Peak Oil and oil production in general
    Classical electrical generation (coal, nuclear and hydro power)
    Renewable electrical generation (wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and biomass)
    Biofuels (including ERoEI considerations)
    Rare Earth metal supplies
    Copper and Iron ore concentrations
    Environmental Issues:
    Ecology (especially related to carrying capacity and footprint)
    Climate change
    Ocean acidification
    Methane tipping points (permafrost and oceanic hydrates)
    Species extinctions (including oceanic overfishing)
    Deforestation and desertification
    Fresh water depletion
    Soil fertility depletion
    Pollution: chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive waste, eutrophication, oceanic debris fields etc.

    General issues:

    Complex adaptive systems and resilience theory
    Complexity theory and “Liebig’s Law of the Minimum”
    Genetic engineering (especially related to agriculture)
    Habitat loss due to human numbers/activity
    “Peak Food”

    Each of these 30 points is a field of study on its own. When we realize that “the global problem” is a result of interactions between them, we are faced with a combinatorial explosion of issues that must be considered even to understand what’s going on, let alone to make recommendations.

    Most of us will only have enough time and expertise to skim most of the fields I listed, but even a cursory examination reveals a web of interconnections that far exceeds any ability to intellectually “dominate” the problem in its entirely. It is enough, however, to allow this summary of our predicament to emerge.

    The situation is easier to understand if we look at it in three time frames: the Past, Present and Future.

    Looking at the Past involves trying to determine, as honestly and deeply as possible, the origins of the problem, its evolution over time, and the reasons for that evolution.

    The Present is, of course, a description of the current situation, both in terms of particular manifestations of the problem in various human domains as well as the interconnections and feedbacks between them. These interconnections may be between widely different domains, such as the role of neuro-psychology in the adoption of biofuels.

    The Future should be considered in two ways: what is possible and what is probable. When assessing future actions, we should always keep the past in mind: how did we get into this fix in the first place, and how should that inform our response to it? As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    Hold on tight, here we go…

    The Past:

    >> Evolution has given human beings a common set of psychological characteristics rooted in our brain structure. They have been modelled by Dr. Paul MacLean as the “Triune Brain”, which is a useful framework for understanding fundamental human behaviour patterns. These patterns include such behaviours as dominance, submission, competition, cooperation, altruism, xenophobia and our herding instinct (aka “group-think”). It also hints at the reasons why most human decisions are non-rational. These neuro-psychological qualities also give us a “hyperbolic discount function” in which distant, abstract threats are heavily discounted relative to immediate, tangible threats – regardless of the relative levels of existential threat involved.

    >> Human culture is largely determined by the physical situation that exists at any particular place and time – specifically the food and water supply, material resource availability, and the climate. Culture is our structural response to those conditions, as mediated by our neuro-psychology. As conditions change, so does our culture.

    >> Human population, our culture and our impact on the environment were all relatively stable from the first appearance of Homo sapiens 150,000 years ago until about 10,000 years ago.

    >> Human numbers and environmental impact began to increase dramatically 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture. The reason we developed agriculture at that time is open to speculation, but it probably had something to do with changing conditions following the last ice age.

    >> The development of agriculture was also followed by a significant development of technology (in its broadest sense) that permitted people to manipulate their environment more easily and intensively.

    >> The invention of writing about 5,000 years ago permitted the cross-generational storage and accumulation of knowledge, assisting the development and dissemination of technology.

    >> The development of money, also about 5,000 years ago, decoupled the concept of value from the activity that actually generated the value. The concept of value was largely transferred to the money itself.

    >> The next major upward break in human numbers and activity began about 200 years ago with the widespread adoption of fossil fuels. Since 1800 our population has grown from one billion to seven billion. Over 85% of that increase has come since the adoption of oil as our civilization’s keystone energy resource around 1900.

    The Present:

    There are of course many symptoms of the global problem, but these are representative:

    >> Climate change due to CO2 emissions from fossil fuels is probably the most significant existential threat humanity faces today. Climate change is altering weather patterns, causing physical damage though extreme weather events, and is increasingly disrupting rainfall and food production in various regions.

    >> Soil fertility is plummeting world-wide.

    >> Fresh water extraction from long-term and fossil aquifer storage is increasing to support the intensification of agriculture. Water tables are sinking around the world.

    >> We may have already lost the oceans, because of a combination of over-fishing, acidification, temperature changes, and pollution from plastic waste and agricultural runoff. Food fish species exploited by humans are near collapse and the entire food chain is showing signs of disruption (e.g. jellyfish population explosions).

    >> Desertification and deforestation are continuing largely unchecked around the world.

    >> Species are going extinct at a very rapid rate, from a combination of habitat loss due to human activity, climate change and pervasive pollution.

    >> The human food supply is showing signs of peaking due to climate change and increasing input costs.

    >> Many genomes of agricultural species of plants and animals have been streamlined to such an extent that the resilience of the stocks is now in question.

    >> We hit Peak Oil around 2006. Global crude oil production has been on a plateau since late 2004 (7 years now) despite massive upward excursions in the price.

    >> The world economy is in a continuing recession caused by a combination of human factors (excessive complexity and loss of control) and a tightening of resource inputs – especially oil. The symptoms vary from place to place, but the underpinnings are global.

    The Future:

    The following points constitute a scenario based on my reading, that I believe becomes increasingly probable as the time horizon is pushed out. Take this as a 75 year scenario.

    >> Climate change will not be ameliorated by international agreement. This is due to the cooperation problems identified in the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” game, national and corporate self-interest, a lack of urgency due to the hyperbolic discount function mentioned above, and the complete lack of any realistic substitute for fossil fuels.

    >> The general replacement of declining oil supplies by biofuels will not succeed due to the low ERoEI of such fuels.

    >> The global impact of Peak Oil will be made worse as producing nations retain more of their declining oil output to satisfy domestic demand. This will drain the international oil market of most supplies by 2040 or so.

    >> Over the next 25 years the decline in oil exports will trigger repeated rises in world oil prices. Those prices will in turn trigger waves of economic instability, with the prices falling during recessions/depressions and surging again during attempted recoveries.

    >> The amount of capital available for new equipment manufacturing and infrastructure maintenance and development will decline in a stair-step fashion during the repeated recessions, as the global debt bubble implodes.

    >> Nuclear power will not be developed any further because of public resistance due to the perceived risk. Some exceptions may occur in autocratic, centrally planned economies (esp. Russia and China).

    >> While much renewable power will be installed in some places, in global terms renewable power will not save the day. This will be because of the lack of capital, the huge disparity between current renewable generating capacity and power needs, the inability to upgrade or even maintain national electrical grids, and the difficulty in addressing some transportation problems with electricity.

    >> Most new electrical generation capacity will be fuelled by natural gas and coal.

    >> There will be spreading electrical grid breakdowns as poorly-maintained infrastructure fails.

    >> The human food supply will fail to keep pace with population growth, probably starting within the next two to five years. Despite international aid, famines will begin to spread out of sub-Saharan Africa into the rest of that continent and Asia. Pockets of starvation will begin to appear in developed nations over the next decade or two.

    >> International tensions will rise over access rights to water, oil and gas. Regional and civil wars will become more common.

    >> Populations will panic, and demand strong protective measures from their governments. This will result in an increase in repressive, bellicose authoritarian regimes. Asymmetric warfare will increase.

    >> The use of transportation to move food from consuming to producing regions will become increasingly difficult, unreliable and expensive. This will cause a re-localization of food production, but some regions will not have enough land, water or skills – or a suitable climate – to permit the replacement of imported food supplies.

    >> Sanitation infrastructure will suffer for the same reason as electrical grids – the progressive lack of capital for maintenance and refurbishment. Sanitation failures will trigger disease outbreaks.

    >> Fertility rates and birth rates are likely to plummet world-wide over the next 30 years, due to the same influences seen in Russia from 1987 to 1993 during the break-up of the Soviet Union. These changes will largely be driven by personal choice rather than centralized planning and legislation.

    >> Mortality rates will begin to climb somewhat later, due to food supply problems and the regional spread of communicable “breakdown” diseases like cholera, typhoid and dysentery. The spread of diseases will be aided by the breakdown of local and regional sanitation and health care systems.

    >> Population growth will slow faster than the UN currently projects. World population may reach a peak of between 7 and 8 billion between 2030 and 2040, and then begin to decline. The speed of the decline is unknowable. The world population will begin to stabilize as it drops below two billion.

    >> The world’s political landscape will undergo massive changes. In some cases there will be fragmentation as regional populations secede or are increasingly isolated by traditional geographic barriers (mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans and deserts). In other cases there will be amalgamations as wars of conquest are fought over resource access rights.

    I do not believe, based on what I have learned, that new technological developments offer any hope for escaping this scenario. Much of the possibility for technological development hinges on the availability of capital and oil, both of which will be in increasingly short supply in the coming decades.

    Some technological developments will cushion the shocks in some places. For instance the OECD may be able to make use of new low-energy or renewable technologies. However, the probability that such changes will penetrate deeply enough into Africa and Asia to prevent catastrophe is, in my estimation, vanishingly small. And in the end, the entropic forces at work may overrun even the most technologically sophisticated regions.

    I do not support the use of genetic engineering or biotechnology to address the food supply problem. In my opinion the risks are too great and the probability of success is too low. Nor do I support the further development of nuclear power, for similar reasons.

    In any event, what we face is not, at its heart, a technology problem amenable to an engineering solution. What we have is an ecological problem. We are in an overshoot situation relative to the ecological underpinnings that are required to support life, as well as having drawn down most of the accessible resources on which our civilization’s operation now depends. Our numbers and our needs have filled our ecological niche, which we have expanded to include the entire planet.

    The good news is that human extinction is extremely unlikely. This is a very large planet, and we are a very resilient species. There is evidence that we rebounded from the Toba bottleneck when our species was reduced to at most a few tens of thousands of individuals. Barring a cosmic accident, humans will be around for a long time. Our current civilization, though, is quite another matter. On that scale we are about out of time, resources and options.

    So what do we do about it? It’s not in our nature to simply roll over and give up – our survival instinct is, after all, built into the oldest reptilian part of our brains.

    There will be some governments that will come to their senses in time, and have the courage to institute helpful measures. Unfortunately, institutional responses will usually be reactive rather than proactive. The worse the situation becomes before they take action, the more likely it becomes that panic will cloud the decision-makers’ judgement, leading to short-sighted, mistaken and ultimately harmful policies.

    Most of the effective preparation for the coming changes will happen where it always does – at the individual level. This is already happening as people break free from the group-think of their cultures, wake up and realize what’s going on.

    This awakening is the source motivation that feeds all the small, local independent environmental and social-justice groups that are springing into being like antibodies throughout the infected bloodstream of our global culture. These groups are independently addressing local problems as diverse as water rights, education, local food production, environmental cleanup, social justice issues, home energy production, local currencies, cooperative housing and child care – the list is effectively endless.

    As these groups do their work, they also wake up many of those they come in contact with, to one degree or another. There may be over two million such groups in existence today, and there is one or more in every city on the planet. As far as I can tell their number is growing by about 30% per year. They are the true repository of hope in a gloomy landscape.

    “Big solutions” are what got us into our current predicament. I reject the notion that more big solutions will get us out. Instead I prefer to count on the boundless courage, compassion, and ingenuity of individuals. People like you.

    Paul Chefurka is a thinker who blogs at

  22. Dear Mike K,

    Here and elsewhere, you have put things so wonderfully well. It pleases me to agree with you wholeheartedly. As Churchill said, “This is not the end, not even the beginning of the end….” Perhaps we are looking ahead toward a new beginning. With such a prospect in mind, why do you think knowledgeable people collude to foster the deafening silence we ‘hear’ today whenever the unsustainable behavior of the human population is questioned? Why the elective mutism while the “apex predator” of all predators on Earth irresponsibly destroys its competition, relentlessly disrupts global ecosystems, recklessly dissipates natural resources and resolutely continues to threaten the very future of human well being and environmental health with its rampantly expanding global overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities. If 7 billion human beings can do the things we are doing now in our planetary home, things that are known to be unsustainable based upon the best available scientific evidence, what do you imagine 9 billion people in 2050 and perhaps 10 billion people in 2100 will be doing?

    I believe the Orion blogs and other similarly positioned ‘waves’ of intellectual honesty and moral courage are going to make a difference that make a difference, even on our watch, the rich and pwerful notwithstanding. Perhaps we are witnessing here the emergence of compassionate intelligence, strong enough to ovecome the din of propaganda by the mass media. We have ‘waves to ride’ in our efforts to share certain vital understandings: never in the course of human events are so few stealing so much from so many; political convenience, economical expediency, religious dogma, social suitability and cultural presciptions are sanctioned everywhere; greed drives the unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities of the human species and rules the world absolutely in our time.

    More waves, more riders, are needed fast.

  23. Stop bitching and do something creative and useful.

  24. @Mark Abell

    How can you read a Jensen article and your main concern is “swear words.” Especially a Jensen article primarily concerned with free speech! Totally, completely, unfucking believable.

  25. If only the global predicament, the ominously looming and enlarging threat to everything that really matters was a laughing matter, that would be the best thing. If only the human family was not primary inducers and drivers of this colossal predicament, and therefore principally responsible for it; if only the many too many leaders who understand precisely what it is that we are discussing now here did not willfully deny science and consciously choose silence over speech. That too, would be the best thing.

    Thanks to all for speaking out, and for your willingness to consider the ideas that are presented here. More than ever before and most of all, I fear that the silence instilled in many too many by the greedmongers who rule the world in our time is leading to the destruction of everything each one of us is striving somehow, in any way at all, to protect and preserve.

  26. I hope Mike K is wrong when he says that “solitary individuals awakening will be inadequate to challenge the system.” In my experience the grass-roots groups he prefers lead only to ineffective, soon to disband cliques, or mindless dogmatists such as the Tea Party. And aren’t both still within the system? Both rely on the human social need to band together in groups, large or small, which can become very comfortable. Think of religion! But to be truly an individual is hard and thankless, one’s personal challenge to the system going unacknowledged. A few modest suggestions:
    Never set foot in a McDonalds; learn to cook, and cook whole foods, preferably locally sourced.
    Never set foot in a Walmart.
    Don’t own jewelry, or any item of clothing over $30.
    Don’t go to the movies, clubs, sporting events, even good restaurants. If you must, watch sports on TV.
    If possible, don’t live in cities.
    Etc., etc.
    Perhaps a hard life, yes, but think of the time saved for enjoying Nature, good reading, and listening to Bach or Bartok! And nobody will own you.

  27. Robert H. — Thanks for your insightful comments. You remind me of Kierkegaard’s persistent refrain: Be an individual! Excellent advice, but difficult to achieve in a world based on mindless conformity. The essential purpose of the group process I have in mind is to facilitate the growth of individuation in its participants. This is radically different from your prior experience of groups, which you rightly repudiate.

    Most of us desperately need a second education, whose basic purpose is to undo the false and deluding consciousness produced by our first education. To join with others similarly purposed can be very helpful, if not essential. The consciousness raising groups that played a part in the feminist awakening in America are an example of this liberating function of small leaderless groups.

    What I am saying is that as wonderful as each isolated individual awakening and transformation is, we need a way to foster a more widespread process to catalyze this essential growth. AA is another example of how this can be accomplished while enhancing participant’s individuality and real freedom, rather than merely imposing a new, supposedly better, conditioning.

  28. Our current system not only exploits and steals from the poor (both countries and individuals), but, more importantly, steals from our childrens’ future, both by using more than our fair share of resources and by polluting the rest.

  29. Comment posted by Orion on behalf of Robert Huebsch….

    Mike K — Appreciate your reply, although as an agnostic of the 99 & 44/100ths percent atheist variety, I’d rather remind you of someone like, say, Thoreau, than the theist Kierkegaard. In turn, you remind me of Margaret Mead, and her “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Believe I read Mead and that quote around age 26, and took her idea as axiomatic, for a long time. Now I’m 76, and afraid that age and experience –and vastly more reading– has put a crimp in more than one of my youthful enthusiasms. Referring to the two groups you mention, I’m happy that women have made the strides they have, and we may see a woman president in the near future. The question is, would that make much difference? It seems naive to think that it would. She could be another Margaret Thatcher! I’m happy for any alcoholic AA has helped, but is there less alcoholism? And is there any hard evidence that small groups of whatever stripe have made lasting substantive positive differences on a national scale? In this country especially it seems that only a single charismatic leader, an FDR or LBJ or Martin Luther King Jr are able to achieve that, dragging the rest of us along kicking and screaming. (Alas, the current occupant of the White House appears to be clueless.) Besides, aren’t there just too many Republicans in possession of just too much money, hallowed now by “Citizens United?” And, well, Texas. It’s painful to have ended up such a cynic, but it’s very hard to see how, unless the negatives of human nature, of our primate heritage, are somehow tamed, the present situation with the dire consequences we all bemoan won’t continue apace, and even quicken. Which to my mind brings up the last, great, Final Taboo, concerning which the “silence” runs deepest, even among people as bright as most of you. Eugenics, anyone? I sometimes think –admittedly usually in more despairing moments– that if we want to survive, and live on a still decently habitable planet, then a massive, all-out, no-holds-barred effort to develop an ethical, morally acceptable eugenics is the only answer. We’re using it on soybeans and corn. We may end by having to use it on ourselves.

  30. Robert H. — You wrote “…a massive, all-out, no-holds-barred effort to develop an ethical, morally acceptable eugenics is the only answer.”

    And I thought that misguided fascist idea died with Hitler and his gang. Apparently it is still kept alive in the minds of some.

  31. Mike K – I had ended the original version of my last comment with “I hope no one will taint this discussion with a knee-jerk reference to Hitler.” Then I omitted it, because I thought most commentators here would be above that. Sad to see I was wrong. By the way, Margaret Mead in her championing of small groups was referring to “thoughtful” people. Have you really thought about eugenics?

  32. It is not a surprise to me that anyone peddling the discredited ideas of eugenics would be embarrassed by a mention of the Nazis. The creation of a race of supermen by any name is an evil and inhuman philosophy. It is fascinating, if repugnant, to consider the thought processes of those who would draw up the criteria for their ubermenschen. It leads one however into dark reaches of the fascist mentality best left unexplored.

  33. Mike K – Evidently you cannot think of eugenics except in terms of the Nazi atrocities. One last two-cents-worth: Is it intelligent to dismiss an idea out of hand because in the past unethical, morally unacceptable versions of it have been misused? Most particularly by a misguided sociopath? Incidentally, the last thing I’d like to see in the future of us human mammals is a “race” of “supermen.”

  34. The ethical, social, scientific, political, and spiritual questions posed by any program to selectively breed human beings are immediately evident to most persons capable of intelligent thought. How anyone could believe that this harmful and ineffective process is the answer to our manifold world problems is puzzling to me. So, maybe it would serve you and I Robert just to agree to disagree. I am sorry to have taken such a harsh attitude of rejection of this set of ideas, but in truth I have little sympathy for it, and would do everything in my power to combat it if it should ever be necessary to do so, which I don’t think will happen because most folks have rejected these schemes long since.

  35. I’ve broached the controversial subject of eugenics here, and said what I wanted to say. Mike K has replied, expressing his view –and emotion!– in strong language. I’ve waited a while. . . is there no one else interested?

  36. Dear Robert Huebsch, Mike K and Scott Walker,

    Please note that eugenics is anathema to me. The idea of human beings with feet of clay acting as if we are gods cannot ever be construed as a correct thing to be doing, as I see things. Having made these statements, let me say to Robert Huebsch that if we set aside the practice of eugenics there is a lot in what you report that I will likely agree with.

    There is a set of questions I would like to pose now here, to everyone in the Orion community.

    “WHY?” Why would a generation turn a paradise into an inferno? Can malignant narcissism, pathological arrogance, extreme foolishness and outrageous avarice of a tiny dishonest and immoral minority of the human community do it? Can such a thing be done so fast, before our eyes, by ‘the brightest and best’, “the smartest guys in the room”? Is there deceit and collusion to be located among the self-proclaimed masters of the universe holding decision-making authority at the top of the global political economy? Has a single not-so-great generation of power and greed mongers ‘accomplished’ all that? If so, then that is a force to be reckoned with soon, before it is too late, is it not?

    What do you think?



  37. Steven Earl Salmony asks “Why?” and poses the usual questions. And, frankly, displays the orthodox view of eugenics, ala Mike K. I’m about to leave town for a little R&R, but will try to make a further comment or two later. Meanwhile, all who are interested might benefit by reading up on the latest relevant science.

  38. We can readily see what ‘the brightest and best’ as well as “the smartest guys in the room” are doing on our watch. These self-proclaimed masters of the universe are assuring their ‘inalienable rights’ to reprehensibly internalize profits while externalizing costs; rapaciously overconsume and hoard finite natural resources; relentlessly overproduce unnecessary stuff that pollute the environment; and recklessly condone the overpopulation of our planetary home, let us hope human beings with feet of clay are wise enough to recall the words of “The Prince” and to respond ably to human-induced global ecological challenges as we observe what is being done to the “design space” we call Earth, because future human well being and environmental health are being put at risk here and now. For the sake of children everywhere, another path to the future, one that is sustainable, must be taken while there is still time.

    “The Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them, there is no longer a remedy.”
    —Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter Three

  39. Nice quote Steve. It describes exactly where we stand today. My fear is that we may have already passed the point of no return. But my hope tells me that we won’t know for sure until we have done everything we can think of to avert the burgeoning world disaster.

  40. Long before Machiavelli, Ovid foresaw the danger of our cleverness:

    Long ago…

    No one tore the ground with plowshares

    Or parceled out the land

    Or swept the sea with dipping oars —

    The shore was the world’s end.

    Clever human nature, victim of your inventions,

    Disastrously creative,

    Why cordon cities with towered walls?

    Why arm for war?

    Ovid, Amores, Book 3


    Just back from a few days out and away, enjoying some quiet time in a forested area where little evidence of human occupation seems apparent. A great lift for the psyche, and one I wish everyone could avail themselves of, especially city dwellers.

    When I come across wording that strikes me as unnecessarily vehement, I wonder what nerve has been touched there. Often it’s the one attached to our ever-burgeoning human egos. Perhaps even as far back as when we became “sapiens” we’ve had a desperate project of convincing ourselves that we are not animals. Not kin to the other creatures with which we share the planet but something else, different in kind, and possessed of a superiority so great we take it as license to treat the others, and this beautiful earth, as we will. Sometimes I think this attitude, sheer hubris, is the underlying source of ninety percent of our troubles. This is the basic denial, and we see the effects, so well spelled out by many of you here.

    It’s a shame we have only the word “eugenics,” with all the ugly freight it carries, but I know of no other. Somehow “neuro-physiological reprogramming” sounds as bad. I’m a classical musician not a scientist, but have long been fascinated to read in the sciences, happy to discover that when scientists themselves, often leaders in their fields, author books for the layman they write very well, explaining subtle and complex ideas clearly. In recent years they have spelled out the entire human genome, identifying numerous genes and their actions and effects, and there have been and no doubt will continue to be many surprises. Long strands of code between the recognized genes–once thought of as “junk DNA”– turn out to have purposes as well, often acting as triggers, turning the genes on and off. In the not too distant future it may be possible to actually cure genetically based diseases like sickle-cell, MS, Tay-sachs and many others, and ultimately perhaps Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, even schizophrenia and Autism. How wonderful that would be, and think of the lessening of suffering.

    But what of other human ills: homophobia, xenophobia, racism, mindless violence, the ever-ready willingness to make war. These have been tragic constants throughout human history, and thus must have a certain genetic basis as well, our evolutionary heritage, for good yes, but all too often for ill. If it’s possible to affect even partial cures for these diseases in an ethical, morally acceptable fashion (incidentally, caveats I’ve been careful to always include here but which have apparently gone unnoticed) I fail to understand why the attempt should not be made. Some degree of amelioration, if that’s all that can be achieved would be wonderful, and think of the immense lessening of suffering. One thing we do know about human nature: if a thing can be done, sooner or later it will be. My point has been why not make it a priority, since it’s obvious now –as many of you have clearly articulated– that time is rapidly running out.

    It should be obvious that this has nothing to do with “selective breeding of a master race.” Nor has it anything to do with the thinking of many “futurists” like Ray Kursweil who speak of “trans-humans,” “post-organic beings,” or the “singularity.” We could all use a little humility!

    Thanks to Mike K and Steven Earl Salmony for your further comments, but I’m disappointed that no readers who are scientists have come forth, or at least those with a more solid grounding in genetics than I have, capable of continuing the discussion more directly. I’m new to Orion; perhaps this just isn’t the right forum.

    It’s been interesting, but now let me get back to my piano. Cheers all.


  42. Robert H. — Surely the hubris you rightly deride must include the delusion that humans at our primitive level of development have the essential wisdom to understand what messing with our precious genetic heritage will ultimately result in? After all, our scientists have such a wonderful record of controlling for the good of all the deep secrets discovered in the physical realm. Let’s just trust them to keep safe the deeper secrets of life. That old story of Pandora’s box was only made up to scare children, wasn’t it? It couldn’t possibly be that we are in way beyond our depth, could it?

  43. Mike K – I don’t share your pessimistic view concerning science, or your optimistic view that we flawed humans can, just as we are, deal adequately with the global problems we face. The first strikes me as myopic, and the second, given the hard facts, as probably too little too late. I suspect we may actually share many views in common, but are on opposite poles in this regard. I’m optimistic about science, especially medical science, yet sadly pessimistic when it comes to human nature. So we can,as you say, agree to diagree. And this will have to be my last post here.

  44. Robert H. — I have a very positive and optimistic view of Real Science, and a very negative and pessimistic view of Scientism and Prostituted Science. As for people, I am very critical of where most people are coming from now, and a very hopeful attitude towards our real potentials.

    As for your ceasing to post here, I will miss your voice. The more viewpoints of whatever kind we share, the more informed our choices can be. I appreciate the courage of those who share, risking criticism or misunderstanding. I believe that in our willingness to dialogue lies the hope of the future.

  45. Ever wanted to have dinner with Derrick Jensen, discuss philosophy and resistance over the phone or webcam, or pore over the original manuscripts of masterpieces such as Endgame, Dreams, or What We Leave Behind? This is your chance! Help raise money for Deep Green Resistance and enter the raffle to win fabulous prizes! Ticket prices are not too high.

Commenting on this item is closed.