The Tyranny of Entitlement

I’M CONTINUALLY stunned by how many seemingly sane people believe you can have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Perpetual economic growth and its cousin, limitless technological expansion, are beliefs so deeply held by so many in this culture that they often go entirely unquestioned. Even more disturbing is the fact that these beliefs are somehow seen as the ultimate definition of what it is to be human: perpetual economic growth and limitless technological expansion are what we do.

Some of those who believe in perpetual growth are out-and-out nut jobs, like the economist and former White House advisor Julian Simon, who said, “We have in our hands now — actually in our libraries- — the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years.” And showing that, when it comes to U.S. economic policies, insanity is never out of season, are yet more nut jobs, like Lawrence Summers, who has served as chief economist at the World Bank, U.S. secretary of the treasury, president of Harvard, and as President Obama’s director of the National Economic Council, and who said, “There are no . . . limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind at any time in the foreseeable future. . . . The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.”

Others are a bit more nuanced in their nut-jobbery. They may acknowledge that, yes, physical limits might possibly exist, but they also believe that if you just slap the word sustainable in front of the phrase “economic growth,” then you can still somehow have continued growth on a finite planet, perhaps through so-called “soft” or “service” or “high-tech” economies, or through nifty “green” innovations like a really neat nanotech gizmo that can be woven into your clothes and when you dance it generates enough electricity to power your iPod, ignoring the facts that people still need to eat, that humans have overshot carrying capacity and are systematically destroying the natural world, and that even something as groovy as an iPod requires mining, industrial, and energy infrastructures, all of which are functionally unsustainable.

Alongside the nut jobs, there are an awful lot of people who probably just don’t think about it: they simply absorb the perspective of the newscasters who say, “Economic growth, good; economic stagnation, bad.” And of course if you care more about the economic system than life on the planet, this is true. If, however, you care more about life than the economic system, it is not quite so true, because this economic system must constantly increase production to grow, and what, after all, is production? It is the conversion of the living to the dead, the conversion of living forests into two-by-fours, living rivers into stagnant pools for generating hydroelectricity, living fish into fish sticks, and ultimately all of these into money. And what, then, is gross national product? It is a measure of this conversion of the living to the dead. The more quickly the living world is converted into dead products, the higher the GNP. These simple equations are complicated by the fact that when GNP goes down, people often lose jobs. No wonder the world is getting killed.

Once a people have committed (or enslaved) themselves to a growth economy, they’ve pretty much committed themselves to a perpetual war economy, because in order to maintain this growth, they will have to continue to colonize an ever-wider swath of the planet and exploit its inhabitants. I’m sure you can see the problem this presents on a finite planet. But in the short run, there is good news for those committed to a growth economy (and bad news for everyone else), which is that by converting your landbase into weapons (for example, cutting down trees to build warships), you gain a short-term competitive advantage over those peoples who live sustainably, and you can steal their land and overuse it to fuel your perpetual-growth economy. As for those whose land you’ve stolen, well, you can either massacre these newly conquered peoples, enslave them, or (most often forcibly) assimilate them into your growth economy. Usually it’s some combination of all three. The massacre of the bison, to present just one example, was necessary to destroy the Plains Indians’ traditional way of life and force them to at least somewhat assimilate (and become dependent upon the growth economy instead of the land for their very lives). The bad news for those committed to a growth economy is that it’s essentially a dead-end street: once you’ve overshot your home’s carrying capacity, you have only two choices: keep living beyond the means of the planet until your culture collapses; or proactively elect to give up the benefits you gained from the conquest in order to save your culture.

A perpetual-growth economy is not only insane (and impossible), it is also by its very essence abusive, by which I mean that it’s based on the same conceit as more personal forms of abuse. It is, in fact, the macroeconomic enshrinement of abusive behavior. The guiding principle of abusive behavior is that the abuser refuses to respect or abide by limits or boundaries put up by the victim. As Lundy Bancroft, former codirector of Emerge, the nation’s first therapeutic program for abusive men, writes, “Entitlement is the abuser’s belief that he has a special status and that it provides him with exclusive rights and privileges that do not apply to his partner. The attitudes that drive abuse can largely be summarized by this one word.”

The relevance of this word applies on the larger social scale. Of course humans are a special species to whom a wise and omnipotent God has granted the exclusive rights and privileges of dominion over this planet that is here for us to use. And of course even if you subscribe to the religion of Science instead of Christianity, humans possess special intelligence and abilities that grant us exclusive rights and privileges to work our will on the world that is still here for us to use. Growth economies are essentially unchecked and will push past any boundaries set up by anyone other than the perpetrators: certainly the fact that indigenous cultures already are living on this or that piece of ground has never stopped those in power from expanding their economy; nor is the death of the oceans stopping their exploitation; nor is the heating of the planet stopping the exploitation; nor is the grinding poverty of the dispossessed.

And the truth is, you cannot talk abusers out of their behavior. Perpetrators of domestic violence are among the most intractable of all who commit violence, so intractable, in fact, that in 2000 the United Kingdom removed funding for therapy sessions designed to treat men guilty of domestic violence (putting the money instead into shelters and other means of keeping women safe from their attackers). Lundy Bancroft also says this: “An abuser doesn’t change because he feels guilty or gets sober or finds God. He doesn’t change after seeing the fear in his children’s eyes or feeling them drift away from him. It doesn’t suddenly dawn on him that his partner deserves better treatment. Because of his self-focus, combined with the many rewards he gets from controlling you, an abuser changes only when he feels he has to, so the most important element in creating a context for change in an abuser is placing him in a situation where he has no other choice.”

How do we stop the abusers who perpetrate a perpetual-growth economy? Seeing oiled pelicans and burned sea turtles won’t move them to stop. Nor will hundred-degree days in Moscow. We can’t stop them by making them feel guilty. We can’t stop them by appealing to them to do the right thing. The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.

Derrick Jensen lives and writes in Northern California.


  1. The Singularity will give us no choice. Humans will no longer be the dominant species on earth. AI won’t love us or hate us; superhuman intelligence may have goals that are inconsistent with human survival and prosperity. We will become the pests…enjoy the life you have while you can.

  2. I see lots of humans trying to live a healthy and happy life.They are doing their best to teach their children, to love and to pass on a legacy to future generations. You seem to suggest that we should just crawl into a cave and die. I am very glad that I don’t look at life through your depressing set of lenses and am sorry for you that you do.

  3. Lafarge wants to put up a hazardous/toxic incinerator not far from Tulsa.I was trying to think of what I could say that would make the Dept of Environmental quality tell them “NO”…Maybe I will just read this to them and see if they catch on.

  4. An arrow right to the bullseye. @tahoe165, I saw no such suggestion. Jensen writes a very uncomfortable truth in the hope of inspiring humankind NOT to give up, but rather to wise up.

    Dave Gardner
    Producing the documentary
    GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth

  5. Thank you for clarity with a very difficult subject. America’s, and maybe the world’s guiding light is capitalism and growth. Both are powerful beasts that have consumed much of the Earth’s resources in one century. The allure of growth and capitalism could be likened to a very additive drug. The overwhelming power of entitlement and addiction does make for a formidable force, and maybe inevitable.

  6. The article ends with the comment that the abuser will stop because he has to. That is true of our materialistic civilization and its human population. It operates by irreversibly using limited natural capital at a high rate. That capital is now becoming scarce so the unsustainable ravishing cannot continue. Natural forces will ensure the abuser will stop. It matters not one iota that many humans have a belief in the possibility of continuing economic growth. Reality will dictate the irrevocable devastation of our life support system and the associated senescence of our civilization.

  7. Very lazy argumentation. Summers may be wrong, but you need to actually care about the details. I think a lot of us are counting on “natural consequences” to force our economy to become sustainable- i.e. we’ll run out of oil and coal before we really remake the earth. I think it’s quite possible that economic growth could continue well beyond the point that my aesthetics would prefer, and that if we want to preserve a natural world, we’re going to have to convince a large majority that it’s worth preserving, and that a steady-state economy is preferable to the loss of the natural world. Because we may not bump up against hard limits that stop our expansion any time soon.

  8. I totally agree with the writer. The idea of growth is so ingrained in our culture that most people will think of this article as hogwash.
    What is wrong with things just settling down? Companies do not have to get bigger to succeed. It used to be ok to just maintain a steady profit margin but those days are gone.
    To Dan, we may never run out of coal but as we proceed to use it up, the mountains of Virginia will disappear and the environment will continue to degrade to the point that, who will want to live here anymore?

  9. “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    Yes Derrick… that is the big question… how to funnel the decisionmaking down to one, and only one, point – so that there are no other options. I personally don’t think it is achievable.

  10. Jensen makes a powerful argument against the “nut jobs” who advocate unlimited growth, and concludes that the only way to change them is to force them to change by removing their options. Closer to home are those of us choosing to read his article, many of whom agree that unlimited economic growth spells disaster. Despite our protest, we continue to participate in a system of material production, consumption and waste. Simon and Summers command respect because they express sentiments that square with what many humans wish were true. Rather than think of a scheme “to stop them” by making it “so they have no other choice” shouldn’t we instead contribute to a movement of modeling the change right now? What if we became the change we want to see in the world, paraphrasing Gandhi? What would it look like for you and me to live a stable state economy? If Jensen’s analogy holds, and I believe it does, then we should do as the British government has done, and set up shelters to protect and care for the abused. We should model lifestyles that are not dependent on and addicted to fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources. Assuming Jensen to be correct, the natural world will impose limits on the followers of Simon and Summers. Meanwhile, we should change our own ways, wean ourselves from our addictions and our abusive behaviors, declare ourselves to be in recovery, form a local support group – perhaps call it “takers anonymous”, and begin the difficult but rewarding task of living a different, more respectful, reality.

  11. We spend too much time worrying about how to convince the nut jobs of the impossibility and undesirability of growth. We spend too little time thinking about what kinds of collective action the rest of us need. I say collective because individual acts have relatively small, local impact, particularly on the forces arrayed against us. While the nut jobs are implacable, we have many doubters in the progressive community who are loath to indict the whole system, including the Democratic Party; many of these are dependent on the system and resist the ugly truth in front of their faces, trusting to “sustainability”, renewable energy and other liberal homilies of little import. What we need is a movement or third party that will take aim at the jugular of the whole consumer society by replacing anyone and everyone in public office who votes or works for a continuation of the growth status quo. Ironically the deficit-busters may be our best friends as they dismantle bloated government projects and spending. Let’s hope the recession continues long enough until the peak oil/climate change apocalypse happens, at which time growth will finally end. It won’t be a happy time; no one likes suffering. But unfortunately I see this as the only scenario, barring a massive citizen mobilization against consumption and growth. And don’t count on unions or liberals. We are on our own. Are we ready to get our act together?

  12. “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    This is referring to the abusive family member, a simplified analogy. Fortunately, we are all a part of this culture. I see innovative legislation as a way to move forward. I feel that teaching everyone strong critical thinking skills is the best possible offense here.

  13. In Zen Buddhism, a Koan is a seemingly impossible problem used to daunt the mind of a student or seeker of Enlightenment. The difficulty is that these riddles cannot be solved by the usual operations of mind. The solution can only be realized on a higher, transcendent level of knowing.

    Derrick Jensen confronts us with a vexing dilemma of the Zen type: “We can’t stop them by appealing to them to do the right thing. The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    DJ’s formulation of the problem brings us to a dead end. Those we wish to stop are by nature (according to the essay) impervious to reason and appeal to conscience or compassion. The only means to stop them would seem to be coercive force. Since the abusive use of force is what we are seeking to eliminate or go beyond, it would seem this puts us in a no-win situation, a total impasse.

    At this point, let me quote AJW: “Meanwhile, we should change our own ways, wean ourselves from our addictions and our abusive behaviors, declare ourselves to be in recovery, form a local support group – perhaps call it “takers anonymous”, and begin the difficult but rewarding task of living a different, more respectful, reality.”
    When I read this, it kinda took my breath away, it was so close to what I have been suggesting in these pages for several months now.

    The examples of this approach that inspire me are the early “Quakers”, and AA. These are both examples of what started as small groups, and grew to sizable movements having significant impacts on our culture. AA is about growing beyond addictions, and the Friends are about living more simply. These are both fundamental spiritual ideals that have great relevance for our current global crises. How to live better with less “stuff”. A movement growing out of ecological and peaceful egalitarian concerns could have major impact on our world. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of commited people can change the World; nothing else ever has.” (Probably not an exact quote.)

  14. “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”
    Derrick is correct. If each of us becomes a true conservative (a person who embraces the Conservation Principle of Energy and conserves resources) then the rabid destroyers of resources will find it increasingly difficult to continue their destructive activities. Note I am not employing the Anglo-American Industrial Revolution use of the resource symbol (1779) but rather its original meaning of a form rising again as in re-source.
    It would have been helpful if Derrick had better conserved the potential of the science, Christianity and dominion symbols. Each was stripped of its associations of personal stewardship, reflecting and enabling the excesses of the Industrial Revolution too. By failing to care for these symbols he has supported the non-conservatives he rails against.
    We can only stop them if each of us stops using cars, jets and other wasteful uses of minerals; limits our procreation to one or no children; invests in democratic community media; and refuses to engage in usury. This is not easy but countless millions of people have proved with their joyful lives that it is possible.
    Perhaps Derrick will write essay on how the evils of usury drives our most unsustainable behaviour and language sometime. Meanwhile you may find this website helpful At least we can enjoy hope in speaking a more sustainable language together.

  15. “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    Derrick, once again, stops just short of what he is truly saying: that we must stop these “nut jobs” by any means necessary. Of course, as Mike K points out, this puts us into a no-win or dead-end situation because we are forced to take on the worst qualities of the “enemy”.

    Mike K and AJW are far more perceptive than Jensen (probably because they are not trapped, like DJ, in their own unresolved cycle of personal violence).

    Just as the simplistic (and ultimately counter-productive) response to domestic violence is to put all the perpetrators behind bars and expand the world’s largest prison/industrial complex – isolating or eliminating the “nut jobs” (doesn’t that mean most of modern society?) is about as foolish and insane as the idea of perpetual growth.

    The problem in this analysis is that there is nothing insane about our current paradigm (though it may appear so to those who have at least partially transcended it). The Earth-Mother, Father-God, and Techno-Science paradigms were natural progressions as human ability to manipulate the environment grew.

    While each successive paradigm won out to some extent by expansion, conquest and coercion, they became dominant mostly by gradually becoming perceived as more relevant to human society. An old paradigm rarely gets obliterated but is rather co-opted and superceded by what appears to be a “better” one.

    If we perceive the proponents of the current dysfunctional paradigm (which includes, to some extent, all of us) as insane or evil then we leave ourselves no choice but to confront, challenge, isolate or eliminate them. We imprison ourselves into a box with one exit and we become the next conquerors.

    But if we understand the current paradigm as a necessary but no longer functional part of human evolution, then the sane solution is to create another, more functional, paradigm. Only when it becomes widely perceived as “better”, because we are joyfully living it while others suffer, will it become the next dominant paradigm and the previous one will fall away.

    This is the higher solution to the Zen koan and requires transcending current paradigmatic adversarial, either-or thinking. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

  16. We, the people… the people of this world, who have ‘had it’ with the injustice, the killing, the lies, the abuse, the hunger….are in the majority. Soon we will use new yardsticks to live by. We will provide no choice for the promoters of the ‘old style’, by refusing to participate in the old paradigm. Then they will have no markets, ergo no profits. Therefore they have no choice: Change, or die off. But WE have to do it. The changing, the refusing to play, the acting from the heart, not from fear – we can do MUCH more with a sharing attitude ( as the ‘barbarians’ of the old North America have long practiced: ‘All my relations’…) It is amazing how flexible humans are, when they want it bad enough. Life can be joyful without many things we now THINK we need. Take the advice of America’s greatest bumper sticker: ‘Live simply – so others can simply live.’ That can be the beginning of worldwide change. Do it.

  17. It is fascinating that all this discussion is anthropocentric. It conveys the impression that humans are in control of what happens. That is a delusion that has been handed down for generations. The fact of the matter is that humans only make decisions about which of the possible materialistic operations are activated. Humans decided to make use of fossil fuels but natural forces governed the release of the energy to power industrial machinery and to release the greenhouse gases that have instigated rapid climate change. Humans cannot decide to stop climate change because there is no geophysical means they can call upon the augment what occurs naturally at an evolutionary rate. We made the decisions to let the fossil fuel genie out of its bottle yet there are no means we can call upon to put it back in!

  18. The huge level of commenting on Jensen’s other fabulous columns has dissuaded me in the past, but after world events in the past month or so, I finally have something to say:

    WIKILEAKS may have something to do with the answer.

    Its ability to topple governments and institutions is unmatched in history. I’ve followed it with vigor, so if anyone wants to converse with me about how to move forward, please email.

  19. What does not engender optimism in the outflowering of a new paradigm is the endearing naivité of those who suggest a third political party or “innovative” legislation, or those who overestimate the power of the internet in such manifestations as Wikileaks.

    Wikileaks has helped reveal some of the secrets of the power structure but the result is mostly embarrassment. For all his entertainment value, Julian Assange has not toppled one government or any mainstream institution, nor is he likely to.

    Faith in the transformative power of the internet is just the latest version of our idolatry of technology.

  20. Riversong is right on the tech fix; but I also believe Jensen is not suggesting..”any means possible.” I think his position is more nuanced than that, but perhaps I am mistaken

  21. Sandy,

    Every Jensen article in Orion stops just short of the message he’s repeated in all his books and interviews:

    “I want to bring down civilization…I will do whatever it takes to get there.”
    Interview with No Compromise, 2005

    “Before we can speak of peace, we have to speak honestly of stopping, by any and all means possible, those who have declared war on the world and on us. Those who destroy wont stop because we ask nicely. There is only one language that they understand, and everyone here knows what it is. Yet we don’t speak of it openly.”
    – A Language Older than Words

    Zoe Blunt, referring to Jensen’s book Endgame: the Problem of Civilization:

    “In his most recent book, deep ecology author Derrick Jensen compares western civilization to an abusive family, where violence is a constant threat and the victims feel helpless and dependent on the abuser. He urges his readers to bring down this culture by any means necessary. His ideas are controversial, and Jensen confesses he gets ‘hate mail from pacifists’.”

    I’m one of those “pacifists” who Jensen believes, in his distorted version of reality, hates him when all I’ve ever done is point to his dysfunctional personality and dangerous ideas. For speaking the truth about Jensen, however, I’ve been repeatedly savaged by his acolytes, including here on these Orion dialogs.

    “When my books first hit the market, my first thought was: ‘Good. Now these gullible youth will see the true light, the primeval way – and the world will cower in awe of my intellectual abilities.’ My second thought was: ‘Oh, crap…if this book rockets to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, untold trees will be mercilessly slaughtered for printing purposes.’ As it turns out, I had little to worry about. Nobody bought my books. Apparently the world just isn’t ready for my genius & guile, my brilliant banter.”

  22. Love the article.
    Inspiring as always.
    When your loved ones, your land, your way of life and your own life are being attacked and raped, I see no other option than to defend yourself.

  23. OK Robert! He does say s you point out. But he really does nothing to carry out that call. So, perhaps we need to look at a different way to understand it. Or, alternatively, just call him confused or a pussy!

  24. “But he really does nothing to carry out that call.”

    Which makes Jensen a self-righteous hypocrite. He publicly supports eco-activist groups like ELF and ALF, and says he wakes up every morning wondering whether he should blow up a dam and that the only book worth sending to a politician is one that explodes – yet he never acts on his professed beliefs. He hopes that others might be inspired to do what he doesn’t have the courage to do himself (or is smart enough to avoid doing).

    Jensen says “Books are part of the problem: this strange belief that a tree has nothing to say until it is murdered, its flesh pulped, and then people stain this flesh with words.” – interview from the Ecologist, March 2004

    And yet he makes his living writing and selling books and flying around the country talking about how we should be destroying the transportation infrastructure.

    Jensen is a self-confessed victim of abusive family violence and has grown into a man who sees the entire world through the lens of the child he once was – as fundamentally and irredeemably abusive and dysfunctional and allowing no response but self-defense “by any means necessary”.

    Look at his face. Derrick Jensen is a tortured soul who has never done the hard work necessary to recover his humanity, and he projects his own insanity and pain out into the world.

    He’s also perceptive and articulate and clever enough to maintain his publishing contracts and to create himself as the Pied Piper of disaffected youth. He is Ted Kaczynski with a publicist and smart enough to not blow (pun intended) his chance for fame and fortune.

    Derrick Jensen, in other words, is a fraud and Orion (as I’ve stated before) should not be giving him a bully pulpit.

  25. Robert, maybe a more compassionate description would just calling him “conflicted.” I mean that would be the more forgiving thing to do… although I have been known myself not to be very forgiving in this forum.

    Certainly, he is able to galvanize opinion… that must be worth something, don’t you think?

  26. I feel I need to expand on my last assertion: that Derrick Jensen is a fraud. I don’t mean to say merely that he is a hypocrite who fails to act out what he professes and profits from what despises. It is far more pernicious and dangerous than that.

    By trying to convince us that the world is irredeemably dysfunctional, that humanity is inherently abusive and violent, and that Nature is helpless before our onslaught, Derrick Jensen narrows the available recourse to the one he professes: to defend ourselves and the natural world by any means necessary. In other words, Jensen’s mission is to make us believe in his narrow world in which nothing exists but abuser and victim so that we might do what he demands of us: to fight back with every weapon at our disposal.

    The absurdity, if not insanity, of his vision and prescription is this: 1) Nature is not impotent and we are not omnipotent, and 2) Using force to fight force can only perpetuate the destructive paradigm of force.

    While ostensibly putting the natural non-human world above our manufactured one, Jensen suggests that only we have the power to “save” nature, delegating Nature herself to the status of impotent victim who needs a human savior. And, while decrying the Newtonian materialistic universe that has given humanity the false belief that nothing happens except by exerting force on matter, Jensen demands that we exert physical force to alter our make-believe world.

    In contrast to the dismal and destructive Jensen mythology, I would recommend two of the most perceptive thinkers of our time: Charles Eisenstein, author of The Ascent of Humanity (Civilization and the Human Sense of Self – the Age of Separation, the Age of Reunion, and the Convergence of Crises that is Birthing the Transition); and David Abrams, author of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World and Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology.

    Eisenstein offers a much more intelligent, relevant and hopeful story of civilization’s ‘ascent’. “Once upon a time, the tribe of humanity embarked upon a long journey called Separation. It was not a blunder as some – seeing its ravages upon the planet – might think. Nor was it a fall, nor an expression of some innate evil peculiar to the human species. It was a journey with a purpose: to experience the extremes of Separation, to develop the gifts that come in response to it, and to integrate all of that in a new age of Reunion.”

    The essence of his thinking is expressed in his essay The Three Seeds, or read his latest article Elephants: Please Don’t Go, in which he shares the voice of Elephant: “Don’t imagine that we are helpless to save ourselves. We can manipulate reality in ways you cannot begin to imagine. We are leaving because the way you treat us says that you don’t want us. If our gifts are not welcome to you, we will bow out.”

    Abrams, a magician who has learned from indigenous shamans and sorcerers, eloquently describes the path we have taken away from our indigenous roots and guides us back to our animal bodies and our fundamentally reciprocal relationship to the world we inhabit and are about to destroy. Eisenstein points to the returning gift economy which is restoring our lost interrelationships with each other and all other beings. Each of them offers a restorative vision and a trailmap to guide us gently back to our forgotten selves.

    Jensen lures us into a self-defeating rat’s maze with one only way out.

  27. Jensen’s article is a call to wake up from our entrancement with technology and the industrial growth paradigm. Through technological advances we humans have assumed powers once only given to nature and the divine. Waking up from an addictive trance isn’t easy, but voices like Jensen’s help to break up the spell. We also need voices that can reveal the joy and beauty possible when we return to a view of the human as an integral part of an intimate earth community — containing all beings–not lord over an enslaved planet and people.

  28. Jensen’s looking at our current problems through the lens of what has been learned about the psychology of bullies, abusers, and psychopaths is particularly informative in the attempt to understand how the power elites operate, and what we can do to deal with their destructive activities. The fact is that these “elites” (only first in power, not virtue) bear an inordinate share of the responsibility for the world disaster unfolding for all of us. To say that we all bear some responsibility for our dilemma is correct in a narrow sense, but should not obscure the fact that the rich and powerful are primarily responsible for our widespread devolution.

    We live here in America in the most abusive country on earth. If there is an “Evil Empire” we are it. Genocide and oppression have characterized our history from our arrival on this continent, and continues to this day. Those who are blind to this reality, need folks like Jensen to wake them up to it. To imagine that those who are primarily responsible for perpetrating these ongoing atrocities of the madness of power and greed is to live in dangerous and futile fantasies. For God’s sake folks, read Orwell’s 1984, and put the template on America today. There is not a single feature of that prophetic novel that is not being fully enacted as we speak.

    The power of the few to exploit, enslave, and destroy the many is the sick theme that runs through the history of civilization. Throwing off this yoke has been what the great Liberators (like Jesus) have been about from the beginning. When will we get the power mad few off our back? And how? That is the basic Koan of human history. If we do not solve it, they will destroy the Earth and most or all life on it.

  29. Everything is cyclical.
    What goes up (empires)
    must come down (same empires)

    It seems to be unfolding, unraveling now.
    Piece by piece. Brick by brick.

    Our town is offering emergency preparedness classes for its citizens in the upcoming months.
    2 hour classes each week for 9 weeks.

    Posted on our town’s website:
    “Citizen Emergency Readiness Training (CERT) emphasizes the importance of helping yourself, your family, and neighbors immediately after a disaster strikes. It takes time for emergency response agencies to respond during disaster situations, and damaged roads and disrupted communication systems may restrict their accesses into critically affected areas and hinder response capabilities. Thus, during the initial period immediately following a disaster, for hours or longer, individuals, households and neighborhoods may need to rely on their own resources for food, water, first aid, and shelter.”

    I have to say, I like our mayor. he is down-to-earth and I like the fact this course is offered to us at this point and time. It will be interesting to see just how many people sign up for this. I have a feeling they will have to turn some folks away.

  30. Denis Frith (17) writes: “It is fascinating that all this discussion is anthropocentric.”
    Not true. I pointed to the Sustainability Principle of Energy, which is derived from the Conservation Principle of Energy. It enables us to transcend our ego and reminds us in the fundamentals of physics: we exist only while we live in harmony with the universal balances and flows that sustain us. We ignore those balances and flows at our peril.
    Brandon Smith (18) writes: “WIKILEAKS may have something to do with the answer.”
    Correct. The state of science involves sharing, trust and peer review while copyright is profoundly hostile to this state of being. If the USA, already imploding in debt and inequity, further implodes into warfare on scale, then a prime reason will be its flawed notion of science with the associated belief that copyright is sustaining and brings long-term wealth. The reality is this flawed notion destroys sustaining options and precludes people from living in harmony with the universal flows and balances. The popular idea that the state of science and copyright are compatible is very dangerous nonsense.
    To the extent Derrick propagates this flawed notion of science he is the violence he decries and he calls for his own demise.
    So yes, to the extent it promotes the expression of the truth and accountability then WikiLeaks has something to do with the answer.

  31. Denouncing economic growth while ignoring population growth is pathetic.

    Tragically, political correctness forbids confronting overbreeding, doesn’t it?

    Well guess what? Overbreeding IS overconsuming!

  32. Excellent article! That you for clarity!!! It is staggering how inane the world has become seemingly governed by a moronic few. What we need is a people’s uprising! We need a movement to create a world governing body of scientists and ecologists who together determine what big industry can and cannot do around the world. It is ridiculous that so few have a say about the state of the air we breath, the water we drink and least of all the food we eat purely for profit. While we may be able to feed more people, more are also getting cancer and living miserable lives. And what happened to quality of life? We cant even drink the water… This week alone 3,000 dead birds fell out of the sky, more dead doves along with millions of dead crabs washed on a beach and fish. What more evidence do we need that something is terribly wrong!!!

  33. Yes, things are terribly wrong, Effaris. And the converging crises clearly show the trajectory. However, Robert Riversong, I don’t think that Derrick says “that humanity is inherently abusive and violent.” He says that civilization is that way. I don’t think he would disagree with your reading list either. After all, he did write an early, positive review of Abrams book, Becoming Animal. I do agree with your apparent concept of forgetfulness.. in terms of recovering what was lost… however I despair that recovery, as you imagine it, is feasible. BTW, forgetfulness was one of the five rivers of the Underworld in Greek mythology (Lethe). Heidegger found his concept of truth by excavating that concept… (aletheia), to not forget, disclose or uncover what was previous hidden or forgotten.

    Interesting thought, particularly when you look at Heidegger’s concept of openness (Galassenheit), which defines a condition of dwelling for him, further excavated by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, when he speaks about human dwelling in terms of the body-subject and the world as lived by the body (my flesh is the flesh of the world). Here is the linkage, the intertwining that we have lost sight of in our narrow pursuit of individuality and personal progress. And as you may know, David Abrams was heavily influenced in his reflections by the work of Merleau-Ponty.

    Just some thoughts!

  34. There is yet more that needs to be said regarding Jensen’s dysfunctional perspective and counter-productive prescription, because it’s an unrecognized shadow that lurks in many parts of our culture.

    When one divides the world into victims and victimizers, the oppressed and the oppressors, the vanquished and the victors (or even the peasants and the elites or the workers and the owners), one narrows the realm of available responses to a single one: overpowering the abuser, whether by greater force (unlikely) or more surreptitious violence (the usual choice), which could manifest as self-defense, sabotage or revolution.

    A victim is, by definition, disempowered and powerless. And the reason that abused women, for instance, tend to become involved in serial abusive relationships is that, by defining themselves as victim, they cannot help but attract a partner to manifest that self-definition. They are helpless to do otherwise because they perceive themselves as helpless. A self-secure woman doesn’t attract abusive partners. Once ensnared in the trap of helplessness or victimhood, there are but two possibilities of redress: to leave the relationship (which is often perceived as impossible, and in the broader social divisions is impossible) or to reverse the roles and hurt the abuser, whether in the heat of conflict or during a time of quiescence. In fact, women have been acquitted of premeditated murder with the “battered woman defense”.

    This return of violence for violence is, of course, the “moral” justification for the often religious people who believe they are defending the rights of the defenseless unborn to achieve personhood. This rationalization is commonly used to justify even killing with premeditation the doctors who perform abortions. Whatever you may think of such people, is not this thinking precisely the same as that of protectors of “defenseless” nature who respond by “any means necessary” (which, of course, includes the full spectrum of violence) against the perceived perpetrators?

    While it may not be consistent with a truly non-violent philosophy, few people would judge someone harshly who uses deadly force to protect themselves or their loved ones at the moment they are threatened. But very few people would think well of someone who methodically planned an act of revenge on their attacker, even if it was rationalized as a preventive to the next attack. This, of course, is the “justification” for pre-emptive warfare and for imprisonment without trial for “preventive detention” in violation of habeas corpus and the laws of justice.

    And this eye-for-an-eye strategy is precisely the rationalization for terrorism: to make the perceived abuser feel at least a little of the same pain that is inflicted on the abused. Contrary to G.W. Bush’s absurd assertion that they do this because “they hate our freedom”, intelligent and aware people understand that they do this because of what we’ve done to them with our freedom. In the geo-political context, however, many understand that returning violence for violence solves nothing but only increases the insecurity of life for everyone.

    There is, in truth, only one way out of victimhood – and that is by rising above it, by transcending one’s self-definition and self-deprecation, by recovering one’s dignity and self-worth. And this is one of the foundations of the Gandhian non-violence of which Jensen is contemptuous. While being acerbically critical of most of Gandhi’s writings and example, Jensen praises one of the Mahatma’s teachings: that it is better to defend oneself and loved ones with violence than to cowardly submit. What Jensen fails to realize (or acknowledge) is that this was an allowance for those who have not spiritually matured enough to face an attacker armed only with dignity and compassion.

    To prevent harm to oneself by the use of violence solves an immediate problem but perpetuates the paradigm of power-over, force or violence. The most that can be said for this tactic is that it leaves you another day to outgrow the need for violent recourse. But to die with dignity and compassion is to bring closure to a life that was meaningful. One should never fear death, as it is an inevitable part of living. But one should fear dying without having lived meaningfully and well, with dignity and an open heart.

    Ultimately, none of us has the wisdom to judge who should live and who should die – this was always understood to be the prerogative of the gods, and our sin in the Garden was to pluck that prerogative from the Tree of Knowledge. Defending the defenseless by “any means necessary” is morally identical whether you’re a “pro-life” Christian, an Islamic fundamentalist, or a self-proclaimed defender of wildlife – or a global empire spreading “democracy and freedom” to the unenlightened world.

    John Perkins (Confessions of and Economic Hitman), who knows the corporate and government elites as intimately as he does the Ecuadorian peasants and shamans with whom he now works, understands that the former are not evil people but rather trapped in a dehumanizing and often destructive corporate culture by their own investments of time, career and self-definition. The Neo-Cons who ran the Bush administration considered themselves idealists and passionately believed in an ideology to which they had committed their life’s work. Derrick Jensen, though I believe he has the intelligence, perception and heart to outgrow his own sense of victimhood, is trapped by his years of public investment in the ideology of abuse – by the many books, articles, speeches which endorse this perspective, as well as by a small but extremely loyal following which he would not want to disappoint (or lose) – that it’s likely impossible for him to abandon it like clothes that no longer fit but that everyone expects you to wear.

    Just as a battered spouse demeans herself (or himself, since domestic violence is a 50/50 affair) by believing that she is a helpless victim, defenders of wildlife demean Nature herself by the assumption that She is defenseless and requires their protection. In both cases, the paradigm of victimhood and violence is reinforced and perpetuated, when what is needed is to outgrow and transcend that archaic and dysfunctional paradigm into a more expansive, inclusive and compassionate one. In other words, it’s past time for humanity to evolve to a more mature spiritual state of being. Or, as Swami Beyondanama puts it, it’s time we stop being children of God and start being adults of God.

    Many of us are on that path to paradigmatic transformation and are trying on new clothes with excitement and joy. Don’t expect Derrick Jensen to lead us there, as he’s spun a garment of recycled cloth that smells of death and decay and which clings so tenaciously to his skin that he would not know how to remove it even if he wanted.

  35. Great article. I await his forthcoming book, Deep Green Resistance, with bated breath..

  36. “In other words, it’s past time for humanity to evolve to a more mature spiritual state of being. Or, as Swami Beyondanama puts it, it’s time we stop being children of God and start being adults of God.”

    Robert – you’ve got to be kidding. This is as pathological a statement as anything I have heard. And while the precise metaphor “adults of God” is a bit difficult to dissect, I would simply say that any discussion of God is delusional, and feeds the same imperialist (patriarchal) hierarchy that has led us to this point facing the abyss.

    [Surely you jest (Beyond-anama)… is that a new flavor of ice cream?]

    I am sure you can understand that the same thinking which brought us the technological mastery over nature, brought us God… as well. And that those who are with this God are sleeping with the politicians (of whatever stripe), because they are all focused on one thing only…CONTROL!!

    Come on now..

    Ad finally:

    “…few people would judge someone harshly who uses deadly force to protect themselves or their loved ones at the moment they are threatened.”

    Don’t you think that we and our loved ones are immediately threatened and endangered by those driving this caravan?

  37. Hello Sandy — How’s the weather up your way? Brrrrrr?

    “any discussion of God is delusional” That depends what one means by “God”. Besides, discussion is always good, even if the result is sometimes to thoroughly refute an idea.

    “Don’t you think that we and our loved ones are immediately threatened and endangered by those driving this caravan?”

    I agree completely. At what point does your oppression become so obvious and unbearable that you take up arms against it? When does the frog jump as the water heats? When did some citizens of Germany realize it was time to stop Hitler “by any means necessary? Or the US Government decide it was time to go to war against the Nazis?

    For more on how my perspective differs from Robert’s see comment #28.

  38. “while the precise metaphor “adults of God” is a bit difficult to dissect, I would simply say that any discussion of God is delusional”

    I almost left out that loaded word because it incites knee-jerk reactions from people who hold a narrow image of divinity which, in the broader sense, has been central to all human culture since the first cave paintings. Let’s not confuse divinity or the locus of the sacred (god/goddess/gaia) with the abuse of institutionalized religious authority. That’s literally throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    And there is no misunderstanding of the Swami’s play on words. It simply says that it’s time we grow up as individuals and as a human culture – and that such maturity must be on the spiritual level.

    “Don’t you think that we and our loved ones are immediately threatened and endangered by those driving this caravan?”

    Sandy and Mike, that you would even ask or agree with this question indicates your willingness, along with Jensen, to engage in pre-emptive warfare and puts you on the same moral plain as abortion clinic bombers and Ted Kaczynski .

    Nobody has to have explained to them the difference between authentic self-defense and either revenge or pre-emption, because we all understand that intuitively. If we respond with force to stop an immediate threat at the moment that our life is threatened because there is no time to even consider any other recourse, it is universally understood as self-defense. Anything else is rationalization.

    And the convenient illusion that Mike K and Jensen profess is that “they” are responsible (or predominantly so) for our crisis. No one has power over us that we don’t in some way give away by our complicity, our consent or our apathy. And this dysfunctional culture is fed and sustained by the subconscious consent of every one of us. To believe that we have power over “them”, even if just the power to “neutralize” them, is to perpetuate the power-over paradigm.

    The only power each of us has is the power to imagine, manifest and live out a different paradigm. The only way – and the power effective way – to change the world is to change our minds. That is the nature of spiritual maturation. Blaming others is the game of adolescence.

  39. Wow. Robert, you say: To believe that we have power over “them”, even if just the power to “neutralize” them, is to perpetuate the power-over paradigm.

    That is the kind of talk that the politicos, corporatists, and despoilers of our world just love to hear. “Don’t blames us, and please don’t do anything to directly oppose us. You new age kids go off and live in wigwams or whatever, just leave us responsible (and blameless!) adults in charge of your world, so we can suck it dry, and leave you with a corpse.”

    If Exxon and the military complex get wind of your thoughts, you may have a lush PR job waiting for you.

  40. Lakota Aloysius Weasel Bear once asked his grandfather, “Grandpa, the White Man is destroying everything, shouldn’t we try to stop him?”

    His grandfather replied, “No, it isn’t necessary. We will stand by. He will outsmart himself.”

  41. Who was it that said “The only thing necessary for the
    triumph of evil, is for good people to stand by and do nothing”? Elie Wiesel?

    And what of all those millions who have struggled and given their lives to end the rule of evil persons throughout history? Are they merely “perpetuating the paradigm of power over”? I guess we are to treat their sacrifices with contempt? New age thinking can sure lead to some bizarre conclusions.

    Weasel Bear’s Grandfather reminds me of others who think somebody else, or Nature, or God, or technology will take care of things by and by. That should be really tasty along with that pie in the sky. The great thing about that attitude is that you don’t have to do a damn thing about the problems yourself — just sit back and sound wise.

  42. I think it can de easy to think you can just sit there and let abusers do all they want when you no longer are part of a landbase, and part of a closeknit community, but when you and your loved ones are part of a landbase with “resources” that abusers want, things are different. You don’t have the option of not defending yourself and your loved ones and your land and your culture.

    Think of those people who are still living their ancient ways of living in harmony with the land and their people, right now, who are being attacked and invaded by the civilized and their chainsaws, bulldozers and machine guns. They know they have to stop the civilized from destroying them, their land and their culture.

  43. Re Sandy (35) Does Derrick really say that “civilisation” is “inherently abusive and violent”? To associate civilisation with barbarism is truly perverted.

    Re Mike K (39) “When did some citizens of Germany realize it was time to stop Hitler “by any means necessary? Or the US Government decide it was time to go to war against the Nazis?”
    Elements of the US Government, which is dominated by private corporations, never did go to war against the Nazis. They profiteered from trading arms and other materials to the Nazis throughout and profiteered by ensuring Fascists, whether in Germany, Italy or Japan, remained after the war. These profiteers included Jews, similar folk to Bernard Madoff. Millions died, including many good US people.
    In many ways each of us who drives a car and flies in jets continues to profiteer from Fascism.
    My point is there are psychopathic and psychotic elements in Governments, in communities and in every individual. It is civilisation, a state born of compassion, that enables us to acknowledge these flaws and transcend them. All is connected.

  44. Hi, Dave McArthur,

    Here are a couple quotes from Derrick Jensen about civilization, that can be read here,

    – “Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.”

    – “Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.”

    – “The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.”

    – “From the beginning, this culture—civilization—has been a culture of occupation.”

    Also, I’d say that if one would define barbarism as an act, or custom that is brutal, cruel, and/or vulgar, then I’d say that civilization is indeed barbaric. From what I read, many indigenous people defined civilized people as barbaric.

  45. Sorry, Mike K, but the author of that quote was Edmund Burke, member of Parliament and the Whig Party and considered the founder of modern conservatism.

    And Elie Wiesel, who says “the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference” is an unwavering Zionist who is utterly indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians. Hardly an exemplar of morality.

    New Age thinking, is it? The why is it that not a single indigenous wisdom keeper anywhere in the world is advocating a violent response to the despoiling of the earth?

    And why is it that those who are, sit comfortably in their middle-class homes feeding the beast they pretend to abhor?

  46. Dave — You of all people should be aware that each of us has her/his own understanding of the word “civilization”. For some it conjures all the wonderful achievements of the best minds and hearts among us. Others focus on the dreadful developments associates with civ, such as wars, enslavement, genocide, nuclear devastation, etc.

    The truth is that civ brings both blessings and curses. A one-sided view only leads to misunderstanding. To feel that my version is the only true one generates a arrogant fundamentalism, with all its undesirable consequences.

  47. To expand on my last point – if you are an American and not homeless or destitute, then everything you do perpetuates the problem.

    So, for starters, the most effective thing you can do is DO NOTHING.

    Stop buying consumer goods and agribusiness food, stop driving and flying, stop any employment that contributes to the Gross National Product, stop paying taxes – and most importantly, stop being an armchair revolutionary.

    How many Derrick Jensen fans and acolytes actually walk their talk? Sounds to me like “all hat and no cattle”.

  48. Heard on a local (Wacko, TX)radio show: “The Enviros see resources as a pie. There’s only so many pieces of the pie. What they forget is that God’s Pie has an infinite number of pieces!”

    A triumph of reasoning. . .and I also heard a White House spokesman say few days ago on NPR, “We need to expand the pie. . . .”

    Poor pie has to serve many masters.

    I don’t believe there is a positive correlation between “economic growth” and happiness–so in my mind there is no need to terrify the horses and ladies with visions of “sacrifice” and “cutting back.” Is it truly cutting back when one rejects the hydrocarbon plastic world and turns to those ancient plastics such as clay, wood, and reeds, which we may mold with our own hands, in our own time–recalling that we are Homo Ludens, and acting accordingly–is where real growth lies.

  49. Yawn… another typical eco-weenie bickerfest.

    Denouncing overconsumption while studiously ignoring overbreeding is what passes for “intelligent debate.”


  50. Another tedious eco-weenie bickerfest, fearlessly denouncing overconsuming while fastiously ignoring overbreeding.

    As if overbreeding isn’t the very foundation of overconsuming.

  51. Heard on a local (Wacko, TX)radio show: “The Enviros see resources as a pie. There’s only so many pieces of the pie. What they forget is that God’s Pie has an infinite number of pieces!”

    A triumph of reasoning. . .and I also heard a White House spokesman say few days ago on NPR, “We need to expand the pie. . . .”

    Poor pie has to serve many masters.

    I don’t believe there is a positive correlation between “economic growth” and happiness–so in my mind there is no need to terrify the horses and ladies with visions of “sacrifice” and “cutting back.” Is it truly cutting back when one rejects the hydrocarbon plastic world and turns to those ancient plastics such as clay, wood, and reeds, which we may mold with our own hands, in our own time.

    Recalling that we are Homo Ludens, and acting accordingly–is where real growth lies.

  52. His grandfather replied, “No, it isn’t necessary. We will stand by. He will outsmart himself.”

    Unfortunately, Robert, Weasel Bear was outsmarted, and still awaits, but there might not be many of his tribe left.

  53. Mike… on the other hand, Robert is not wrong… there is no good result from power overing power… it is just a cycle, likethe French, Russian or US revolutions… just replaces one power grid with another

  54. And Misko is correct, there are many indigenous tribes under direct threat of extinction; not to mention the other parts and creatures of the planet

  55. “It is civilisation, a state born of compassion, that enables us to acknowledge these flaws and transcend them. All is connected”

    Dave McArthur – I am sorry, but you are truly on another planet.

  56. “And why is it that those who are, sit comfortably in their middle-class homes feeding the beast they pretend to abhor?

    Robert, I neither advocate violence, not do I sit comfortably in my Middle Class home…

  57. So then, you sit uncomfortably in your middle-class home?

  58. Sandy — We don’t live our lives out of dictionaries. We each fill in the meanings of words with the richness or poverty of our lives, our imaginations, our illusions and delusions, our ignorance and misconceptions. All language is poetry, waiting to be interpreted by each for deeper meanings. Socrates had endless fun with folks naive faith in their “definitions” of terms like beauty, or justice, or love.

  59. Riversong #47 — Are you aware that in responding to the quote about evil and complacency, you simply responded with an ad hominem against Burke and Wiesel? Also the quote said nothing about violence, which you gratuitously brought into your attempted rebuttal, perhaps due to your obsession with it. To try to discuss with you is to be exposed to volleys of these crude rhetorical devices.

    Why not just be clear and straight forward in making your points? If you think the quote is invalid, just make your point directly, rather than attacking the supposed speakers of it, or pretending to refute something it did not say.

  60. An apex predator (particularly a techno-apex predator!), by definition, must maintain a small population to be sustainable.

    Sadly, few “environmentalists” confront ecological limits with any more integrity than… Rush Limbaugh.

    Focused solely on SYMPTOMS of humanoid overbreeding; forever consigned to fanciful ruminations over their inevitable losses.

  61. In a nuclear explosion there are people in close proximity who vanish into thin air. Solid matter one second, scattered gas molecules the next. A little farther away others are consumed in the 200-mph winds of the nuclear firestorm. Like the vaporized they too never really knew what hit them. Those on the periphery will be sparred a violent death. They will die but more slowly, a little time to feel death and to contemplate the end.

    Don’t know who first said it, but it amounts to that rarest of circumstances when, “the living will envy the dead”.

    The world we live in is on the cusp of a nuclear holocaust, whether it be figurative or the real deal. The figurative bomb is the one Karl Marx warned was endemic to capitalism. Marx called the bomb the system’s internal contradictions. Capitalism has now heated to the point it’s ready to blow. We are sitting on a powder keg.

    Capitalism has lived out its destiny to occupy every corner of the globe. So it now stares down the barrel of its most explosive internal contradiction. There is nowhere left to grow and it must grow or die. There are no untapped markets left and every human being, outside of a tiny parasitic ruling clique, has been enslaved. Some are chattel, the rest are slaves to debt.

    The system has not been stayed by the world’s working people as Marx hoped and multitudes have dreamed as they laid down their lives for socialism. In its death throes capitalism will launch a killing spree of historic proportions. Millions will be murdered, poisoned, and deprived of lives by way of neglect, deprivation and torture. It will strip the planet of its eons-old carbon layer, burn that carbon layer for fuel and quarterly profits, warm the planet and acidify the oceans until the Earth is uninhabitable.

    But because there are divisions in that tiny capitalist ruling clique, humanity may never get to the famines, diseases, floods, droughts, storms, plagues, fires and gulags on the horizon. At some point the US corporate-state directed by Goldman Sachs and the other big banks, or the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party’s state-capitalist apparatus, or Vladimir Putin and the newly minted Russian oligarchs, or the European Union, India, Pakistan or Israel will give in to the panic. That one desperate urge to go it alone, to survive, will take over in one place.

    And the nuclear missiles will leave their silos and submarines.

  62. Paul A. Moore,

    Khrushchev’s warning (“the living will envy the dead”) remains ominously inspirational.

    As for Marx, he launched an endless-growth industrial paradigm and was openly contemptuous of nature — he dismissed the pristine wilderness of the Lousiana Purchase as a “wasteland” awaiting human development.

    And Marx, like any endless-growth capitalist, rejected the dire arithmetic of his contemporary, Malthus.

    As they say, the rest is history.

  63. Paul#63 — Welcome. Thanks for stating clearly what many of us fear may be a possible outcome of the madness afoot on our precious Earth. Consciously acknowledged, this not at all unlikely scenario should give us an urgent incentive to do “everything we can” as Derrick puts it to avert this ultimate tragedy. Some wise Greeks, and others throughout history have warned us where our growing hubris may ultimately take us. Will we heed them in time? Stay tuned. And by all means wake up fully to the deadly peril we face. Only by fearlessly facing the awful realities of our situation is there any chance of averting the worst outcomes. This is the crucial first step in our possible recovery process. Mad Max, The Road, 1984 — are all desperate attempts to awaken the sleepers on an otherwise runaway train to Hell.

  64. Sandy — A useful definition is like well cooked hash brown potatoes: not to too crispy, and not to mushy. We don’t break our teeth on its unchewable rigidity, but neither do we simply loose the delightful crunchiness in an amorphous mess.

    The “miracle of we” as Ken Wilber characterizes it is that we can come to understand each other at all, and truly feel we are together in our mutual perception of anything whatever. A real meeting of minds requires dialogue. This is the only way we can arrive at an assurance that you and I really agree on anything. I need your feedback, and you need mine.

    So, I am not foreclosing dialogue with Robert, I am inviting it. I am not feeling safe in my own private set of definitions set in stone. My stance is: let’s explore the possibility of our understanding each other and possibly learning from each other together? I may be wrong or one-sided in my positions, and I need you to help me see if that is the case. In a nutshell” definitions can be very helpful or very deluding, depending on how tightly we hold them. This is why fundamentalism is the death of dialogue.

  65. I will begin by saying that this was a very powerful article. As a psychotherapist I have found that when people, abusers or not, break through what they have been socialized to be to their authentic self change happens.
    So, I question Jensen’s ending statement: “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.” If this means what I think it does namely, putting people in some kind of prison, are we not ourselves perpetuating violence?
    Sad to say Jensen’s desire to give these people no choice might actually come from the earth herself. Because the pollution that has been created, such as the microwaves used to power the never-ending technology that people seem to think they need, knows no economic or social boundaries, everyone, including the abusers will get to participate in the resulting illness and death.

  66. This is exactly what I have been discussing with others! I am so glad Lundy Bancroft was mentioned. He is fantastic! And the USA is a major abuser. Being a survivor of domestic abuse, I can see the similarities & it disgusts me at how patriarchal & blind the justice system is in benefit of the abuser! Claiming that Corporations are now officially a Person tops off the insanity of this country & its never- ending quest for the destruction of our planet for a dollar.

  67. VestaSue — Thanks for your input. I have briefly checked out Lundy Bancroft’s website, and am in strong agreement with his viewpoint. Perhaps you are familiar with the work of Alice Miller dealing with the pervasive denial in our culture of the widespread violence being perpetrated against children, women, and men in our culture. People have hundreds of ways to avoid, justify, and deny this deep seated feature of our social reality.

    Comments on this blog that gloss over or seek to minimize or explain this fatal cultural flaw show that many in our society prefer to live in spiritual daydreams rather than face these disturbing realities. Derrick Jensen kind of sticks our noses in this vile stuff, and many react by trying to evade what he is at pains to show us. Blaming the victims takes many forms, and I have seen a wide selection of these here and elsewhere. Shooting (or abusing verbally) the victims who dare to be messengers to the world of this sickness, is one of the more disheartening forms this ignorant denial takes. One poster recently informed us that victims are, “self-chosen”. This is on a par with saying rape victims “probably asked for it”!

  68. #66 mike k: “I am not foreclosing dialogue with Robert, I am inviting it”

    Are you?

    You asked “Are you aware that in responding to the quote about evil and complacency, you simply responded with an ad hominem against Burke and Wiesel?”

    In fact, my statements about those two authors were factual and logically appropriate (based on Wikileaks and other reputable sources).

    “you gratuitously brought [violence] into your attempted rebuttal”

    There is nothing “gratuitous” about discussing the issue that Jensen repeatedly suggests without saying, disguised in his mantra “by any means necessary”.

    It was, in fact, a perfect rebuttal to the claim (by Misko) that native communities understand the need for a violent response, to your claim that the universal position of indigenous wisdom keepers (and all spiritual leaders) is “New Age thinking” as you dismissively stated, and to the hypocrisy of those who advocate or defend “any means necessary” from the comfort of their middle-class lives (a la Jensen).

    It is you have have been distorting my statements, ignoring my arguments, and attacking my style rather than the substance of my positions or the validity of my logic (“volleys of these crude rhetorical devices”).You are hardly “inviting” dialog, but rather avoiding it. You claim to be open to learning, but fail to even hear arguments which challenge you.

    Instead of trying to understand my cogent (hardly “rhetorical”) arguments, you trivialize them into “blaming the victim”. There is a fundamental difference between blaming and not allowing self-professed victims to sidestep their responsibility when they simplify the complexities and subtleties of the world and do that in order to advocate violence.

    And there is a world of difference between legitimate self-defense (an argument I’ve made repeatedly, and that no one will dare refute) in a one-to-one situation and using the projection of that mindset onto the whole of society as an excuse for a premeditated campaign of “any means necessary” to bring down the edifice of “the enemy”, the alleged abusing class of people.

    You used the term “evil persons”, which also paints the world with the same simplistic brushstroke of “us good guys vs them irredeemable bad guys” which is the black-and-white absurdity of all forms of fundamentalism, and which leads ineluctably toward gratuitous violence. Every perpetrator of violence (outside of a few psychopaths and mercenaries) believes that they are in the right and the other side is dead wrong. There is nothing more dangerous than a zero-sum game.

    You claim I am “Shooting (or abusing verbally) the victims who dare to be messengers to the world of this sickness.”

    What I have been clearly saying throughout is that Derrick Jensen is a victim only by his own self-definition (victimhood is a mindset – that’s a psychological truism) and his message is a protection of his own inner sickness onto the world around him (this is what all psychologically unbalanced people do who have not healed their own trauma). I am not abusing Jensen, but simply pointing out the foundational sickness of his message, its source and its danger.

  69. Robert — Once again I am going to sign off from trying to respond to your strange ideas. There are no real victims of the world wide violence we are experiencing. Likewise, there are no blameworthy perpetrators of these crimes. And the overall solution to our problems is to do nothing. Got it. Now I know all I need to know. No need to ask any more questions. I am now willing to dwell in the category of those who do not buy your unusual worldview. Over and Out. (Gasp! …It feels so good to be free of this insidious web. How did I let myself be drawn into it again??)

  70. Re Sandy Krolick 54
    I am born and bred a resident of Earth, in particular an Anglo-American colony called New Zealand. Cultural reforms of the last two decades mean my country has been reshaped in unsustainable ways to reflect the essence of corporate America. I am increasingly an alien in my own land as it becomes one of the most unsustaining nations on the planet. On the positive side ours is a small country (4 million people) and I have been able to study first hand the psychology of the transformation. In the process I became very aware of the potency of symbols: their power to reflect and generate our state of being; their power to sustain and to destroy us; and their power to enable us to transcend the limitations of our ego and thought processes.

    In particular I noted how our symbol use reflects/generates our incredible capacity for self-deceit so we can say one thing and do the opposite or we can deny the change we call for. (This is very common in the so-called Green Movement.)

    A brief example of this transformation: the energy symbol. Fifty years ago as a child I was taught energy was the stuff that made the universe work. Children nowadays are taught energy is Bulk-generated electrical products and minerals (oil, gas and coal) that are provided by “energy” corporations. In other words these products are the ultimate vitality and we can use these products as though they are as bounteous as the universe. Also because they are energy we can burn these minerals as we please because the atmosphere is now excluded from the combustion equation. If our use outstrips supply it is not our fault but rather it is an “energy crisis” – energy is the problem.

    I watched as the likes of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group dismantled our community structures that owned our freehold local electrical grids (municipal electricity departments and power boards) and replaced them with highly leveraged private corporation structures. These institutions no longer sell electrical products but energy products. We no longer have customer numbers but are energy numbers. We no longer have electricity or mineral departments but companies with arcane names like Genesis Energy, Origin Energy, Contact Energy, Meridian Energy, Solid Energy (coal), Mercury Energy, Top Energy etc.

    In doing so we commit the most fatal error possible, which is to confuse energy with a form it may take.

    The Electricity Market was “deregulated” and we were given “freedom of choice”. Before these reforms every citizen had a democratic say in how their local electrical grid was used and every community participated in the national Electricity Market. Now not one community in New Zealand owns the intelligence of their local grid or is allowed to participate in the Electricity Market. A handful of private corporations own that intelligence and control the Market.

    We see a similar abuse of the science and civilisation symbols. Science and civilisation is blamed for our problems when it is our lack of science and our lack of civilisation or, if you prefer, our barbarism, which is the cause of our problems.

    Perhaps you can see a pattern of unsustainable behaviour emerging. Wise folk like the Buddha and Confucius understood and articulated this psychology well thousands of years ago. Combine their insights with those from modern quantum physics and neuropsychology and apply them to our Anglo-American language. A profound malaise becomes obvious, as you can see from this list of symbol uses at And the best cure for the malaise is compassion, especially when we identify it in ourselves.

  71. Riversong, that’s enough.

    I’ve never posted on the Orion Magazine website, but I’ve been following your responses since you first posted on The World Gone Mad.

    Your responses to mike k have been nothing but ad nauseum repetitions of “I’m cogent, I’m perfectly clear, you just can’t handle me, your criticisms are all wrong, I’m right and you’re wrong.”

    “My arguments are cogent.” “My arguments are sound.” “You’re all just trying to justify yourselves.”

    That is what you have been repeating, EVERY SINGLE TIME, someone even REMOTELY disagrees with you.

    Yes, I’ve actually gone back and counted and read every one of your posts. Every single time, you never admit any fundamental flaw in your own point of view.

    It’s dick-comparing and peacock behavior on your part.

    mike k has been reaching out to you, and he did in fact attack your arguments, despite your accusations that he’s being emotional. YOU, on the other hand, are attacking his CONCLUSIONS.

    mike k has repeatedly admittedly to the possibility that he might be wrong, and said that sometimes both sides might be right.

    YOU, on the other hand, argue for the “complexity of the world,” and that there’s no such thing as “good guys” and “bad guys,” but every one of your arguments has been an attempt to paint either Derrick Jensen or mike k or the earlier poster “vera” as a “bad guy!”

    You’re doing exactly what you accuse everybody else of doing. I think maybe YOU’RE the one projecting.

    Don’t you see the hypocrisy of what you’re doing? You say that mike k is refusing to look in the mirror, but so far he’s been nice to you and YOU have never looked in the mirror, from what I can see, because you think you’re never wrong, ever.

    mike k did not say the world was not complex. You are incorrectly summarizing his position.

    He said that the responsibility for rape lies with the rapist, not with the woman being raped.

    Do you agree with that assertion or do you not?

    Do you agree, or do you not agree, that the responsibility for committing an unethical act such as abuse, or rape, or what-have-you, lies with the person who committed an unethical act?

    Do you agree or do you not agree that the people responsible for unethical actions are the ones committing the actions? Because if you think that anyone is to blame for rape but the rapist, then you’re not really a believer in personal responsibility at all. You believe in responsibility for those kicked in the face, but not for the ones doing the kicking. That is a bizarre, utterly backwards moral system.

    You may be citing a “psychological truism,” but it’s a truism you have uncritically accepted. Did it occur to you that sometimes the field of psychology, or individual psychologists, might be wrong?

    Even Judge Judy, a firm right-wing believer in personal responsibility, recognizes where personal responsibility REALLY lies, and she screams at the right people on her show, i.e., the ones actually COMMITTING the crimes, not the ones the crimes affect.

    But that notion of personal responsibility seems to have escaped you.

    You haven’t contributed anything useful to this discussion since your very first post. All you’ve done is list all the myriad reasons why you’re right and everyone else is wrong, but you offer nothing better.

    Do you even WANT to slow down the spread of industrial civilization? If you do not, why are you even here? Why are you posting on Derrick Jensen’s forum if you’re not? If you think Jensen’s course of action is wrong, what COURSE OF ACTION, not TRUISMS, do you support?

    You say that Jensen is a victim in his own mind. Let’s assume you’re right, just for the sake of argument. Are you saying that Jensen was never raped as a child? That all of his claims about his father’s behavior are false?

    If that’s what you’re claiming, then have the guts to say so. Instead of hiding behind “psychological truisms,” why don’t you just come right out and say, “Jensen is lying, he was never raped, he was never abused, his father is a saint.” If that’s what you think, say so. If you think Jensen is lying about having been raped, say so. Do not use vague generalizations about responsibility, just be courageous and come right out and call Jensen a liar. At least we can have a fruitful discussion that way.

    Do not hijack discussions. If you’re going to join a discussion, contribute. If you think everyone on this board is wrong, offer another way! Another course of ACTION, that is. Your vague speeches of where responsibility lies do not move ANY course of action forward. Nothing is being done, and I’m not sure you really want anything to be done.

    Because at the moment, Riversong, I think you’re an “agent provocateur.”

    You probably don’t know what that means. I’ll explain it.

    An “agent provocateur” is even worse than an “enemy.” Because an “agent provocateur” infiltrates a group pretending to be sympathetic, but derails the group’s actions until they can’t accomplish anything.

    That seems to be what you’re doing. You knew full well what Jensen’s position was when you posted in response to his articles, but you don’t even bother to argue a better course of action than he is.

    You seem to just be happy posting invectives and epithets on the sidelines.

    Jensen is willing to be knee-deep in water to save the animals there, according to his last article.

    What about you? Either propose to do something, or be quiet.

  72. Oh, and for the record, Riversong, I’m not 100% in agreement with Jensen either. Neither am I 100% in disagreement.

    It’s just that I’m taking a different course of action than he is. I’ve attempting to become a librarian, so I can give the population the tools they need to rid themselves of their ignorance.

    I don’t believe violence will work either, just like you actually, but since my course of action might take much longer, I won’t be standing in Jensen’s way.

    I’m not sure whether or not my way is better than Jensen’s, so I won’t attack him until I find out.

    So I’m a disinterested party. I’m not one of his supporters, nor am I one of his detractors.

    And from a third-party perspective, you’re the one being unreasonable, not mike k, because you’ve discarded all norms of ethics and decency, you don’t believe responsibility for unethical acts lies with the one committing unethical acts, and you make no commitment to actual discussion, or even CRITICAL THINKING, with anyone, constantly assuming that “you’re being clear and everyone else on this board is just being unreasonable.”

    From an outside perspective, Riversong, you behave like a peacock, constantly looking down on everyone but not willing to get your own hands dirty by actually offering an idea.

  73. Golden Radiance,

    You wasted a great number of words attacking me rather than arguing my points or positions, and you did so with the same type of intellectual dishonesty that others here are prone to: creating a straw dog in order to serve as a punching bag for your animosity.

    Not a single line of your rant accurately reflected any of my statements, and you accuse me of unreasonableness.

    If you “don’t believe violence will work” but “won’t be standing in Jensen’s way”, then you are at least tolerant of, if not an enabler, of violence.

    We are each and every one responsible for the world we inhabit. No one here has been more assertive than I about personal responsibility, which is denied and avoided by the casting of blame on others, by painting the world with a Manichean brush that knows only black and white, evil and good. That is the technique of the terrorist, not the social change activist.

    And I suspect that few here have more of an activist history than I, so for one whose “doing something” manifests as being a librarian to accuse me of inaction is more than a little hypocritical.

    Yet it remains true that, for those who are living in the belly of the beast, the first and most important thing to do is a form of “nothing” – as I clearly stated before, it is to stop contributing to what you claim to abhor.

    Beyond that, no constructive course of action can be taken until one first sees the world for what it is. And that requires the hard inner work of disempowering one’s own demons so that they are not projected outward.

    Jensen clearly has not done that work. I suspect that those of you who are challenged by my words have not done that work either.

    As the ancient wisdom goes, “healer, heal thyself”. None can contribute to a better paradigm who has not first healed their own traumas.

    If you refuse to recognize or acknowledge your shadows, at least have the decency to not project them onto others.

    But, since you and mike and others insist on shadow-boxing, there is nothing more I can say to awaken you.

    Good luck.

  74. This seems an appropriate time to quote a passage from Vera’s blog about “trolls” :

    Trolls relish sowing chaos, deception and confusion within human communities, and have been known to paralyze them. They generate emotions in others while not investing any of their own. Trolls love to yank people’s chains! They feed on the chaotic emotional energy they stir up, and on the attention paid them.
    What all trolls have in common is bait: messages intended solely to upset or insult. If people “bite” by getting riled, the troll proceeds to “reel them in” and does his best to wreck the conversation and damage the good will within that community. To this end, trolls apply a wide range of havoc wreaking, noise generating methods with great success. Spurious accusations, previous statements twisted into meanings never intended, demands for proof for any and all statements made, requests for information already provided, willful contradictions, off-topic bunny trails, arbitrary word usage redefinitions, or seizing upon small mistakes to subvert the thrust of the main argument; these are just a sample of the rich trollish repertoire. They cultivate the fine art of missing the point, never answer inconvenient questions, and set people up to argue with each other by using subtly invidious language.
    If one tack does not produce the desired discord, the creature will switch to another. When an otherwise peaceable community starts fighting, look for a troll loitering nearby. Still, trolls are not all bad; they can liven up a moribund discussion and interrupt groupthink. And dealing with them can foster a community’s spirit of self-governance. Unfortunately, their positive contributions are far outweighed by the pointless conflict they generate. The troll’s goal is not to win an argument but rather to provoke a futile one that runs forever.

    This is from:

  75. Mike K,

    Pulling out the “troll” tag is the ultimate ad hominem retort, and the last resort of those who either cannot or will not respond with intellectual honesty.

    If I am a “troll” then why did Scott Walker of Orion personally invite me into these discussions? And why does he think my posts are worth sharing with other members of the Orion staff?

    And why do you continue to do nothing more than attack my credibility rather than the validity of my statements and arguments?

  76. GoldenRadiance — What a beautiful name. Was it based on some inner experience? Thank you for your support. I do get knocked off center by Robert’s sallies. In spite of knowing better, I repeatedly forget Vera’s admonition to “not feed the trolls”. Maybe we can salvage some sanity and civility on this blog if we ignore disruptive comments. On a prior Jensen comments thread we were visited by several Sci-Fi gamers and their weird ideas for a time, but when folks stopped responding to them, they went away.

    Thanks again for your support. A group is like a living cell, it must protect itself from disruption in order to grow and thrive.

  77. To Mr. Jensen:
    Wow. Excellent writing and zeroing in on the exact attitude at the core of our current destruction of the planet and all life, including our own, that depends on it for survival. As a long time worker in the Domestic Violence movement I can tell you that entitlement by the abuser is THE root cause of family violence and I believe it is the fundamental cause of our abuse of our living systems too. I made this connection in my mind ages ago but could never have put it so well. Thanks.

  78. Iris — Thank you for your excellent comment. I agree with you totally. Who do we Americans think we are? Gods? Overweening pride leads to destruction.

  79. The fundamental question that urgently demands an answer(s)is this: How do we stop and turn around a huge Empire bent on world domination?? For me, that is what Jensen’s work is about, and hence why I participate in this discussion. We need answers folks!

  80. No one here connects overpopulation to unsustainability.

    How do I get off this mailing list?

    I unchecked “Notify me of follow-up comments?” but I’m still being spammed.

    I don’t want to report Orion as spam. Any suggestions?

  81. Pat — Many of us, including myself are very concerned about population. If you went back to previous Jensen comments threads, you would see a lot talk about this crucial issue.

  82. Pat — Look at the bottom of your email notification from Orion, and you will see the one click notice that disconnects you from further notices.

  83. Mike k – you are the one with strange discussions; it is not Robert. In fact, it would be better in my view if you decided to stop contributing here.

  84. mike k,

    Thanks, I forgot the obvious.

    BTW, glad you make the population connection — this topic (“The Tyranny of Entitlement”) seems like a relevant place to make it, but not surprisingly, crickets…

    I’m outa here. Bye.

  85. I’m not a regular reader or poster here, but a friend knows I really love Jensen’s work and directed me to this article. I find the comments afterward and the “discussion” depressing and somewhat bizarre – though, I suppose, it’s the same stuff we hear constantly from the “left” on how to solve the problem of civilization.

    I mean, it’s just ridiculous at this point when people start talking about “dialogue” or “legislation” as a solution to the fact that the current global culture is quite literally killing life on this planet. There is not a single waterway – not ONE – that is unpolluted. We are seeing loss of biodiversity greater than during the extinction of the dinosaurs. The air we breathe is polluted. Women have rocket fuel in their breast milk.

    If you don’t particularly care about non-human life, consider that 30,000 children just starved to death today – not because there wasn’t food for them, but because of the sick social hierarchy the west has forced upon this planet. The remaining indigenous groups are being violently evicted from their land or finding free life impossible due to clearcutting, poisoning of waters, and loss of species.

    In the face of these facts, I am dumbstruck when people talk about working with the system. And I think it is the height of arrogance and privilege to insist that nonviolence is the only option – especially for people who are literally being MURDERED. It’s EASY to be nonviolent when you are sitting in your warm house in Colorado eating organic tortilla chips next to your fair-trade statue of the buddha.

    I also have to wonder – what, precisely, do you propose to do when begging congress to pass legislation fails miserably – as it always has? If your insistence on nonviolence fails to bring any significant change, shall we all just sit back and let these parasites kill everything we love? As Jensen points out in Endgame 1, if you saw a child you love being brutally attacked, would you stop to try to send lovingkindness to the attacker, or would you pick up a brick and crack him in the head? This is not to say that we should run around hitting people with bricks – and any suggestion that Jensen even remotely says that in his work is an indication that the commenter hasn’t actually read much of it. DJ has consistently said that people should take ANY action they personally feel capable of. And while he doesn’t “prohibit” violence as a tool, it’s not his focus. And it’s worth pointing out that blowing up a dam or monkeywrenching logging equipment is not violence against any human being. And I think we really “punk” ourselves as environmentalists when we side with the destroyers in these cases instead of the ecowarriors who are willing to take direct action to save non-human lives.

  86. Okay then, enough arguing. Any more on that topic and this discussion won’t bear any fruit.

    Now, MOVING ON, let’s discuss courses of action.

    For example, how many of our relatives know about Jensen’s work? Could we pass it on to them?

    Or I could “abuse my power” so to speak once I become a librarian and I could tell schoolchildren how much industrial civilization is hurting everyone else.

    Maybe mike k could join the voluntary human extinction movement, since he’s so in tune to population issues.

    I’m just throwing out ideas here to get this discussion moving forward.

    Anyone else?

  87. GR — Long ago I moved (with Paul Ehrlich) from ZPG to NPG. I am a lifetime non-reproducer to date, with no intention to change that. I have told all my friends and relatives (some of them even qualify as friends!) of my thoughts about reproduction, as well as made them aware of Derrick Jensen’s work. Your suggestions are good, but we need to do more. I am on the same page with DJ and others on that point. Long term readers of these comment pages know that I have proposed an action plan to confront our escalating disaster. And yes, I am involved in implementing said plan as best I can. This idea involves creating a growing network of small groups dedicated to solving our massive problems. I have many years experience working in small groups, and am cognizant of their power to deeply change not only individuals, but also the world around them. I have gone into considerable detail on these pages on how this process can be set up and function, using AA, the early Quakers, and other historic examples to verify the reality and power of this approach. So far I have had only a minimal response from sharing this idea here at Orion, but I remain hopeful. There has been more positive response at Vera’s blog Leaving Babylon (a link to her site is on one of my recent posts concerning trolls).

    Thanks for your input GoldenRadiance. Your chosen name is pretty close to how I name my Higher Power.

  88. fairyfeathers — I share your interest in DK’s work, and your passion to be an activist. What do you reccomend we do? Can you be a little specific?

  89. It is difficult to go deeply into the matters we are considering on a comments blog. Not that some light can’t come from our efforts. In a face to face group that meets regularly (once a week is good) we can get to know our fellow seekers better, and accomplish a lot in an hour and a half meeting that is properly structured. Don’t assume structure means any significant limitation on freedom of thought and exchange, just the opposite — it is meant to facilitate maximum freedom.

    The point is that we should not demand from this online format things it can’t deliver. For example, some of us, including myself have read several of Derrick’s books, and are hence in a position to better evaluate the overall thrust of his work. There is thus a natural limitation on sharing with those whose only knowledge of DJ comes from reading one or two essays, which necessarily can only give a truncated snapshot of his thinking.

    Beyond this limitation, there are the personality conflicts, and side issues that inevitably arise when people share together, much of which can be dealt with and set aside in face to face relations, but are difficult to resolve in this limited and drawn out sharing context we have here.

    Just some thoughts on process. Does this ring a bell with anyone? More ideas on how to make our time together more productive? Less sparks and more usable energy?

  90. Let me say briefly why I value the writings of Derrick Jensen. I admire his passionate defense of all living beings, and also his penetrating indictment of the “civilization” that is destroying so much of what is good and beautiful in the name of greed and domination. When it comes to his recommendations as to what should be done to stop this destruction, I part company from him. His vague hints at sabotage and disruption only point in the direction of greater suffering and ruin. He is a good diagnostician, but a terrible prescriber. Nevertheless I feel his writings can be useful in awakening those asleep (in varying degrees) to the urgency of our planetary crisis.

  91. I hope the children are encouraged by hearing from people like Mike k, who possesses intellectual honesty, coherent mind, moral courage and clarity of vision. In a time when spin-doctors, bankstas and other thieves, sycophants and minions who serve the most wealthy and powerful by saying and doing whatever is politically convenient and economically expedient, young people could find it refreshing not to be dazzled by Mike k with the same BS they can readily get from self-serving vendors of specious ideas and double-dealers.

    Who else but deceivers and liars of the highest order could find anarchy in feeble efforts of those who seek to tell the children of whatsoever could somehow be true, as each of us is given the lights to see ‘truth’?

    After all, is it not the children’s birthright that is being willfully stolen from them by my not-so-great generation of greedmongering elders?

  92. Look around. Methinks something is somehow not quite right now here.

    Self-proclaimed masters of the universe are stealing their children’s future. Taking great pride in their ‘workmanship’, men are willfully choosing to play as if they were gods with life as we know it and humanity’s only home. Because they ‘care’, so they say, nothing is being left to chance. But in our time, “on our watch”, things are not working out so well for anyone or anything except the most craven and greedy …. for a little while longer. The masters of the universe aim to have it all and they will have it all now.

  93. Since everyone here has veered way off track here, let us be reminded that the article DJ wrote is titled “TYRANNY OF ENTITLEMENT!” We are talking about “civilized as if it were a replacement for God, or let’s forget the word God and replace it with humanity! Where is the humainty in our lives? And ss this what we meant by civilized? Beware of the tyranny of the weak! Are we so weak that we have resorted to this???? I want to share an eye opening article with you about our military. Just a little food for thought! Are we not abbetting a form of genocide here?

    Connecting the Dots: Assange, Recruiting Kids, The Tucson Massacre and General American Bloodthirstiness

    By Dave Lindorff

    When Julian Assange’s Wikileaks released leaked cables that showed both the pettiness and the bullying of the US State Department, there were immediate howls from members of Congress and from the right-wing talk radio and TV crowd for his summary execution. The more sedate called for his arrest, trial and execution. Now his lawyer in the UK has quite rightly made the argument that Assange faces the very real possibility of execution if extradited to Sweden because he could end up being snatched from that country by the US, and brought back to face a death penalty for his exposés, which the US would like to call “espionage.”

    For the rest of the article, go here…

  94. You know Effaris, you can’t transplant a conscience, and Americans, on a collective plane, lack one. Which has always been a strange paradox to me. The individual American’s propensity (and it is really the rule, not the exception) to do the right thing is a staple of Western movies for a good reason. The real tragedy now, as it always has been, is that all of this collateral damage comes home in the duffels of returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets. There is no escaping from the moral accounting each will have to do, and all of the bravo slogans in the world won’t ease their life-long suffering…or ours.

    I’ve got very limited tolerance for anyone who makes a living by exploiting in copy any murder, whatever the politics. I’m glossing over a lot of headlines these last few days. As for Assange, he may very well die for our sins, and a nobler death I could not imagine. But if he ever failed to consider that possibility, he just wasn’t paying attention. I have to believe that with the information he was trafficking in, he had to know.

  95. Hello Wade — I think most Americans do have a conscience, but it is buried and non-functioning, but not totally dead and gone. That possibility is one that gives me the hope to keep doing what I can to help awaken others to our responsibility for the world we are living in now. If the soul is dead within most of us, then we are truly condemned to the fate of zombies. There is no real solution to our problems that does not require a moral, ethical, spiritual foundation. Without something higher than the unregenerate ego, we are doomed to the tragic fate of those living only from hubris. Any major play of ancient Greece, or any history book that tells the truth, can tell one what that fate is like.

  96. Terence McKenna wrote years ago~
    “Now you see, the current theory of problem solving is that we must solve all our problems with solutions that make a buck. Well, it just may not be able to solve the problems of the 20th century & make a buck at the same time.”

  97. Dear Wade and Mike k,

    You really are an inspiration to me. Thank you. Just as y’all discern, the challenge before us is huge. That mere fact, however, does not relieve us of our responsibilities as elders. After all, what we see happening is occurring now here. Even though I am embarrassed by the realization that a challenge so obvious, so evident, so colossal and so very much human-induced has occurred on our watch, there can be no excuse given, no logic contrived, no false promises made, no “primrose path” taken that can forgive our willful blindness, our hysterical deafness, our elective mutism. Our generation has responsibilities to science and duties to humanity that are being left unattended. We are simply shrinking from the tasks at hand by playing the role of Nero, who fiddled while ‘his home’ burned. To have taken so much from this world, as my generation has done, and to be ready and willing to leave so little to its children, come what may for coming generations, that my friends is beyond the pale.

    The silence of many too many is pernicious because it is not helpful to anyone except to those self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us whose arrogance, foolhardiness and unbridled greed we, yes we, have allowed to gain control of and come to rule the world in our time.

    Perhaps necessary change is in the offing.

    Sincerely yours,


  98. Steve — You are right on as usual. The huge elephant in the living room is the rich and powerful who are destroying our world, and impoverishing and killing the rest of us. The responsibility we bear to ourselves and to future generations is to stop them from doing this. Derrick Jensen is absolutely correct in his calling our attention to this crux of our world crisis. My interest is in developing ways and means to get these folks off our backs. The small groups process I have in mind and have expounded at some length in these pages has that for its intended result. It is really a matter of how do we save our world? Please pitch in with your questions and suggestions.

  99. I was rather disturbed by the last paragraph, since it seemed to suggest that we could do nothing to change peoples attitudes until it was probably too late. The whole point of this discussion is to try to get action before we reach that stage. I suggest the best hope lies with some of the smaller nations such as New Zealand and Scotland who have more representative forms of government less dominated by big business and also have sufficient natural resources to be pretty well self sufficient in basics. If they can set examples which work others may follow

  100. Bob D — I am not sure if your comment referred to mine just previous? It was not my intention to imply that the measures I advocate in terms of forming small groups would be too little and too late. That could be true of anything we try, but we have to try anyway. Your ideas re: Scotland and NZ are of course subject to the same uncertainty, but who knows, they may have merit. We need to think widely and use our imaginations to come up with many possibilities — some of them may be enacted and bear fruit….

  101. Mike K – I was referring to the last paragraph of the original article ‘Tyranny of Entitlement’ Certainly the small group approach must be the first step in the process. How ever as a European based admirer of the USA It seems that the tremendous power of big money in US politics makes the chance of any gradual chance difficult to imagine. Perhaps it might be possible at State level.

  102. Thanks for your comment Bob. Let’s look at that last paragraph of Derrick’s article:

    “How do we stop the abusers who perpetrate a perpetual-growth economy? Seeing oiled pelicans and burned sea turtles won’t move them to stop. Nor will hundred-degree days in Moscow. We can’t stop them by making them feel guilty. We can’t stop them by appealing to them to do the right thing. The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    Among other things, DJ is an expert polemicist and rhetorician. He really knows how to build an argument and sell a conclusion. The last sentence of his essay is the core point he is trying to convince us of. Stepping back from the heady momentum he has generated to deliver this gem, one might begin to feel some misgivings. Doesn’t this naked pronouncement have some absolutist and dogmatic overtones. Is this really the ONLY WAY??

    Freeing ourselves with difficulty from the spell that Derrick’s wizardry has cast on us, we become able to ask, aren’t there possibilities for changing our situation other than the drastic remedy he proposes? After all, in order to make absolutely sure that the “bad guys” (and they are indeed bad) have no other option, we must either imprison them permanently or kill them. Otherwise they still have options. As some political extremists like to say these days, “Drive a stake through their hearts, so they can never perpetrate their evil designs on innocent folks like us again.”

    It is helpful to recall that the pundits and forecasters and experts were unanimous that the USSR could not possibly fall in a short time, with hardly a shot fired. Or that South Africa could shrug off apartheid as it did. Or that a “little brown man in a sheet” could evict the mighty British Empire from India, again without firing a shot. As we consider history, we become less confident as to what is or is not possible.

    A great source of hope and inspiration for all of us is the realization that we don”t know what may be possible through our various well intended efforts. “To venture is to risk defeat, but not to venture is to lose one’s Soul.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

  103. The trick I think is to find policies which are popular with the voters and have a the potential change attitudes.
    I am thinking of something like a tax on imported goods from counties with low wages. Most workers in the US and Europe would vote for that. The economists of course tell us that this would start a damaging trade war. But we should ask who will it damage. Not the workers in the US. It will damage the industrialist who outsource there manufacturing to these low cost areas. We could also consider making the energy companies change their pricing policy.Ensure that the lowest users pay the lowest price per unit and the price increases the more you use. I guess that would be pretty popular with most voters

  104. Bob — As I am sure you realize, voter preferences do not automatically translate into changed policies. The majority of Americans say on polls that they want the US wars terminated. Unfortunately, the majority is not in charge of national policies — corporate power calls the shots. We live in an Oligarchy that is trending more and more into a naked Fascist State. That is what we are up against.

  105. Mike,
    You are right about the awesome power of big business and this is what we are up against. However most of the people who run these companies are decent hard working members of society but they have been so brain washed by economists they simply cannot see how a zero growth economy could work.
    This is why I mentioned in my first comment that the best hope is with the small democracy’s particularly those who have some form of proportional representation and a tradition of left wing parties. Also counties like France and Germany who have strong left wing and Green parties. If they can demonstrate a system that works maybe others will follow

  106. Bob — I often liken our problem to that of the Lilliputians seeking to control Gulliver. Paul Hawken extols the power of hundreds of thousands of small group efforts to change our world in his excellent book: Blessed Unrest. In the words of the I Ching — Everything furthers. I don’t rule any well intended effort off the table. Let a thousand flowers bloom….

  107. On this Path no effort is ever wasted
    And there is no failure,
    Even a little of this practise
    Will relieve you of great suffering

    Bhagavad Gita (for Activists)

  108. mike, are you related to Obama? giving us little morsels of hope? I had given up on that h word… after hearing the word used as a ploy by obama to gain votes. it worked too! dammit. now it just seems pointless to hope for better. we all have to do what we can to survive whatever comes, is what it seems to boil down to now.

  109. Something is missing from this thread. And that something appears to be a sufficient presence of ‘the feminine’.

    Spreading the word may not primarily be either “bottom up” or “top down”. That appears not quite right to me this morning. The way the world changes toward sustainability happens as ideas of Mike k regarding sharing in many small groups begin ubiquitously. That is, change occurs when naturally persuasive conversations like this one, that contain reality-oriented explanatory power about how the world we inhabit can work, are organized around every kitchen table on the planet by matriarchy. Think of widespread, lateral communication (that is specifically not hierarchically driven).

  110. Restless — We are all related. You can trace it back to the Big Bang Papa/Mama, and beyond… I have no buyer’s remorse re Obama, I voted for Ralph. Hope has two faces; one deluding, the other empowering. Be sure and insist on the real thing.

    We all need to work on Einstein’s Koan: “Is the universe friendly?”
    Your answer will be important in grounding your worldview.

    Etty Hilsum (from the concentration camp) : “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.”

    Viktor Frankl: “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”
    We cannot be compelled to give up our freedom to rise above the level of dog eat dog survivalism.

  111. Steve — I agree that it would be wonderful if women would take the lead in bringing real peace to our world. Kind of like Lysistrata without the sexual blackmail! Women may hold the key to our transformation. We men have certainly screwed things up to a fare thee well.

  112. Again the surety of the radical, its certainty aiming surely at outsized effect, at some form of divinity, really. Jensen is a less eloquent, less focused David James Duncan, whose lyric celebration of what he would save admits joy, whereas Jensen sees through the lens of abuse only darkly. As with all such reading, the question that haunts is, What if he’s right? What if we are living at the end of capacity and therefore human time? And yet, it seems Jensen is already there, already out of time and life in a joyless prison of self. All this speculation on my part without much knowledge of his other writings or life, but there is little to recommend the zealots throughout history, and surely I sniff the scent of zealot in his writing.

    It’s as if the human psyche was/is only built to support local influence, and, as soon as the intended sweep is larger, the problem of aspiring to divinity arrives. That’s why religions are rife with cautionary tales about those who would play god; atheism can be seen as such a tale too — no god in your life; don’t become him/her/it. All part of an ongoing expulsion from “Eden.”

  113. Zealot? One of those disparaging terms used to marginalize or demonize those who make us uncomfortable. “in a joyless prison of self”? Jensen’s answer to a questioner who asked, “Why don’t you stop what you are doing?” He said, “Because I am having too much fun doing it.” It is a paradox of those who have been severely abused as Derrick was, that they sometimes have a keener sense of the importance of being happy and helping others to be happy also. I too am happy DJ is doing what he does. As much as some of his work touches on things that are deeply painful and horrifying, I am uplifted by his honest unearthing of the sources of our unlove, as a necessary first step to recovery and healing. I agree with him when he says, “I believe that deep down everyone is good.” Sometimes the work needed to get to that depth of goodness in all of us is painful and difficult, but it is necessary, and in the end richly rewarding.

  114. To those concerned: I agree limiting our population is paramount. For a start, the recent explosion in human numbers has been primarily enabled by the existence of cheaply extracted mineral oil. That era is over now and the laws of physics prevail…
    This is a vast topic involving a complex of global, national, community and individual factors – the latter alone consisting of a huge range of factors e.g. hormones, status, religion, finances and conservation.
    I had hoped the recent Nat Geo article might form a useful framework for discussion.
    Alas, it is not. It evokes the teeming life of an Indian city and obscures the fact that the strongest relationship of sharply declining birth rates is with urbanisation. An extra million people in a city reduces the population in the rural areas by two or three million.
    Perhaps I will hang my own life out as a framework.
    I was born in a rural area in New Zealand in 1947 (world pop c2.5 billion) where Roman Catholic families like ours were a minority. Our family was the norm for the region – I was one of four children. We pitied those children from one or two child families and debated whether being one or three or four or five siblings was the best.
    I moved to the city to attend university and my belief systems were transformed. By 1969 I recall writing an article entitled “Blessed are the Barren (for they shall in inherit the Earth”. In it I argued that we should be immensely grateful to all those who can live meaningful lives without propagating. The supposed radical student newspaper refused to publish it.
    I established a deep relationship with a woman and we agreed we could and would live without children of our own. However I became aware she was increasingly affected each time her sisters became pregnant and several years on when one of her close friends becomes pregnant I sensed this great hormonal surge through her. It was so deep, intense and primal. When she asked if we might have a child together I felt I could not refuse. In retrospect I realise it was an even more difficult decision than I thought at the time. When I began bleeding from various parts of my body doctors prescribed Valium etc. Fortunately I then met a doctor who told me there was nothing Western medicine could do for me and that is how I came to discover Yoga and meditation processes in general. They have proven great resources in times of trouble ever since.

    Several close friends from my university days had married and wished to limit the size of their families to two or less children. They got together and in 1972 formed a community – what we now call an urban Transition community. This structure enabled adults with no children to share parenting and the children to enjoy the close company of a range other children. We joined the community in 1975 and in 1977 our lovely daughter was born.

    About 1980 something changed. The growing popular awareness of the need to conserve resources and reduce the human population evaporated. It was replaced by the spiritual ethos many Americans know as Reagonomics, British know as Thatcherism and in New Zealand we know it as Rogernomics. In brief: The Market rules! It, not puny fallible citizens, solves our problems. The Market, of course has no notion of the principles of physics and the need to moderate populations. Such psychopathic notions put no intrinsic value on anything, least of all human life.

    About that time I recall Newsweek published an article about how Reagan had negotiated a deal with the new Polish Pope. The Pope agreed to allow the Catholic Church to become a major conduit for CIA supplies (especially communications equipment) to the Solidarity Movement in Poland. Soon it was better equipped than the Polish Government and the rest is history. In return Reagan agreed to use US might to block family planning measures globally, especially through the United Nations. The hideous legacy of this deal is especially seen in areas like Africa where Roman Catholic opposition to condoms has meant a marriage certificate is often a death certificate for women now. Its legacy may also be a billion or more extra human beings requiring sustenance.

    Meanwhile our media frequently broadcast articles righteously condemning both India and China’s attempts at population control while promoting our societies as bastions of freedom where one can beget as many children as one pleases. When China’s policies succeeded in promoting one-child families our media published many feature articles railing against China as a nation of “spoilt little brats”. Implicit was a profound rejection of population moderation and one-child families in general.

    At the local level new families joined the community and they had four children and some of their friends had numerous children. I “overheard” conversations about how people like me were “too selfish” to have children. Again I felt the seismic-scale hormonal surges through my partner with the pregnancies in the community and she asked if we might have a second child. She knew the normal arguments no longer prevailed, for our daughter had plentiful intimate company with a dozen children. Also other adults in the community with only one child clearly led fulfilled lives.
    A decade later when our daughter was 20 and leaving the nest we separated after nearly three decades together. She went to live with our daughter. She told me then how she had never forgotten the terrible look that came over my face when she asked if we could have a sibling for our daughter those years ago and she knew never to ask again. She told me she would dearly have loved to have another child and remained bitter at my refusal. I could not tell her how I would have loved to have another child too because that would have set me up as more virtuous than her.

    Nor could I tell her I sensed her continual bereavement at not having that second child. I was well aware she had graduated from school with a strong sense of being an academic failure. Her life was one of manual labour – working on farms, housecleaning, public childcare, nurse aiding etc. She was however skilled and confident as a mother. This role is a source of great meaning for her. It was her vocation.

    We will never know the joys of grandparenthood. Our daughter is married and has decided the world does not need another of her. In a very poignant moment she asked me if I minded if she and her husband decided not to have children. I said I understand and value the altruism underpinning her decision. I am very grateful for their decision. At the same time I had always imagined playing with my grandchildren and while I embrace their decision I still keep her toys in the attic in memory of the time when I imagined playing with them with our grandchildren. Other options no longer exist – our Anglo-American culture is so perverted now that all men have become to be regarded as probable child molesters and neighbours no longer ‘share’ their children as they once did. Maybe when I am old the local school will allow me to read stories to the children there.

    My boarder is from the teeming city of Hyderabad in India. She has four siblings and her mother died when she was two. Her father voted devoted his life to their education so they all have degrees. He is the grandfather of just three children while my parents are the grandparents of ten.

    All this is a complex framework for discussion. A single, educated child may destroy more resources that a village of children. Roman Catholic policies have very different impacts in Italy and Spain compared to Poland or nations of Africa. I understand both Clinton and Obama relaxed the opposition of their predecessors to UN family planning support measure but Clinton repealed Glass Steagall and Obama approved the transfer of trillions to the money traders – both acts providing drivers for population growth to maintain insane credit systems. I understand China had periods of stable population when a significant proportion of the people lived in monasteries, which made the nation vulnerable to barbarians and their gunboats. And it can be very hard to act think and act sustainably amidst a tsunami of hormone surges.
    All I know is that the decisions to beget or not to beget children have been the most difficult of my life and I am glad I faced them to the best of my ability.

  115. Dave McArthur — Thank you for sharing so deeply and openly. We all have a lot to learn about the personal dynamics and sacrifices involved in deciding not to have children. My wife and I agreed not to reproduce early on in our relationship. It has not been as intense a source of pain and conflict as was your case, but it does leave moments of regret at times. But these occasional moments fade in significance when we remind ourselves of why we made this decision, and reaffirm to each other that those reasons are still as valid as ever. Our gift is to those who will be spared from suffering the overcrowding and resource depletion, war and famine that
    adding excessive humans abets on our overpopulated planet.

    My own decision in this regard is not about telling others what to do, or blame them for anything. My own decision is what my conscience tells me is the right thing to do. Thanks again for this important sharing. I feel a sense of support for you in what you have gone through to be true to your own conscience. Be at peace, you have done what you felt best, and are to be commended for that.

  116. Some who are sharing in these comments have said that they are unfamiliar with Derrick’s other written work, and so are limited to responding to the meager content of his essays in Orion. Here is a quote from one of DJ’s books that demonstrates his positive activist side, which may be less apparent in his essays that we are discussing:

    Here are some questions that anyone contemplating serious action should ask themselves.
    * What are the risks if you take action? (Loss of status? State reprisals?
    Prison? Torture? Murder by the state?)
    * What are the risks if you don’t? (A freefall slide into fascist dystopia? Runaway global warming The collapse of the biosphere? Loss of self-respect?)
    * What would you need from yourself, from your friends, your family, your community, your institutions to make action more possible? (Moral support? Material support? Familial support? Collaboration?)
    * Where do your loyalties lie? Where do you end, and other creatures begin?
    * What will be your legacy? What do you want to leave behind?
    * What do you need, and what do you have to give up, to make that happen? And if you don’t do it, who will?

    Knowing the answers to those questions, having discarded the paralyzing mythologies of those in power, choose your future, and fight for it.

    Page 397-8 of What We Leave Behind (2009) by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay

  117. Dear Dave McArthur, Mike k and Friends,

    Thanks for so openly and undefendedly sharing your experience with us.

    As many of you know, I have held a decade-long concern as well as harbored an abiding hope during that time that open discussions would occur regarding human population dynamics. You also know of my many failures here and elsewhere to accomplish this goal.

    If I many do so now, please consider turning your attention to something that emanates from the same source as human population dynamics but is still wholly different from it. On this occasion I would ask that we examine the nature of distinctly human creatureliness. The concept of “human creatureliness” is usually associated with the widespread denial of its existence in Homo sapiens. That denial, like the widespread denial of extant science of human population dynamics, appears to require immediate and rigorous scrutiny.

    If it pleases any of the participants in this conversation or Derrick Jensen, Alan Weisman, Kathleen Dean Moore, Scott Walker and the members of the Orion Society Board of Directors, perhaps we could have a Reader’s Corner discussion of human creatureliness. A conversation about it here or in another thread, if that is judged more appropriate, could also be easily arranged.



  118. In memory and honor:
    Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

  119. Steve — The realization of our creatureliness lies beyond the hubristic sense of entitlement that Derrick is pointing to. The willingness to admit our limitations and shortcomings is a healthy form of humility, and indeed realism. It is the essential first step towards growing beyond our isolating and destructive arrogance.

  120. Perhaps a comment from a good friend and outstanding scientist would be helpful now here. Responses from one and all will surely be appreciated.

    “…… The perspective that human behavior is a a function of environmental contingencies is highly resisted in our culture, just as understanding that our genetic makeup is a function of environmental contingencies (natural selection) is highly resisted. Regarding human behavior, this resistance is behind psychologists not agreeing on the definition of their own subject matter. This resistance occurs in overt and covert ways, even among scientists.

    The resistance to seeing human behavior, genetics and ecology as being a function of environmental contingencies is behind all of our current difficulties. For example, I think it outrages all of us that we have a culture of denial regarding peak oil. I think it amazes all of us that there is almost no general acknowledgment that we may very well be in a human species die-off, not in spite of our large numbers, but because of our large numbers. I think it astounds us that people deny the reality of climate change, or see it only as opening up new trade routes in the arctic. It baffles me, and precious few others, that we can fully comprehend that every other living species’ population increases to the level of its carrying capacity, i.e., food supply, but that that this reality doesn’t apply to the human species.

    I hope we’ll move beyond ourselves or our brains / minds as “the creators” of our behavior and, instead, focus on the independent variables that will lead to success and sustainability.


  121. A good piece, but limited in its foresight and deductive reasoning.

    ALL life is by its very nature expansionist and “abusive”. All life arguably operates under a sense of entitlement. It is why all life competes for resources and survival. ANY type of living organism, given the opportunity would quickly consume and overwhelm its environment.

    Human beings are no different, except in one incredibly important way. We reason.

    I fully support the idea that we must preserve our planet for our future generations as well as for the continued survival of all life on this globe. However, I do not believe we are limited by what this globe has to offer. Human beings have the potential to expand the scope of their available resources.

    Where a non reasoning animal is limited by how far it can range on this planet, human beings have no such constraints.

    I truly believe we are approaching a point where the visionaries of history will be proven correct.

    Our future lies among the other planets, other stars, and eventually among the other galaxies.

    This article limits human beings only to what is here on this earth. This is a mistake. Our “environment” extends beyond earth.

  122. Come on Paul,
    This is a typical Science will provide the answer reaction. It’s forty years since the first moon landing and we are no nearer getting beyond that. If we don’t do something here on earth in the next forty years we’ll be so busy fighting each other for the available resources there wont be any time to think about space travel. What are you guys doing over there? You’ve got the president of China a in your front room. Now you should be out campaigning about low cost imports and the expansion of global trade. Get you manufacturing back home where you can control it and keep every one in a job and head for a zero growth economy. Let China expand its manufacture to benefit it’s own people.

  123. Dear Paul Novak,

    You report,

    “Our future lies among the other planets, other stars, and eventually among the other galaxies.”

    What you refer to as ‘reason’ is surely not reasoning as I understand the term. When you report that “a non reasoning animal is limited by how far it can range on this planet, human beings have no such constraints”, I call that BS. Human beings are certainly different from non-human beings, but to suggest that human beings are not constrained by the limitations imposed on all living things by the nature of the biophysical world we are blessed to inhabit strikes me as preposterous.

    You are not speaking about what people with clear vision can see and do report. You seem to be speaking of fantasy and fiction?

    What you are reporting appears to have very little in common with clarity of vision, coherence of mind, reason or foresight.

    If we evolved on Earth, what are we going to eat, breathe and love on other planets and in other galaxies?



  124. Paul — Thanks for commenting. Your ideas of escape to the stars are fairly common among the sleeping populace. Encouraged no doubt by the massive PR dream machine of NASA and other self-interested entities. These fantasies make short work of the laws of physics, and the realities of our Universe. A short trip to Mars would consume an enormous amount of energy and resources, and take a few years to pull off.
    But, never mind, because some miracle of new wizardry, such as seen on Star Trek or other SF venues will surely show up to pull our chestnuts from the consuming flames. Jesus and the ET’s continue to be tardy, so we need the modern day God, SCIENCE to save the day.

    It is not surprising that folks entertain these hopeful fantasies in lieu of actually assessing the crisis we are facing. Avoidance and denial are so much easier than seeking real solutions.

  125. Dear Mike k,

    I do not know if science will save us or not. That is a really good question.

    But it does appear crystal clear to me that science gives us our last and best hope for finding balance in the world we inhabit.



  126. Steve — You of all persons should by now know that the pronouncements of scientists like yourself, and the few colleagues who espouse your ideas, have actually little influence on the “masters of the universe” who are largely responsible for the disastrous course our world is set on. These folks could care less about the real truth regarding population, or climate, or chemical poisoning of our environment and ourselves. Their over-riding concern is with profits and increased power over others. They easily hire a legion of “scientists” to debunk climate change or any other issue affecting their lust for wealth and power. If we are waiting for a handful of scientists to save our world, we wait in vain. Their efforts will be ignored, and relegated to the category of too little and too late. IMHO.

  127. Steve — I did not mean to imply that your efforts, or those of other well informed scientists are without any positve effect. Every such effort is useful and does make some difference. I only wished to counter those who think that science ALONE will save us.

  128. I appreciate the intentions behind this essay, but the language in the final paragraph troubles me. Jensen writes, “We can’t stop them by appealing to them to do the right thing. The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.” I’m uncomfortable with the logical implications of these two statements. If we cannot persuade others to act morally, are we forced to become aggressors? I don’t want to save the planet only to make enemies of most of my neighbors. Inspiration must triumph over trepidation.

  129. In response to Steven Salmony and others on the subject –

    I am all for understanding our “human creatureliness”, but I think there tends to be an overly simplistic view of what that means. Too often I hear it as “humans are just like every other species.” But anyone with even a basic knowledge of conservation biology knows that each species is different and effective understanding of species decline, or increase, need to be understood with a thorough understanding of the unique habitat requirements and behavior of that species.

    “It baffles me, and precious few others, that we can fully comprehend that every other living species’ population increases to the level of its carrying capacity, i.e., food supply, but that that this reality doesn’t apply to the human species.”

    In light of conservation biology, that statement is nonsense. Were it true, there would be no reason to preserve old-growth coastal forests in order to protect the Marbled Murrelet. It is a fish-eating species that feeds in marine ecosystems, so the only thing that should impact its population is the availability of prey species – any need for moss-covered old-growth branches for nest sites should be irrelevant. But we know there are millions of species whose population is constrained (or in decline) due to specific requirements for nesting or den sites, reproductive behaviors, obligate pollinators, obligate hosts, symbiotic relationships, habitat requirements, etc. etc. Species that increase to the limit of their food supply may even be a minority in natural ecosystems.

    So if we are going to understand “human creatureliness”, we need to do it by understanding that human behavior, species history, and evolution, are unique and different from other species – just as every other species is unique and different from other species. And homo sapiens has some behaviors that are pretty different from other species. So I would like to see more discussion of population that speaks to the unique behavior and conditions of homo sapiens (which is being done in the fields of demographics, sociology, et al), rather than use a simplistic Malthusian model that is more appropriate to the artificial conditions of bacteria in a Petri dish.

    As a start, take the fact that human fertility (measured by children per women) tends to be lowest when there is an abundance of food, and highest where there are shortages, and that many of those societies that have the greatest security of food supply also have declining populations. That evidence alone presents a significant challenge to the deterministic model of “growth to the limits of food supply”.


  130. @Bob Drysdale

    What you consider a “typical” reaction I consider a simple acceptance of the natural progression demonstrated by our own evolution and current placement in the grand scheme of things. The truth is that we ARE a lot closer to achieving grander expansion than we were 40 years ago. The problem, however, is not one of whether we can do it, or should do, but rather one of ideologies and priorities.

    We know two things for certain.
    The earths resources are finite no matter what we do.

    If mankind is going to survive to continue growing and evolving he will have to increase his available resources.

    There is only one way to do this, and that is to expand beyond the earth.

    @ Steven Earl Salmony
    I refer to reason exactly as it is defined. I am indeed speaking about clear vision, reason and foresight.
    You say “to suggest that human beings are not constrained by the limitations imposed on all living things by the nature of the biophysical world we are blessed to inhabit strikes me as preposterous.”

    I would argue that it is already demonstrably true.In fact, isn’t that the whole problem here? That there is nothing to limit us?

    Are we limited by predators who cull our number and keep our reproduction in check, or does our reasoning allow us to circumvent that natural control? Are we limited by environmental factors that confine us only to regions favorable to our living requirements, or do we simply change the environment and adapt ourselves through technology to survive wherever we choose?

    We are not constrained by the natural limits of the biosphere as yet. We have extended those limits, pushed them ever outward through our own manipulation of the material world.

    You also say, “If we evolved on Earth, what are we going to eat, breathe and love on other planets and in other galaxies?”

    That is very simple to answer. The same things we do here. We already know that every single material we need to sustain life is available on almost every solid planetary body in the solar system. We already possess the technological ability to manipulate those materials to suit our needs and this ability will only continue to improve with time as our technological ability advances.

    @mike k

    I find your comments fairly indicative of the response to be expected of those who refuse to accept that we live in a finite world where eventually all of our good intentions will add up to nothing in the grand scheme of things.

    I find it somewhat disturbing that some would choose to continue looking inward despite all the progress we as human beings have made since our learning to walk upright. If all we ever did was make do with what he already have, I shudder to think where we would be right now. It strikes me as defeatist.

    You write as if life is supposed to be easy. As if the fact that since doing something is difficult then it is not worth doing. Life is in fact itself hard. Life has had to struggle and scrabble for every foothold it has gained and it has paid a steep price again and again. But the lesson to be learned is that the rewards are more than worth it.

    What matter is it if the cost is expensive, the going difficult, if by making the effort we create the promise of a continued existence for ourselves as a species?

    Far from “sleeping” or spin, or propaganda, I see hope, reality and promise born of facts and demonstrable realities.

    It is precisely because individuals such as myself DO NOT practice denial and avoidance that such hopes as mine exist.

    We recognize that no amount of conservation, self limitation, disciplined management or use will hold the answer to our continued survival.

    How ironic it would be were we to put all our effort into simply maintaining a simple sustainable population, only to see it wiped out with the next asteroid impact!

    No, there is no denial here. Only acceptance and understanding of the inevitable end, and a willingness to place some faith in the human race since after all, that is all we really have.

  131. “We recognize that no amount of conservation, self limitation, disciplined management or use will hold the answer to our continued survival.”

    Do you work for the US Chamber of Commerce? If not, you might send them a resume. While you are at it send one to NASA also. You talk their kind of talk.

    The sky (part of Earth) is not the limit. After we have trashed and destroyed Earth, we will just go space exploring for other worlds to conquer and destroy (music from Star Trek plays in background).

  132. @Mike K

    I spent a little time going back to familiarize myself with the comments and the direction of this discussion. I am sorry to admit to doing this.

    “mike k on Jan 09, 2011

    Wow. Robert, you say: To believe that we have power over “them”, even if just the power to “neutralize” them, is to perpetuate the power-over paradigm.

    That is the kind of talk that the politicos, corporatists, and despoilers of our world just love to hear. “Don’t blames us, and please don’t do anything to directly oppose us. You new age kids go off and live in wigwams or whatever, just leave us responsible (and blameless!) adults in charge of your world, so we can suck it dry, and leave you with a corpse.

    If Exxon and the military complex get wind of your thoughts, you may have a lush PR job waiting for you.”

    Apparently you have a standard routine here.

    I have also seen your responses and attitudes towards those you apparently gave no understanding to and had no intention of engaging in worthwhile disussion, only self affirmation at their expense.

    One of the biggest and worst offenses you can commit online is to use the sincere and honest dialogue of another merely to engage in mental masturbation.

    No thanks.

    I am done here.

  133. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with you. I live in a nation with a lot of banter which takes place without a solutions-focused perspective. I would have preferred the writer of this piece, with so much wonderful energy, to have approached the topic non-judgmentally and with a solutions-focused perspective.

    Wouldn’t that have matched the caliber of Orion?

  134. Enough. Paul Novak is not contributing to this discussion anymore than Riversong was. He’s just pointing out how supposedly horrible everyone else is, like mike k for example, and how sincere and great he is in comparison.

    Let’s stay on topic and focus on coming up with actual solutions, everyone. Whether or not the people on here have character flaws is irrelevant to Jensen’s diagnosis of the problem. Whether Jensen has the right solution to the problem or not is irrelevant, if he’s right about the problem, we need to actually SOLVE this problem and fast before it negatively impacts the entire human race and all generations after us.

    If you don’t like the solutions people post on here, post better ones and/or at least point out what’s wrong with the solutions (not what’s wrong with the people), otherwise you’re just trying to derail and hijack the discussion.

  135. I agree we must look for solutions!
    The ultimate long term solution assuming we are not going to colonise the stars must be to stabilise the world population at a sustainable level. What that level will be is of course is debatable and those who believe that ‘Science will find a way’ may set this pretty high. My own view is that we may well have exceeded the sustainable level already and should probably be looking at a population about half of what we have at the moment. That may seem like a pretty tall order but we should bear in mind that the a sixth of the world population die off every ten years by natural causes so if we can get the replacement rate down to below the 2.3 children level we can quickly get a reduction.
    But how you ask? Well the Chinese method is a bit harsh and I don’t think it has worked very well. How ever we do know that the populations in most first world counties are on the decline and so the answer must be to raise the standard of living in the third world so that large families are no longer needed. We do this by curbing our own expansion and concentrating on economic growth in the counties where it will raise living standards

  136. Please note that in the year of my birth, absolute global human population numbers were less than half the number of people on Earth today.

    Also, there are more hungry and malnourished people worldwide now than were alive on Earth a mere 65 years ago.

  137. Paul — I am sorry that you construed my criticism of your ideas as an attack on you as a person. I had no intention of doing that. I admit that my ironic tone verged on sarcasm, and I apologize for that. The ideas you expressed are fairly common currency among many in our world today, and I find them to be deeply misguided and harmful to the hope of a better life for all. I realize that you truly believe in what you have shared here, and I respect you for that, and welcome your participation in this discussion. However I reserve the right to strongly disagree with those ideas.

    If you should choose to continue to share here, as I hope you do, I will scrupulously focus on your ideas, and avoid sarcasm. I still feel that what you have shared so far is wildly unrealistic, given the widespread suffering, war, and tyranny we are facing in our world today. My interest is in proposing answers to these problems, which I have done in these pages.

  138. Steve Salmony,

    Nobody disputes that the world population underwent a dramatic increase since WWII, largely as a result of the lag between improved healthcare, food security and infant survival and the demographic transition to lower fertility. Because there has been dramatic declines in fertility over the same period – even in Africa, women are having far fewer children then they did a few decades ago. And while absolute numbers of hungry and malnourished people are more than 65 years ago, I am not sure about the percentage of population.

    The level of poverty and malnourishment is not necessarily a result of overpopulation as it is with economic exploitation and imbalance of wealth. I know Pimentel likes to stress the amount of food aid that goes to places like Africa, but he also fails to acknowledge just how much of Africa’s resources have been and continue to be expropriated for the benefit of northern and western wealth. Even on food security – while million of African’s live below a level of raw subsistance, some of the most fertile land is used to grow pinapples and other cash crops for Americans and Europeans (the profits from the sales also largely flowing to wealthy European and American corporations).

    That is why the most important thing we can do to bring about population control is to focus on global economic equality and food security – insuring that those parts of the world that are starving can live at a basic subsistance level and that other parts of the world stop overconsuming. That plus insuring access to adequate birth control and focusing on gender equality are the most effective means of stabalizing population, and there is more than adequate research out there to support this.


  139. Getting back to Jensen and the article – the flaws, and strengths in Jensens argument have been pretty well hashed out here, but a couple of points:

    I think that his closing point – that the environmental “abusers” will only stop when they have no choice but to stop is absolutely true when it comes to those portions of society which are most invested in maintaining the current exploitative economy. The problem is that most people in our society are invested in some way and maintain that destructive system. So who is the enemy then? A small handful of eco-radicals divorced from the bulk of the society, trying to three hundred million people (focussing on the US only for the moment) “have not other choice” is a plan that is bound to fail (Margeret Mead notwithstanding).

    The real challange is to get a large portion of that 300 million to join a movement that will demand change – and that takes a great deal of listening as well as proselytizing.

    On the subject of violence and non-violence, I always come back to the words of Martin Luther King in his final speach in Memphis, the day before he was murdered.

    “It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.”

    We can’t defeat an elite power armed with smart bombs and nuclear weapons, or even with heavily armed and technologically outfitted police forces, with violence, and the damage, both environmental and human, that we would cause in trying would be too great. Anything but a non-violent – which does not mean passive – solution risks destroying the planet in order to save it. Nonviolence is the only, and the greatest, power we have to change the world.



  140. John Chapman — You make some good points about violence, with which I agree. You also say:
    “The real challenge is to get a large portion of that 300 million to join a movement that will demand change”

    My question is, how many is a large proportion? In the downfall of Soviet Communism and the USSR, that number as percentage of the population was very small. In the overthrow of Jim Crow Laws in the US, again relatively few were required. Never underestimate the power of the committed few to get the ball rolling and spearhead change throughout the society. The creators of the US Constitution were few, but the results transformed the Republic.
    Mao’s peasant army was only a few thousand, but they transformed China.

    Just some thoughts on the power of the few, sometimes starting with a handful, or even only one. What do you think? It gives me hope.

  141. A lot of response generated by this article! I would like to offer my perspective, and anchor it in the thinking of such as Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Thomas Berry (among others). I have explored deeply what I have named our sense of human entitlement and privilege; we are an anthropocentric bunch, and as such, we’ve lost our way. Human primacy is a fallacy, and although what I am about to say may not be the sole source of our misunderstanding of our place in the biotic community, it is certainly a significant one; I often think of it as the elephant in the room in the eco-conversation – namely religion, and its doctrine of creation as it unfolds in scripture, particularly the first accounting found in the the first chapter of the book of Genesis. I am referring to the six day version, not the Garden of Eden version, and I think we dare not underestimate the power, even among the non-religious, of the command to the first family – ostensibly issued by God – to be fruitful and multiply; to exercise dominion and rule; and to subdue all life forms. From my perspective, this forms the subtext, consciously or unconsciously, of the better portion of human behavior, and human primacy – as we’ve pretty much all acknowledged – is dangerous, even beyond our knowing.

    Losing our sense of place – within and intrinsic to the biotic community – has come at great cost, certainly to the earth community, but I think I am really wanting to talk about the bleak spiritual landscape such human disconnect has caused the humans. There are a lot of ways to talk about this, but I want first, to talk about the deleterious effects of human longing, for what we may not even know or remember. I heard a well-respected evangelical Christian pastor on NPR’s Krista Tippett show tell the listeners that Christians are not at home in this world; so we look to another world. My knee jerk response hasn’t changed over the last couple months. Of course he is not at home here, having no sense of place within the planetary eco-system. And so a heaven continues to compel a huge Christian and non-Christian population like a pollen-laden patch of day lilies to a (disappearing) swarm of honey bees.

    My perspective only – heaven is the landing place of a displaced human longing to belong. And once heaven is in place as the ultimate “room in my Father’s house” then the care of our true home – planet earth – is utterly compromised. Where I go with that is the grief of it. And grief, as probably all of us have experienced, is the provocateur of unpredictable, often indescribable, often violent, greedy, mostly blind and desperate reactive behavior.

    So . . . here’s where I go with that, straight into the morality of displacement, or what I want to say, straight into the morality of reclaiming our human rightful place, within and intrinsic to the biotic community. I hold this as a tenet of – I don’t want to call it faith, exactly – so I’ll call it a tenet of hope.

    If we can find our way to our proper place within the eco-system, a biocentric morality can’t help but follow, and its starting points are mindfulness and gratitude. E. O. Wilson, a world renown and highly acknowledged authority on the behavior of ants wrote his first novel, Anthill, at the age of eighty something. In it, Wilson, describes his young hero Raff Cody through the eyes of Raff’s college professor Frederick Norville who says, “I had known Raff almost all his life. We met at the unspoiled environment of Lake Nokobee, located in the central part of South Alabama close to the border of the Florida Panhandle. It was a world few knew existed and fewer still could speak of with any understanding, a world that we shared and loved. I was the scientist and historian of this place, Raff the boy who in a sense grew up there. His intimacy with the Nokobee provided the moral compass that was to guide his remarkable life.”

    My fragile hope is this: that knowing our proper human place within and intrinsic to the biocentric community can’t help but reconfigure our moral compass. I am talking about a fundamental change of mind, heart, and spirit. The question, of course, is how do we get there, and again, there is this elephant in the room, this time taking the form of what Thomas Berry names as one of the great institutions, religion. The institution of the church has laid claim – or tried to – the life of the spirit, as expressed through sacrament and ritual. Life outside the church has pretty much acquiesced; so many of us outside the church have dropped out of a sacramental life. The problem is that churches, at least Christian churches define sacrament as 1) baptism with water and spirit into the body of Christ; 2) the body and blood of Jesus; death and resurrection. And so, there goes the commonality of water, bread, and wine, birth, dying and rebirth.

    I guess the piece that I want to bring into this conversation is the right-brained piece – what changes hearts, minds, and spirits is not only data and information, or anger and more violence, but art, and poetry, music, body movement, the appreciation of the sacramental nature of all life forms, and celebratory ritual. Those last two, not defined by the institution of the church, but by what all life forms have in common – earth, waters, wind, and fire.

    So, let me tell you, it’s been a little scary to write into so many comments and opinions, but I very much want to be a part of this conversation. For my nickel, this conversation is the absolute ground of every other conversation that needs to happen.

  142. Mike K

    Oh absolutely, there is great power for the few, and even one, to get the ball rolling. But the few cannot do it alone. Gandhi after all did not bring about the end of British Colonial rule. What ended British colonial rule was a million ordinary men and women who were inspired by the movement that Gandhi lead. Think about it – at least a million people committed civil disobedience in the Salt campaign – a million people risking arrest by walking into the salt flats and making their own salt.

    Same with the US Civil Rights movement. Yes, MLK, the SCLC and SNCC formed the core of committed activists to the movement, but many many thousands more participated in the marches, the boycotts, the voter registration drives, etc. The freedom riders were heroic, but so were the 65 year old sharecroppers whose only political act was having the courage to walk into town and vote for the first time. Many sympathetic millions more, both black and white, quietly supported the movement with their votes and letters and conversations with their neighbors.

    My point is that we can only stop those who are destroying the planet when the few can inspire the many to take that sort of action.


  143. Caroline — Thanks for sharing your penetrating insights. I too think that the way out is the Way in. We need a new religion, despite the flawed uses that word has been put to.

    One interpretation of the Four Quartets is that they are a meditation on the Wasteland, and an attempt to find a Way beyond it’s despair. I concur with Eliot that our plight in the modern world is a Koan with no logical solution. The “answer” such as it is, dwells in a dimension beyond the limitations that created and maintain it. The entry into this transcendent dimension (of conscious being) is through spiritual practice.

    Despite all the failings of religious traditions, and all the (mostly) correct debunking of popular ideas of God and Spirit, the only real solution to our manifold difficulties is through a thorough dismantling of our precious Egos as they are now constituted. Fortunately, there are proven ways and methods for escaping our self-created impasse. Meditation is key to all these Paths.

    Please do not tell me that meditation and spirituality are all moonshine and pie in the sky. In the case of meditation, there are now well over a thousand careful scientific studies from independent researchers all over the world confirming the remarkable and transformative effects of this practice. With regard to spiritual paths, AA is an example of these methods to overcome the deepest addictions and conditioning’s, freeing people to live transformed lives. Our refusal to think outside the box may seal our doom, if we fail to “repent” as the oldtimers called it. Einstein was right, some problems cannot be solved within the mental limits which have created them.

    “You say I am repeating
    Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
    Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
    To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
    You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
    In order to arrive at what you do not know
    You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
    In order to possess what you do not possess
    You must go by the way of dispossession.
    In order to arrive at what you are not
    You must go through the way in which you are not.
    And what you do not know is the only thing you know
    And what you own is what you do not own
    And where you are is where you are not.”

    Mr. Eliot is not selling “cheap hope” here. The true Way is not without difficulty.

  144. Dear Caroline Fairless,

    Your breathtaking perspective and Mike k’s appreciation of it provide much to contemplate. Both of you deserve our thanks.

    Sincerely yours,


  145. Thanks Steve. Your tireless efforts for the sake of all of us certainly come from a spiritual impulse far beyond the boundaries of the selfish ego. Your contributions deserve the gratitude of all conscious beings.

  146. Gloom and Doom has been here since the beginning of time. Oooohhh we’re all gonna die! Come on gang. violence will not stop on this planet because “its right”. Give me a break and go out and pet a bear! If you don’t stay in step with other nations, you will fall to the wayside and be absorbed by the dominant mass. The word entitlement can mean 2 things. I choose to think that entitlements are generally unearned. If you maintain and earn spot on the global scene, wheres the foul? If you expect to be a bystander and reap the benefits, good luck. Stop being unrealistic about what should be and just accept what IS. Your “happy” world delusion will bring you more grief than simply accepting things for what they are.

  147. I guess those darker skinned folks down south would have saved themselves a lot of grief, if they had just listened to the lighter skinned folk’s advice to just accept things for what they are.
    After all, violence and abuse are just the way things are, why make a fuss about it?

  148. The funny part of choice and the creator is that even just one man, women or child has the resources to end the tyranny of entitlement by saying no. All may not be able to say it as eloquently and, for the first time in many years, so cohesively, yet when our young kids now taking the helm realize that they each are responsible for the state of the world and remember their entitlement demands them to actually act on their responsibility then change will actually happen.

  149. Never in the course of human events have the most entitled and greedy in a single generation taken so much for themselves and left so little for the children. My not-so-great generation is all about outrageous per-capita overconsumption, excessive individual hoarding, and exercising our ‘inalienable rights’ to live without limits. We resolutely and proudly accept no responsibility for our actions. We give no thought to mortgaging the children’s future and threatening their existence. The idea of leaving the world a better place than it was given to us is a ruse; it makes no sense whatever in light of bold and indisputable facts to the contrary. In the name of protecting and preserving the world for coming generations, my generation is recklessly ravaging the Earth and relentlessly polluting its frangible environs. What all of us are witnessing is the ruin of Earth as a fit place for human habitation and life as we know it.

    It has taken not more a single lifetime for the most narcissistic, arrogant, foolhardy and avaricious to commandeer more of Earth’s resources than were consumed and hoarded by the human species throughout human history prior to 1945.

    Perhaps necessary change is in the offing.

  150. There are eloquent voices in this thread about the consequences of exercising our “inalienable rights to live without limits.” We are living – yet still not seeing – the impact. Our human impact(this is Bill McKibben speaking) has changed forever the earth as we have known it over the last ten thousand years. What I am challenging is the narrowness of the notion that this is about human habitation and life as we know it. It isn’t. It is much bigger than human habitation, bigger than our children, grand children and even the great grandchildren. It is far bigger than the responsibility that the misplaced notion of human entitlement requires of us. The subtext running through so many of these comments, is the common presumption of entitlement, period. Human entitlement is simply not the way of the universe, not reflective of the reality of the universe. The science has been telling us this for decades. We’re not listening. From early times, and with only a few exceptions, we have lost our sense of place, within and intrinsic to the earth community. I am thinking that greed and corruption – as well as our sense of numbness and powerlessness at the overwhelming state of destruction – often accompanied by a rage that has nowhere to go – are all expressions of the desperation of our human isolation and longing from the interconnected living web of all life forms. It’s what allows people of faith, acknowledging that this earth is not their home, to posit another, better home, namely heaven. The truth is, this is our home. We are lost, have lost ourselves, in a way that no other species, no other life form, is lost. This is a matter of spirit and heart and soul. It is this spiritual piece, I think, that needs to partner with the science of how the universe actually is ordered (not hierarchically, but as an interconnected, inter-networked living web), and to partner with what the science has already told us about the disastrous impact of humans lost and run amok.

  151. One of my main worries is the fact that we are all basically insecure and fearful of the future and so organise our lives so as to have a surplus always on hand and maybe a god who will ‘provide’ if our insecurity proves correct. We live paycheck to paycheck but still strive to have a little bit left over so as to ward off the feeling of insecurity. Think of it in terms of a garden in which we grow all our sustainence, and means of shelter for us and our families. The whole family works toward having a surplus so as to see us through the winter or drought. This is the ‘profit’ or growth and is seen by all as good, it makes us feel good safe and secure. Take away the profit and we feel exposed and will surely go hungry or freeze. Added to this is our religious belief in the next life that is free of want, where a magnanimous but also vengeful and jealous god will sustain us and protect us or punish us if we fail to worship him and bow down to him. All this makes us almost bound to grow a surplus or profit, to expand our realm and ‘conquer’ nature in pursuit of security from the future which is essentially unknown and unknowible. A bind indeed !

  152. Where’s the foul, Wisconsin Hunter?

    The foul is that, if you “maintain your spot” by slaughtering innocent people, then you’ve done something wrong.

    Accepting the world as it is is an excuse. It doesn’t even make sense. You, yourself, would have been a slave to the king mere centuries ago, but because a group of Americans decided that wasn’t fair, they revolted and CHANGED THE WORLD.

    It is possible for us to make the choice to act decently in every aspect of our daily lives, to act with concern and kindness for others rather than selfishly and violently. You’re not willing to make that choice, so you insist that everyone else not make that choice either, so you’ll feel better about your passive, unthinking “realism.”

    The Hard Cruel World argument, as Richard Paul and Linda Elder point out in their works on critical thinking, is a logical fallacy. It is an attempt to justify either your actions, or your lack of actions, through arguing that the world is cruel and you have no choice, and “oh, boy, I wish we did live in a nice world, but since we don’t, I’ll simply hijack the conversations of those that are attempting to actually diagnose and possibly solve the problem.”

    In your case, this takes the form of “every other nation is cruel, so we must be cruel too.”

    And the “facts” you’re using to make your argument are not even true. Not every nation is obsessed with being Number One and stomping on everyone else all the time. So even if I were a bad person, as I’m sure you’ll claim once you see this, that does not change the fact that your argument is based off inaccuracies and is therefore fallacious.

    If you actually read foreign newspapers or foreign online news sources, you would know that. Consider Finland and the Netherlands, for example, or Sweden, or Brazil. None of them are perfect, but all of them have made choices towards a life of the common good, not a life of stomping over everyone else.

    Your rant sounds like one long justification for your own cyncism. After all, cynicism is always mistaken for “realism” by the selfish and cowardly, who do not have a consciousness that the other person counts and that they have a moral responsibility to contribute, in small ways, to making the world a more decent and humanue place to live for the generations that come after us than it was when we were handed it.

    But I don’t hate you. I feel sorry for you. I pity you. Because the only way people turn out like you is if you were put through some horrible trial that made you think, erroneously, that basic human respect and basic human decency must be “earned.” So I don’t hate you, Wisconsin Hunter, I hope to HUG you if I ever meet you in real life in hopes that your bitterness will be washed away in the affection you have not allowed yourself to feel.

  153. Religion is a big problem. Lots of people believe life begins after death.

  154. Religion is a major problem agreed. We must take responsibility for this life as that’s all there is folks. No second chances no matter what you’re told by the fakesters. Religion fundamentally teaches that we must have humility in the face of adversity, bow down to our oppressors, and prepare for the next life – hogwash ! Live this one as if it was the only one because it is !

  155. “Religion” is one of those categories that contains two components (to greatly oversimplify), a dark side and a light side. It would be a mistake to take everything even vaguely definable as religious and throw it all out. There are some valuable spiritual understandings that might get flushed along with the dirty water. The obverse of a religious fundamentalist is a dogmatic atheist.

    IMO we need a spirituality that is antiwar, pro-environment, anti-authoritarian, pro economic justice, etc. We don’t really have that yet in any major and effective way. My approach is to encourage the development of small groups that move in that direction. If successfully established such groups could be the foundation for a larger movement, much as AA grew from a few to millions.

  156. Wow. So I have mercifully missed Riversong’s descent into temporary trollishness once again, pointlessly attacking Jensen and kicking up dust. Mercifully again, I have missed many a repeat of the usual Salmony sermons on population. Maybe starting at around 160 comments is a good strategy?

    Much as I would love to jump into some real Jensen discussion, I am not sure if anything is really happening here. I liked the article, and the only problem I had with it was that the last sentence wasn’t clear… you can accomplish it by narrowing choices to one (but as Sandy pointed out, this is not likely to happen.) How about having a number of choices all except one are too expensive or unpleasant for the perp? That is, for example, how Assange is protecting himself… the people that hate him have many choices as to how to deal with him, but all but one will get 16 tons of raw Wikileaks dumped on their heads. So… they forgo all those other choices, for the time being at least.

    Just musing…

  157. Forgot to say… nice rants, Radiance. Good to see your spunk in this forum. 🙂

  158. Dear Mike k, Jean, Lorna Salzman, Dave McArthur, GoldenRadiance, jeanjae, Geoff Cox and Friends,

    It appears the discussion has been put off track again.

    Perhaps the link to the video, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, will give rise to fresh thought and generate more open discussion.

    This is the Official Online (Youtube) Release of “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward” by Peter Joseph. On Jan. 15th, 2011, “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward” was released theatrically to sold out crowds in 60 countries; 31 languages; 295 cities and 341 Venues.



  159. A very thought provoking film. I have now watched all three of the Zeitgist productions and always have my ideas challenged and my thought processes stimulated by the ideas presented – however !
    There are of course many things to say about the ideas put forward. The analysis seems sound and the problems are well identified but I fail to see that the solution fits the bill. At least the ending was a sort of happy one with us all burning our money but I thought the final scene showed the root of the problem – one man puts his arm out to prevent another from carrying out an action (undefined). The one prevented from carrying out that action stops, makes a choice not to proceed but bow to the others restraint, changes his mind and proceeds in another direction in concert with the first man.This is what the films message is, encapsulated – forget individual action for self interest but instead co-operate and act in others interests (which turn out to be in our own, albeit necessitating the dismissal of our own interest temporarily). A laudable aim no doubt, but ??
    I believe that Darwin showed that even though altruism is an essential part of our make-up, it cannot be considered a primary one, and is moderated by many other drives, desires, motivations, each determined by our need to adapt to an ever-changing environment over which we have limited control (influence).
    The film says that we must first set up a controlled environment, closely moderated, and becoming ever more perfect by means of technological change. It admitted to being perhaps guilty of the charge (accusation) of Utopianism, or at least raised the possibility.
    The fear I would have is that it does this and even more, mimics the world shown to us in the series of ‘Matrix’ films, a Dystopian view of our future.
    My gut feeling is that the ending will be not the Policeman dropping his helmet but the opposite; his opening fire on the throng. After that ??

  160. Mr. Jensen might be suggesting that people take an ACTIVE role in bringing down our civilization. Having read a couple of his books, I suspect he indeed is. For my part, I have largely checked out economically from civilization, and encourage others to do the same. If they cannot sell their widgets, they stop making them. If they cannot sell their New Zealand apples on the east coast of the USA, they stop shipping them. If the cheap plastic crap from China sits unsold on the shelves of WalMart, they will stop selling them. Take action, people! Stop buying from corporations and buy as much local as you can or do without. Soon enough, this will be the reality anyway. Get used to it.

  161. Dear TGriz,

    Would it be correct for me to say that you are suggesting we begin now to consciously and deliberately “will” what is soon to become inevitable?

    Thanks for your perspective.



  162. Steve -thank you for the link to Zeitgeist –Moving Forward. I watched it yesterday in a break during several hours of stripping vinyl polish and probably my brain was addled with the fumes. I think I nodded off from tiredness at one point and may have missed vital points. I will watch it again.
    First impressions are the movie promotes the current continual growth model it condemns. It places great importance on technology as a solution and it employs psychotic language.

    Perhaps it overestimates the role of mass production and underestimates the extraordinary power enabled by burning minerals –especially mineral oil – in generating our current structures.
    Also I was very much reminded of reading illustrated books such as “Our Friend the Atom” as an impressionable 10-12 year old. This technology was to give us pristine landscapes, sparkling cities and energy so abundant that metering our use would be needless. It is no mistake that since then we have defined mineral oil as energy and destroyed well over half of the cheaply extractable reserves on the planet while converting many other valuable minerals into pollution too. Too often we use the technology option, especially the nuclear technology option, to deny that our destruction of minerals and pollution matters. We excuse our wasteful use of remaining mineral oil reserves by believing our children will be sustained by the nuclear option. Barack Obama promoted this denial this week when he equated nuclear technology with Clean Energy.

    The Sustainability Principle of Energy suggests energy is neither clean nor dirty. It is our use of it that may be clean or dirty. I noted, for instance, Zeitgeist speaks of “energy production”. This is profound evidence of a fundamental primal belief in the perpetual growth model. The Conservation Principle of Energy is very clear. Despite what our egos would have us believe, energy is so bounteous it can usefully be considered a constant and humans can only transform it. We can create, destroy, waste, generate and produce finite, transitory forms but not energy. We fail to conserve valuable resources at our peril. (I use the resource symbol in its original sense = forms that arise again. The modern use – see 1610s and1779 – strips it of any association with sustainability.)

    This said Zeitgeist is nearly onto the central issue – embracing our incredible capacity for self-deceit and the associated denial of stewardship change. Thus we can say one thing and do the complete opposite. Perhaps the most insightful moment in the movie was when it pointed out that the economise symbol, as in economy, has been re-engineered so it is now associated with the opposite of its original meaning, which was thrift. Check out Online Etymology. The symbol was stripped of any association with morality about 1650, thus enabling the Industrial Revolution, and it was made a verb for mass production in the 1950s.

    This revealing example of our phenomenon of self-deceit had slipped past me. I suspect the authors of the movie remain unaware that this is but one example of a long list of symbol uses that form a syndrome expressing profound psychosis and psychopathy. If they had they would have illustrated the phenomenon in the movie introduction and described our current structures as the anti-economy throughout.
    Similarly they would not have denied the Conservation Principle and confused energy with the forms it can be manifest in.
    Similarly they would have pointed up perhaps the most fascinating example of the capacity of our ego for self-deceit – the Anglo-American use of the conservative symbol – the most wasteful members of society now proudly symbolise themselves and are symbolised by others as conservatives. What is fascinating is that those who pride themselves on not wasting resources are often the most vehement in now associating the conservative symbol with malignance. Meanwhile as children all learn that the conservative symbol is associated with care…
    Zeitgast points towards reality without actually stating it. Reality is that the ultimate test of our life is whether we are conservatives or non-conservatives of the flow and balances that sustain humanity. This description of the value of a human life completely transforms the current order. More at

    Five more quick thoughts:
    Most people I know are terrified of what would happen if we had no jobs. They cannot imagine what they would do with their lives and fear others would run amok. There are few illustrations to inspire them and empower them in the movie.
    The movie employs the conventional use of the science symbol, a use that strips it of morality and the totality of experience. This use has resulted in our uses of technology in such destructive ways.
    I did not note examples of people who choose to not have children leading joyous lives. They can and do exist.
    Perhaps I missed references to the evil, which is copyright. This is perhaps the greatest threat of all to our society and is the anathema of science. It destroys our most sustaining options and is why our current amoral use of the science symbol provides such destructive technology.
    The act of the child being held aloft and throwing away his piggy bank is not sustainable. Usury is evil. It has destroyed many societies and been a source of immense misery. However money can be used in very sustainable ways in a democratic system. In Fascist systems like the USA the use of money becomes a problem because a few individuals control and use it in psychopathic ways for their own short-term benefit. The use of interest i.e. making money from money is extraordinarily dangerous and compounds those problems exponentially. This malaise is reflected in very destructive technology.

    Thank you Zeitgeist people.

    In kindness

  163. Is there any possibility open to a species so gifted, splendid and miraculous as Homo sapiens that could liberate us from feeding/breeding ourselves into extinction?

  164. This article shows absolutely laughable underestimation of the power of the price mechanism to govern scarcity and the power of human ingenuity to overcome environmental challenges. It also shows an absolutely galling indifference to the plight of the world’s poor, for whom economic growth means the deliverance from a life of crushing poverty.

  165. The question is: Which will ride to our rescue first, the Second Coming of Jesus, or capitalist largesse and new technology?

  166. Hi Adam, in order that your comment adds intelligence to the discussion it might be helpful if you elaborate a little.
    Re “the power of the price mechanism to govern scarcity”. There is a saying, “the modern economist is a person who can put a price on everything and knows the value of nothing.” There can be massive difference between price and value. For instance, a 42-gallon barrel of mineral oil contains the equivalent of nearly 25000 manhours of labour and is unparalleled in its potential usefulness. Most US systems are based on a valuation of about US25/bll i.e.0.1cents per manhour of labour equivalent, which arguably is insane. Even the current global price of US90/bll is an insane undervaluation. Is the scarcity you refer to the resultant increasing lack of funds to provide education, health, quality food, shelter and other basics for American citizens? Is the scarcity you refer to the increasing lack of mineral oil reserves in the US landmass and the incredible loss as its great wealth was converted to air pollution? Is the terrible US military-industrial complex part of the price mechanism?

    Re “the power of human ingenuity”. Our potential is literally incredible and that includes the capacity of our ego for greed, self-deceit and self-destruction. How can the sustaining power of human ingenuity be manifest when copyright and psychopathic corporations prevail, destroying the state of science in our societies on scale?

    What is this economic growth you speak of? Bigger jails? Larger armies? More destruction of valuable minerals? More pollution? More mayhem? Currently all these are positive activities in the current model of economic growth.

    It is possible Derrick’s articles contain more compassion and intelligence than you are aware of.
    In kindness

  167. When the deniers hear people like Simon and Summers speak about the marvelous. utopian world we have ahead of us they turn into super-deniers.

  168. “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    How do we do this? What can we do to “make it so they have no other choice”? I do not think we can do anything. I think the perpetrators will push all of us into a corner before they even begin to realize there is no other choice.

  169. I agree Lindy. “’Make it so they have no other choice” sounds too much like the Godfather’s “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” The alternative of course is that you will be killed if you make any other choice but acceptance. There is no denying that the unspoken subtext of this aspect of Derrick’s writing is violent coercion — the very thing that was used against him in his family of origin. This strand of his “solution” stems from his powerlessness and impotent frustration during those days of his youth. Having endured similar experiences myself, I can appreciate where he is coming from. Nevertheless we have to grow beyond these ultimately self-defeating fantasies, and seek deeper nonviolent solutions.

  170. The article is thoughtful indeed. But the author provided little evidence to break free his view point from the abstraction of a theory. What if we bring in equation, “creative destruction” of economy, so when typewriters give way to computers, laptops yields to iPads…economy keeps growing infinitely by reinventing itself without necessarily adding additional strain on the resources.

    The premise of my argument isn’t based on “Stoichiometric material balance”. Undoubtedly economic growth will lead to increase in resource consumption, but can we grow the economy without exponentially increasing the resource consumption, is the larger question? The author’s activist view point conveniently chose to ignore the evidence, most advanced economies, presented post-industrial age in the area of energy and material conservation. The implication of author’s activist viewpoint is to retreat to the primitivity of human civilization prior to industrial revolution. How about the alternative to work on energy efficiency, innovation, and waste recycling technology to decrease the strain on resources? The National Appliance Conservation Act passed by the US Congress in 1987, for instance, established energy-efficiency standards for all new appliances, as a result of which, although the number of appliance per household quadrupled but US didn’t have to set up new power plants for several decades to meet the apparent increase in consumption. I still see merit in continually rediscovering and re-inventing the economy to address the resource constraints. Obviously author’s hurried indictment of capitalism is as far fetched as blaming agriculture for the population growth in the beginning of the civilization.

    The other problem with the Author’s view point lies in the moral hazard in suggesting that the countries which lagged in embracing the Industrial revolution, should continue to live in primitivity so the early entrants can continue to enjoy the benefits of Industrial revolution. Interestingly that’s the argument Developed countries are selling to the third-world countries by masquerade their selfish agenda in globally enforceable pollution control norms. I don’t disagree with author’s premise of resource constraints, but I disagree with his extreme conclusions without evidence.

  171. Part of the problem is Capitalism. Capitalism requires growth, as does partial reserve banking.

    People invest money to get an increase on their investment and that increase has to come from growth of some sort somewhere. In spite of our being brainwashed into thinking this is normal and good, this is old news and other civilizations faced the boom and bust cycle this causes. The Muslims outlay interest or usury for this reason.

    The difference today is our boom and bust and the collapse of this civilization will take the whole planet with it, destroying life and leaving nothing left to rebuild. All the easily obtained resources to create a new civilization are gone.

  172. First I want to say wow-as usual DJ gets right to the point and says simply what needs to be said. Second, I am in joyful awe of the wonderful discussion regarding what to do-the ideas and wisdom I see just on a few comment sections of internet articles gives me hope that we really are closer to turning things around than it appears.
    Third, Riversong-I have read a lot of Jensen’s work and he does advocate exactly the things i see on here-being the change we wish to see NOT perpetuating violence. When he says by ANY means possible, people read into that by using violence but I think he means by ANY means, whether that is blowing up a dam or completely changing our own consciousness to a new worldview that makes us integral parts of the world instead of atomized little things zinging about accumulating stuff.

    Also, I think he does emphasize a lot of the things that are wrong versus solution because he is smart enough to know that pissing people off makes them creative;-) If he is wrong about what to do, then those who disagree will have to come up with solutions that compete with his-thus expanding the ideas and solutions available.

    Reading his work it is obvious to me that he HAS done a lot of work on himself but that does not follow that he should be the endless font of peacefully perfect ideas-I mean he breaks down these enormous issues into simple bits that a third grader could understand! Did we ask Einstein to BUILD the spaceships and the nuclear reactors? Or did we take his contribution with the respect it obviously deserved?
    What Derrick Jensen, Daniel Quinn and others like them have done is to lay a foundation we can build on-it is not hypocritical to do what one can and let others continue on (we don’t expect the brickmasons to do the wiring or hook up the cable tv in a new house)
    Thank you to all who have posted ideas and links!!

  173. Great article. The “’Make it so they have no other choice” does sound authoritarian. This is also one of the arguments against ethics – it gives you no choice therefore it is enslaving. Unfortunately similar arguments against “religion” to see the deeper problems with ethics and the tyranny of logic.

    Without wanting to sound overtly religious, pious (which I am not) in some situations it is not that which is right, forced, or even rationally correct that leads to positive direction – it is the truth that will set one free.

    Best of wishes.

  174. Lundy Bancroft in his book “Why DOes He Do That”(about domestic abusers) has a specific category for the new age or psychology based “i’m ok, everything is ok, you are just projecting problems” abuser. I personally believe in working on oneself, on spiritual growth and having a strong moral basis for one’s actions-I pray a lot. but after reading a bunch of Riversongs posts and the responses-he really looks to fit the profile in the book.
    There are indigenous people elders who advocate armed resistance-becasue without it many of us would already be dead.
    BUT-one thing that seems to be getting lost in this trolling is that active, physical, resistance in the real workd does not necessarily equal violence! What about monkeywrenching and other direct action against objects?
    What about work slowdowns, flashdances, pulling out GMO crops? WHat about TRansition towns, farmers markets, slow food movement, slow money, sharing groups like freecycle? what about the many other ways that are included in “any way possible”?
    the word ANY is not at all the same word as violence.
    To the best of my knowledge ALF and ELF have never committed any violence-destroying objects is not violence!

  175. I’ve made it to the last page and no one has still noticed that “make it so they have no choice” does not necessarily imply violence or coercion. Make it so they have no other choice could mean to change so many hearts and minds that endless consumption is seen as the disgusting and pointless act it really is. It could mean a hundred ways of getting to that state where the current elites no longer control the mass of people, no longer control and sustain industrial production and all it entails. Why on Earth does it have to include violence or coercion to get to that point? HE simply says they will not do it voluntarily, we cannot convince them-we can convince one another tho-we can create a new world right in front of them and they might not even see it because they are blinded by their own worldview-as Ishmael says there’s so many ways to live, we can live them and share them and create more so that the juggernaut of endless growth is stopped by Non-participation-we give them no choice by opting out of their sick worldview and the more of us who do, the less destruction they can keep going.
    IT really isn’t up to just those radicals who read online articles, or people in first world countries etc-look at Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva and a hundred others in 3rd and 4th world places making change-India arguably has more earth saving social change going on in its technologically non-connected villages than we have in the whole USA-but we can catch up!;-) We give them no choice by joining all the millions around the world who are already creating the new structures that will support us, but not destroy every living thing.
    Just like the battered woman can just walk away, so can we, tho jsut like that battered woman, we have a lot of work to do in order to do so. INternal and external work-how do we relearn to think without the support of the machine? how do we relearn to support ourselves, our communities, feed and clothe and heal ourselves without the machine?
    Whenever I think how powerful the elites seem and how few I know personally who are creating change(tho the number grows every day) I recall the day when i was in college and after years of nightmares about waking up to mushroom clouds I woke up to MTV showing people DANCING on the BErlin wall and breaking it up into pieces!
    POwer over is only held in place thru illusion-the power is hardly an illusion as anyone who has been soundly beaten can tell you-but the way power over is propagated and maintained is thru the illusion that it is unstoppable, that its best to just go along quietly. As Jensen points out in Endgame-the Jews who fought back had a better survival rate during the holocaust than those who went quietly.
    We give them no choice by realizing that WE have choices that are only hidden by the illusions that keep the machine running.

  176. Bruce Williams-I can’t watch things my computer is not that hi-tech (dumpster dive special) is there a text version?

    I don’t say Jensen abjures violence, just that he advocates doing everything we can, not just being violent or just not being violent

  177. Entropy is the second law of thermodynamics. The current infrastructure of civilization is old and out-moded. There are much more efficient models out there for which to build new types of infrastructure and societies, but like a song on a b-side album, they get little play. In the next millennium, entropy will drive humans to the point from where they started; that is a return to the tribal/neolithic; a “New-New Stone Age,” after the deaths of billions of lives, pollution, disease, the law of entropy, the law of nature, will prevail. In turn, this not so unfamiliar a form of survival as our ancestors will come to discover. The death of our civilization will be the final sacrifice the Earth demands, if the planet is to survive and humans are to go on living.

  178. “The “’Make it so they have no other choice” does sound authoritarian.”

    Well, but that is only one interpretation. Maybe what is meant really is “make it so they have not other *good* choice.” Assange set things up so that letting him live is the only good choice for those wishing him dead.

    The Tunisians busted down the gates of their “prison” and made it so that the dictator Ben Ali’s only good choice was to let go of power and leave the country. (They were not being authoritarian, *he* had been.) In other words, they made it so the only good choice was for the PTB in Tunisia to let up with the abuse.

    Abusers don’t stop because you ask nicely and mind your manners.

  179. A personal note to Derrick Jensen: Dear Derrick, I really appreciate your essays in Orion. But I wish you would stop soft-pedaling your message for the middle class readership, who find it all too easy to distort or evade the horrifying truth of the evil thing we have come to glorify (in an Orwellian tour de force) as “Civilization”. Please unmask this monster in no uncertain terms as you have so brilliantly done in many of your writings. We desperately need this shock treatment. People are so deep in sleep and denial that it takes a harsh shaking to make them feel anything.

    I just read something on the web where a would be critic derided the fact that you shed tears for our fellow creatures being destroyed forever. Have they no heart, no soul? Let me share a poem I wrote a while back:

    If you don’t hurt
    You may be
    Sicker than you realize.

    If you don’t cry
    Your heart
    May be frozen.

    If you haven’t screamed
    Your sanity
    Has become a disease.

  180. The abusers need a growing world population in order to guarantee low wages. And the abusers – at least in the USA – protect their right to continue their abuse through our insane campaign finance system (which in other cultures would be called “bribery and corruption.)

  181. Right on Barry. The greater the power, the greater the abuse. This is the insanity that is destroying the world.

  182. Scientists have been warning against our overuse of natural resources soon after the turn of the previous century. Artists and novelists have been issuing similar warnings through sci-fi literature and film. For us to continuously ignore these warnings for close to a hundred years now, shows our incredible need to self-destruct. IT IS ALREADY TOO LATE, THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE LIVING ON THIS PLANET ARE ALREADY SUFFERING THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR ACTIONS. Our inability to act beyond our own individual ego, and not on behalf of our environment, and all that it supports, is a certain act of suicide. It’s just a pity that we’re taking so many millions of other creatures along with us.

  183. Katty, you bandy the word “our” a little too much perhaps? Plenty of people have paid attention. The big problem is that the power and wealth hogs are not paying attention… the ones who have disproportionate influence on human affairs. IMO, of course. (And even they are not completely monolithic.)

  184. Katty — I agree with everything you wrote, except this, “it is already too late.” Nobody can really know that for sure. And to believe it without certain evidence is a sure action stopper. Let’s keep trying to change outcomes as long as we are here. Who knows, we might make a difference? Even a small kindness or act of sanity matters. Thanks for sharing.

  185. Many critics of Derrick Jensen’s work wish to only focus on the question of violence or non-violence. I would like to suggest that his work is about a lot more than that. Because there is one thing you disagree with in a writer’s total output, do you automatically dismiss and ignore his total contribution? Do you insist that your teachers be perfect? Then you will reject all who have ever taught, for none has ever been perfect.

  186. There is still a 78 year supply of cheap oil(cheap meaning able to produce gasoline for less then 4.10 2001USD/gallon assuming a 5% increase in demand compounded yearly) based on known recoverable reserves. But even after the exhaustion of all hydrocarbon resources it would still be possible to make hydrogen to fuel internal combustion engines(methane engines are in common use today) using electrolysis. The only thing humanity really needs to continue industrial production is electricity. With enough electricity many things that are not currently economically viable become possible. And with nuclear breeder reactors U238 and Thorium can be breed into the nuclear fuels Pu239 and U237 respectfully. This will provide sufficient electrical generation capacity, assuming a 8.5% increase in the consumption of electricity compounded yearly for population of 10 billion for at least 30,000 years. Supplementing this with solar, wind, and water power will ensure our survival for the foreseeable future.

    Nuclear Pulse Propulsion can get us to the stars at a maximum velocity of 0.1C assuming that you have to decelerate again, if not you can reach 0.15C which will be important for latter. Also we will assume that there is no faster than light travel. Because that would open up another can of beans since humanity could convert an amount of mass equal to the observable universe into human flesh in 6,000 years if the 1994 population growth rate could be maintained. And it could be maintained if the superluminal travel would allow humans to access new resources fast enough.
    So assuming that you could send out self replicating probes that would travel at an average velocity of 0.1C and that it would take each probe 100 years to make a 100 copies of itself each time that they entered a new stellar system, you could still visit every stellar in the Milky Way in under 1 million years. If theses probes carried humans or mechanized human descendants then our civilization could also spread as quickly.
    If you programmed these probes to seek out life bearing exoplanets and crash into them an top speed, which for nuclear pulse propulsion is .15C if you burn all the fuel and don’t plan on decelerating, you could purge all the life bearing planets in the galaxy and keep yourself safe from aliens forever. And if you programmed those same probes to accelerate toward any repeating, terminating radio signal and crash into the source body you could all target intelligent species. For that matter you could have them detonate there bomb stockpile before impact to scatter relativistic shrapnel cones at space habitats.
    And that doesn’t even account for the danger of other species colonizing everything and taking all your resources. Basically your only real option to keep yourself safe is to attack with berserker probes first and hope that you can get everybody before they launch their own. So you need at least a million year lead on your galactic war to ensure your own survival.
    In a universe were superluminal travel cannot exist, any species that creates even the most primitive form of relativistic vehicle and self replicating machinery is an immediate and lethal threat to all other forms of life. Because of the rate at which intelligent life can spread, you pretty much have to attack all alien intelligences without provocation and with even knowing if there is anyone to attack. As previously stated probes with a maximum practical travel velocity of .1 C could visit every stellar system in the galaxy in as little as 250,000-1,000,000 years.
    Now with speculative but still possible technology it could be done even faster. Even if we discount confined fusion as an energy medium for a reaction engine, hydrogen/antihydrogen reactions could still be used and we know they would work if there was enough antihydrogen. The solution to that being solar powered particle accelerators orbiting in the inner solar system. They would take in hydrogen from the solar wind and produce antihydrogen using abundant energy. A laser assisted launch could also increase the acceleration of outgoing ships of any type if a large solar powered array of lasers with an output greater than a terawatt was used.

    All this culminates in the ultimate plan for species survival, to completely disassemble the all the rocky planets of every stellar system we can get access to and use that mass to build Dyson Swarms of space habitats around the local stars. That way we can continue to survive around those stars until they burn out, which in the case of the lowest mass red dwarfs would be about 120 trillion years. The largest lofstrom loops possible with current engineering can lift 500 million tons a year and since you could only fit about 1000 on earth it would take nearly 10 million years to disassemble the planet. But it can be done only with proven technology, no super materials or new energy sources needed. You could power them using huge convection towers that contain liquid halite, which would be heated by the hot lithosphere you are uncovering. And of course the job would only get easier as the planet is taken apart: less gravity, more heat being radiated, more materials for building and maintaining the loops. That said you still have to use nuclear pulse propulsion to move the material for the first loop into orbit, about 2 million tons of it. But with nuclear pulse propulsion that is doable. We can conquer the cosmos with only what we know today, no soft scifi stuff needed. It will just take a very, very long time. Now of course you can’t disassemble stars, or for that matter high mass objects like gas giants. But the earth sized planets or at least large portions of their lithospheres can be consumed.

  187. Citations for previous post.

    For the breeder reactors my main source was: Progress and its Sustainability. Choen’s Breeder reactors: A renewable energy source, American Journal of Physics, vol. 51, (1), Jan. 1983. Cohen give a good description of the potential of Breeder Reactors. However I must warn you that Cohen is the Edison/Tesla of nuclear power, he is a shameless self-promoter, although with good reason. He often words his sentences to play up is inventions, note that every statement is factual but worded in a way that may be misleading to those unfamiliar with nuclear reactors. Example: Cohen would state that there is a 5 billion year supply of fissionable uranium assuming that all the U238 in the lithosphere was recovered and used in breeder reactors. However given estimated recoverable U238 reserves, an increase in electrical consumption of 10% compounded yearly, and the halflife of U238 there is only a 23,000 year supply. Of course even that assumes that all the 10% yearly increase will come from nuclear energy.
    The actual Project Orion documents about nuclear pulse propulsion if anybody wants them.
    The Launch Loop – A low cost earth-to-high-orbit launch system LOFSTROM, K H AIAA, SAE, ASME, and ASEE, Joint Propulsion Conference, 21st, Monterey, CA; United States; 8-10 July 1985. 1985

  188. Great fun, Mootykins. Only problem I see is that we’re real people here and we’re suffering NOW. Very few people on this planet give a flying blip about your crazy plan. So will you be able to steal all our resources and just ignore us?

  189. Fortunately(?) if we run out of real solutions to our problems, the “anons” will always be there with enough high-tech fantasy solutions to last us for eons….

  190. Dear Ed T and Mike k,

    In keeping with your views, please find below a contribution to this discussion from Professor Emeritus Gary L. Peters….

    In The Origin of Species Charles Darwin wrote that “Owing to the high geometrical rate of increase of all organic beings, each area is already fully stocked with inhabitants; and it follows from this, that as the favoured forms increase in number, so, generally, will the less favoured decrease and become rare. Rarity, as geology tells us, is the precursor to extinction.”

    Humans have become the “favoured species,” and the last two centuries of the expansion of our species, from less than one billion in 1800 to nearly seven billion today, has taken an increasing toll on species of plants and animals with which we share, or in many cases, did share, the planet. Darwin was correct, so it is no coincidence that the growth of the human population coincides with a rising number of extinctions.

    Like many other variables that economists dismiss, extinctions don’t fit well into analyses of costs and benefits, so they become externalities. Ecosystems, however, are complex and know nothing of the “laws” of economics. Instead, they follow natural laws that economists cannot change.

    Today it is common for economists to speak about sustainable growth, but that is an oxymoron. John Greer said it best: “Even the most elementary grasp of systems theory makes it instantly clear that there’s no meaningful sense of the adjective “sustainable” that can cohabit with any meaningful sense of the noun “growth.” In a system – any system, anywhere – growth is always unsustainable.” If one thing is clear in the geological record, it is this: all species reach extinction, some more quickly than others.



  191. While I am reminded of our friend and colleague, Gary L. Peters, allow me to ask y’all to consider two more comments from him.

    “Accepting the words of economists, who are not scientists, and rejecting the works of scientists in many fields is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, it may take a truly cataclysmic event to refocus attention on how humans are animals and must live within the constraints of natural laws, not “laws” made up by economists.”

    And a quote from John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. It succinctly catches the predicament in which humanity finds itself. “It has always seemed strange to me…The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

    Elective mutism by human beings with feet of clay in the face of such willful deceit, insolence, foolhardiness, immorality and injustice as is perpetrated by self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us appears to be a source of great harm, most adequately described as a “sin of ommission”.

  192. Gary, Steve, ED, et alia — Thanks for your clear-sighted input. The ability of most people to avoid any truths that they find uncomfortable is truly profound. The short-sighted focus on immediate personal comfort and perceived advantage may be the key factor that eventually destroys the world. A willingness to take a perspective that transcends narrow self-interest, and demonstrates concern for others, and for the future of all, has always been the province of a small number of our species. To recognize this characteristic as the key to our very survival, is still unfortunately a rare understanding. Those who have this truth and justice loving viewpoint are still mostly ignored and often reviled in various ways. And yet, whatever the personal costs, there have always been those who hold truth higher than any personal advantages. Those people are my heroes, my sisters and brothers in truth.

  193. Mootykins…are you here all week?

    As for the “known recoverable reserves” you mentioned, in the Kingdom of Saud, they apparently have been overstated by as much as 40%, according to leaked cables just revealed.

  194. Dear Wade, Ed T, Mike K and Friends,

    What follows is a comment from Winthrop Staples of Newbury Park, CA, who is a sure friend to those who value intellectual honesty, future environmental health and the well being of children everywhere.

    “Steve’s frustration of our leader’s refusal to address the suicidal nature of our continued population growth is understandable. But the ambivalence of decision makers to impending disaster is not due to ignorance. Rather it is due to simple self interest. Soon after the initial effects of Erlich’s “Population Bomb” wore off, corporate leaders and business owners realized that rising population regardless of its ultimate negative effects on the environment and humanity makes possible continuing higher profits via continually increasing the labor supply and so reducing or holding down wage increases, and increasing the number of consumers also increases profits by reducing market competition for quality and value in products. This a higher population means greater profits dynamic of leader ambivalence to overpopulation is unfortunately increasingly magnified by the ability of elites to escape the negative consequences of environmental and social degradation through increasing concentration of wealth and technological advances in surveilance-security technology and rapid efficient transport. If you are a corporate leader you can escape the pollution and crime of the overpopulated cityscape by getting on your helicopter or personal jet and escaping to your hobby ranch or Martha’s Vinyard beach home.”



  195. Steve — Thanks for sharing Winthrop Staples’ insightful analysis. As always, we have only to follow the money trail to discover the real reasons that the rich and powerful behave in the seemingly illogical ways that they do. They always act from their perceived self-interest, no matter what damage those actions wreak on others. They have effectively silenced their own consciences in order to maximize profits.

  196. Dear Mike k,

    There is simply too much at stake now here. Human beings with feet of clay cannot continue to remain silent while self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us recklessly go forward, driven relentlessly by their own unbridled greed, insolence and foolhardiness, to extirpate global biodiversity, degrade Earth’s environs, dissipate its limited resources and ravage the planetary home of life as we know it.

    Is there any basis in reason or common sense for remaining electively mute while a tiny minority ruins the Earth and its ecology as fit place for human habitation?

    We absolutely must find an alternative path forward, lest the children end up having their future stolen from them by thieves of the highest order.

    For the sake of initiating at least one sensible discussion regarding another way forward fast, one that just might preserve the children’s future rather than see it stolen from them, perhaps we can examine what the presentation at the following link,



  197. Hi Mootykins
    You can read an article on the WikiLeaks cables re the overestimation of Saudi mineral oil reserves at The Guardian.
    An overstatement of 40% is consistent with what many of us have believed for twenty years. When OPEC members agreed to a ceiling on extraction rates some like Saudi Arabia circumvented their quota by suddenly “discovering” overnight that their reserves were 50-100% larger than previously known. The article also points to another fact rarely revealed by our media: those countries with mineral oil reserves are less and less able to export it as they need it to sustain their own agriculture, desalination plant, health systems etc.
    Never underestimate our capacity for self-deceit.
    There is nothing written in the stars that says human beings are entitled to drive cars, fly in jets, etc. We deceive ourselves at our peril when we believe these activities are our right. When I do the salute to the dawn I begin with the reminder, “Before I face the world I must be able to face myself.” It is only when I and other human beings have our house in order that we will be able to truly reach to the stars in sustaining ways.

  198. Winthrop Staples makes some good points on population and inequality.

    One of the interesting points Amartya Sen makes in Development and Freedom is that measures of human welfare are distinctly different from measures of per-capita income. He contrasts the situation in Kerala province in India, where dramatic gains in life expectancy, primary healthcare, education and reduced birth rate have been achieved with a very low per-capita income. Many countries with much higher per-capita income and economic growth (eg. Brazil) have much lower life expectancy. In Kerala province, there was a big program to provide basic health care and education to the population, despite the low level of economic growth. Interestingly, the reductions in birth rate in Kerala province have been greater than in China – achieved without the latter’s coercive one-child policy.

    Which demonstrates, to my mind, that the disparity of wealth may be one of the major drivers of overpopulation. The highest birthrates are found in countries with some of the worst problems of poverty and economic exploitation. Low birthrates and stable populations occur when people have education and health security, despite being comparitively poor (and perhaps food security as well – modern India, being a democracy, has never had a famine).

    The problem with a growth economy is not just that it will eventually deplete resources, but that it also masks deep inequalities. Modern economists, even modern progressive economists, look for economic growth because because it tends to bring along improvements in human welfare – every x points in GDP growth lowers unemployment by y. Reducing consumption is to be avoided because it means recession, with all of the suffering (unemployment, poverty, etc.) that goes along with it.

    Maybe the first step in creating a stable population and steady-state economy is to focus on inequality.

    J Chapman

  199. J Chapman — “Maybe the first step in creating a stable population and steady-state economy is to focus on inequality.”

    The problem is that neither the President, Congress, the War Industrial Complex, the hideously Wealthy, nor any other group wielding disproportionate power has the slightest intention to lift a finger to increase economic equality. They spend billions to make sure that never happens. The real problem is: How do we get rid of these leeches??

  200. It seems to me that the signs are everywhere that we are at or near a ‘tipping point’ that will see in fast and major changes in almost everything.
    I fear that there will be widespread chaos. Disparity of income is no doubt a major cause of increasing population and we have been hearing now for years that ‘something must be done’, from a diverse range of people and organisations, but not much gets done.
    I remember well the G20 Conference in Scotland for example when Bob Geldorf collared various world leaders and extracted promises to ‘end world poverty’, (some 5 years ago) and yet we are hardly any further forward and many of those ‘promises’ are ancient history.
    Let’s not be too pessimstic as there are many signs too of worthwhile things happening. Unfortunately these often attack the symptoms and not the disease like for example the Bill Gates Foundation and various of George Soros’s efforts.
    There are various truths that we must face, but fear to face them, many of which have been mentioned here, but I regret that it’s too late for them to have the desired effect in time.
    There are several factors that point to rapid change. Social Networking, the Wikileaks factor, Peoples rage against the financial system (fiat currencies and fractional reserve banking), the more obvious effects of climate change being felt all over. I characterise it as the ‘awakening of the people’.
    Many people I know and talk to say encouraging things about these factors and others, that I would not have heard pass their lips even a few years ago. These are ‘conservative’ people who are very comfortable with the status quo, or where they personally are sat right now.
    The people ARE stirring and the cumulative effect WILL be felt more and more until the wall breaks and hey presto, we have an entirely different situation.
    Even ‘normal’ people who a few years ago probably would have commented unfavourably on the revolution in Egypt, are saying things like, ‘it’s a good thing’, and ‘power to the people’, ‘walk like an Egyptian’, etc.
    When the middle classes in a wide range of countries get squeezed, things happen. These countries include, US, UK, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and so on.
    Add to this the rising middle class in China and other Far Eastern countries, who see corruption and nepotism, and the blatant robbery of the power elite more clearly, plus the rapidly depleting natural reserves, the climate problem, the still rising populations that exacerbate all of these difficuties, (which are hardly properly acknowledged by ‘our leaders’and even vigorously denied by many), you have a recipe for violent revolution and chaos.
    Even though millions of people will get hurt badly, I see this as an inevitable consequence of our past devotion to the ideas of such people as Adam Smith (The Theory of Moral Sentiments [1759]) who thought up the quaint idea of the invisable hand of the market, and Edmund Burke, the arch conservative (Thoughts on the Present Discontents [1770]), together with many of the so-called ‘Founding fathers’, who almost completely forgot the consequent responsibilities vis a vis ‘rights’ when drafting their ideas which lead to the US Constitution.
    We will surely see a ‘New Enlightenment’ which will modify many of these ideas and result in a ‘New World’ of true faith toward our mother, the planet, but at the expense of a large part of our present population.
    There is no way, in my opinion, that these very basic ideas, to which we all cling, can be modified slowly and peacefully, to end up where we must.

  201. Geoff — You say:

    “We will surely see a ‘New Enlightenment’ which will modify many of these ideas and result in a ‘New World’ of true faith toward our mother, the planet, but at the expense of a large part of our present population.
    There is no way, in my opinion, that these very basic ideas, to which we all cling, can be modified slowly and peacefully, to end up where we must.”

    My reading of your ideas is that you dismiss the possibility of a gradual growth into a better world, and put your faith in a violent upheaval that will in some unspecified way lead to a new more desirable world. On the other hand, my idea is that we need to begin working now to create the kind of people who can transform our world. I have in mind a small group process, that could spread widely and become a real force to change our world in positive directions. Only better people can make a better world. We need a process to birth those transformative agents. I have shared several of my ideas about such a process in these pages, and am beginning to work on an essay to make it explicit what I have in mind.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Geoff. I welcome your feedback.

  202. Dear Mike k, Ragweed, Geoff, Dave Mc, Wade, Ed T, Scott Walker, Mootykins and Friends,

    Your thoughts on the following comment by Zot Lynn Szurgot would be most helpful. Thanks to all.

    At this point in history, so far, food is the limiting nutrient, the one whose excess triggers the growth. So far, water and air are not near enough to their limits to determine human numbers and impacts…. It is not yet time that the clamoring for more water or more air usurps what is needed for the species that are being extincted for our growth; it is still the time now when the clamoring for more food usurps those species and their habitat.

    The places where population is growing are the places where the food excesses are being sent. Population couldn’t grow [t]here without an excess of food, simply because the pop growth is literally made of food. The appearance that population does not seem to be growing where the food seems to be in excess is based on the illusion that food and people are stable and stationary; they are anything but. Movement of people and food shipments across borders seriously complicates the image of the essential relation between food and population. Overpopulation in central america is fueled by agribusiness in Iowa. Growth in Sudan is fueled by farms in the Ukraine. Seen as macro, the image is clear: global food increases fuel global population increases. Trying to break that down is helpful, as some subcultures are responding in more ecologically responsible ways than other subcultures, but unfortunately those subcultures are not neatly tucked into national borders. Instead they are mixed across borders in ways that make borders distracting and misleading. Statistics based on national borders do not describe meaningful population samples, nor do they describe the food availabilities that fuel both overpopulation and poor health. So-called “Italy” does not have more available food and less population growth, or understandable edges, or food stability, or “a population” as ecologists look at populations. So-called “Nigeria” does not have less available food and more population growth, or understandable edges, or a population as ecologists look at and define populations. It is popular and wrong to look at food and population through the lenses that our colonial history has carved.

    Increases in food supply drive increases in population; this is a fundamental of ecology. Let’s not deny that the fundamentals of ecology apply to humans.

    Food security or insecurity is essential, and intertwined with food availability. “Just not feeding people won’t stop Agribusiness from increasing food production and environmental devastation”, so true and wisely put, since nonfeeding does not remove the ideological excuse that props up Big Ag. Widening the understanding (that the devastation is for profit, not for feeding people) that you two (Arthur and Anne) share does remove that ideological excuse, removes the pretense that they are in business to feed the hungry of the world. That pretense is immensely destructive, and we desperately need to remove it in the popular imagination and in the reward system that currently funnels profit into overproduction and landscape devastation.

    Even if Arthur didn’t argue that the for-profit ‘Food Production’ both increases food availability for starving populations thus leading to increase in population growth and is Distributed inequitably so actually not preventing mortality, it is a viable argument. This disastrous distortion foisted by commerce deprives billions of food security, brings excesses of unhealthy food to such large portions of the insecure that pop level rises in response, and still does not bother feeding enough of them to reduce starvation one bit. Business is business. We’re dying to make more profit.

    More food security and food sovereignty is part of the same answer as less food (or stabilizing food). Even as we fight for good nutrition for the needy, it is still essential – frankly, more essential – that we highlight the destructiveness of the drive to overproduce. Food security in a world that continues to expand food production is worth doing because it makes a growing population a bit more comfortable – for awhile, until the continued overpopulation wipes out the comforts with ecological damage. Food security helps, but with symptoms, and leaves the disease to rage unchecked.

    While we can do many things that help like educate and empower girls and women, liberate access to birth control, encourage local food and fuel self-sufficiency, let’s recognize that not every helpful thing we do gets near the root of the problem. The root is biological, not psychological or economic or policy-based.

    Let’s hit the target. Let’s not oversimplify, and let’s not let an interest in complexity distract us from the essentials. There is excellent reason to emphasize and return to the deepest roots so that our efforts do more than just soothe symptoms. Whatever else we do, we must alter those factors closest to the cause of our complexly interwoven problems. No factor is closer to cause than converting wild land and ocean life into food. The food race is deadly and real and will not be alleviated by attention to less causal factors. Even the UN spreads the misguided rhetoric of expanding food. Acting on this rhetoric is the murderous center that must be stopped, the engine behind extinctions. Am i wrong in thinking it is important to dismantle and delegitimize this rhetoric as a way to end our most destructive acts? As we look at complexity, isn’t it important to always ensure we keep the most causal factor of all in the center of our bulls-eye?

    It is essential to give women the dignity of choice, but it’s not enough. What is? It’s wrong and backwards to imagine that the biology of our population level is decided by an accumulation of individual rational decisions. In biology, 7 billion individual decisions all added together do not add up to one decision that determines dynamics of the overall population. Same goes for any slice from village to “nation”. Choice is required, but not sufficient to direct the ecological result. Results are driven by the same factors in all species (in 2 groups – and we hope we are in the sigmoidal group), deeply biological factors.

    Being rationally smart about our survival requires us to embrace the essential irrationality of the dynamics that determine our survival. Some of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century uncovered the biological and unconscious motives operating more powerfully than the rational thought on the surface; we should not throw away their hard-won insights.

    The population of any village (including the global one) is no more an accumulation of individual decisions than the synchronizing of cycles among women who live together is an accumulation of individual decisions. Neither one is what we decide. We cannot control the synching, though we can influence the milieu it responds to. That synchronizing is driven by our biology and overrides our conscious ideas and intentions. Our biology does it while we are busy thinking something else. Other biological aspects of reproduction, like conception and birth, are similarly driven and similarly override our decisions, particularly in the aggregate. Let’s make a difference where it counts, not in thought and plans where it is overridden.

    Directly addressing population through how we perceive births does not alter the factors population listens to, so paradoxically, direct is off target. To be on target, we must alter a factor it listens to, like food volume. i think we are all in agreement that allowing business to control food throws us off target. i join you, Arthur, in throwing them off us.

    Biology does not consult with our thoughts before it acts. Groups don’t even have coherent thoughts. Group biology acts on conditions like density, predation, feedback, and food, food, food. The strategy of relying on conscious rational decisions is pleasant, complimentary to our egos, and ineffective. Since that’s so, we should put our main emphasis on creating the conditions that our biology will respond to. That’s where a finite food supply comes in, secure and healthy in context with each local habitat. Increasing the food supply pulls population towards its apparent carrying capacity like a magnet, in an endless death race, until we stop increasing the food supply; this dynamic must be seized no matter what else we do. Finite the food before it finishes us!

  203. Geoff….I share much of your perspective on what is probably coming down the pike at us. For me, that is why much of Jensen’s rhetoric is distasteful. In the course of human history it has very rarely, if ever, been necessary to exhort a truly discontented populace to tear down what exists and rewind the agenda. We seem to be self-starters on that point. And we’re not good at managing it once it starts.

    Yes, the real danger is that if you get that ball rolling, you’ll pay the devil trying to stop it. Mostly, those kinds of frenzies (French Revolution, Khmer Rouge, American Civil War, etc.) have to burn themselves out and the collateral damage is heartbreaking. But, we are an impatient species. Jensen is probably one of the most impatient people I’ve read to date, and I’m sure he’d give you his list of why he is. (I also don’t think he reads much history, but I could be wrong. Like to know more on that point, and why he usually fails to ever put his theories in historical content, if he does. I mean, shoot, you’re not the first guy to be pissed at the status quo Derrick. What can you teach us about how that has gone down before?)

    We all want it to change during our own feeble allotment of time on this planet, don’t we? Well, as MLK so famously said, “I might not get there with you….” (but I can see it from here) That might just have to suffice for all of us here at present.


  204. Mike k.

    Yes, well, thats the rub isnt it? It takes a movement. But part of the issue is how to build the movement, and what we found that movement on. Frankly I think building a movement on the idea that we need to starve a significant portion of the worlds population to keep the buggers from breeding (which is really what is at the heart of the malthusian argument) is not going to build something that will get rid of the economic masters. Trying to recall who said this – I think it was Francis Moore Lapp – that a movement for sustainability must be democratic, because it will take the buy-in of a significant portion of the worlds 7 billion people to make the changes that need to be made.

    Geoff Cox – as a side point, Adam Smith gets a bit of a bad rap from how his boosters have used parts of his message. Smith was actually quite the liberal of his time – recalling that he lived in a period where the remnants of Feudalism were still very present. Many of his proscriptions for market freedom were not the uber-capitalist free-for-all of todays free-market fundamentalism, but a response to semi-feudal restrictions on markets in the UK which served to maintain hereditary wealth. Smith believed that people should be judged by their achievements, not by blood-line, gender, or even skin color (and he was very progressive for his time on that front). He advocated the need for a strong social safety net, and argued that moral values were not to be found in markets. Even the “invisible hand” has largely been taken out of context – in Smiths actual writing it does not mean what it is often taken to mean. That is not to say that he was a raging lefty – Smith was a proponent of capitalism – but he a much more liberal voice than the conservatives would make him out to be.

    J Chapman

  205. The problem is that when we think of “revolution”, we think in historical terms, coming up with the same ole, same ole failed churning of the same ole stuff. This time, that is not going to solve our deep rooted problems. We need a new kind of revolution that is not just a reshuffling of the institutional cards. That is why revolutions have always had a tragic subtext, even in their brief days of glory. That is why, for those who look deeper, the spectacle unfolding in Egypt now is profoundly painful and saddening.

    We are trapped in and enslaved by our untranscended conditioning. We need a transformative process to free ourselves, lest we endlessly repeat the failures written in our inner beliefs and motivations. Metanoia means fundamental revaluation of almost all of what we think of as ourselves. If this sounds far out to you, it merely indicates how far you have gone from the simple home truths that make up a true solution to our problems.

  206. Steve Salmony,

    Szurgot makes some important points. But I think it still oversimplifies the issue. The point about Italy is a bit of a dodge. Yes, it is inaccurate to think of Italy as a separate “population” in the sense that it is all part of a global market.

    But the fact is that most countries in Europe have a birth-rate which is below population growth. It is not because they have run up against a limit of their available food supply, as the food security of Europeans is extremely. If food availability is not the limiting factor on the population growth in Italy, why do we assume it is the limiting factor in Gambia, or Ecuador?

    The deeper challenge is whether the decline in birthrates in Italy is only possible in wealthy communities. However, the fact that we are seeing dramatic declines in birthrate throughout the world (Africa being the main exception) and particularly dramatic declines in places like India, indicates that the issue is not wealth so much as security. With education and basic healthcare, some parts of rural India have achieved reductions in birthrate that are lower than China. It does not appear to be because they have hit a Malthusian limit of available food supply, and it is not because of an increase in death rate.

    Equally, food exports and food aid to third-world countries often decreases food security – as we see in Mexico, where imports of cheap, subsidized US corn is killing small farmers and increasing poverty. Countries that require large quantities of food aid also tend to have unstable, dictatorial or corrupt governments, and economically exploited populations (recall that famine does not seem to occur in democracies). Ukranian grain may go to Sudan, but it goes to Sudan in the midst of a genocidal civil war.

    The problem with the “increases in food supply drive increases in population” is that it is an overly simplistic ecological understanding. Natural populations are bound by a series of constraints, which include food supply, predation pressures, breeding requirements, breeding rates, parasitism, etc.

    We need to approach human ecology by examining the actual behavior of Homo sapiens – and Homo sapiens have a behavior that is structured around the creation of culture and of a level of mental abstraction that is pretty unique. It is not simply that we have culture – most social species do – but our resource use is structured by culture. Why did the Viking settlements in Greenland and North America collapse during the Little Ice Age, when Inuit people seem to have survived the same ecological stresses? Because they had different cultural and social structures.

    So if we actually look at the unique “niche” of human beings as an abstracting, culture-forming species, then I think it is clear that we have the ability to respond to resource constraints by forming different social structures. And all the evidence from actual human population responses seems to indicate that, and that basic levels of social and economic security, education, and the status of women have the biggest impact on birthrates and population stability.

    Finally, I think there is something very disingenuous behind the whole idea that human population responds only to food constraints, and the notion that we are no different from “other animals” in that regard.

    The problem is that many of the people who make that argument – and many here on this board I would add – have relatively high standards of living, and have made conscious choices to reduce their own birthrate. Some even choose – rationally and consciously – to forgo reproducing at all, taking a pass on the basic evolutionary drive to pass on ones own genes.

    So if we can do it, why can’t the rest of the world? Why do we assume that we can sit around rationally discussing population and human behavior, and make conscious choices based on our understanding of the big picture, but assume that others are only driven by “instinct” to breed to the limits of food supply? Because we are somehow part of a rational elite? Because we are not really human-animals?

    And I really can’t help but thinking, at the risk of being accused of raising a red herring, that part of the issue is that “they” have darker skin. “They” are Africans and South Americans, whose unwashed masses just somehow can’t stop from acting on basic instinctive drives, and make the rational choices that we have made – and I just can’t buy that.

    With some basic education and fairness, I think the vast majority of human beings can make the decision to do what is best for the species and the planet.


  207. Firstly let me thank you all for an intelligent and rational discussion. They are rare on the net.
    A few points – Adam Smith has had a bad rap, and is fundamentally misunderstood, however the misinterpretation has led to the disaster of modern Capitalism, Globalisation, and Big Money.
    His perspective was of course very different to ours and he was a reformer at heart.
    One of the main reasons I do not believe that a gradual movement from the bottom will cut the mustard is several fold.
    We don’t have time, the power against us is huge, (remember that 70-80% of us don’t really care), we haven’t yet identified the problem as shown by the comments here,
    The momentum for Business as Usual is also huge. The warnings of potential catastrophe have been around for many years if not centuries and still we race headlong to possible oblivion.
    In my view there are no really viable or sellable theories around as to how we can manage a zero growth economy.
    I think the killer point is that the need for growth (profit) is built in to our social fabric ( I hesitate to use the words, Human Nature) and I cannot really see how it can be removed, unless we could go back to a ‘pastoral’ life, which seems impossible to me.
    However, as I’ve said earlier, there are new shoots of hope so we shouldn’t be pessamistic. Optimism is my watchword, despite what I said earlier about revolution.
    We must all be fervent and passionate spokespersons for the cause and maybe we’ll win out over all obstacles. It is my fervent hope !

  208. Re: Zot Szurgot. These are meaningful ideas about food supply and population, and I am learning from them. However, I feel that Zot goes too far in condemning all other approaches to population. I think we need all useful methods for stemming this tide of excessive births. Also, he brushes off psychology, politics, rationality, etc. as useless. How does he expect to get his food production limitation program implemented if he cannot persuade people to do it? Does he think he is in a position to do this himself by fiat? Some good ideas, but short on strategies of implementation.

  209. Humanity appears to be fast approaching a formidable global predicament and, as movers and shakers race down a soon to become patently unsustainable “primrose path” into danger, many too many leaders with responsibilities to assume and duties to perform appear to have fallen asleep at the wheel. Perhaps human beings with feet of clay will speak out loudly and clearly soon enough and, by so doing, awaken these leaders as well as beckon them to act ably.

  210. Ragweed…that might just be the most insightful opinion I think I’ve read in the last month, at least. I agree that most of present day civilization doesn’t have food-limited population growth or decline, and there is more than a little bit of first-world bias built into that view.

    But, when you substitute “resources of all kinds” for “food”, I think you get closer to what I think is driving declining fertility in all places it is happening.

    Despite the fact that some in the so-called developed world appear to be eschewing children for altruistic reasons, when you look more closely at it I believe that you will find that the couples w/out children just (!) coincidentally have much more of just about everything in life to enjoy because of it. Ask any parent and they will confirm that “resources of all kinds” describes: Time, money, freedom, mobility, solitude, living space….the list is long. If you have children, I’m sure that you don’t need convincing of that . It is primarily a quality of existence choice, if it is a choice. Unfortunately, it is a choice that seems to drive towards greater materialism and (dare I say it) less altruism, not more.

    Let’s face it, the human has essentially two primary destinations where contentment is found (well, three, but we’ll leave religion out of this for now): Material/physical comfort and reproduction. More of one equals less of the other, increasingly. I think we need to look at the choice from that perspective. Even in America, people are having to make this hard, calculated decision.


  211. Geoff — I wonder if ‘pastoral life’ need be as impossible or unpleasant as many may imagine. I say imagine because we really have little idea of what is was for the millenia that humans lived some versions of it. We are so wedded to industrial culture that it is hard to envision another way of life. We measure everything against the values we have been inculcated in.

    I wonder if you have read any of Michael Greer’s ideas on his Archdruid Report blog? If so, what think Thee? (Just sorta drifted into Amish-speak there…) Maybe there could be a less consumptive lifestyle that was not pure misery? A neo-pastoral society marrying the best of technology to the best of simplicity?

  212. Ragweed — Certainly a movement should be built on something more humane than a starvation diet. (Although a bloated culture like ours could sure use some judicious dieting.)

    My own choice for the foundations of a movement are the ancient and ever valid principles of truth and love for all. Sound too flimsy to support a solid structure? Someone once said, “Unless you build the house with my help, you build it in vain.” The whole tragic history of humankind is testimony to this truth.

  213. “With some basic education and fairness, I think the vast majority of human beings can make the decision to do what is best for the species and the planet.”

    Ragweed — Do you really believe that the Elites who largely control the allocation of resources on Earth have the slightest intention of fostering justice and equality? This has not happened in the past, is not happening now, and has a very low probability of happening in the future.

  214. The corporate body is the Trojan horse. Legally dismantling it would be essentially a revolutionary movement but without most of the violence that most people seem to envision as, for example, when Jensen speaks of doing “whatever it takes” to limit their (corporations’) choices. I don’t think he’s necessarily talking about violence. It’s by no means an easy thing, but the legal processes are there, ready to be used. And there are people out there working on this already. They need help.

    One would have to contend with immense economic powers in control of psychosocial engineering as a means to direct our “democratic” processes.

    Apparently, to get seriously started, a majority of a population has to hit rock bottom. And when you jump into it you don’t know if you’re going to Tianenmen or Tahrir. But that’s the kind of tipping point involved.

  215. Ed — Unfortunately, the “revolution” in Egypt will meet a similar fate as the one in China. The police state managers are ever more skillful in dealing with these pinpricks. Unless wikileaks scores a deep penetration of state secrecy, the US population will never have a clue about our continuing under the table support for this evil dictatorship, our Allies. Clue: who supports evil tyrants? Other evil tyrants.

  216. It ain’t over til it’s over, mike. I just hope for the best for them, and I know the US government has been on the wrong side of this one for a long time.

    For us, are they learning to yoyo the economy, finding the limits before rock bottom where they can still pull the leash and keep us relatively “content”? Probably. Let’s hope that not all those versed in social engineering are on the wrong side. Or maybe a few key defections.

  217. Ed — Mubarak “resigns.” Cheering crowds in Egypt. Obama wins election. Cheering in USA. Putin steps down. Hopes rise in Russia. “The infirm glory of the positive hour.” (TS Eliot)

    Meet the new boss (chief torturer and head of secret police) same as the old boss (only worse). Did I leave out, meet the new Pope (former Nazi and head of the office of the Holy (sic) Inquisition)?
    Our history has this depressing repetitiveness….

    PS — I’m saving up my positive comments for a propitious occasion. 🙂

  218. Plowboy – thank you for your kind complement, and for your equally thoughtful response.

    When I referred to people choosing to forgo having children, I was speaking specifically about environmentalists that deliberately made that choice due to population concerns. More than one participant in this discussion has said they choose to be childless for environmental reasons – which I do believe is an altruistic choice (though there may be other underlying reasons as well – the personal is political, and the political is often very personal).

    What I criticize is the notion that we are somehow superior to the teeming masses that can only obey Malthusian limits – if people here, with education and awareness, can make that choice, so can people in high-birthrate countries. It’s the social system that makes the difference.

    I would agree that many people in the west forgo having children for their own material reasons, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. There are many reasons people don’t have children, and some of those reasons are quite selfish. On the other hand, people who are too selfish or self-absorbed to want to have children are probably making the right choice – the alternative is parents who don’t want to be parents, which usually makes for really bad parenting.

    Resource constraints may be a significant driver of reduced fertility, but I suspect that improved rates of survival are more important. It’s a pretty well documented aspect of the demographic transition – if your only hope of having any chance of survival into old age is to have some surviving children, and there is a 50% chance of each child making it to adulthood, then you have twice as many children to make up for it. When the chances of children outliving you rise to 99%, then there is much less need to have more, and the added costs come into play. Available land also comes into play – when having large families means more low-cost agricultural labor and there is land available to employ it, then there is a significant advantage to have lots of children. When all you have is a 12 acre plot, then the added labor does not result in more productivity – more children are just more mouths to feed. Plus you have to figure out how to divide your land between them eventually – better to have fewer children then. People do seem to make these calculations. The problem is that it sometimes takes a generation or two for people to believe the improved survival rate is real, and the gap is what results in exponential population growth for a time.

    Mike K

    Well, no, I have no illusion that the power that be will let that happen. But I think it is a better goal to strive for than trying to shove a Malthusian limit on the third world. The problem with Szurgots argument, is that if people are essentially mindless reproducers that will grow like bacteria until they have consumed all the food in the petri dish, then the only way to stabilize population is to cut off the food supply so that starvation forces a limit. If, on the other hand, humans are capable of building sustainable social structures (and I think there is ample evidence we can) then we need to strive for that.

    Yes, it will take struggle, but I think ultimately more people will join a struggle based on education and fairness than one based on starving people.

    Mind you, there are other reasons to talk about limiting food exports to poor countries – which is part of the real reason “food exports from North America feed overpopulation in Central America.” Food exports and humanitarian food aide often does more harm than good. The earthquake in Haiti is a perfect example. US disaster aid bought tons of rice from US agribusiness and sent it to Haiti, where it was distributed either for free or for very low prices. This helped feed hungry people in the earthquake zone, but it severely undercut the market for Haitian-grown rice, throwing thousands of poor Haitian farmers into even deeper poverty, and increasing malnutrition throughout the island. Had the disaster relief effort bought rice locally, they could have improved the conditions of Haitian farmers and the Haitian economy, rather than essentially effecting a transfer of market share to US mega-farm corporations. There are similar stories about the effect of subsidized corn exports to Mexico and other countries. Food exports from Iowa drive poverty, starvation, and overpopulation in Central America.

    As for Egypt, I have great hope that it will turn out more like the ouster of Marcos in the Philippines and less like Tiananmen Square. In part because I think Mubarak has less control of the situation than he thinks, and in part because the overall percentages involved are much higher in Egypt. That makes some tough odds for a military force to quell – particularly when it is a conscripted army and the soldiers in the tanks know that there is a good chance they would be shooting at their own families (one reason the Soviet Union always stationed soldiers in locations far from their own homes – they would have fewer reservations about turning their guns on the locals). It is hard to know how the next few days will play out, but it really feels more like the last days of Marcos to me.


  219. Damn – I should check the news before I post.

    “Mubarak resigns, hands power to military”

    I guess Marcos it is! While there are concerns about power going to the military, I think in this case it will be a better outcome. Protestors have been asking the military to oust Mubarak, and the Egyption military is more professional than many regimes in the middle east (which is another reason why they didn’t slaughter protestors in the first place).

    I don’t think this will spark any global revolution, but I think it should be a souce of hope and an example of the enduring power of nonviolence.


    And ironically my Captcha for this post is “friends99”

  220. I do not understand how you’ve concluded – in absolute terms – that the conscience of abusers irredeemable. To be sure, there’s a history of civil and environmental rights movements which have appealed to the conscience of abusers, and through this approach have made great strides in changing abusers – though it often takes time and suffering. If someone is coerced or forced into changing, they may still pine for any opportunity to revert; the ‘change’ is at best superficial. Even if the likelihood of the redemption of someone’s conscience is slim, rhetoric that resigns all possibility redemption is a dark wedge – precisely counterproductive to producing ‘real’ change in others.

  221. “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    Unfortunately, “no other choice means” hitting rock bottom like an alcoholic drowning in their own vomit and taking everything and everyone else with them. That just isn’t an option… we must be proactive, loud, and compassionate toward them and ourselves. Individual action breeds momentum…

  222. Ragweed…you are welcome.

    Yeah, I suppose that after it is all weighed and parsed, folks is folks. What you are saying about people everywhere having the sense to make their reproductive choices based on the factors they see in their lives at the time…well, guess we all need to give them the benefit of the doubt we give ourselves. Of course, this assumes they actually HAVE reproductive choice, which opens up a whole ‘nother can-o-worms, huh?


  223. Why does democracy prevail? What is the source of democracy’s lasting value?

    To psychologists like myself the terms superego, ego and id are commonplace and refer to the remarkable institutions of an individual’s mind. In a similar way the words judiciary, executive and legislature are ever so familiar signifiers for political scientists and many others of the national institutions which organize our country into a democracy. That these great systems of “mind” and “state” may emanate from a common, all- too-human nature has been discussed many times heretofore.

    These brief comments attempt to extend that discussion and are a condensed presentation of a way in which the recognizable institutions composing the mind and the state might be objectively correlated. I present it now here because it seems somehow right, and possibly useful, for human beings to communicate their perceptions about basic aspects of our shared reality. As an example, consider how the judicial branch of government possesses certain essential features of the mind’s superego; that the executive branch functions much like the ego; and of course the ways the legislature most directly represents the wishes and needs of human beings everywhere and reflects the id.

    The nature and significance of the relationship between mind and state has been commented upon since the early days of Western civilization. This commentary begins with Pythagoras’ effort to answer the questions: What is the nature of human nature, and how might this nature express itself in the organization of human society? To put these questions another way: May the structure and dynamics of the mind have significance for the manner in which the social world is ordered and functions? Pythagoras and later Plato perceived that the organization of two levels — the psychological/individual and the governmental/societal — could be governed by the same principles. While Pythagoras is most likely the first to record this relationship, one of the truly impressive portrayals of these symmetrical psychological and governmental formations is to be found in the Dialogues of Plato, wherein he presented three governance mechanisms of the city-state mirroring three psychic agencies perceived ubiquitously within the human beings who belong to that city-state. It appears that the three governing elements of a state are derived from individuals who themselves possess these same elements in a terminal system he called psyche, others have called soul, and we call the mind.

    By fixing his analysis on the conflict among certain institutions of government, Plato posited that the social order is a replica of a person’s conflict-ridden mind, but on a much larger scale. Indeed, it has appeared to some people throughout the course of Western civilization that governance mechanisms of a state originate in, and are congruent with, the agencies which compose the mind. That is to say, the origin of a social order is not bestowed by a higher authority or based upon a conscious ‘social contract’ , but given in what is uniquely human in the nature of the individuals themselves.

    From this perspective, a state also is not the product of an historical process as many since Cicero have believed, but rather is derived from something plain and fundamental in the minds of its membership. It is possible to consider individual minds as microcosms in which the governing features of a macrocosmic social order can be apprehended and, in a most rudimentary way, understood.

    It may be fruitful to consider this fundamental relationship in which the human being gives objectivity to his/her terminal system in the formation of a state, yet does not often acknowledge the independence and validity of the governing institutions in this ‘object’ as being reflections of her/his own nature. This does not mean that the individual is equal to, or stands above, this necessary object. On the contrary, the state is above the individual and governs her/him. The point here is merely this: a plurality of individuals projects its commonly-held psychic elements into governance mechanisms of the state and then makes itself subordinate to this external organization. Human beings, it appears, are by nature constituted for social living, and most people become engaged in the outward events of the social and material world as a way of meeting basic needs determined by the practical requirements of reality.

    Ancient thinkers as well as contemporary scholars have postulated that there can be no meaningful human existence absent a social order. Perhaps it can be said that certain aspects of mentation are knowable because the mind presents itself both in three distinguishable parts to itself and in three governance mechanisms of the state. This mind / state relationship can be thought of as an example of the state having been generalized from, or having taken on the structure of, animating principles of unity in the mind of the individual. Individual members of a state unconsciously consent to be governed, as it were, by a state which typifies their nature. It is then plausible that the state comes closest to ensuring the expression of naturally determined human potential and relational capabilities of its members, as their ‘lights’ accord them a view of just what potential and capacity for relations they possess. Institutions of government begin to exist where individuals in sufficient numbers recognize that they are incapable of providing for their well being through personal thought and initiative alone. By adequately organizing governance mechanisms, government deals at once with inner conflict and outer challenges to the social order in much the same way the psychological agencies in the mind of the individual respond to the needs of the self. The state has ultimate concern for the needs of the individual by ensuring the opportunity for the fulfillment of those purposes for which individuals are created. Those governments which are most successful in accomplishing this goal are founded upon an understanding of the capacities of human beings, with particular attention to the goals toward which human beings
    tend. Then the state becomes a structure common to individual minds; conversely, their common psychic structure serves as a model that is employed to organize, authorize and empower governance mechanisms which direct society toward a remote, unreachable goal: the good of all.

    Here we identify a dynamic terminal system in its individual and its societal form. In the latter, human beings shape, amplify and adapts governance mechanisms according to their make-up in the formation and maintenance of a personality writ large, called a state.

    Since the dawn of Western civilization notice has been taken regarding how governance mechanisms of a state may spring from and ‘mirror’ the interplay of structured, psychodynamic distinctions of personality. Thanks to certain eminent psychological findings by S. Freud and to the constitutional inventions of T. Jefferson, we can see with more clarity how the structure, the dynamics and the overall momentum of the mind furnish the model for the structuring and functioning of a democracy.

  224. Mike K,

    I was going to come up with something in response to your pessimism on Egypt, but Lester Kurtz over at Waging Nonviolence said it much better, so I will quote him:

    “Today let us celebrate and applaud the courageous Egyptians who struggled to bring down another dictator and set a new course for their ancient and accomplished civilization.

    That is about all we should say today—thank you and congratulations, sisters and brothers of Egypt. . . You have become models for a new generation that takes up not the gun but the computer, the demonstration, the fearlessness of struggle.

    Tomorrow or next week we can talk about the pitfalls of transition, about how to prevent another military dictatorship or another theft from the people by those wishing to take advantage of a power vacuum. There will be time later to ponder the shallowness of what Julius Nyerere called “flag independence” when colonialism was conquered but the revolution was only state-deep, rather than shaking up the economic, cultural and social structures ossified by decades of tyranny.

    But for now, let’s shout and dance and thank God and the people of Egypt for their light shining through the darkness of yet another tyranny now conquered by courage.”

    I too have some healthy skepticism about what will become of Egypt. But should we deny the victory that people achieved, because it is not perfect? Was Ghandi a failure because India became a nuclear power? The victory of a people to throw off a corrupt tyrant with nonviolence should be celebrated. Yes, there is much more for the Egyptian people, and all of us, to do, but if we do not celebrate the victories we have, what is there?

    At a certain point our cynicism is our enemies most powerful weapon.


  225. Please refer back to my post (#236)

    In light of what I have tried to communicate, however feebly and tentatively, about democracy, perhaps we can better understand the psychological dynamics of human mentation as well as discern the behavior of the citizens of Egypt as they go about the task of forming a democratic government.

  226. A society that enjoys civilisation respects the right of its citizens to choose if they wish to be parents and places a high value on education in the conservation of resources. Given this right and education then there is considerable evidence people choose to moderate the number of children they have, particularly if they see the child will get a much better education and welfare generally because of this moderation. This morning I received another desperate email from a society that seems to lack civilisation on scale, as evidenced by its lack of democracy and quality education. The letter begins:
    Subject The Worst Attack –Ever
    Side banner They want to shut down every local Planned Parenthood health center in America.

    This is the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health in Planned Parenthood’s 95-year history.

    Tell your representative to vote “NO” on any attempt to end Title X funding for Planned Parenthood and others and cut off women from their only source of primary care.

    The letter proceeds

    “Dear Dave,

    This week, anti-choice House leadership is forcing a vote on the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health in Planned Parenthood’s 95-year history.

    That’s not an exaggeration, it is a simple fact — and if they succeed, the consequences for women will be catastrophic. We need everyone who cares about women’s health to join together to oppose this attack on Planned Parenthood and those we serve. Tell your representative to vote NO.…”

    Could it be the barbaric foreign policies of the USA are becoming more manifest at home? As a foreign person I cannot petition USA representatives – I can however alert American citizens to the horrors of their actions overseas and now at home.
    Footnote I guess the above thesis runs a little counter to Derrick’s thesis. It suggests sustainable change is enabled by inspiration and the knowledge we have options, these being born of the state of democracy and quality education. In these states we are better able to transcend the limitations of our ego and be freed from our addictive ways. We enjoy greater compassion and can better embrace the elements of psychopathy that reside in us all so they are less propagated in the institutions of our wider society. Perhaps we can learn from the transformations of Alexander the Great and King Asoka the Cruel/kind?

  227. Ragweed — I agree with you and Lester Kurtz. However, it is more than a little ironic that we are cheering for a country that has been delivered over to the tender mercies of its chief of the secret police and brutal army. When this is seen as a step up, it reflects on how terrible things have been for so long in Egypt. It gives me no pleasure to be the ghost at the banquet, but it is a role someone needs to play — a cautionary role. Although the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, there are miles to go before we sleep — and not much time left to save our world. Lets not get too drunk on hope at the celebration.

  228. Interesting piece Steve. As you know, Socrates proposed a far simpler and less consumptive society to his wealthy host at the beginning of the Republic. The assembled Oligarchs had a good laugh at that one, and urged Socrates to get real and outline a state that included all the many perks they were accustomed to. He then obliged, with some serious warnings of the troubles they were inviting by rejecting his more austere prescription…

  229. Thanks Mike,

    Perhaps what we need, maybe all we need, is an adequately functioning democracy, but first ordinary people will have to liberate ourselves from the pernicious, widely shared and consensually validated thinking of a tiny minority in the human community who extol the virtue of greedmongering as good, as an activity to be valued most highly.

    Even an enlightened dictator is not a person in whom I could place much faith. We need for duly elected, common people who are chosen by a society to accept the responsibilities and fulfill the duties of leadership by meaningfully embracing democratic principles and eschewing greed, by not “selling out” to greedmongers.

    It appears to me that the most arrogant, foolhardy and avaricious, self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us rule the world in our time, and rule it absolutely. This situation is bold evidence of a corruption of democracy, not an example of the reasonable exercise of democratic principles and practices. These circumstances are not only a colossal insult to human beings with feet of clay, but also are a clear and present danger to global biodiversity, Earth’s environs, its limited resources and to a good enough future for the children.

    Democracy requires representatives who reject the entreaties and bribes of greedmongers as well as embrace principles and practices that promote long-term well being of ordinary people and not only the short-term desires and fantasies of masters of the universe.

  230. Steve — Your remarks are very pertinent. It is not only the oppressive few out there that we need to deal with, but the passive and deluded many of us who are their victims and unconscious enablers. The billions spent by the ruling class on media of all types to condition people to accept and practice the disastrous consumptive way of life that is destroying our world are not wasted from their point of view. The television programming alone has reduced the American Mind to a state of zombie like incapacity. Now even the armed services and there MIC suppliers spend a lot (of our money) propagandizing us how necessary they are, and how vital it is to support their illegal and immoral wars.

    It really puzzles me why people find it so unusual to suggest that they might get together with their friends and neighbors on a regular basis in order to share their concerns and insights about the colossal mess we are all in at this time. Can’t spare the time from TV and other mass distractions, the bread and circuses of our days?
    Have you had the experience of trying to raise an important issue with someone you know, and had the distinct impression that they had turned off their hearing, and were only politely waiting for you to come back to the trivia of ordinary discourse? Do we need to coin another psychological term for television inflicted brain damage? “There’s somebody in my head, and its not me.” (Pink Floyd)

  231. Mike – be careful though with the assumption that people are turning off because they don’t care or don’t think about things. It may be a matter of presentation, and conflict avoidance.

    It took me a while to get this as an activist, but people don’t like being preached at, and in a society where we get preached at so often, people often build up thick skin. People are so bombarded with messages telling them what to think, how to live, what to buy, etc. that our messages can easily blend in with the din. And sometimes, how different are we from the myraid other messages that tell people what to do and how to live?

    I came to the conclusion a while back, that to truly reach people we need to be willing to listen more than we speak. It’s tough, because so much of the activist model is to speak – “get the message out”, “speak truth to power”, “address the issue” etc.

    Even asking people what they think about an issue can be tricky. We are so used to push-polls and the like – when the eager young Greenpeace or Planned Parenthood activist asks me on the corner “What do you think about ___”, I know they don’t care what I think, they are only asking me in order to rattle off a list of facts and ask me for money. Even when the cause is one I believe in, I often find the approach disrespectful. I feel used. And sometimes I will just tune it out and ignore the eager young activists, because I just really don’t want another interaction in my day where someone is trying to tell me what I should think.

    Being willing to listen to people and share in their path to liberation, out of a sense of respect and communion and not merely as a means to get them to follow our path of liberation, is the real activist challenge.


  232. “Being willing to listen to people and share in their path to liberation,
    out of a sense of respect and communion and not merely as a means to get
    them to follow our path of liberation, is the real activist challenge.”

    Couldn’t agree more, John. I had had enough of being preached at by the time I was five years old. The small group process I recommended is the exact opposite of that approach. No one is in charge. Each participant has roughly equal time to share. There is no topic or agenda. Just some sketches of what we do. I have been part of one such group that has been meeting every week for 21 years. I am also part of two others. We have learned and grown together, and done outreach activities that just emerged from our mutual concerns, such as a prison project, and a series of public weekend projects we called the Many Faces of Spirit — bringing diverse people and approaches to Spirit together. Our group is totally open to anyone, has and asks for no money, membership, or commitment whatever. If you want to know more, I can fill out the details.

    The idea of folks getting together to share themselves and their concerns in an open non-judgemental gathering seems so obvious to me it is somewhat a mystery to me why there are not tens of thousands meeting like this. Perhaps the isolation and alienation that is part of modern industrial civilization is part of the answer. I think also that many are turned off by the dysfunctional “groups” they may have been exposed to, assuming they will be preached at, hit up for money, or in other ways be made to feel uncomfortable. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  233. Mike,

    Before I got sidetracked by this little thing called kids, I was looking at a lot public art based work, such as Theatre of the Oppressed, as a model for activism. I really think there is still a lot of room for engaging meaningful public dialogue, and that we can even incorporate that into public protest. It’s a matter of how – of keeping questions open-ended, of presenting ideas but not solutions, while still being passionate about what we believe. It’s hard, because we do get pretty inured to our own solutions, and to the overwhelming need to make changes – but I think there is a lot of potential to make that sort of thing work.


  234. John — I agree that it is not easy to share with others our deep concerns about where our world is heading. We do have passionate feelings and well formed ideas of our own about this. But I believe based on experience that one can structure a group process in such a way that it uses these energies constructively and promotes the growth and effectiveness of all involved. A group can generate far more power to effect change than individuals working alone. I admire your commitment to the cause of peace and justice for all. People like yourself give me hope that we can make a better world.

  235. And after fearlessly acknowledging many problems and courageously fighting on so many fronts, we find ourselves in the unexpected position of not yet having mustered the nerve to openly discuss either the necessity for finding balance in relationship between humankind and the natural world we inhabit, thanks be to God, or the bold fact that a good enough future for coming generations to Earth is being stolen from them now here, before our eyes, thanks to the relentless, soon to become patently unsustainable pursuits of self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us.

  236. Mike,

    Don’t give me too much credit. I haven’t done more than raise two kids and write a few articles for a long time.

    And I don’t disagree about the power of a group and group process. What I am saying is that I also think the type of communication that makes effective change can happen on a wider scale than just a small group.There are people doing creative, artistic protests, public art works, and street theater that can create meaningful dialogue without falling into missionary patterns. But it takes work.

    I will also share something from an article in the Rad Dad Zine, by Tomas Munoz. The article was about a friend of Tomas who was charged with domestic violence, and how he delt with the situation as a neighbor, a friend, and a father – how to be supportive of his friend without letting him off the hook for what he did, and not belittling the utter vile unaccaptability of domestic violence. Tomas quotes a friend of his, a woman who had been the victim of domestic violence, who said “Sometimes doing the wrong thing is better than doing nothing at all.”

    Steve – Huh? I thought the bulk of the environmental movement over the last 50 years (at least) was about having the nerve to openly discuss the necessity of finding balance between humankind and the natural world we inhabit. Sure, there are disagreements about how we proceed, about scope and degree and root causes of the problems. There are disagreements about the degree of change needed and the ways of going about it. But there has not been a lack of discussion.


  237. Ragweed — You say: “I also think the type of communication that
    effective change can happen on a wider scale than just a small group.” I certainly agree. But I also feel that small groups can flourish and grow to vast numbers of cells, thus reaching a very large audience. AA is an example of this, now reaching more than two million people world wide with its small groups, and affecting for the better a far larger number of family members, employers, and indeed all they interact with.

    One might say, “But that’s just about alcoholics and addicts, what does it have to do with ecology, war and peace, social justice, etc.?” Well it could have a lot to do with all those concerns, which all have powerful addictive dimensions. I am not suggesting an unmodified 12 step program, but I think there are some clues in AA and other small group processes that could be building blocks of a group dynamic to address a wider range of problems. Just one example of the value of getting together with a few like minded folks regularly — all activists need support for the difficult work they do. Small groups are ideal for providing that support.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  238. Hey everyone, I have run several times recently into a tactic where it *seems* to be the case that places that welcome reader feedback then tendentiously delete feedback from those the site or newspaper does not wish to hear from… usually folks who go against the assumptions of the article, creating a completely false impression from the comments of the public. Let’s be on the lookout for this…

    (Not suggesting at all this is what Orion is doing; more like mainstreamers. It would be great if people who link to interesting articles could also rate the publication for honesty in their comment section. Maybe someone will start a web site for that.)

  239. I received a note from a lady who shared on this Jensen thread back in the early months of last year, informing me that she started a group along the lines I had talked about last May, and it has been going great since. Made my day. I had begun to wonder if anyone would ever do that, or if my efforts were in vain. I really was about to stop sharing online when I got that note. I am not primarily interested in sharing my opinions here — more about wondering if I can seed some actual small group activism. Anyone wanting to know more about the why and how of getting a group started, just let me know…..

  240. I agree with Vera. Why not post it, Mike.

    Does anyone think extolling the ‘virtue’ of greed mongering leads inevitably to a consumptive state of being among the greedy? Or is there no such thing as “too much” for the self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us?

  241. Vera, Steve, et al — OK, I will post my thoughts on how small groups can contribute to saving us from ourselves. On my way to the big city (Lexington Ky.) today, but will work on it tomorrow. Thanks for your interest.

  242. I can’t help but notice what is seemingly a sensationalist depiction of the end of our world. Economies are NOT solely based on tangible goods.

    Also the author makes fair point to draw attention to the notion of “progress” so ingrained in our society that it is rarely, if ever questioned. In light of this, I am compelled, as a moderate sceptic and relativist to play devil’s advocate in view of environmental concerns. In the 1970s it was suggested that the world would hit another ice age as a result of the human impact on the environment. Anti-capitalist/globalisation movements ensued and the hysteria later died out by the end of the decade. 30 years later, we are told the planet is doing the opposite: the earth is heating. Once again, as a result of pollution and to boot, our resources are depleting. Fact: Humans make up 3% of Carbon emissions. “In 1980, Julian Simon repeatedly challenged environmental scientists to bet against him on trends in prices of commodities, asserting that humanity would never run out of anything”

    Simon won the bet.

    Is resource depletion and environmental concerns all that safe to assume?

    In any case, if one were to concede to this idea that growth economies are problematic and wholly threaten the human populace the author’s prescription is also devastatingly problematic.

    “How do we stop the abusers who perpetrate a perpetual-growth economy? The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    Despite sounding radically tyrannical and extremist what exactly is the author proposing? Use up all the resources ourselves? (Assuming this is possible) Forcibly remove them, or the choice to do so?

  243. “The only way to stop them is to make it so they have no other choice.”

    And how do we do this? Human beings, especially Americans, seem to have an amazing capacity for self-delusion. Those with the wealth and power to protect themselves will not be forced to suffer until after the rest of us have been destroyed, so how do we make them see and care? What, short of utter environmental devastation and the destruction of millions of lives, human and otherwise, will convince them there is no other choice? And by then, it’s just too late.

  244. tmhartman — You have stated the basic problem of our world on the brink of self destruction. We need more of our best hearts and minds to focus on solving this riddle. There are solutions to this root dilemma; we need to find and implement them ASAP. Thanks for your input, we need your ideas.

  245. Chris M — Your comments seem to imply that concerns about the effects of unbridled capitalism on a global scale are overblown and of little real concern. You further opine that human impact on global climate is just a fad, in spite of the consensus of the world’s scientists that this is a major problem. It seems you would have us kick back, relax, and just enjoy the wonderful way the wealthy and powerful are managing our world — mainly for their own profit, with little regard for future generations. I just have to wonder how the millions whose lives are being destroyed by runaway industrial imperialism will receive your comforting message?

  246. I’m for trying to take a middle ground. It’s obvious there is not an unlimited supply of natrual resources. That may be our defining problem in our current state, however, people have always risen the challenges before them. I believe the challenge will be met concerning the current problem.

  247. There are two postures designed to reassure one that everything will somehow work out OK without anyone having to lift a finger to change anything: (1) Keep you head so high in the clouds that nothing an touch you. And (2) Stick your head so deep in the sand that you don’t see or hear anything.

    For those of us unfortunate enough to live on the surface however, it appears that we have a lot of work to do to save what is left of our world.

  248. ChrisM – some responses to the points you raise.

    First, the notion that “scientists predicted global cooling in the 70s” is vastly overblown. Between 1965 and 1979 there were 7 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals that projected some form of global cooling trend. In the same period, there were 44 papers predicting global warming. Even those that did predict any sort of global cooling did so with a lot of qualifications. For example – the 1976 paper by JD Hays et al (Science, 12/10/1976 – p1121), specifically stated that the trends they were predicting were over a 20,000 year period, and that they only dealt with natural variations and did not address potential warming due to increases in CO2. Unfortunately, Newsweek and other members of the press hyped the ice-age component, and neglected the qualifiers.

    It is true that human burning of fossil fuels is only 3% (about 3.3¬tually) of the total global carbon emissions – 26.4 gigatons per year to be exact. Plants an animals produce approximately 770 Gt of CO2 from respiration annually. But terrestrial plants and phytoplankton photosynthesize approximately 770 Gt of CO2 per year as well, so the natural sources of CO2 are in balance. The 26.4 Gt we pump out each year is a net add to the atmosphere. To put it another way – in 30 years we will add more carbon to the atmosphere than all life on earth circulates within a year. That is why more than 30% of the CO2 in the atmosphere is human caused.

    The Simon-Ehrlich bet is an interesting example of biologists not fully understanding economics – but the primary reason Ehrlich lost is because he picked the wrong time frame. Had they made the bet for 30 years – or even if they had made the bet with the ten year period from 2000 to 2010, Simon would have lost the bet. In fact, Simon did make a similar bet over the price of wood at the same time as the Ehrlich bet and Simon lost. The real message in the Simon-Ehrlich bet is not that we have limitless resources, but that metal prices over a fairly short-term period are a poor proxy for resource constraints.

    John C.

  249. Thanks Ragweed
    There is so much confusion and denial of stewardship/change in this discussion, especially in our media. For a start there is a world of difference between warming and warming-up and between cooling and cooling-down. See

    The temperature of Earth’s surface oscillates with solar activity and in the 1970s a pattern was perceived. It appeared that about 11,000 years ago Earth entered a cooling-down phase in accordance with this pattern but then about 6-7000 years ago something altered the pattern. This coincides with humans beginning to have a significant impact on the composition of the atmosphere with deforestation, expanding rice paddies etc.
    This possible scenario has profound implications for how we use minerals. Average temperatures have to only drop a degree or two to make much of our current agriculture unviable and we need to conserve fossil fuels so future generations are better able to cope with a cooler climate. It also suggests human activity can alter climate balances in significant ways, including the potential to cause thermal build-ups.
    I have lived by Ehrlich’s predictions for about forty years now and every year they are increasingly supported. All that has really changed is an exponential increase in our capacity to extract remaining minerals. This means the day of reckoning is delayed a few years but the impact of depletion will tend to be far more catastrophic.
    TMHartman – It is not just Americans who are profoundly psychotic and psychopathic. The malaise is particularly endemic in the Anglo-American culture as a whole – as I can attest from far away New Zealand. I am struggling to find in history another culture that is so barbaric on such a scale.

  250. Ragweed and Dave M — Thanks for your informed comments.
    A friend from college days recently sent me a thick volume from the Australian global warming denier Ian Plimer titled Heaven and Earth. It was so full of self contradictory, false and misleading statements, I really hope my friend doesn’t call and ask what I thought of it. Even otherwise intelligent people are so easily misled about scientific matters that it is no wonder the majority of the US population thinks evolutionary theory is untrue. If we all perish on this wonderful planet, ignorance will be a major cause of our demise.

    (Scott — I hit the no more notifications button by mistake. I still want to be notified.)

  251. It is impossible for the human species of this earth to control their reproduction drive. We humans are just another type of animal/insect that has evolved to a higher level of awareness. The uncontrollable Magic Wand and the Holy Beaver we so called human so majestically carries between our thighs will eventually populate the earth to an unsustainable population. A large part of the earth has already reached this level . A stupid question always enters my mine when I am on this subject. Where did Cleopata and Mark Anthony obtain all those trees to build all the war ships used in the battle with the Roman Empire? There is not now enough wood in all of Eqypt to have a nice Marshmallow roast. The population of Eqypt is already unsustainable.

  252. Dear Dale W. Wilson,

    The failure of will and wisdom as well as the triumph of arrogance and avarice of the self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us prevent the human species from the dismal fate you believe awaits us. There is nothing to keep human beings with feet of clay from exercising our splendid and unique, God-given abilities to consciously, carefully and collectively act against our proclivity to propagate.

  253. Dear Dale W. Wilson,

    With regard to the unbridled propagation of the human species we can readily recognize as a colossal and rapidly growing global presence on the surface of the Earth in our time, at least one thing we really need fast is a new kind of leadership, leaders who embody a transformed consciousness….leaders who possess the capacity for encouraging improved collective decisionmaking leading to sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises.



  254. Dale Wilson — We have the means now to separate the enjoyment of sex from the consequence of reproduction. What is lacking is the societal will to make these means universally available at no cost. Also needed is universal education in the absolute necessity to limit our numbers to sustainable levels. Propaganda and mind control are at such a high level of effectiveness now, that if they were turned to such positive uses, the effects would be adequate to reduce population to desirable levels. The real cause of runaway population is mental, not biological. If people think differently, then they will behave differently.

  255. Ref Dale Wilson’s comments.
    The real cause of population explosion is poverty.We know how to reduce populations. It is very simple and well proven. Ensure that a society has enough wealth evenly distributed to ensure that the individuals do not feel the need to have large families to maintain them later in life. Add to this a good health system and low infant mortality and birth rates will plummet. We only have to look at western Europe where many counties try to increase birth rates by providing financial incentives. Italy is an interesting example since it has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe dispirit being a very Catholic country where the church forbids the use of birth control.
    Obviously you must also educated people particularly women and provide contraceptives but these alone will not work as we have seen in Africa. To reduce world population we must increase the wealth of the poorest members of our world.

  256. Bob drysdale — Population is certainly a deep and complex problem. I did not mean to imply that universal availability of contraception and a change of mind among the masses were the only or totally sufficient instrumentality’s capable of balancing our population. In truth all our problems are deeply interdependent, so that in some sense to change anything, you have to change everything. We need a whole new world view and raison d’etre.
    Economic justice alone will not do the job as a single factor intervention either. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  257. Humankind is in possession of unique resources such as resourcefulness, inventiveness, protean intelligence, compassion, etc, etc. These kinds of distinctly human resources are not being directed to the real challenges before us. As a species, we are playing the role of Nero while our planetary home is being overwhelmed (ie, ‘overheated’, among other destabilizing and destructive human-driven effects) by our increasingly imposing and patently unsustainable presence.

    Of course at least one question to ask is, “What are we to do?” That query cannot be “answered” in any sensible and reasonable way as long as we deny the human-forced root cause(s) of what is ailing us and the planet, I suppose. Once much-needed human resources are reasonably and sensibly deployed in the service of life as we know it and the planet we are blessed to inhabit, I believe the workings of the “human world” will change in ways they must if we are to avoid becoming victims of the massive extinction event we are in the act of precipitating, come what may.

    As humanity’s most luminous beacon of truth, science provides us with a last best hope for the survival of life as we know it on Earth. We must make certain that scientific evidence is never downplayed, distorted and denied by religious dogma, politics or ideological idiocy.

    Let us not fail for another year to acknowledge extant research of human population dynamics. The willful refusal of many too many experts to assume their responsibilities to science and perform their duties to humanity could be one of the most colossal mistakes in human history. Such woefully inadequate behavior, as is evident in an incredible conspiracy of silence among experts, will soon enough be replaced with truthful expressions by those in possession of clear vision, adequate foresight, intellectual honesty and moral courage.

    Hopefully leading thinkers and researchers will not continue suppressing scientific evidence of human population dynamics and instead heed the words of Nobel Laureate Sir John Sulston regarding the emerging and converging, human-driven global challenges that loom ominously before humankind in our time, “we’ve got to make sure that population is recognized…. as a multiplier of many others. We’ve got to make sure that population really does peak out when we hope it will.”

    Sir John goes on, “what we want to do is to see the issue of population in the open, dispassionately discussed…. and then we’ll see where it goes.”

    In what is admittedly a feeble effort to help John Sulston fulfill his charge to examine all available scientific evidence regarding human population dynamics, please give careful consideration to this presentation and then take time to rigorously scrutinize the not yet overthrown science from Russell Hopfenberg and David Pimentel regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation.

    Please accept this invitation to discern the best available science of human population dynamics and human overpopulation; discover the facts; deliberate; draw logical conclusions; and disseminate the knowledge widely.

  258. I can’t help but think that the spiraling, apocalyptic premise of this piece is a little off. Right that the economy is entirely dependent on natural resources. Certainly, totalitarian agriculture and fixed resource utilization are ecologically detrimental. However, the feedback from deprived systems constrains economic wealth. At the point where cultivation, extraction, etc. becomes less profitable, humans invent creative solutions or, as you outlined, explore new territories.

    The corresponding genocide is an undoubted atrocity which is arrogantly justified by respective oppressors. Nonetheless, I have hope that some sense of unified humanity will awaken in the oppressed and their influence will overcome the abusive correlation you speak of. Abuse is certainly a perpetuating illness, but it can be counteracted. For example: the female liberation movement in the United States was not a smooth transition without sacrifice. However, it resulted in the mainstream idea of female equality and an integration of feminine opinion and influence.

    I agree with your assessment to a degree, but feel the forceful nature of change does not need to be a vital threat. Economic constraints enlisted by natural resource depletion, coupled with the fixed resources on our spaceship, Earth, will force creative intelligence to solve our resource dilemmas. The only real problem associated with the feedback loop is timeliness in terms of species extinction and irreversible pollution.

    The flawed economic market does not allocate cost to natural resource inputs. Therefore, the overreaching market does not compensate loss accordingly and endangers humans, other animals, and plants without factoring the wealth of their existence. Also, the use of water, air, light, soil, and other natural resource inputs is taken for granted; the struggle to protect vital resources is difficult because they are de-valued on the free market. Essentially, the iPod should be far more expensive.

    In regard to humanity, there is hope for the entitled. Not all individuals feel they are entirely self-centered. In fact, from my understanding, most cultures have some sense of humility; whether they are subject to the natural world of a ruling government order. It is only in a few nations like the United States that people tend to feel infinite autonomic responsibility and selfish pride in their existence.

  259. Somehow we must find ways to examine and report adequate scientific research. By so doing we follow the example of Rachel Carson and many other scientists who have shown themselves ready, willing and able to fulfill their responsibilities to science and their duties to humanity.

    “We stand now where two roads diverge…… The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road-the one “less traveled by”-offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
    -Rachel Carson

    Even though I am one who has come late in life to recognize this most fateful of crossroads for humanity and life as we know it where two roads to the future diverge, perhaps it is not yet too late to make a difference that makes a difference by choosing the path to sustainability, balance with nature, and preservation of the Earth as a fit place for our children to inhabit.

    Would professionals with appropriate expertise please examine the extant science regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation of Earth? Such knowledge can be useful in moving the human community from the dangerous and patently unsustainable ‘trajectory’ it is on now to sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises?

    —–Original Message—–
    Sir John Sulston, Chair
    People and the Planet Working Group
    UK Royal Society
    March 31, 2011

    Dear Sir John Sulston:

    Your recent comments, regarding the review of research on the human population and its impact on the planet we inhabit by a high level panel of experts, give rise to hope for the future of children everywhere. Thanks for all you, the Planet and the People Working Group and the UK Royal Society are doing to protect biodiversity from massive extirpation, the environment from irreversible degradation and the Earth from wanton dissipation of its finite resources by the human species. I am especially appreciative for two quotes from you,

    …..”we’ve got to make sure that population is recognized… as a multiplier of many others. We’ve got to make sure that population really does peak out when we hope it will.”

    …..”what we want to do is to see the issue of population in the open, dispassionately discussed… and then we’ll see where it goes.”

    Inasmuch as you and an esteemed group of professionals with appropriate expertise are examining scientific evidence regarding the unbridled increase of absolute global human population numbers, please note there is research that has been summarily dismissed by many too many of our colleagues regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation which I would like to bring to your attention. For the past ten years I have been unsuccessfully attempting to draw attention to certain evidence that to date remains both unchallenged and ignored by virtually every top-rank professional. Professionals appear unable to refute the evidence and simultaneously unwilling to believe it. Their unexpected silence has served to conceal certain research by David Pimentel and Russell Hopfenberg. How else can it be that so many established professionals with adequate expertise act as if they are willfully blind, hysterically deaf and electively mute in the face of scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation? The conscious denial of what could somehow be real about the growth of the human population in our time is not doing anything that can be construed as somehow right and good for future human wellbeing and environmental health, I suppose. It appears as if we could be witnesses to the most colossal failure of intellectual honesty, moral courage and nerve in human history.

    Peer-reviewed professional publications, letters to the editor, slideshow presentations et cetera can be found at the following link,

    Thank you for attending to this request for careful, skillful and rigorous scrutiny of research from two outstanding scientists. Please know I am holding onto a ray of hope that the research of Hopfenberg and Pimentel is fundamentally flawed; that human population dynamics is different from, not essentially similar to, the population dynamics of other species; and that human population numbers are not primarily a function of an available supply of food necessary for human existence. That would be the best news.

    Sometime soon, I trust, many scientists will speak up with regard to apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome science of human population dynamics and human overpopulation the way people in huge numbers in the Mid-East are calling out for democracy now.

    Respectfully yours,

    Steve Salmony

  260. I agree completely that the only way to stop them is to give them no other choice, but HOW do we do this? I read/hear lots of appeals to “write/call/march/vigil” but we are so far past the point of any of these actions making a difference that it makes me want to scream. At 66, I will do whatever I can to stop the damned “masters of the universe” from perpetuating their insane agenda, but I need help figuring out exactly which strategies and tactics are likely to be most effective.

    Where is the radical thinking about how to halt the corporate military-industrial behemoth that is encircling and squeezing the life out of this beautiful little planet? I’m ready for a little less talk, a little more (effective) action, please!

  261. As usual, Derrick has written eloquently right to the heart of the matter. Entitlement/abuse exactly describes civilization’s destruction and exploitation of our extended family. I don’t don’t agree with responders who see science as a solution, since so far it’s another expression of human entitlement.

    A Pomo (Northern California Indian) man told a group gathered to consider our destructive history, that until when a tree is being cut down you feel it in your body the way you would feel an attack on your sister or mother or daughter, you do not understand the indigenous view. He might have said the “non-entitled” view.

    There is a movement gathering from many parts of the world (including Derrick Jensen’s desk) to recall the primacy of living beings, to return to native respect in which all species, waters and biosystems have inalienable rights to live and thrive according to their own nature.

    How can we give planet abusers no other choice but to respect living beings, waters, and biosystems, to grant them equal rights, and to love them like the kin they are? I don’t know. As an artist I keep creating work that carries that respect, equal rights, and love. I believe it’s my little push toward essential paradigm change. Enough little pushes….

    Thank you, Derrick, for your big pushes.

  262. It is no good reading Derrick Jensen’s thoughtful piece, agreeing with it, and then going on with life as usual. There is a profoundly important message here that needs to be acted upon. Bringing meaningful change will be, to put it bluntly, goddam difficult. But it has to be done and today is the day to begin.

  263. How heinous to conflate “Entitlement” with “abuser.” And how wrong-headed. This is similar to the recent past when the label “Liberal” was accompanied by so much emotional baggage that had nothing to do with Liberalism. This is junk politics. It encourages the reader to think of the pensioner, someone receiving Social Security disability, or unemployment, or even someone being tried by a jury, to be an abuser. And we all know what you do with abusers. Not a big stretch from here to deciding that someone getting unemployment insurance, an entitlement he/she has actually paid for, should be flogged for claiming unemployment. Entitlement is not a tyranny, and is absolutely not abuse. Entitlements for most of us are things we have worked for, contributed to, or made some sacrifice in aid of the (legislated) social compact, whereby we tacitly agree to provide something of ourselves to our nation or community, and our nation or community, in turn, provides something for us. The only reason to equate the two is to try to make ending entitlements for all those nasty abusers more palatable. What nonsense!

  264. The MAKERS are actually the takers, the outrageous hoarders, the insatiable overconsumers. Not ever in the course of human history has so few MAKERS taken so much for themselves and left so little for so many others. After all, three billion(+/-) human beings are existing on the surface of Earth today on pitifully small amount of resources…. valued at less than $2 per day.

    On our watch the MAKERS are the takers, the ravagers of the finite planet and frangible ecology upon which children everywhere will utterly depend for their very existence in the future. According to the MAKERS, are quite secure and fully satified to allow their arrogance and avarice to rule the world in our time and rule it absolutely…..come what may.

  265. One thing missing from this good article is that our debt-based money system compels endless growth to pay off interest on money-creation loans. Financial growth has become decoupled from limits to physical growth but most people still view both as normal and natural. They are too stuck inside it to see the insanity. Even those that get a glimpse just throw up their hands and say “yes, the world is crazy so just roll with it!”

    One way to shut up terminal growth-addicts is to represent the Earth as an island only 10 miles in diameter and ask them if growth could go on forever on such an island. Most will say “of course not” to avoid seeming stupid. Then, keep bumping up the diameter of that spherical island to 100 miles, 1,000 miles and 7,926 miles (actual size) and ask them the same question. Most will come to realize that all islands are finite and only differ in the time scale for depletion. Insane Julian Simon types will never admit it, but most people will at least acknowledge the concept. Unfortunately, they also tend to rationalize it away, thinking “I’m stuck in this pyramid scheme so what else can I do?”

  266. The peaking of oil production, which happened around 2005 (with conventional oil per the EIA) offers vague hope for an end to growthism, since oil is the most portable and energy-dense fossil fuel. Shale and tars sands are trying to fill the void but they are inherently costly. As economist Jeff Rubin says, we’re running out of “the oil we can afford to burn.”

    There’s a chance people will finally show restraint but we’re also embarked on huge, nature-wrecking construction projects in the form of wind turbines and solar farms. The Earth is under a new siege from so-called sustainable energy infrastructure. It’s unclear that much will be learned from Peak Oil or the 2008 recession it triggered.

    Solar power on rooftops (not desert land-grabs) is my personal best hope for energy sanity. Still, if people find a way to get another easy fix of energy it will probably be used to excuse more growthism. Comedian Joe Rogan’s analogy of people as bacteria could be dead on. As long as you provide energy to bacteria they will keep consuming it. People as a whole aren’t much wiser than microorganisms.

  267. tahoe165 wrote on Jan 06, 2011: “You seem to suggest that we should just crawl into a cave and die.”

    That’s the classic right-wing response to any call for human restraint. It’s often accompanied by the suggestion that one kill one’s self to free up space (which ironically acknowledges the very problem that’s being denied). Such people are incapable of the humility needed to realize that nature’s limits apply to Man, not just “lower animals.”

    The reality is that if we don’t scale down our footprint, we’re far more likely to end up in primitive survival conditions, and many already are. Why is the concept of finite resources depleting over time so hard to grasp? I think Creationism is behind most right-wing antipathy toward natural limits. They think nature must be endlessly subdued and taken over. They are terrible at math.

  268. E.A. is correct. I agree with every word he reports.

  269. Why is it that we see technical prowess so wonderful? We see an oil-soaked pelican on the beach, we slap the sustainable solution of Dawn dish washing soap on them, and voila, the pelican flies away happily ever after. Never mind the thousands of creatures that die from the toxic soap. “When is the last time you tried a single drop of Dawn” in your aquarium with your exotic fish?

  270. Does every human effort to solve one problem create at least one more problem to acknowledge, address and overcome?

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