World at Gunpoint

A FEW MONTHS AGO at a gathering of activist friends someone asked, “If our world is really looking down the barrel of environmental catastrophe, how do I live my life right now?”

The question stuck with me for a few reasons. The first is that it’s the world, not our world. The notion that the world belongs to us — instead of us belonging to the world — is a good part of the problem.

The second is that this is pretty much the only question that’s asked in mainstream media (and even among some environmentalists) about the state of the world and our response to it. The phrase “green living” brings up 7,250,000 Google hits, or more than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards combined (or, to look at it another way, more than a thousand times more than the crucial environmental philosophers John A. Livingston and Neil Evernden combined). If you click on the websites that come up, you find just what you’d expect, stuff like “The Green Guide: Shop, Save, Conserve,” “Personal Solutions for All of Us,” and “Tissue Paper Guide for Consumers.”

The third and most important reason the question stuck with me is that it’s precisely the wrong question. By looking at how it’s the wrong question, we can start looking for some of the right questions. This is terribly important, because coming up with right answers to wrong questions isn’t particularly helpful.

So, part of the problem is that “looking down the barrel of environmental catastrophe” makes it seem as though environmental catastrophe is the problem. But it’s not. It’s a symptom — an effect, not a cause. Think about global warming and attempts to “solve” or “stop” or “mitigate” it. Global warming (or global climate catastrophe, as some rightly call it), as terrifying as it is, isn’t first and foremost a threat. It’s a consequence. I’m not saying pikas aren’t going extinct, or the ice caps aren’t melting, or weather patterns aren’t changing, but to blame global warming for those disasters is like blaming the lead projectile for the death of someone who got shot. I’m also not saying we shouldn’t work to solve, stop, or mitigate global climate catastrophe; I’m merely saying we’ll have a better chance of succeeding if we recognize it as a predictable (at this point) result of burning oil and gas, of deforestation, of dam construction, of industrial agriculture, and so on. The real threat is all of these.

The same is true of worldwide ecological collapse. Extractive forestry destroys forests. What’s the surprise when extractive forestry causes forest communities — plants and animals and mushrooms and rivers and soil and so on — to collapse? We’ve seen it once or twice before. When you think of Iraq, is the first image that comes to mind cedar forests so thick the sunlight never reaches the ground? That’s how it was prior to the beginnings of this extractive culture; one of the first written myths of this culture is of Gilgamesh deforesting the plains and hillsides of Iraq to build cities. Greece was also heavily forested; Plato complained that deforestation harmed water quality (and I’m sure Athenian water quality boards said the same thing those boards say today: we need to study the question more to make sure there’s really a correlation). It’s magical thinking to believe a culture can effectively deforest and yet expect forest communities to sustain.

It’s the same with rivers. There are 2 million dams just in the United States, with 70,000 dams over six feet tall and 60,000 dams over thirteen feet tall. And we wonder at the collapse of native fish communities? We can repeat this exercise for grasslands, even more hammered by agriculture than forests are by forestry; for oceans, where plastic outweighs phytoplankton ten to one (for forests to be equivalently plasticized, they’d be covered in Styrofoam ninety feet deep); for migratory songbirds, plagued by everything from pesticides to skyscrapers; and so on.

The point is that worldwide ecological collapse is not some external and unpredictable threat — or gun barrel — down which we face. That’s not to say we aren’t staring down the barrel of a gun; it would just be nice if we identified it properly. If we means the salmon, the sturgeon, the Columbia River, the migratory songbirds, the amphibians, then the gun is industrial civilization.

A second part of the problem is that the question presumes we’re facing a future threat — that the gun has yet to go off. But the Dreadful has already begun. Ask passenger pigeons. Ask Eskimo curlews. Ask great auks. Ask traditional indigenous peoples almost anywhere. This is not a potential threat, but rather one that long-since commenced.

The larger problem with the metaphor, and the reason for this new column in Orion, is the question at the end: “how shall I live my life right now?” Let’s take this step by step. We’ve figured out what the gun is: this entire extractive culture that has been deforesting, defishing, dewatering, desoiling, despoiling, destroying since its beginnings. We know this gun has been fired before and has killed many of those we love, from chestnut ermine moths to Carolina parakeets. It’s now aimed (and firing) at even more of those we love, from Siberian tigers to Indian gavials to entire oceans to, in fact, the entire world, which includes you and me. If we make this metaphor real, we might understand why the question — asked more often than almost any other — is so wrong. If someone were rampaging through your home, killing those you love one by one (and, for that matter, en masse), would the question burning a hole in your heart be: how should I live my life right now? I can’t speak for you, but the question I’d be asking is this: how do I disarm or dispatch these psychopaths? How do I stop them using any means necessary?

Finally we get to the point. Those who come after, who inherit whatever’s left of the world once this culture has been stopped — whether through peak oil, economic collapse, ecological collapse, or the efforts of brave women and men fighting in alliance with the natural world — are not going to care how you or I lived our lives. They’re not going to care how hard we tried. They’re not going to care whether we were nice people. They’re not going to care whether we were nonviolent or violent. They’re not going to care whether we grieved the murder of the planet. They’re not going to care whether we were enlightened or not enlightened. They’re not going to care what sorts of excuses we had to not act (e.g., “I’m too stressed to think about it” or “It’s too big and scary” or “I’m too busy” or any of the thousand other excuses we’ve all heard too many times). They’re not going to care how simply we lived. They’re not going to care how pure we were in thought or action. They’re not going to care if we became the change we wished to see.

They’re not going to care whether we voted Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or not at all. They’re not going to care if we wrote really big books about it. They’re not going to care whether we had “compassion” for the CEOs and politicians running this deathly economy. They’re going to care whether they can breathe the air and drink the water. They’re going to care whether the land is healthy enough to support them.

We can fantasize all we want about some great turning, and if the people (including the nonhuman people) can’t breathe, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but that we stop this culture from killing the planet. It’s embarrassing even to have to say this. The land is the source of everything. If you have no planet, you have no economic system, you have no spirituality, you can’t even ask this question. If you have no planet, nobody can ask questions.

What question would I ask instead? What if, instead of asking “How shall I live my life?” people were to ask the land where they live, the land that supports them, “What can and must I do to become your ally, to help protect you from this culture? What can we do together to stop this culture from killing you?” If you ask that question, and you listen, the land will tell you what it needs. And then the only real question is: are you willing to do it?

Derrick Jensen is the author of, most recently, Songs of the Dead. His column, Upping the Stakes, will appear in each issue of Orion.


  1. As a longtime reader of Orion, I feel intrigued and very curious to see where Derrick Jensen’s column will take the magazine. His writing is compelling, haunting, provocative — and ultimately, frustrating to read because there are no real solutions here. He snubs those who “fantasize” about a great turning, while promoting a fantasy about bringing down civilization. I applaud Orion for its focus on artful and positive change, and look forward to more lively discussions including the one “how do we live our lives now”?

  2. Brilliant article; Derrick Jensen, always a good read; this article could and should serve as the basis for classroom discussion,research, essays and forums in schools across our country.

  3. What an extraordinary article! Yes, we can and have been able to answer many of the questions that have been presented to us concerning the changes to this little planet that allows us to exist. I totally agree that the right questions have not been asked. If we do not learn to ask the right questions, there is absolutely no way we can expect to get the right answers! Beautifully written piece! Nice job! 😉

  4. I read this article on the ‘plane on my way to a professional meeting; it stopped me in my tracks. At the meeting, one of the organizers had set up a session on “Green “. After presetting the distressing findings of the IPCC, he ended with a recruiting add from the great war: “What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?”

    What are we going to tell our children and grandchildren, if there are any, when they ask: what did you do to help solve the great climate crisis? That we recycled our newspapers and replaced our light bulbs? Jensen has it exactly right: its’ not that these things are bad, it’s that they are irrelevant to solving the real problem. Until, as Fullerton says, we can honestly start asking the right questions, we are all doomed, and we are taking the planet down with us.

    I hope that in subsequent articles, Jensen asks some of the hard questions.

  5. Jensen writes “If you ask that question, and you listen, the land will tell you what it needs. And then the only real question is: are you willing to do it?”

    Willing to do what, exactly? I don’t disagree with the way you frame the problem. But here once again I see something that I’ve seen in previous pieces by Jensen: cryptic comments about being “willing to do what is necessary.” Shades of the movie Body Heat.

    What are you driving at? Blowing up developments? Violence? If that’s really what you mean and you don’t want to say so openly — which I’d understand — you’re mistaken. That method won’t work. The bad guys have more guns than you do and you’ll immediately lose what you really need in order to win environmental victories — public support.

    The ugly, tedious truth about saving the environment is that somehow you have to get huge numbers of Americans to do pedestrian stuff like organize and vote and demand change. Maybe even by taking to the streets in large numbers like what happened in the 1960s. But more than once now I’ve seen these same cryptic references in Jensen pieces in Orion. And if what you’re doing is calling for ELF type tactics — as a matter of winning strategy, you are wrong.

    Maybe I misread you, and if so I’m sorry, but you give such little information that I can’t imagine how anyone could know what you’re calling for. Cryptic is the word.

  6. Since I first read Derrick’s book ” A Launguage Older Than Words” His writing has deeply moved me. Not that it matters, not that anything really matters. Intuitively I know his words ring true. I will indeed ask the earth what are we to do, and wait for the answer I know will come, for me. Thank you.

  7. I, like others, am intrigued to see where this new column takes the magazine. This first submission seems, well, incredibly dark. It frames a potential pitfall in focus well – in that perhaps we are asking the wrong questions – but it also perpetuates a type of fuzzy logic. We are not in any danger of killing the planet. Its been through several mass extinctions and environmental catastrophes and has continued to orbit around the sun. Life itself has continued on. If the worst of global climate change occurs and humans – along with thousands of other species – vanish tomorrow the planet will still be here. Someday in the future it’ll harbor life again, despite our worst efforts to the contrary with all the current threats and impacts we’ve created.

    What we should be afraid of is creating a toxic environment that no longer supports human life. One where we have no clean air to breathe, no fish to eat, no grain to grow. Yes, we want to save and conserve the species that share our current world, the “nonhuman people” as you put it, but we do so out of a deep recognition that saving fellow species serves to stabilize ecosystems that make human life possible.

    I hope that future columns will not be so dark (nearly misanthropic) and will probe the important questions with important answers, or at least intelligent written amblings that might lead to broader discussion.

  8. “Do what exactly?”

    Derrick Jensen makes it very clear in his books that he is recruiting people to blow up dams and cell phone towers, while he writes books, of course.

    As the comments accumulate for this article, I think we should all go back and revisit the pair of articles by Curtis White (Ecology of Work and The Idols of Environmentalism) published in Orion a while ago. I think they are similarly provocative to this one but much better. Anyone who has read anything by Jensen knew exactly what he was going to write one sentence in.

  9. I, too, appreciate the thoughts expressed by Jensen here and in his other writings. We do have to get down to basic causes and realities of the planet. But like commenter #5, I believe Jensen went right past the most basic action, and ended at yet another environmental platitude. Rather than “listening to the land” which to me will also be something that future Earthlings will not care that we did (even if it’s a correct idea), what we must do is stated in a previous line: “Nothing matters but that we stop this culture from killing the planet.” That tells us what action to take with all our hearts and strength, from personal living to community involvement to personally confronting and challenging the industrial, corporate and political system. For example, laws about energy use that have at least a saner direction are being written in Washington now — go and engage your President and representatives to make them much stronger; enough to actually protect the planet right down to the land where you live. As Wendell Barry says, “You cannot regulate an abomination.”

  10. Jensen’s last paragraph takes my breath away. His anger at human culture which he and presumeably other readers are part rings true. We are indeed the problem. The culture of ravaging the earth and its many species.

    The simplicity movement is just as radical and credible as destroying dams, roads and bulldoziers. Lessening the footprint impact of the individual, decreasing consumption and energy use, limiting population growth, writing comments, questioning the treatment of forests, attending city meetings, stopping roads built for the pleasure of engineers and the trucking lobby. All these measures work together. We are indeed in a deep and ugly hole. We are indeed a destructive species. Individuals must be educated and empowered to intitate change.
    I appreciate Jensens whisper to action. He has heard the forests calling….

  11. A Language Older than Words is one of the most beautiful and painful books I’ve ever read. I think the real question Derrick is asking most of the time is: How do we value life? It’s hard to put in a column the kind of meditative thought Derrick puts in his books. But maybe he should try.

  12. Fascinating and important, although a large question is just how we are to “hear” the land. I asked my back yard what it wanted me to do and, even though I’ve got a touch of a mystic streak, I couldn’t hear anything.

    I know Jensen believes our associates in creation speak to us, and he may be right. But if the ultimate point of his piece was that we must have the guts to do what the land says, how do we know what it says? Anybody know? And if he says “by any means necessary” what if the land says, no, not by “any” means? Perhaps it might say we’ve had enough violence already…

    One commenter suggests that it will speak to her, “for me.” Will her land say something different than my land? Than Jensen’s land? This could get complicated, eh?

    I appreciate the deep ecology of this, and want to believe we can discern some insight from listening well. Perhaps I’m tone-deaf. Or is this just gnostic nonsense that can’t be critiqued reasonably? That is, if he says the land told him to blow up a dam, who is anybody to argue? Heck, I could justify nearly anything if I get my marching orders from listening to the dirt.

    We’ve got an epidemic of Lyme carrying deer tics near us here, in the local land— partially a result of terrible suburban sprawl. Still, they are in the neighborhood now, too. Should I ask them what they think, even as they ruin the health of loved ones? Or if I ask them to get the hell out, will they listen?

    Some who have commented have affirmed Jensen’s hearing the whispers of the forest. This is fine poetry, good metaphor, if that is what we mean. Our strategy must be argued amongst our neighbors in the public square, though…can this stuff possible ring true to others, this peculiar Dr. Doolittle approach that insists that “nothing else” matters? I’m perplexed.

  13. I agree that the suggestion of listening to the land is cryptic. I haven’t read anything else by Jensen, so I don’t know what he really means. I do know that he interviewed Martin Prechtel, a few years ago in the Sun, and Martin’s explanations of the Mayan culture that he was a part of in Guatemala, begin to tell us what Derrick SHOULD be meaning when he tells us to listen to the land. Where industrial civilization went wrong is in forgetting that our existence here puts us in debt to the spirits that make us live, and so we think we can take endlessly without giving back. There is something greater than ourselves, that makes this all happen, and which knows what we must do to keep in balance with the whole. Every indigenous culture I am aware of had this understanding of the greater thing to which we must be held accountable. That is what kept them from becoming the cancerous growth that our empty “culture” has become. If we wake up to this, and remember how to listen, so that we can learn what is required in terms of giving back, we have a chance of keeping this life alive. Here is the link to the interview with Martin Prechtel that Jensen did in 2001.

  14. I looked through Jensen’s article and through the comments to see if ayone would proffer a correction to his correction, but no.

    So here goes: Jensen says this culture needs to stop killing the planet. In a way his statement presumes we’re separate from nature. We’re not. We ARE nature. Nature has always killed its own kind.

    So the planet will go on and heal itself over the years, probably by killing us off. It’s us humans who just might go extinct–we’ve been declared an endangered species. We’re killing ourselves, nature turning in on itself.

    This culture–over the last 50K years–has done that. Ever since we were able to use finer tools, such as bone, we could make close-fitting garments and get into colder climes, and thus go further away from Africa.

    Ever since that time, whenever humankind has set foot on a new continent for the first time, the megafauna have been killed off within a few thousand years.

    Now there’s no other planet to get to.

  15. I agree with the first poster (Carol H), in that I often have very mixed feelings and responses when reading Derrick Jensen. I am in agreement on a deep level, so there is a sort of ‘hum’ of resonance and relief at someone articulating these ideas. And then there is a sense of unsettled, uneasiness. There is something unabashedly aggressive in these writings. That tends to put me off.

    And yet, I think Jensen is expressing what most of us don’t want to, or can’t. What is happening – and has been happening at least since industrialization has become the dominant mode of practice – IS unacceptable, IS genocidal, IS violent and sinful (paraphrasing the excellent Alexander Wilson’s Culture of Nature). And we need to tackle this directly, including our complicity. But it’s more than that. It’s about shifting the very frames and discourses we are embedded in, that enable industry and exploitation to continue. Jensen points out how it’s become seeded into our very questions, the way this ideology is threaded into our very language and ways of seeing. So what is called for IS radical and revolutionary.
    I only wish there was more suggestion of creative ways of responding, rather than hinting and hoping we will get what they may be. Not that we need Jensen to tell us what to do, but its evident his ideas can be interpreted as quite violent acts. I want to channel my rage and sense of injustice into ways that are dismantling, but I don’t know how. And I am not ready to ‘shoot’ the perpetrators. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the language Jensen uses tends to be very violent. What we encounter against species and ecosystems ruined and destroyed because of our rampant greed is violent; but I don’t want to be pulled into a way of life coloured by rage, and violence. Maybe this makes me a patsy, a wimp. Who knows. But I want us to think about creative channels for using our rage and anger, without being drawn into replicating violent acts.

  16. Jensen is exactly right that we are asking the wrong questions (because we ask from a selfish, anthropocentric perspective). For eons, human creatures understood that they were but one small strand in the Web-Of-Life. It is our relatively recent (and deranged) view that we are its Lords and Masters that is the root of today’s ecological dysfunction.

    However, Jensen’s antidote is every bit as naive (though well-intentioned) as the comments of some of his critics (as posted here).

    As soon as one says “by any means necessary”, it becomes clear that person has gone over to the dark side. No one can be blamed for self-defense or the defense of one’s family (however broadly that is defined). But to engage in deliberate offensive action against a perceived adversary is to indulge in the same criminality that one pretends to oppose.

    On a Jensen fan club discussion forum, I was brutally trashed for suggesting that Jensen’s understanding of non-violence was limited (at best).

    To be responsible members of the Web-Of-Life, we must all be willing to give our lives to protect and defend it. But to take lives for It’s sake would be the very same desecration that we should be striving to thwart (and no different from the Crusades or Islamic fanaticism).

    Jensen is a brilliant thinker, engaging writer, and a good soul who is willing to let his desperation inspire his action. That is never a good thing.

  17. It would be helpful–or at least honest–if Derrick Jensen mentioned that he published a book last year called “How Shall I Live My Life?” I don’t know whether this column grows out of or turns away from that project, but it strikes me as relevant for his readers to know.

  18. If his proposal to listen to the land plays out anything like his descriptions of listening to his chickens in A Language Older Than Words (where he insists that the chickens WANT him to kill and eat them), the project he proposes has little to offer.

    In psychology there’s a word called “projection”…

  19. I have a problem with the concept of acting “by any means necessary.” This suggests Mr. Jensen believes that the “problem” is already clearly defined and it is simply a matter of acting to address the problem…in reality it is not so cut and dried or obvious what the real problems are.

    It is fine to decry the current culture and its impacts on Nature (as though Nature was somehow pristine and perfect before humanity), but what alternative does Mr. Jensen offer?

    Listening to the land is wisdom for nomadic societies, hunter-gatherers, and the agriculturally based. But it is of questionable value for folks already in urban settings.

    If Mr. Jensen wants to call us to more responsible stewardship, he needs to get significantly more detailed, more thoughtful, and more practical.


  20. Eschew “real solutions” please. My gut is that social planning got us into the mess as it did in the early part of the last century. There is an assertion that only war(number 2) got us out but look where that got us.

    Be wary of large scale solutions.

  21. Jamie (Poster #20) makes an excellent point: large scale solutions are frequently more problematic than salutary. I understand the scalar argument – if it works well here in a snall case, then it should be easy enough to scale up for state/regional/national/interna-
    tional application, but that is not the case. Think global, live local, and expect the unexpected…

  22. Does this guy live in the real world? Most people cannot sustain the adrenaline that it takes to throw a psychopath out of the house and will return, thankfully and peacefully, to living as though the world was not in dire straits. Of course, it is, but it is crippling to focus on that 24/7. We are only human and do not have the capacity to face reality all day every day.

  23. I just finished reading an article about the need for more toilets in the world. According to this article, there are 2.6 billion people in the world who DO NOT have any type of toilet at this point, and they are adding 3.12 TRILLION tons of untreated human waste to the environment annually, which pollutes the water supply and who knows what else. Even those of us who have toilets must realize on some level that our wastes also create problems. And if I ask the world if it needs any more of this, I’m sure it would answer with a resounding NO. However, that still leaves it up to us to figure out how to handle all of this waste.

    Also, have you noticed that even “green” publications continue to advertise more and better stuff for sale all the time, as we hear constant talk about “growing” the economy. The big question that no one seems to want to consider is how are we going to STOP extracting all of the finite resources of the world to feed today’s hunger for consumption of everything in sight. People will gladly change a few lightbulbs if doing so absolves them of the responsibility of confronting the fact that ENORMOUS changes in “lifestyle” will be necessary to deal with what is required to maintain some sort of ecological balance. I cannot believe anyone who says this is not so. And until that issue is confronted in a serious way, no one will really be hearing what the “earth wants”.

    So I agree with the writers who are frustrated by beautiful thoughts written in beautiful articles which still find a way to dance, albeit beautifully, around the fact that you have to convince millions of very indulged people here in the U.S. to agree to some serious downsizing and to elect leaders who will make sure it happens. And fast…..

    Can this be done?

    And note that this doesn’t begin to address the problems of all those billions who don’t even have toilets…..

  24. I was thrilled to see that Derrick Jensen is to have a regular column in Orion. I don’t believe his “by any means necessary” means killing but I do believe he means nonviolent civil disobedience, which (to some including in India) can mean destruction of property (not people!). Personally I’m not going to go out and destroy the numerous developments happening where I live, though I would be happy if someone did. Because they are a manifestation of our current mindless culture that doesn’t understand or see or feel the spirit in the land or in anything else, for that matter. Money is what means something to way too many people in this culture. This is anti-nature as well as anti-human. I, too, am a writer and try and use my skills, such as they are, to open people to a more participatory relationship with the Earth, whatever that means for them. To listen to the land is, in actuality, deep listening to the spirits of all that lives in a place. And each of us is “hardwired” (because we are human, because we are part of the whole) to hear these voices. But each in our own way. Sometimes the land (or trees or rivers or mountains) does speak in words very clearly. Most times it’s more of a sense, a yearning, a compulsion to do something, to act in a particular way (or to not act in a particular way). The reciprocity that Native people understood to me feels like love flowing back and forth and within that love lies some questions and perhaps some answers. And sometimes there’s just an overwhelming feeling that fills me up and makes me cry for no reason. What I do with all of this is my choice. I can write about it (which I do sometimes), I can get my hands in the dirt and marvel at even the simplest of creatures, or I can stand there and let the tears flow and know that somehow this too matters in the larger, grand scheme of things. Because an open heart, a heart open to the beauty of this Earth and the pain of what we are doing to the Earth is the beginning. We have to feel. And we should share our stories and believe that we can have an impact despite the hugeness and overwhelmingness of our times and what we are facing. It’s hard to say: This is what we should be doing because each of us is unique, each of us came here with a purpose and a gift to give. It’s fuzzy and it changes sometimes from day to day. What remains constant is the life of the Earth which, as some have pointed out, will continue to live on long after we’re gone. (Check out the movie, I think it’s called “Life After People”). Will humans continue on? Who knows. Perhaps. That all depends on what we do, or don’t do, now. I believe our purpose is to continue the evolutionary process as partners with Earth, and that we have what it takes to do this. But we need to recognize that it’s not just up to us, that “listening to the land” may be metaphor, but a metaphor for action in the context of the whole. I know. It’s still fuzzy. Words are inadequate. They run around the essense, trying to define it like a drawing on blank paper defines the spaces within lines.

  25. As another poster who’s read Jensen previously, I can also state that his “by any means necessary” involves violence. I don’t agree with him on this, but I do appreciate the analogy of the maniac killing our loved ones.

    However, I don’t think most people would go after the maniac themselves with a club, which is what he seems to suggest. They’d call 911. They’d run screaming into the street and bang on a neighbour’s door. They’d freeze. The idea that if only we’d all agree on what kind of situation this is that we’d all then agree on the only possible answer is not true.

    I did love the piece, though. I do listen to the land, and it gives me different answers than Jensen gets (yep, projection), but at the very least moving away from “how shall I live my life?” is a good thing.

  26. I think the analogy of a psychotic killing our loved ones only goes so far. While I get we need to see our non-human cohabitants as members of our family/community and need to feel outrage at their/our destruction, the problem with the analogy concerns 1) who is the killer, and 2) to what ends is the killing happening. The analogy actually glosses over the ideological power that runs through our global/capitalist/industrial systems, and that in fact this is seen to be as doing ‘good’ usually for someone in particular. Whereas the psychotic killer shooting our loved ones is irrational, makes no sense, is incoherent, what we are dealing with is in our very own histories. It requires looking at ourselves, our social and cultural histories and interrogating this on the deepest possible levels. And yes, saying no, putting our refusal to participate into action. But I actually feel the language (‘barrel of a gun’, ‘shooting’) sort of misses the complexity of industrial processes that cause such violence to the land and its creatures.

  27. Get real, Jensen. Poetic writing, to be sure, but hardly helpful. Yes, “exactly what” does he suggest?

    I suspect that Orion talkls only to the folks that aren’t the problem anyway.

    You, and I, and Jensen, can’t be the problem… can we?

  28. I have great faith that Planet Earth will be able to cleanse itself of the human virus and of all the trash that humans will leave behind. Humanity has failed its Mother and does not deserve to share in her bounty. Vile humanity and the evil capitalism will consume themselves at the altar of the infinite.
    How should you live your life? Does it matter?

  29. 24 Susan Meeker-Lowry on May 22, 2009 wrote:

    .. I don’t believe his “by any means necessary” means killing but I do believe he means nonviolent civil disobedience, which (to some including in India) can mean destruction of property (not people!).

    There is a very simple way for a writer to indicate exactly what he means: by saying so. Jensen’s crytic references suggest that he means something besides Ghandi’s civil disobedience. Tree-spiking and arson are illegal, immoral and dead-bang losers as tactics to advance a cause. If he means something else, he has an easy way to clarify his intentions.

  30. I know I’m opening up a can of worms here, but when it comes to the Earth there are those of us for whom the killing and destruction of habitats and creatures in the name of profit and more “stuff” is just personally, viscerally painful. I am fortunate not to have experienced the death of any of my children but I have lost my parents (my mother at a young age) and grandparents. And the pain I felt at witnessing my first clearcut out west, the devastation caused by oil spills, the knowledge of all the plastic crap in the oceans, poisoning and killing fish and birds and turtles sometimes slowly, agonizingly, hurts and it’s hard to differenciate at times. It all touches the same place in my heart and spirit. (Losing a child, nothing could compare with that so I can’t even go there). What I’m trying to say is the wanton destruction of Gaia hurts me personally. It’s not that way for everyone, even for everyone who cares. For some it’s rather intellectual. The knowing doesn’t impact their every day lives, they may not even think of it every day. For me, climate change especially is present in my consciousness in every moment, like the fact of my being a mother is there in every moment. The question is: What would I do to defend my children? And can I do less when it comes to my home place?

    Of course in day-to-day reality I make choices and some of them aren’t ideal. So Gerry, yes we are the problem, even those of us who read Orion. It’s impossible to live a perfect, Earth-friendly life in this day and age when we must participate in society, work, pay bills, eat, get from point A to point B (and no public transportation where I live). I think this is part of what hurts so much, at least for me. I live with my disabled sister who resists change like it’s going to kill her, who is very “middle class” in her wants and values. And the nature of her brain injury means she is stuck there, for the most part and I end up dragging her into change sometimes kicking and screaming. But this is my challenge which it behooves me not to resent.

    Renee, I guess we need to redefine “good” so that the psychotic killing of the Earth can be seen for what it is: murder, not doing good for anyone or anything.

  31. I read Orion every month word for word, cover to cover. But my long time partner/soon to be husband skims, he can’t be bothered to turn away from reading old VW car manuals to absorb the messages from each piece. Except for this article. Jensen’s marvelous and provocative work tapped something deep and emotional in the man I love, and in my surprise and wonder to his reaction, I am learning even more about how each of us sees the world.

  32. 5/22/2009 12:01:35 PM: I guess I am finally reluctant to blame anyone that much, for the current condition of the planet. As I see it, we were born with innate desires to live, reproduce, stay warm, comfortable, well enough fed, connect with others socially, and, yes, express love.
    As with most animal life, we were born to take the easy way out because our bodies are naturally designed to conserve energy for when it is needed, either to escape harm, chase down dinner, or numerous other tasks of survival.
    And, through millions of years of evolution, we seem to deal best with what is in our immediate surroundings, not what impact we might have that is beyond our gaze.
    Put all this together, and we have become wildly successful at satisfying our desires. Our propensity to conserve energy evolved into the technology of ‘labor saving’ devices, powered by energy not from our muscles. Our influence has extended well beyond our sight or reach; our “out of sight, out of mind” nature has left us typically unaware of the damage we are doing remotely. Switch on a light in my kitchen and a giant machine hundreds of miles away rips away at a seam of coal to make it possible. The evidence of the damage I am doing with that light switch is well removed from my daily experience.
    After seeing thousands of messages from all quarters extolling me to change my light bulbs, drive fewer miles, seal leaks in my house, etc., I finally stopped and asked myself, where are the “thank you”s? Where is the forgiveness? Where is the invitation to accept ourselves and our failings? Is it possible to invite each other to respond to our planet’s “crisis” through the expression of love and support and caring instead of guilt and shame and fear?
    In other words, in order to listen to the land, perhaps we first have the challenge to listen to ourselves, and to each other.
    At the same time, I think of the homeless woman, living in a hotel room with her son, that I saw on the news last night. Perhaps 100% of her mental energy is spent just trying to find work, make meals with the few dollars they have, and grab a few hours of sleep before starting all over again the next morning. Does she have time to listen to the land? I would certainly forgive her for not doing so, at least not now. I hope she can forgive herself when she reads messages urging her to ‘save’ the environment.
    Yes, there is a world of hurt out there. My hope is that we can move forward in healing that hurt instead of making more. (more thoughts at

  33. Susan, I am with you. And this is how it is for me as well, a visceral pain. And the fact we must participate in this to some degree is very distressing for me.
    What I mean is this: that there is a “logic” to our practices so those we deem as the “perpetrators” are most likely seeing what they do as “good” for someone or themselves. not that it is inherently “good” – that is not at all what I meant. Further we must stop seeing destruction as “out there” but rather its a way of life each one of us is involved in. Its how we intervene and produce radical interventions which is what we can do within our realms of influence and agency and power. A lot of these issues are of course about power. I just needed to clarify where I was coming from. Comparing ecological destruction to a murderer breaking into your house and killing one’s family on one level speaks to the emotional truth of the situation, and on another level obscures something vital, which is how our practices fit into existing ideological frameworks for some (eg those in power)in which the practices are acceptable.

  34. I don’t know whether to write “this article was a catalyst for me” or “this article was the last straw”. Reading these comments after the article was helpful, but not conclusive.

    I’m afraid that I keep returning to the same criticism of Jensen: “Nice foreplay, but ….” As the comments raise the point, “do exactly what?”.

    Anyway, I did find that the article pushed me off the fence. (Hooray for Derrick, and good on Orion for giving him a column!) I keep returning to an old quote I used to finish off my own impotent rants with, paraphrased here:

    “The Earth is not dying – she is being killed. And those who are killing her have names and addresses.” -Utah Phillips

    And that’s where I personally end up. We all know what must be done, we are just unable or unwilling to do it. Walmarts must be dismantled, logging equipment must be disabled, drilling rigs must be destroyed, rapacious global capitalists must be taught the lesson that their behavior is now prohibited, and consequences must be visited upon them. … and on and on. … and those’r just the first steps.

    That’s how you must live your life. You live in ‘interesting times’ you are called upon to do what is necessary – ‘by any means necessary’ – and quit simply talking about it. That’s the challenge of your lives. Or simply watch the Earth die for awhile.

    Here’s another quote, just for reinforcement, “If you can’t even manage to force your own presumably democratic
    governments to allow you to do good things for yourselves, then you probably
    deserve to become extinct.”—Ishmael/Daniel Quinn

    If you are too passive, or too scared or unable to give up your current lifestyle, perhaps a re-dedication to both ‘resistance’ and support of those who are willing to take ‘direct action’ would be the answer for you as to ‘how to live your lives’.

    I’m always searching in history for parallels. What did Gandhi/Jesus/Lenin/Geo. Washington/Tecumseh/, et al. … what did THEY do? They quit talking around the problem, organized and they acted. Uncomfortable action, law-breaking action, violent and non-violent action. Incomplete action, but successful action.

    So I say as I have said for awhile now, “If you’re serious, get back to me when you are actually willing to blow up a dam or pull down a cell tower, organize a strike or a revolution, … or can hook us up with those willing to do those things, and the other things it takes to stop them/us.” Get back to me when you’re willing to live your life that way.

    Full circle for me, I guess, folks, for I truly end up not with the Utah Phillips quote, but another quote.

    “How can we expect to stop them by emulating those that have been destroyed?” – The Holeyman

  35. Howdie, Tom, and happy birthday. I like running into in these virtual modes of communication. I agree with everything you say. It’s good to hear the truth, as uncomfortable as it may be. That’s why I look up to you. I hope that we can see each other soon.

  36. Tom–can you explain why you think saying you’re “willing to blow up a dam or pull down a cell tower, organize a strike or a revolution” counts as “serious”? Such actions strike me as dramatic, but not serious. To me, “serious” means being responsible for what happens next–how the story goes on.

  37. Wow. There was a time when human survival and human life itself was the aim of society. Whether any of you want to believe it or not, capitalism, burning fossil fuels, and technology have brought us to a point where you can sit around and drink soy milk while typing on your laptops and ponder questions like this. I’m aware that primitive cultures who didn’t respect the environment failed, as I know some of you will argue, however, it is a matter of degree. We have come to a point where we can actually be concerned with these issues without having worry about surviving another year. Violence, environmental totalitarianism and extremism will not be excused by future generations just because some endangered species survive or we succeed in reducing the amount of plant-breathing CO2 in the air. You people are nuts.

  38. 5/22/2009 12:01:35 PM: I guess I am finally reluctant to blame anyone that much, for the current condition of the planet. As I see it, we were born with innate desires to live, reproduce, stay warm, comfortable, well enough fed, connect with others socially, and, yes, express love.
    As with most animal life, we were born to take the easy way out because our bodies are naturally designed to conserve energy for when it is needed, either to escape harm, chase down dinner, or numerous other tasks of survival.
    And, through millions of years of evolution, we seem to deal best with what is in our immediate surroundings, not what impact we might have that is beyond our gaze.
    Put all this together, and we have become wildly successful at satisfying our desires. Our propensity to conserve energy evolved into the technology of ‘labor saving’ devices, powered by energy not from our muscles. Our influence has extended well beyond our sight or reach; our “out of sight, out of mind” nature has left us typically unaware of the damage we are doing remotely. Switch on a light in my kitchen and a giant machine hundreds of miles away rips away at a seam of coal to make it possible. The evidence of the damage I am doing with that light switch is well removed from my daily experience.
    After seeing thousands of messages from all quarters extolling me to change my light bulbs, drive fewer miles, seal leaks in my house, etc., I finally stopped and asked myself, where are the “thank you”s? Where is the forgiveness? Where is the invitation to accept ourselves and our failings? Is it possible to invite each other to respond to our planet’s “crisis” through the expression of love and support and caring instead of guilt and shame and fear?
    In other words, in order to listen to the land, perhaps we first have the challenge to listen to ourselves, and to each other.
    At the same time, I think of the homeless woman, living in a hotel room with her son, that I saw on the news last night. Perhaps 100% of her mental energy is spent just trying to find work, make meals with the few dollars they have, and grab a few hours of sleep before starting all over again the next morning. Does she have time to listen to the land? I would certainly forgive her for not doing so, at least not now. I hope she can forgive herself when she reads messages urging her to ‘save’ the environment.
    Yes, there is a world of hurt out there. My hope is that we can move forward in healing that hurt instead of making more.

  39. In comment #36 Rick Livingston asks:
    “Tom—can you explain why you think saying you’re “willing to blow up a dam or pull down a cell tower, organize a strike or a revolution” counts as “serious”?

    Rick I suggest you read Derrick Jensen’s “endgame” as to what’s serious about dams and cell towers. I was simply borrowing his framing to comment.

    And I would be disturbed if you REALLY thought strikes and revolutions are “not serious”.
    Often those involved in strikes and revolutions are in fact assuming responsibility for “what comes next”, n’est-ce pas?

    Howabout if I prefaced those suggestions to blow cell towers and dams and dismantle, disable, etc. with “Obtain Court Orders to …”?

    Would that placate you? Would that be responsible enough for you?

  40. I agree with Susan. In order to change anything about ourselves, we have to care. In order to care about anything, we have to allow ourselves to feel. So first comes learning how to feel.

    Sometimes the grief for what we have done is so enormous I wonder whether we are big enough to do it all. But if we keep on running from it, we will keep on doing more harm because we are too afraid to look at what we have done.

    I disagree with Tom that taking down cell towers or dams is really helpful. First of all, the dams and cell phone towers are manifestations of what we believe about ourselves in relation to the world. We can take away the symptoms, but until we are able to change our beliefs, we are fighting a losing battle. In fact, my sense is that resistance and violence only sets up stronger efforts to maintain the old ways of believing.

    Thinking that taking down cell phone towers that are already up is a way of healing the earth, is not so different from thinking that killing the person who killed my brother will bring my brother back.

    Resisting old ways is not the same as creating new ones. In my own life, I feel much more useful, and powerful, putting my energy into creating new ways of being in the world, (which are really, as Martin Prechtel says, just new sap in an old root) than trying to stop the old ways from destroying the world.

    I agree that “how do I live my life” is not really the root question we should be asking. Maybe a better question would be, “what do I believe.” Change that, and the rest changes automatically.

  41. blow dams and phone towers in sudan, please….there’s a threshold in the conversations that it’s not crossed over and that is how this thought of “saving the planet” has come again to americans as a mandate, like the wars all over the world for the last century. Yet, I haven’t heard of any american getting rid of his car or moving to a denser neighborhood; putting action to the words, I would start (as some already have) at elementary school, and show kids we all are one and the same, and if we don’t work to end poverty, environmental issues are just a nice marketing tool for carmakers and architects.

  42. I am a grandfather. When I hold the hand of my two year old Olivia and caution her to look both ways before crossing the (neighborhood cul-de-sac) street with me, I am introducing the first lesson toward a skill we all must master – risk aversion. At age two she doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “danger”. Her whole life up until now has been free of such experience. If she matures normally she will learn to anticipate – cars, trucks, motorcycles, skateboards – things that could swoop down the street and collide with her small body. I do not and will never teach her to anticipate other potential dangers while crossing the street – falling asteroids, jet liners piloted by crazy people, fissures in the street opened by earthquakes, or tsunamis. Though each of these events has some actuarial risk greater than zero, a life lived in fear of them is paranoid, full of worry and incapable of the everyday joys that make life worthwhile. Few of us reading this issue of Orion have lost our families and homes due to war, earthquakes or hurricanes. As a result we do not factor these risks into our day-to-day perception of reality. Comment # 22 said “We are only human and do not have the capacity to face reality all day every day.”

    Unfortunately, this leaves us all with large blind spots. My generation learned American History and civics in the 1950s. The idea that the President and Vice President of the United States would establish torture and extraordinary rendition as a policy, totally abrogate the habeus corpus provision of the U.S. Constitution, conduct warrantless surveillance of telephone and internet communications of its own citizens, or lie to the nation to wage undeclared war against countries because of their oil deposits was inconceivable. How do we protect ourselves from the inconceivable when the inconceivable becomes inescapable?

    Comment # 30 said “It’s about shifting the very frames … we are embedded in.” Each of us experiences reality as a function of our perspective or as a result of the “framing” ( associated with our experiences. If we see the United States as the “land of the free and home of the brave” or as the birthplace of democracy it becomes very difficult to reconcile that “frame” with the performance of the previous presidency. If we look both ways in search of oncoming traffic before crossing a street, how do we protect ourselves from airborne hazards? We are all crippled by the narrowness of our own experience.

    I grew up on the Gulf Coast (Mobile, Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico) where hurricanes are to summer as tornadoes are to Kansans. Believe me when I say that unless you have personally witnessed flagpoles bent parallel to the ground by such winds or seen vast sections of brick wall blown off downtown skyscrapers you cannot imagine what a hurricane can do. Every time one makes landfall I stare in disbelief at television coverage of people who decide to “ride it out” – poster children for the word “clueless”. Living just up the coast from New Orleans we all knew that the Big Easy was below sea level and protected only by dikes. We had witnessed Hurricane Camille 36 years earlier hit the Mississippi coast and reduce its buildings to concrete slabs, removing even the tiles glued to the surface of those slabs. So I watched weather reports on television in August 2005 and thought what is wrong with those people? Don’t they get it? I remember watching one clip of a homeowner frantically repairing the roofing on his home to protect his interior from water damage. A few days later that building and all its neighbors no longer existed. How do we protect ourselves from danger we have never experienced and cannot anticipate?

    The most effective solutions address causes rather than symptoms. Derrick Jensen is uncommon largely because he has examined the symptoms and gone further than most at identifying a cause. The cause he has identified is outside the wildest imagination of the most paranoid. With the current state of the biosphere, organizing recycling drives, writing letters to Congress, and picketing industrial polluters (each worthy of commendation, each wonderful personal disciplines) promise the same results as hammering down loose shingles while Katrina approaches. Derrick is standing on the street outside this beach house frantically waving his arms, pointing seaward and screaming about 30 foot tidal surges.

    If you find him vague about recommendations it may be that his solutions are certain to be illegal in a “justice” system designed to protect itself from accusation and assault.

    Derrick sees, not the future, but current reality in a way few of the rest of us are prepared to accept. Even the most sanguine projections are full of dire prediction, while we are unable to see what stares at us eye-to-eye. His vision has made him a radical activist. His reasoning is unassailable; it is his premises we cannot accept.

    Painful though it may be, it is we who must “grow up” while it is still possible for any of us to “grow” at all.

  43. Stop making babies!

    There are too many of us, and the more there are, the more authoritarian the world becomes.

    There is a way to do that, and it has nothing to do with laws.

    When women take it upon themselves to decide to have only the children they want, what really happens is that they have only 2, 1 or none. I have studied this phenomenon for 35 years.

    So how do they do that without pharmaceutical hormones or other “contraceptive methods”? They must understand their bodies so well that they know, ahead of time each month, when they will be fertile. Then they can decide what to do about it.

    There are several books on this concept. They are available. You can get my own through my website, You can also get Katie Singer’s book THE GARDEN OF FERTILITY and there are others, too.

    So who are these women who make that decision? First of all, they have become empower. Having babies is no longer a mystery. They know when and what to do about it. Also, they don’t listen to religious figures (always men), nor to their partners (usually men) who tell them to keep having babies, keep having babies, keep….

    They decide.

    In just a few generations our population will be reduced to 20 or 30%. Is that too few people? Look at the figures. Our planetary population has doubled in 50 years.

    And our environmental problems will decline with it. Is that too late? Perhaps. But there isn’t any other way to do this.

  44. It’s not just about not making more babies, though population is obviously a serious issue. Right now there are so many people who need jobs and more young people entering the workforce. It’s mindboggling. And too many current jobs are inherently destructive of the Earth or rely on inherently destructive processes (working as a clerk at WalMart for example). If we don’t take down celltowers, perhaps we could refrain from putting up more. Same with roads and certain kinds of housing developments and all shopping malls, etc. But no. Even in this economy it is deemed necessary and “good” to cut more trees to build more unsellable houses, to destroy open fields to build discount stores and huge parking lots. Really it’s absurd given reality and it’s hard for me to swallow.

    Yes, Jensen sees reality. So do I and it’s hard. I just received a beautiful picture today of my 3 week old grandaughter. Sleeping peacefully in her father’s arms with no clue as to the world she now inhabits. Innocent. Pure. And what will her future be? Will she even have one?

    The world I see today out my windows, mountains, blue sky, snow in winter, apple blossoms now, brilliant color in fall, maple trees tapped in spring, these will soon be relegated to memories of times long gone. Like that Tim Hardin song, “Whose Garden Was This?” It must have been lovely. Remember that song? From the moment I heard it way back when I knew it was the future. I could feel the pain of losing all this beauty. And that was before anyone (or anyone I knew anyway) had a clue. A part of me has always known and known that I would live long enough to see it. I’m sure Jensen knew too, and probably many of you all commenting on this article.

    As someone already said, to change the way things are we need to change how we preceive the world and our relationship to it. As Thomas Berry said, we need to reinvent the human at the species level. This is our work, the work we were born to do.

  45. I’m one of those who finds what is being done to the natural world personally and extremely painful.

    I loathe the civilization I’m part of, but can’t deny that I’m a product of it. I’ve chosen to live very simply compared to the average Westerner, but have taken quizzes showing that if everyone lived like me, we’d still need two or three planets. So I know simple living under the present circumstances isn’t the solution.

    I have no problem with what ELF and ALF do; for the most part I admire them as individuals. You could sign me up for armed resistance if I thought that would do a bit of long-term good, but other than burning off some of our individual rage and pain and frustration, it won’t. As someone wrote, we’re outgunned and outnumbered. There aren’t enough guerrillas to make a difference, but bravo for their actions.

    Certainly nothing is going to be solved by political processes–not if you understand the scope of the changes that are necessary.

    If we put away rose-colored glasses and wishful thinking, the only true solutions are the collapse of industrialism and billions fewer people. I believe that’s already started and will lead to a better world for all the species which survive long enough to make it to the other side. Until then I just ride out my life trying to save an animal or a place when the opportunity permits.

  46. If you are really “worried” about todays’ culture, ie:current inhabitants of Washington, pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged, and see where we are headed.

    And skip al the platitudes and mea culpas.

  47. Hooray for you, Derrick, for pissing off us liberals better than anyone has since Sherman Alexie. I hope you’re well. We miss you in Spokane.

  48. Tom says: “And I would be disturbed if you REALLY thought strikes and revolutions are “not serious”.
    Often those involved in strikes and revolutions are in fact assuming responsibility for “what comes next”, n’est-ce pas?”

    We both know there’s a big difference between saying the words “strike” and “revolution” and doing the work. The words appeal to fantasies about stopping the world in its tracks; the work is about figuring out how we can power down without hurting each other–and the world–too much.

    Resentment, rage and despair are constant companions on this journey. It’s tempting to feed them, hoping we can tap into their strength. But what they feed on most is us. When I listen to Derrick, I’m not sure whose voice I’m hearing.

    If you can get court orders to remove dams and take down cell towers, more power to you.

  49. Your analysis of the problem is right on. Your suggested solution is… uh…what? As a prior commenter noted, violence would be absurd; the other side has more and bigger guns. So how about writing another column proposing specific measures — as radical as you wish — and strategies for achieving them. Don’t just stamp your feet. Point the way.

  50. Despite the arguments about what tactics Derrick Jensen is suggesting, an important point has been overlooked: changing the question from a focus on individual action to collective action. Our culture emphasizes individualism; he suggests corporate action. If we simply change the question from “What can I do?” to “What can WE do?”, we will be pointed in better and more effective actions, whether those actions are within neighborhoods, congregations, non-profit organizations, schools, or governments.

  51. Thank you Derrick for a great commentary on the current situation. Listening to the land is not cryptic like some of these commenters suggest, it is easy and necessary. It’s the only thing we can do. What is needed is different in every location that is why he can’t “tell you” what to do. You need to get out there and figure it out yourself based on where you are and who you are. People often want others to tell them what to do or they want to join a group that is “doing something” or want to do something others think is impressive, so they go somewhere to engage in a dramatic action. These actions can be admirable too but the actions right in your own place are most effective because they stem from a deep knowing of what is really needed there. And if you don’t have a deep knowing of your place, well that is a problem too isn’t it? I think Jensen scorns many ideas not because they are always invalid but because they are not blanket answers so you can’t really use them as a final solution. You really need to see what is needed right where you are. For example, in our community here, we need to protect a huge wetland marsh and the air we breathe from an asphalt plant. Derrick Jensen can’t tell me to work on that, it’s something I need to discover right here, and to be most effective, I need to use my particular talents to work on preventing that plant from being built. That too is something no one can tell you to do, you have your own unique piece of the puzzle. It is a little like asking “how do I live my life right now?”, but it isn’t about YOU. It is about interconnectedness, all fulfilling their potential and actually surviving to keep fulfilling it.

  52. I could only believe Jensen’s writing is “almost misanthropic,” as one commenter put it, if I believed humanity is separate from nature. In drawing our attention to what we are doing that is destructive to the biosphere, Jensen is saying that we are acting outside our ecological limits, not that we do not belong in the biosphere at all. *We* are the ones pretending we don’t belong here. *He* is merely pointing that out.

    As for those who disagree with his statement that we’re killing the earth, I don’t think he’s referring to the entire planet–magma, rock layers, continents and all. I think he’s referring to the biosphere. And that we *are* in danger of killing–if not completely, than enough that we’ll kill ourselves too. If knowing that we took lots and lots of other living things along with us when we had no right to drive them to extinction isn’t enough, I should think knowing that we could destroy ourselves would be enough to prompt us to take action.

    I have little respect for those who say that ELF-type actions are wrong. What’s the alternative? Raising awareness hasn’t worked. Too many people are invested in the system as it is–or they think they are. Not that I want to be the one to take the action, because I have too much to lose. But I’m not going to get in the way of those who are actually going out there and doing something, either, because somebody has to.

    Being “peaceful” and being “nice” and remaining seated and quiet through all the atrocities has done nothing but give the biosphere-killers and the despoilers of nature (even of humanity) free rein to do whatever they want. Why do we keep doing it?

  53. I look at the human inhabitants of this globe and I can not find any hope for us. We are a cancer and it will consume the earth if her immune system does not kill us first.
    I look at the teaming billions, each taking a bite out of the earth’s flesh. We are consuming our home, we are shitting in our living rooms.
    The sad thing is that the death of the human species would be the best thing that could happen for the rest of the earths inhabitants..

    Not that we actually have to commit mass suicide, the earth will shed us sooner or later.

  54. This is a wonderful discussion and will serve as the inspiration for my column this week in my local paper (and I’ve been needing inspiration, so thanks!). I actually clicked here this AM because of a comment that no longer seems to be posted about how awful “our generation” as been for the Earth. Not sure which generation is being referred to since there are probably two or three actually represented in the comments, but since I’m in my late 50s I assume that’s the one. The thing is, I don’t think we can blame one generation for a perspective and mind set that began way before any of us were born. The rugged individualism, the capitalist system, the profit-bottom-line thinking that is the be all, end all of what happens and what doesn’t – this started long ago and it is so entrenched in our so-called culture that blaming a single generation for the results of it makes no sense. I could look back at my parent’s generation and say they started it all. Not my family personally, my father knew what was happening to the Earth and cared passionately about it, teaching me to think differently than most people could even imagine way back when. For which I am grateful. Still, it’s a mindset that has become so entrenched it’s legislated and taught from a tender age to the point where suggesting there’s another way to think or feel or live seems just unrealistic to most. After all, “the economy” was handed down to us from god, right? People didn’t create it so people can’t change it, right? At least that’s how it’s treated these days.

    And yes, Obama is a definite improvement. I cried when he won, but none of his policies go far enough or deep enough quickly enough to pull us out of this mess before too much damage is done. I do believe that he knows this. He’s an extremely intelligent man with is eyes wide open and he wants a future for his girls. But he’s president and knows the limitations of how far he can push.

    Now it’s up to us to take advantage of the attitude change and push harder and farther than he can. The momentum is building so change is actually possible now. I do have my doubts that it will come fast enough to save so much of what we all love and what too many people in this country take for granted. If I were to take a poll on the streets of my small town I’d be willing to bet that very few actually think we will have winters without snow, no maple “industry”, that our coastline will change, probably dramatically, and so on. I’d also bet that most don’t know about the ocean of plastic going down 90 feet in some places or even that the tops of mountains are being blown off for coal so we (I) can type on this computer. Most people can’t imagine such things and that’s why so many of them roll their eyes when they read some of my columns. The thing is, I only wish I was wrong. But then, is this lifestyle we have created that most people take for granted (selling themselves 40 plus hours a week so they can pay their bills and do the same thing week after week, sitting in front of the tube, shopping till they drop for crap that only goes to the landfill about a month after the warranty expires) really so wonderful? Okay. Now for my column . . . And thanks to Derrick for the inspiration. I’m so looking forward to his next installment and the conversation that will follow.

  55. I am appreciating this dialogue immensely. I can’t think of anything that is more important to discuss at this point in time. I don’t know if Dana in #53 was referring to me when she/he talks about not having respect for those who think ELF type actions are wrong. Just to clarify what I said earlier, I said that bringing down cell towers etc is not useful. Not that it is wrong. I may be wrong, but I think actions like that only serve to polarize the rest of us. I think things that find common ground have much more success in bringing change.

    No matter how fast or how awful the coming changes are, if we focus on loving and taking care of each other, in addition to the planet, we have a much better chance of coming through with joy and beauty and abundance intact for us and for the rest of life.

    If we focus on fear and finger-pointing, we create a different sort of world than if we focus on love and gratitude.

  56. These are all points that Derrick has specifically addressed in Endgame. No critique of Derrick’s position is reasonable without reading that book, both volumes, cover to cover.

    Derrick advocates ‘non-violence when non-violence is appropriate and violence when violence is appropriate’.

    Once we internalize the understanding that industrial civilization will never be sustainable the same way we understand that a clock will never bake a loaf of bread and a stealth bomber will never convert co2 to oxygen then we can start to make rational decisions about what tactics we personally are willing to implement.

    These are the type of arguments and debates that the powers that be rely on us having internally. As long as we are fighting each other we are not fighting the system of oppression. If you do not condone violence than you at least should not condemn it. As Derrick has said repeatedly: ‘We need it all.’

    There is a chapter in What We Leave Behind written by Derrick Jensen, Aric McBay and Lierre Keith titled ‘Fighting Back’ which answers many posters question ‘Do what?’ with a majority of options for those not willing to commit violent acts. I suggest you read that book, cover to cover, as well.

  57. To me, it’s actually simple: this global culture is now in the process of accomplishing the biggest mass extermination of species since the dinosaurs, and has been doing this since its emergence among certain groups of humans a few thousand years ago.

    This mass slaughter is perpetrated by civilized humans, and not by some asteroid or mega-volcano. Hence, humans can do something to stop this ongoing omnicide.

    The biosphere is being destroyed. And this, at the rate of about 200 species everyday. And those who don’t acknowledge this fact are either very badly informed, and/or just don’t give a fuck.

    We humans are a part of the biosphere. No more, no less.

    This civilization, this culture is a culture of “cleansing”. It cleanses parts or whole ecosystems for the sake of agriculture. And it also cleanses human cultures for the “benefit” of one single culture, the civilized one. Mono cultures of crops. And a mono culture of humans. Neither are sustainable.

    There are communities and sustainable ways of living to be created, or perpetuated, or re-activated. There is healing to be done. Some might even be able to gain time for their landbase thru legal means. Some might be able to slow down, or help eradicate this diseasivilization via direct actions. And there are many other things – that each person can find on their own – to be done in order to create a successful culture of resistance. The more people there are doing all these different “needed” things, the more we’ll be able to save.


  58. Our family has listened to the same land for seven generations. It has sustained us and we take care of it. Our grasslands are pristine, full of biodiversity, and world renown due to private ownership and generations of stewardship. I asked my husband to listen to the pasture this morning when he went out to ride the range. He reported “Buffalo are coming”. “How do you know that?” I quizzed and he responded, “Ear sticky”. How do you decide who deserves to remain and carry on? Aren’t we evolving as a planet and species according to Darwinian Law or are we exempt for some reason?

  59. Hi Wild Rose, you mentioned:

    “How do you decide who deserves to remain and carry on?”

    I’d say, by allowing this global meat-grinder of a culture to keep going.

    This culture and its promoters are deciding – and have been ever since its inception – who remains and who carries on.

    And “Darwin’s law”…is just what it says it is: Darwin’s. A limited , arrogant, civlized point of view.

    Just my two sense hey! :¬)

  60. Well put Misko. The author’s POV reminds me of the eugenic movement. My raison d’etre is the land not vice versa. Being blessed to have lived on and off the land provides different struggles than almost everyone else. Weather, animals, time & space. It’s a naive existence no doubt, I have no silver bullet, but self preservation is a strong instinct and I want to live too. Peace to all.

  61. I read with baited breath to get to the place where Jensen, after reducing all personal efforts for change to nauught, would say what he though we should do. It was not clear to me. While I am a supporter of going for the gutteral, I am not in favor of the pop nihilism which permeates our media.
    As an educator, I have made a commitment not only to tell it like it is but also to offer perspective to a generation that is feeling like their future has been robbed from them. When I was growing up, acid rain and CFCs were overwhelming problems and progress has been made. I like to lay out the seriousness of global warming and then follow it up with teaching the Natural Step, the systems approach that Sweden has been using since 1983. Their eco-municipalities transformed their landscape environmentally, ecologically and socially and became the basis for the Kyoto Protocol of 1992.
    I agree that buying green without making real change can delude people into thinking they are part of the solution when they are not. Nevertheless, I feel there are also real consciousness shifts taking place with the emerging generation. I, for one, will stay in the fray to not only continually search to define the problem but work on concrete solutions.

  62. Derrick tells us to “ask the land where (we) live, the land that supports us”. Well, for most of us the land where we live does not support us – we are dependent on lands elsewhere, and generally a long way away, for our survival, as well as the corporate-industrial-military complex that provides us all our stuff from these other lands.

    So, we need to be aware of all the lands (and people) that support us, and treat ALL lands (and people) with respect. Our support for “our land” should not mean that other lands are harmed.

    We should untangle ourselves, and our lives, as much as possible, from the machine? As Carolyn in 51 said, it is not about what I can do, but what WE can do collectively that can start to turn things around.

    Surely, we need to starve the machine of its lifeblood – us, our money, our support, our selves! We can wean ourselves off the machine, and allow it to die its own death. Or we can take a more active approach – protest, campaign, or whatever else we decide. But we must take some real action – not the trivial actions proposed by most corporate-styled green groups.

  63. Living in a rural area I am blessed for sure, and see that for me this land does support me – my garden, local gardens and farms, and so on. For urban folks it’s different, but still the land where you are supports you simply because you’re living there. You walk on it, breathe the air, drink the water (unless you by Poland Spring (Nestle) which may actually come from my town – a huge controversy here – or some other bottled water mined from some other place. The land where you are still exists under all that pavement and concrete and would probably like to be freed . . .. Anyway, you’re right about not taking care of one place at the expense of another so we must think seriously about what we buy and where it comes from and how it’s produced.

    Re: Darwin. I’m not an expert on the subject but “survival of the fittest” to my mind has different connotations. Couldn’t the “fittest” or strongest be the ones who cooperate for the benefit of the whole? The thing with all of the natural laws is as we evolve we learn more than when the “law” was origionally put out there. Some, like the law of gravity remains just that, but with regard to evolution, well that’s a complicated and not cut-and-dried field. Humans also have a different kind of consciousness than trees and ants, we can self-reflect and we can make choices for many different reasons than other creatures (not to put down the intelligence of other creatures, just pointing out the differences). Thus we have more responsibility for our own actions and for the consequences of those actions.

    And yes, it’s definitely “we” now, not just what I can do or you can do as individuals. This can be frustrating when you live in a community with less “we” consciousness, and when people who might act together as “we” live miles apart (as I do).I know that I’m part of a larger “we” but that still limits the impact of anything I personally do.

  64. This is the first time I’ve taken the time to read all 8 pages of comments about an article. Like most of you, I was captivated and encouraged by Jensen’s question, his comments, and his obvious pain. I’d just watched part of a YouTube movie on Resist–Do Not Comply, in which he had a part (, and its beauty and the pain felt by the creatures in it made me so heartsick. I am a total coward when watching the pain of animals as they try to cope with incomprehensible change, or the pain humans inflict in factory farming or drug testing, etc., and have called attention to this for years and support PETA and many other animal rights organizations, as well as being vegetarian (becoming vegan) in our home.
    I read Jensen’s article with interest because he states what my husband and I ask all the time, Why don’t we address the real problem instead of tinkering with little things we can do to ameliorate the results? We’ve done as many of those little things as we possibly can, and know there are big things we are not doing because they are so difficult and entwined in this culture we can’t get out of them without changing everything about our lives. Jensen asks, why do we allow it to go on, why do we participate in it, why do we stand for it?
    None of the comments, however, seem to address the growth economy we live in, and the fact that when that growth stops our entire economy, and with globalization that of the world, collapses. That collapse will be a horrendous experience for most of the world’s people, even those who already live on the far margins of a sustainable existence. We believe the efforts we all must be engaged in are directed not just at resisting, which are important, but also at changing all of our expectations and desires, and accepting and preparing for that collapse, and for helping each other endure it. We must learn how to live with much much less, how to do ourselves the tasks necessary for daily life, how to become natural beings rather than sophisticated consumers, how to withdraw from our killing culture in ways that create new meaning for ourselves as humans and make the corporate world an anachronism. Do we regard travel as our right? A holiday feast a necessity? New styles in clothes or cars or furnishings? And what kinds of jobs do we hold, what meaningless things do we do for most of our awake hours? We have to rethink everything, talk together, support each other. And most importantly we have to talk about the problem–the way our culture is designed, and has been for centuries–even though no one wants to hear us.
    I have not read Endgame, but shall do so as strongly suggested by Jordan. I did see, and showed to others, the movie What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire, which featured Derrick Jensen among others.
    Thanks for reading my comments.

  65. #57 Jordan is right: before offering more comments attempting to critique Jensen, try to understand his perspective first and not merely from this column (which really did spark the best discussion I’ve ever seen on Orion). So first read Endgame (even if you can’t make it through both volumes; his stated list of assumptions at the beginning of the book tell you where he stands). Thank you Leslie for the Resist–Do Not Comply video, hadnt seen that one.

    Instead of adding more statements, I want to ask, w/o sarcasm: what does it mean that many of us in our materially well-off Western culture call all humanity a “virus” or a “cancer”? If we believe that people will soon consume both the biosphere and then ourselves, do we believe this is a good thing? (Not saying it isnt or that it isnt inevitable, just wondering about this POV.)

    It’s easy to say that humanity is doomed, but I’m still going to have lunch today, right? And the day after . . . .

    I’m not even saying “find a reason for hope.” Once we understand that our species is a plague on the Earth and yet it will consume itself and (much of) the Earth will go on — THEN what?

  66. To bear no children is a decision with a powerful weight! : )
    You are then able to reach out to members of future generations and remove them from what you have witnessed in your lifetime to be a chaotic, dangerous world, as though you have received some kind of forewarning for their safety.

    I should clarify though: that anyone who has borne children is not guilty of sending new humans forth into turmoil. Any of those children can make the decision on their own, when it is time, as to whether or not the world is “fit” or “unfit” for the bearing of children.

  67. Derrick stirs the pot, but I agree strongly with someone who commented that he has to be specific on contrete actions to solve this problem, or its just more hot air that floats about.
    Will marching with placards in the streets work, or Gandian non-violence? Meet with your legislators. Show them how you care about the big picture. Changing cirriculum, so that ecology, and knowledge of toxins in our water, earth and air, should begin at the earliest levels of education and be expanded for every year of school.
    And the fight doesn’t need a gun, it needs passion and good communication skills.
    Gus Speth says “Change Everything Now,” and wants marches in the streets. I’m all for it and would join in. But why has this not happened in a big way? Is he out front, or waiting for another to walk the talk? Communicating, organizing and, most importantly, educating the poorly educated people of America, is hard work.
    Whoever does that work, and helps others do it, would be the heros of the future.
    Our media, and education at all levels, have been co-opted and overwhelmed by the power of big money, conglomerates, big greed.
    Without the help of more of the
    the likes of Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio, it will be an uphill battle.
    How can we get Orion writers and Bill Moyers in front of every child in America during first period of a Monday morning school day? Every week.

  68. Yet another commentator asking people to tell him/her what to do! No, Jensen (or anyone else) does not need to be specific about “what to do”. There is no way he can be specific. There are millions of actions and only YOU can take them. YOU figure out what is needed in your area and what you are capable of and DO IT. Don’t keep wondering why nothing is happening. Plenty is happening, YOU just aren’t doing what you think needs to be done, so go do it!

  69. I’ve read the article and all the comments with great interest because, as a writer, I have investigated many of these questions. There is a root cause to these problems that lies beneath materialism, greed, and consumption and it is reflected in much of the language used by Jensen and many of the commentators. This root cause is in the very way we view what it means to be human. To many of you, being human means to be a virus and a cancer. Within Western religions we are sinners who need to suck up to a demanding God. In Eastern religion, life is an illusion which we should rise above. Scientists view us as the sum total of our genes, conditioning, and animal urges. Nowhere in these views is there a sense of the possible inherent good in being alive nor is there a sense of the possible fullness and nobility in being human, even in these demanding times. (This nobility has nothing to do with royalty or entitlement.) It’s possible to discover these things, but generally we’re too busy reinforcing our negative belief systems about what humans are.

    Without finding inherent value in being alive people create meaning with their things and their exercises of power. Without finding a nobility in being human, everything we attempt to do to save the environment is but shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. The attempts may be valuable to buy time, but they won’t save the day. Also, as we’ve seen in Central America and Africa, revolutionary violence leads only to wasted fields and environmental degradation. Besides, someone is always seeking to seize power in any revolution. The only course of action left to me is to live the meaning and nobility I have found and try to point others to their own discovery.

    Now this action has slim chance for success, but is the only one that can really work. I dedicate myself to it no matter the difficulty or impossibility. We cannot build a positive future life on top of our stinking beliefs about what it means to be a human being on this planet. This life has merit, grand merit—being human, walking the planet, fully aware.

  70. John: you’ve raised some important and valid points – about humans becoming more aware and finding nobility (not a word that I would use). This approach is, as you clearly state, unlikely to deliver the change required. So, awareness is a necessary but not sufficient condition for change.

    Unfortunately, we can’t wait for everybody to become “aware”. I guess this is what Derrick is saying in a nutshell. And yes, a new society must be based on more fully aware humans (kinder, more compassionate, etc), who know their rightful place on earth, as part of the network of life, not as dominator and destroyer.

    But we can’t ignore the distribution and abuse of power, can’t ignore issues of justice and fairness, and wish them away with simple arguments for “awareness” or “spirituality”.

    We (the rich?) need to defend (in whatever way is right for us) “nature”, other species, ourselves, indigenous peoples, the poor, from the current onslaught of modern, industrial civilization. We don’t have to solve everything, since all the causes and symptoms are interconnected – working on one aspect affects every other aspect. Just find your thing to bring about a new world, and act. Easy. (OK, not so easy!)

  71. In comment 70, John Spivey writes:
    ‘…The only course of action left to me is to live the meaning and nobility I have found and try to point others to their own discovery.
    …Now this action has slim chance for success, but is the only one that can really work….”

    I find this thinking difficult to accept. The ‘only’ course? … and it has a slim chance of success? Please. Isn’t saving the planet worth a bit more effort than that?

    The consensus is that there is a large anthropogenic component to the Earth Crisis. Many, MANY ‘courses’ got us into this mess, a myriad of ‘courses’ are necessary to get us out. None of the actions required to turn things around are impossible, most are just ./.. um … “distasteful”. Perhaps one should use that nobility John speaks of to rise to the occasion, and pursue ‘courses’ with more than a slim chance of success, however politically incorrect they are assumed to be?

    Peter Brandis then raises an excellent point: there’s not a lot of time to indulge in magical thinking and the ineffectual wish-fulfillment that enough of mankind is going to “get it” though a ‘course’ of non-action action.

    One excuses one’s inaction with the platitude that “revolutionary violence leads only to wasted fields and environmental degradation” when history is replete with examples of humans who proved the contrary.

    Anyone for taking another look at the blueprints of the Death Star? Perhaps we could apply just a tiny little bit of ‘revolutionary violence’ to that exhaust port?


    Never mind. Let’s just all sit and watch the planet implode. Perhaps we can find some inherent value in keeping our noble hands clean. The whales and the rest of the biosphere can withstand a bit more of our predation, don’tyathink? Hand me that deck chair, willya ….?

  72. Of course how you live your life matters–it is the only thing that does matter: to give back more than you take; to minimize your negative impact and maximize your positive; to create beauty; to love; to care for a child. This is all that matters. To say that living a simple life doesn’t make any (positive) difference means that living a consumtive, destructive life doesn’t make any (negative) difference. I don’t accept that. The plastic in the ocean, the carbon in the air, the products from the destroyed forests that you mention–while yes they are the artifacts of a corporate money-making machine–are also intricately entwined with how we live our lives. Even just changing a few CFLs is going to reduce the carbon, mercury and sulfur in the air by just a little bit. How can you say that doesn’t matter?

  73. It seems that the author and many commentators are pointing, through code words, to the declaration of a holy war for the environment’s sake, an ultimate war between good and evil. Within the writing can be found the beginnings of demonization. Back to being shit ball throwing monkeys. Juvenile magical thinking is thinking if I throw a violent tantrum I can make the world be what I want it to be. This current situation is an extreme test that cannot be solved by resorting to any of our old methods and ways of thinking, a grand koan. Violence will create more bitter division and more violence. If we cannot solve this riddle without this violence, then we as a species will have failed. I support doing anything short of violence to buy us time. The arguments for doing whatever it takes, as some writers suggest, are the same ones that Bush/Cheney used. There is a path through this. I said the odds were slim, not because of degree of difficulty, but because few will go there. It involves willingly growing up beyond tantrums and wishful thinking and finding the purpose for life and for being. The largeness of this adult mind knows where to go and what to do.

  74. Hi Andrea,

    The way I understand it is that although we can perhaps slow down, the ongoing slaughter of the biosphere by consuming less, and “greener” products, in the end if this omnicidal way of living isn’t stopped, it will accomplish what it is designed for, that is, in my view anyway, the total subjugation, murder, and destruction of all that is beautiful here. This is what this culture has done ever since its emergence about 10 000 years ago, with perhaps the difference that now, it is grinding away at a faster pace than ever.

    The other thing I think is that this “How shall I live my life?” question and solution is pretty much the ‘only’ one that is proposed and applied, as Derrick pointed out, and again, while it may slow down the destruction, it’s not stopping it. Hence his analogy:

    “…If someone were rampaging through your home, killing those you love one by one (and, for that matter, en masse), would the question burning a hole in your heart be: how should I live my life right now? I can’t speak for you, but the question I’d be asking is this: how do I disarm or dispatch these psychopaths? How do I stop them using any means necessary?…”

    And this:

    “What question would I ask instead? What if, instead of asking “How shall I live my life?” people were to ask the land where they live, the land that supports them,

    “What can and must I do to become your ally, to help protect you from this culture?

    What can we do together to stop this culture from killing you?”

    If you ask that question, and you listen, the land will tell you what it needs. And then the only real question is: are you willing to do it?”

    There are all kinds of stuff that need to be done. Some, yes, will physically protect their loved ones, their landbase, and all communities which are part of it, humans and nonhumans. But, most likely I think, the majority of “Resistors”, or “Protectors”, will take part by supporting the ones who risk their ‘freedom’ and their lives, by building truly sustainable communities, by healing themselves, one another, and the land, and many other much needed actions.


  75. Imagine this possible very near future:

    Thousands of truly sustainable and egalitarian communities composed of free, smart and autonomous likeminded and hearted people collaborating with one another, and communities collaborating with other such communities.

    These free and autonomous people and communities are in a good position to sustain themselves , have fun, and protect their landbases against destruction.

    Imagine that! That’s how it was, everywhere on the planet…until a few thousand years ago.


  76. Thanks Derrick. I took your advice and wandered out to the back pasture to ask if I could get it anything. The grass wasn’t in the mood, but there was a grasshopper there that seemed chatty enough. So I asked him, “What can I learn from you that will teach me the lessons of sustainability?”

    When I saw from the expression on his face that he didn’t get the question, I went further. “You know, the lessons that have allowed the grasshoppers to live within their means over the eons, never over exploiting the resource, always in balance, total harmony…stuff like that.”

    He still had a puzzled look on his face as he worked his quid back and forth. He shot out a stream that nailed an aphid as it waddled past. “Kid” he said, wiping his chin, “You obviously don’t know shit about grasshoppers.”

  77. Misko,

    Did Ghengis Kahn’s neighbors feel “free and autonomous” “in a good position to sustain themselves , have fun, and protect their landbases against destruction”? Granted that was only a millenium ago, but please. The utopian communitarian society described tore down a wall to get free. Jensen’s question, “What is to be Done”? and answers such as a revolution will only occur under a specific set of conditions, including the precondition of an economically exhausted industrialized nation seem haunting and familiar, could it be that 1902 classic by Lenin. I prefer John to Vladimir. Imagine, Let it Be.

  78. Misko said: “instead of asking “How shall I live my life?” people were to ask the land where they live, the land that supports them”

    I’m curious, Misko, why you say “instead of”? What am I asking the land–or the water, or the air I breathe–besides the question, “How shall I (or we) live my/our life together”?

    Whatever answer I get will depend a lot on how I understand the question, how deeply and broadly I understand that “we.” Derrick suggests we ask: “how can I protect you (the land) from this culture?”

    To me, that assumes a) that I’m not part of “this culture”; and b) that I’m the only one who cares. It assumes–a deeply American, Protestant, individualist assumption–that I’m alone in my listening, alone in my understanding. That somehow my understanding can leap outside my culture.

    If, on the other hand, I assume that I am not alone, that others may have been listening and working, and that human history is not a total disaster, then I might be able to join my energy and commitment with others. I might stop disparaging the efforts of others, those who were acting according to their own (limited) best lights. I might even find some reason to hope.

    Derrick tells me–tells us–that future generations (if any) won’t care about how I lived my life. Not only do I think he’s wrong there, but I think he’s spiritually and rhetorically misguided. The image of not caring does not produce caring, it’s not a motivation for action: it’s an image of a battle already lost. It’s the voice of despair.

    I feel despair too, some days–but I try to listen to the water when I feel that way. Despair is not a place we–those of us who depend on water–can act from.

  79. A few months back, someone I know who is an admirer of Jensen was going to interview him and asked friends to submit questions. I had heard a CD of his Vancouver BC lecture on his “Now This War Has Two Sides” Tour and had been horrified. I submitted these questions, which were never addressed to him. I’d still love to see him answer them:

    What level of technology do you see as “sustainable?”

    What technologies do you see as “unsustainable?”

    What human population do you consider the “carrying capacity of the Earth?” If that number is less than the current population, what should be done to reduce the human population to the level you consider the “carrying capacity?”

    What do you consider the ideal unit of social organization? Since cities would seem “unsustainable” without technologies you object to, where and how should people live?

    Do you think, as many cultural anthropologists argue, that agricultural societies lead to hierarchical social organizations, slavery, and warfare? If so, are hunter/gatherer societies the only ones that fit the vision you promote? If so, how many people do you think the Earth can support if everyone lives as hunter/gatherers?

    How many people would you expect to die from “civilization” being been “brought down?”

    After you “win” and “civilization” has been “brought down,” how likely do you think it is that most of the survivors will develop egalitarian societies that live in harmony with their environments? How likely do you think it is that those with access to weapons will just dominate those without them?

    After you “win” and “civilization” has been “brought down,” what will become of the nuclear arsenals of the developed nations? What of their conventional weapons? What about the industrial/chemical pollutants left behind in abandonned factories?

    Perform a little thought experiment. Don’t say “that’s never going to happen.” Just imagine that it will. If in the next few years someone announced a breakthrough in solar energy (or some other non-polluting source)that would make unlimited amounts of non-polluting power virtually free, would that change your ideas? If you could somehow know that in the next 10-20 years technologies would arrive that would bring, wealth, health, peace, and prosperity to everyone and that would allow us to reduce air and water pollution dramatically, would you still want to “bring down civilization?”

    At your Vancouver, BC lecture you spoke of owning an AK-47. What would make you shoot it at a human being? You also spoke of your friends who enjoy explosives. Should those explosives only be used against inanimate objects, or should people be targeted too?

    If this is a war, should there be killing? If so, who should be killed?

    What do you think the consequences would be of destroying the electric grid?

    Which is more important: preserving salmon “people” or preserving people “people”?

    What methods for discovering “truth” as you would define it do you see as legitimate?

    What methods for discovering “truth” as you would define it do you see as illegitimate?

    How certain are you that your ideas about the Earth perfectly decribe conditions on the Earth? Is there any possibility, even the slightest, that you might doubt or question your own ideas?

  80. more questions:
    What would you say to people who would argue that your call to “bring down civilization” discredits environmental activism with many of those most likely to be sympathetic to its messages?

    Imagine this scenario: some people begin to carry out the projects you advocate–blowing up dams, sabotaging the electric grid, blowing up cell phone towers, etc. The U.S. government responds by declaring a national emergency and imposing martial law. They begin rounding up “suspected eco-terrorists” and putting them in Guantanamo-like concentration camps. The result would seem to be even worse than the present. “Civilization” proceeds as usual–after a small temporary setback–but the environmental movement is crippled and its message linked with “terrorism.” How likely is this scenario? Right now, you are free to travel around the country as you please and say and print whatever you want. What would happen to your right to free travel and free expression in this scenario?

    Exactly who would you define as “the enemy?” Be as specific as possible. Is it just government, corporate, and military leaders? What about middle class “overconsumers” who live in big houses, drive gas-guzzling cars, and buy products whose production, use, and disposal leads to “environmental degradation?” Which of these people do you see as “legitimate targets?”

    In your Vancouver, BC lecture, you called for “A snip in every sack”–universal vasectomy. Was this just a joke, or did you mean it? If you meant it, should it be compulsory or voluntary? If compulsory, how many children should a man be allowed to father before he is “snipped?”

    Your message seems most likely to find fertile ground in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Let’s say that your wildest dreams come true and “civilization” is brought down in those parts of the world, but in no other parts of the world. What do you think the likely result would be geopolitically? Would the future that resulted 50 years or so after the “collapse of western civilization” in this scenario be likely to be “better” or “worse” from your worldview?

  81. Hi Wild Rose. In reference to your comment #79, I’m not sure what you mean. But it seems to me that you’re saying that Derrick is some kind of dictator, or dictator wannabe like Lenin. I’m sorry if that’s not what you meant. But if so, I’d say that judging by his writings and talks, he’s for the exact opposite. He’s for sustainable egalitarian cultures. And whatever a person depends on for his/her survival that person will generally defend.

    Hi Rick, I like your question (#80):

    “I’m curious, Misko, why you say “instead of”? What am I asking the land—or the water, or the air I breathe—besides the question, “How shall I (or we) live my/our life together”?”

    That was Derrick’s question, but I agree with him since I think he’s refering to people who want this culture to continue and who are at the same time wondering how they should live their lives within this civilization now that they’re aware of the ongoing omnicide that it is perpetrating.


  82. @DaveScott: “Willing to do what, exactly?”


    Non-violent civil disobedience and direct action. It is the duty of citizens when politics has failed.

    Jensen is correct, if cryptic. We must radically change the ways we live, BUT THAT IS NOT SUFFICIENT. We must also actively, and fearlessly resist injustice and ecological destruction. The time is now.

    Join us.

  83. If there is one thread that runs through most of the public discourse I see and read these days it would be a decided lack of historical context for policy decisions. I’m seeing it here, now.
    When your context is such, any pitchman that comes along, we buy the spiel hook, line and bobber.

    Y’all for the most part sound like very reasonable, rational individuals, so please forgive me for saying that there is a naivete that runs through many of the comments I’ve read here. At least as compared to the record of human proclivities over the last 3,000 years or so. I read a lot of mirabile dictu tales about how we we’ve lost our way recently and that primitive man’s sensibilities would save us if we’d just return to the garden, etc.

    As far as I’ve ever been able to tell, there was no golden Edenic period. The Incas were as lustful for treasure as we ever have been. Lakota peoples? You’d be hard pressed to find a more violent culture. albeit a riutalized violence. They and other Siouxian peoples learned early what inferior technology would get you. They’re downfall was to run up against a culture who learned that lesson earlier than they did. I could go on, and on.

    No, life for us and ours has been hard labor and cold beans. What we don’t have, we take. When we do have, we shovel it into our greedy little pie holes as fast as our grubby fingers will work.

    Not to say that we couldn’t profit from a little more pantheistic thought around here….I think we would. Put please don’t try to convince me that modern man has dropped the ball. We’ve been bobbling it for as long as anyone knows.

    So how does this truth inform us about the probabilities of rising to the (latest) exigencies? Well, for starters we should acknowledge how unlikely it is that the American public will suddenly repudiate plastic and turn into a bunch of peace loving Jeffersonian farmers with an affinity for natural fiber clothing. We’ve got to contend with the fact that any sentient being is probably not going to be content with shivering and starving in the dark while the neighbor watches the NFL sat. package and sips on a cold beer.

    That is to say, we’re going to have to work with the animal we have, not the one we are hoping for.

  84. It’s not that future generations “won’t care”, it’s that it will be a moot point. What will matter is the present future generations are living in which may or may not be the like that “path to hell paved with good intentions”.

    I wonder,too, about the expressed concern with so-called “magical thinking”. The thing is, how we perceive the world and our role in it totally determines what we do or don’t do. I firmly believe that if “enough” people woke up one morning and perceived their relationship with the Earth as participatory, interdependent, and reciprocal everything would change. It would be subtle at first then increasingly obvious that decisions were being made differently, and that love (yes, love) was present in deliberations. Love, as my grandmother taught me, is the most powerful force in the universe. Brian Swimme’s book, The Universe is a Green Dragon, explains what I mean by this excellently. “By pursuing your allurements, you help bind the universe together. The unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion. . . . Alluring activity draws you into being, just as it drew the star into being. Our life and powers come forth through our response to allurement.”
    And the answer to the question: “What are we to do?” would be that which we are passionate about. How many of us actually do this? How many of us spend most of our waking hours doing things we don’t really care about or things we feel we must do to earn a living or because we feel they are somehow expected of us?

    And then one of my favorite essays by Linda Hogan, “A Different Yield” (in her book, Dwellings), in which she writes about how Barbara McClintock recipient of the Nobel Prize for her work on gene transposition in corn plants. Hogan wrote that McClintock’s “method was to listen to what corn had to say, to translate what the plants spoke into a human tongue.” And she was able to do this because of her love for, attraction to, and respect for life as a whole that allowed for an expanded vision, far beyond what conventional science was or is able to understand or accept. So Jensen’s “listen to the land” concept isn’t so far-fetched after all. Listening can, and does, occur on many levels including the quite literal level of actually hearing. Later in Hogan’s essay she writes what to me are some of the most beautiful and compelling words: “Cornmeal and pollen are offered to the sun at dawn. The ears of the corn are listening and waiting. They want peace. The stalks of the corn want clean water, sun that is in its full clean shining. The leaves of the corn want good earth. The earth wants peace. The birds who eat the corn do not want poison. Nothing wants to suffer. The wind does not want to carry the stories of death.
    “At night, in the cornfields, when there is no more mask of daylight, you hear the plants talking among themselves. The wind passes through. It’s all there, the languages, the voices of the wind, dove, corn, stones. The language of life won’t be silenced. . . .
    “Do you remember the friend that the leaves talked to? We need to be that friend. Listen. The ears of the corn are singing. They are telling their stories and singing their songs. We knew that would be true.”

  85. I just finished typing my rather prosaic comment while Plowboy was typing his. And must respond. I understand where he’s coming from and can’t dispute the truth of his historical info. But that’s not all there is (or was) to the story. Certainly the history of passed, and failed, civilizations is well known and greed and depleting natural resources and wars led to their downfalls. As they will probably lead to ours. However, there are alive today (as there were then) people who have visions and intuitions and desires for another way. In the past it appears that these wiser people were ignored to the detriment of the civilization as a whole. We don’t have to be doomed to the same fate. As I understand it, evolution is about growth and adaptation and even transformation with life continuing. If human beings are unable to move beyond the greed and the material, baser desires that our current industrialized culture provides for those who struggle hard enough to get it (beer and the NFL package versus the starving neighbor) then we won’t make it. Not just our culture but, unfortunately all cultures and all peoples – four-legged, finned, rooted, winged, and so on. If we insist on acting like spoiled adolescents then we will get what we deserve. There are enough good, compassionate, intuitive, visionary people alive today, in this and other cultures that demonstrate human beings don’t have to live in a protracted, selfish adolescent stupor. We have a choice. If we insist that we don’t because there are just too many selfish idiots out there that my actions or your actions don’t matter and don’t have an impact, then, again, we are doomed. But the fact that there are people who see, feel, and live differently (or strive and struggle to live differently – none of us is perfect) just proves that we can change, can evolve. Than “animal we have” is diverse, does not fit just one mold or image. And the US is just one country, the lifestyle that we have become accustomed to is just one lifestyle. We may not be headed back to the garden because Plowboy is right. It never existed except in our imagination or our dreams. But the future is yet to be, and whatever it is, it is up to us.

  86. Martin:

    Jensen spends a lot of time in his writing and speeches mocking ‘non-violent civil disobedience’ of the type you are advocating.

  87. Susan, right. Nothing I write argues against that fight.

    For some of us, the effort is not something we can turn our backs on. That is just the nature of some of us. You pull love into the equation and no, you can’t ever count that out. If any of us have even a passing familiarity with love though, we know how prone we humans are to break each other’s hearts. We do it mostly because we don’t share a universal concept of what is pleasing. To some, a cell tower is the absolute pinnacle of human labor, grace and beauty. If you knock it down, love drives them to rebuild it as surely as love compels you to knock it down again. I mean, if people would just do as I want them to do we’d find that my life would be soooo much easier. I for one would have much more love in my heart.

    We have to be honest here though: Truly, what are the chances? Evolution you say? Well, what you’re seeing all around you IS evolution. We’ve adapted quite well, as I’m sure most of us would agree.(The excellent piece “Barbaric Heart” is one I recommend on this point.) I think that you would also agree that what we have to accept is that we are not returning to some mythological homeland of the soul where we once dwelled, but hoping for a quantum step up the ladder of evolution. History also teaches us that such a thing is unlikely. Mostly, when they do occur at all, they are preceeded by a catastrophe for most, for the benefit of a few. I’ve always been more interested in nature’s take on us than our take on nature. We might be getting the answer to that now.

  88. I’m not saying our chances are great. I have to struggle with myself on a daily basis because logically, realistically, our chances of throwing off the hackles of the world we have created are pretty slim.

    Re: love. I’m not referring to romantic love here or necessarily personal “loves” (like someone loving that celltower for the convenience it provides). Swimme starts with the basic attractive forces of the universe, like the forcefields that bring atoms and molecules together to create matter and ultimately the Earth and lifeforms. Moves into what he calls allurement, for example things we are drawn to without thinking – certain kinds of music, stories, lifeforms, things that feed our spirits, make us whole.

    Re: that celltower that some may love and others not so much. Wouldn’t that mean that some kind of conversation needs to take place, some kind of compromise that would, ideally (as Jensen suggests) mean bringing the land into the discussion? Today if someone owns a piece of land they can pretty much do whatever they want with it. Even if there are ordinances or restrictions placed by towns of cities, if the owner has enough money and/or power the rules can (and often are) ignored or even rewritten. The land and those who love it have no say.

    Here in Fryeburg, Maine for example, we’ve been fighting Nestle over water withdrawals (mining) from the Saco River Watershed for years. Then Nestle decided it wanted to build a truck loading station in an area zoned “rural residential”. This would mean at least 50 large tanker trucks driving on one of the worst sections of route 302, again, zoned rural residential, round-the-clock, seven days a week. The town said no. Four times. Citing a state-mandated master plan as the reason. So Nestle took it to the Supreme Court because it has endless supplies of $ to do so. And won. How, given that the plan goes against the state-mandated master plan? Because, so the court decided, that master plan is intended to offer guidance, it is not a legal document. Needless to say, the town was shocked. And the work on the project has now begun.

    So now Nestle has plenty of love in its heart for the Maine Supreme Court but that’s not what I’m referring to.

    When I talk about evolution I’m not just talking about the physical process but rather the evolution of consciousness, and I don’t think that so-called “modern man” reflects much of this kind of evolution. In fact, much of today’s industrialized culture has, to my mind, devolved. Gotten caught up in materialism, maya, glamour. We’re lost.

    Yes, to that quantum step up the ladder, however. That’s exactly what’s needed. Re: nature’s take on us: we are nature, too. But I get your point and nature is taking us on. Climate change and all the strange weather patterns, violent storms, all the “natural” catastrophies we see daily on the news. Nothing personal in it, just consequences, as Jensen writes. We don’t disagree about that.

  89. I read the article but was most interested in the comments. Jensen has influenced a number of my friends and even me in the past. But I didn’t like what I felt his writing inspired – just like this article. This article seems to cut like a knife the same way all his writing does with its patronization, its righteousness, its demeaning tone, its trivialization of so much, its pendantry, its sarcasm, its obviousness, its lack of saying anything new…

    I would like to ask Jensen if he’s ever thought of “listening to people” or if he’s ever thought of “disarming” his own language. He uses a war model to express himself. He is at war. I am tired of showing up for it. I wish my friends wouldn’t show up for it and send me links to articles by him like this.

    I wish folks were checking out Brian Swimme’s work or Margaret Wheatley’s. I wish Jensen was dismissing “the great turning” – a phrase of one of our most potent deep ecology/buddhist thinkers, Joanna Macy. I feel terrible grief when I read his work that he is still setting up the target and pulling the trigger – at us.

  90. Yes, my impression is that this man only advocates the old, old story, redux, and as I’ve tried to point out, he ignores history in the telling of it. If we are going to get ourselves out of this God awful state of affairs, we’ll need new tools.

    And Susan, it is just that kind of elemental love that I’m referring to. Believe it or not, Nestle draws from as deep a well of love as you do. They love to see their trucks sporting up and down your roads day and night. They get all a quiver when they see the earnings numbers and the shareholder’s reports. Most of all (and here is the crux of the jist)their employees love the welfare of their families a whole lot more than they love your right to pastoral enjoyment of the commons. If you’ve ever tried to convince another to not love somebody, or something, then you know what an act of futility that is. (Well, I guess you and your neighbors did try, so you know what I mean.)

    Individuals and societal constructs have one common characteristic: Neither will undergo transformative change without a deep shock. We here in the American South had to have this explained to us in very clear terms not all that long ago. Me-my-own-personal-self? I think we’uns are still a long way from ours.

  91. “We have seen the enemy and he is us.” – Pogo

    I don’t know any of my friends, family, co-workers or acquaintances who would volunteer to live without toilet paper. Given that basic observation, how would defending the forest against those who would destroy it actually work? Until there’s no demand for a resource, there will always be someone prepared to extract it. I’m not sure that the extractors are more guilty than the consumers.

    I don’t think it matters whether consumption goes down because of lifestyle changes, pandemic die-offs, or Derrick Jensen bringing down civilization. I do think it’s disingenuous to point the finger anywhere other than yourself unless you live a Bangladeshi lifestyle.

    So I would disagree with Jensen and say that the only question to ask is “how should I live my life (a life that may include blowing up dams and talking to trees and wiping my ass with paper)?”

  92. Susan, what do you do with people who are “allured” or attracted to destruction, mcmansions, hummers, shopping mega malls, etc.?

    it seems to me that the practice of allurement, of every person following their own attractions, is exactly what got us into this mess. Some people love to skin kittens. So we let them?

    Plowboy is right: the paleolithic and neolithic past that Jensen holds up in Endgame as a solution to modern problems never existed. I’ve done enough reading in anthropology, sociobiology, and evolutionary psychology to know this. Worse, if we did manage to bring ourselves back to that point, we’d only start the development process again as soon as one group finds enough stability and prosperity to begin the upward population spiral anew, and end up right back here in a couple thousand years.

  93. Nestle is not drawing from a “deep well of love”, it is drawing from a deep well of greed. As far as their employees go, sure, they “love” to earn enough money to pay the bills, but that’s not really “love”, at least not the kind of love I’m talking about. I don’t “love” it when there’s enough $ in my checking account, I’m relieved, satisfied, even grateful. Love is something else entirely.

    And as far as my “right to pastoral enjoyment”, it’s a lot more than that. It’s depleting an ecosystem of groundwater that feeds not only the Saco River but numerous lakes and ponds and brooks and streams, not to mention our wells. Nestle claims that their “withdrawing” millions of gallons of water a year (for which they pay nothing!) does no harm at all. But they’ve only been doing it for a few years and for the past three years we’ve had above average rainfall. Maybe that will continue. But what if it doesn’t? No, this is a lot more important than the view one has driving on route 302, which isn’t impacted at all by the water extraction, by the way. And my problem really isn’t with all the trucks, either, it’s with the water mining and Nestle selling to make mega-bucks. It’s not as if this water is going to communities without. Usually it’s purchased in disposable (recycleable) plastic bottles by consumers who think it’s better than their tap water. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. If it is, them perhaps the money spent on buying bottled water should be instead spent on upgrading city water supplies (infrastructure improvements).

    When Brian Swimme uses the word “allurement” he’s not referring to the desire to build big houses or drive around in gas guzzlers. He’s referring to that which nourishes our souls, which we are drawn to that maybe we’re discouraged against because “there’s no $ in it”, but that we love anyway. There have been numerous studies done on why people “love” to consume, consume, consume and simply put it’s to fill a deep-seated need for something else. We shop when we’re depressed to feel better. We buy a bigger house/car/whatever to make us feel better or to feel as though we’ve “made it”. That’s not love. It’s like eating junk food when you’re hungry when what your body really craves is fresh, unadulterated fruits and vegetables.

    And actually I do know someone who doesn’t use toilet paper. I interviewed her for my newsletter, Gaian Voices. Her name is Karen Litfin and she political science at the University of Washington. Her decision came about after a visit with her students (she takes students on one international trip a year) to India. When I asked her why toilet paper she resonded, “Well, they don’t have toilet paper in India – or in 80 percent of the rest of the world. Plus the idea of cutting down trees to wipe my butt just seems absurd.”

    Andrea, people who skin kittens need to be prosecuted and jailed. That’s not allurement, that’s sadism.

  94. Perhaps it is a human characteristic that we are not well equipped to recognize absurdity. We cut down trees to wipe our butts, consume vast quantities of water to extract tar from northern Alberta to fuel ships hauling cheap plastic crap across the Pacific, and discard perfectly good electronics to make room for newer ones.

    But we are not all going to agree to bring down civilization when we still have to argue about cosmetic pesticide use.

    I have little hope that any action (lifestyle or eco-terrorism or bureaucratic or offing ourselves) any of us could take would make the slightest difference in such an absurd world. I think we’ll all just cope with deteriorating conditions until we can’t anymore. Then the earth will start to heal.

  95. Misko — I know you. And you have inspired me with your words and your site. Thank you.

    Rick — my name is unintelligible to you and the spelling would be difficult for a man of your stature.

    I suggest you obtain a mirror to carry around with you everywhere you go, and when the thought crosses your mind, examine the reflection you see in the mirror.

    If all you can see is yourself, then clearly that too isn’t working, you need to change the angle.

    If, when you do this, the image you see is blurred or obscured or unsteady, try changing your angle and see if that helps.

    Once you can see everything clearly, and the image remains steady, you’ve got the angle just right.

    Just don’t keep doing the same things over and over again as you look into the mirror and remain confused and frustrated about the images you see, because clearly, this isn’t working.

  96. PART I

    I made a mistake in my comment #91. I meant that I wish Jensen WASN’T dismissing inspiring thinkers like Joanna Macy with his dig at concepts like the “great turning.”

    It’s ironic but the comments of #97 (Reader) are exactly the kind that I said Jensen inspired. That person is looking for a fight. Won’t get one here. I have owned up to being a moron years ago – and I am proud of it if that is what it means to care about people and the land and to continue to use my imagination to think of ways to help us all TRANSITION. Yeah, all of us. I love that movement, the TRANSITION MOVEMENT. Nothing has inspired me more than the people around the world acting for TRANSITION. They acknowlege the collapse happening and human responsibility – and are so dedicated to taking joyous action now (and quickly) to relocalize, change and live differently, sustainably, with full-time listening to the land. They even honor feelings! Whewhew!

    One thing that Jensen has never acknowledged in all his talk of listening to the land is that many others before him (not just indigenous folk) have advocated that. There is a ritual such as a COUNCIL OF ALL BEINGS created by some deep ecology thinkers years before Jensen. They didn’t bully anyone into it. They invited folks into it with great love. John Seed and Joanna Macy do this kind of work all over the world. So do many others. They don’t just write about it. They provide a process, a means.

    Joanna Macy once wrote: “Can you be present in the world today – work for its survival, engage with it deeply – and not feel overwhelmed by despair? If you hold in your gaze the death of the forests and the wetlands, the loss of the soil, the overwhelming threats to the diversity of life, the fact that pollution is now generalized – in the water, the air, the food we eat – and if you hold in your gaze all kinds of avoidable suffering that humans inflict on each other: war, hunger, unjust distribution of goods and resources, homelessness, imprisonment, torture, oppression, abuse, addiction of all kinds – there is good cause for fearing you could become [deeply distressed.] I’d like to suggest five guidelines that have helped me keep on and not lose heart.

    #1. Nourish respect and compassion. Hold yourself and those whom you meet in utmost respect and compassion for simply being alive and conscious at this crucial turning of our collective journey. Don’t scold, don’t moralize, don’t expect people to embrace easily the magnitude of what needs to be done. We have no experience for this, we don’t have rituals for it. Pause reflectively, bow in reverence to the recognition that what is happening for us is really very new. And when your brothers and sisters want to stick their heads in the sand, just remember how much you’d like to do that too. Nourish compassion, knowing that they’re not going to do that forever. And respect yourself for suffering with our world. It’s a measure of your aliveness and your humanity. Listen when you feel that pain, listen for the accompanying message, which is: “This is my body.” Sarajevo, Africa, the trees in the Amazon-it hurts because it is your body, our body.

    #2. Drop unnecessary baggage. What do I mean by baggage? The need to have a blueprint or a pre-formulated solution, the need to be right, or enlightened, the need to win an argument, or the need for hope. When you put these down a great relief happens. Then you can be right here. We are in a time of such profound change…. We must become like the samurai poised and ready to move in response to the situation as it unfolds. And it’s also a great relief to know that you don’t have to be perfect, or enlightened, or have it all together before engaging. Actually getting out there and taking risks on behalf of other beings can pop you from the prison cell of the ego quicker than anything else.

    Another thing, perhaps hardest of all: drop the unnecessary baggage of hope. Hopefulness, hopelessness, it’s not such a big deal. Hope is often for something you’ve already known like a hero coming to our rescue. We cannot predict… what will be revealed. If we don’t hang on, if we let go of hope, we will be open for what can be. Lastly, drop the need to do everything. You can’t. Just do something you love. Keep at it. In the marvelous interconnected web of life, that doing will touch all things.

    #3. Do it together. This is the time for us to awaken together. For many years I have been working with a Buddhist community development movement in Sri Lanka called Sarvodaya. That means, “everybody wakes up.” Actually the full name of the movement is Sarvodaya Shramadana, which means, “everybody wakes up by sharing energy.” And that’s what happening for us. We’re learning to build teams and networks, we’re learning how to nourish them and sustain them and use them for support and action. These are tremendous gifts for us to harvest now. And when I say “do it together,” it isn’t just with beings who are of your own species. Feel that you are in league with your brothers and sisters who are animals and plants, that they are supporting you. They are the most worthy…company. They add their love of life to yours, and this is grace. Remember also that your actions are in the company of the generations of beings yet to be born. Every being who will ever live is on Earth today in our shared DNA, in our chromosomes. Feel their companionship and support, feel them saying, “Yes! Go for it!”

    #4. Remember who you really are. Remember that you are born by and carried and supported and informed and acted through by that which you are protecting, the living Earth. The notion that you are a separate self working to save the world, no matter how noble or heroic or saintly it may be, will ultimately burn you out. Allow that shift in your identity that opens you to the feeling of being acted through. As John Seed said, “I am not John Seed protecting the rainforest so much as the rainforest, recently emerged into human thinking, protecting itself.” When you break through to that kind of awareness you can go on tirelessly.

    #5. Act your age. You weren’t born yesterday. Remember that every atom in every cell of your body goes back through time in an unbroken succession of life, of survivors and adaptors right back to the initial fireball which created space and time. Or if you want to feel younger, take the age of our planet, five billion years. Reap the authority that your true age bestows upon you. When you’re in that congressperson’s office, or at the nuclear power plant, or putting your body in the way of clearcutting the ancient forests, you’re doing that not just out of some nobility of this lifetime, or some personal whim, you are doing that out of the full authority of your five billion years. Feel the dignity that this graces you with and you simply can’t go crazy.”

    (This article first appeared in Creation Spirituality Magazine March/April 1993)

    I just wanted to share this cause I still reach for it when I get bombarded with bullying like Jensen and others do. I wish Judi Bari was still around. She knew how to bring issues together and think about action. She’d be proud of the Transition Movement. She wrote a great piece on “Revolutionary Ecology.” Check it out at:

  97. PART II

    And yeah, cities don’t work. The Bioregional Movement’s been saying that for years but with all kinds of non-bullying. They’ve been offering visions and actions to change that since before Jensen was born.

    Another great resource to disarm our language – Sharon Ellison and her book TAKING THE WAR OUT OF OUR WORDS.

    I can relate to being angry but growing up with abuse and alcoholism in the family at every turn, I am tired of the excuses for hurtful behavior.

    Try this analogy Jensen. Your dad and mom are stone drunk and beating up your brother. You want to defend him. Your parents are twice your size. You try screaming at them. They scream back and threaten you. You cry. They threaten you for crying. You plan a strategy. It doesn’t work cause abuse’s hallmark is it’s unpredictability and unavoidability. What do I do to defend my brother?

    I grow up and intervene when I am old enough with a family intervention. I tell them that if they continue, these are the consequences and I stick to it. If my dad asks for a ride home from a bar drunk and gets mad when I won’t drive him home – and threatens to drive himself home, I call the cops to pick him up, just like I said I would. When he gets arrested, and he and my mom won’t talk to me, it’s okay. I stick to my consequences. I don’t let them try to drag me back into enabling behavior. My dad may still go on drinking; my mom may never speak to me again. But I have done the one thing I can. I have interferred with harm and given them the message it’s not okay. Someday they may give themselves permission to stop hurting themselves. But I don’t wait around. That’s what I can do. Be true to myself and my love for them and the whole.

    I defend the land the same way.

    I know I have been harsh in my language about yours. It’s sorta a hard thing to avoid – the temptation to fight back in some way. I get as reactionary as the next person. But it’s not what I ultimately am striving for. I want to have compassion for you. I hear the fierce love behind the rage. I know it’s there. I try to remember that and translate the truth of what you are saying, which is that you love this place that birthed you with the same amazing passion that all humans are born with, the same response of awe and wonder, sense of loss, desire to creatively respond, desire to interfere with the harm.

    We all have so much in common. It’s amazing how much we love this place. That’s what I hear. Not morons arguing but people deeply deeply struggling with a runaway train. I love us all for being willing to even witness that and live with the deep disturbance it causes, which never goes away. And to attempt to respond in some way that might just bring about a miracle? Read Margaret Wheatley’s article on “The Place Beyond Fear and Hope.” I love it. I need it. I think we all need her words. She ends the article with this remark:

    “My heart holds the image of us journeying…through this time of disintegration and rebirth. Insecure, groundless, patient, beyond hope and fear. And together.”

  98. Cerulean, from what you wrote, it seems to me that you also are striving to put an end to this madnessivilization. In fact, I’d say you’re doing more than me, so thanks. Really!

    Derrick, Reader, and each and everyone of us – as you obviously know – all have different natural inclinations. Some have a gentle approach yet very strong. Some are more like thunder, yet are also very gentle. Some situations need gentleness, while others need fierceness…

    …But we can all collaborate.

    Just my three sense

  99. Misko–peace to you.

    Reader–I suggest you put down the mirror and look in your heart. The names you call others are the ones you’re afraid of yourself.

    A little memory-work might also be in order. Look at the 2006 interview with Van Jones in Featured Content (above):
    “But there’s been an addiction to the politics of confrontation among a certain tier of activists. Speaking truth to power, confronting injustices is a good thing, but when people start to use confrontational tactics in their own coalitions, their own organizations, then you have a movement that is too injured internally to play a healing role externally….It’s like the difference between using diesel versus solar as your energy source. Anger is a messy fuel that eventually causes more problems than it can solve.”

  100. Rick–exactly. I don’t need everyone in ‘the movement’ (as if there’s only one) to believe I’m right–I’m just going to get on with doing it. And they’ll get on with doing their thing and, hopefully, in the end, we’ll all have made a contribution.

    Cerulean, thank you for that. It was lovely, and I agree.

  101. Susan…. well, look at it this way. As a heterosexual male, I have no ability to comprehend, really, the sexual attraction of one man to another….but I know that it is real. Besides not having the moral authority to challenge someone’s compulsions, I lack the ability to persuade anyone that the object of their affections is not legitimate. If you’ve ever tried to convince a teenager to end a relationship with some boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ve got a good frame of reference for what I’m saying.

    But understanding is almost as good, and sometimes, just rarely, it is enough to tilt the balance.

    I would not be so dismissive of your corporate adversary, forgive me for saying. When I’m not building furniture, growing tomatoes and raising the kids, I stand in a courtroom and try to convince twelve people that my client was not negligent. Despite my best efforts to convince myself of many things over 20 + years of doing that, I’m less certain now of those things than when I started. There is one point though on which I’m more convinced with each passing year: Empathy is the most powerful persuasive tool that a person can ever bring to bear. If you’ve not considered the obvious manifestations of fear, passion and love in your adversary’s actions, you are seeing things through a lens, darkly. Just my opinion.

    Too, on the cusp of my 5th decade here down amongst us, I can affirm that I’ve met only a handful of deliberately malicious people. They do exist, yes, and there are a handful of even evil ones that I’ve crossed paths with. On the other hand, I’ve come across many, many more people whose propensity to do harm comes from a more banal source: Just plain garden variety ignorance. In the end, empathy and education are the only clubs in the bag that are worth a flip. Our rage-against-the-dying-of-the- light types, such as Mssr. Gunpoint and his ilk, are just hammering on the wrong end of the nail.

  102. This is a very interesting discussion. However one feels about Jensen’s column, it certainly has generated a lot of energy. Congrats Orion!

    There were several angry, even abusive comments in my inbox this morning that have obviously been deleted. Thank you. It’s important to disagree with respect, and, as Plowboy points out, with empathy.

    Many years ago I remember reading in one of Starhawk’s books what she called “raging love”. And I identified with it immediately. It’s how I felt after seeing my first clearcut on my first trip to the Pacific Northwest in the mid 1980s (we have clearcuts here in the east, but I’d never seen anything to hold a candle to what I saw there). I felt it when I saw log trucks driving away from the Olympic Peninsula with just one huge, ancient old growth tree. I feel it when I see pictures (I’ve never seen it first-hand) of mountains blown apart for seams of coal. It’s a strong emotion and the foundation is love.

    But the forces that perpetrate such abominations are huge and beyond my personal ability to impact in a meaningful way, though I tried through my writing, speaking, and activism. There have been those whose actions did cause change, Judi Bari among them. Plus she felt empathy for the mill workers whose livelihood depended on such rape, and was a controversial figure because of it.

    I too feel empathy for workers seemingly forced to do what to me are unthinkable things to the Earth in order to support their families. I can feel empathy for those who support Nestle’s water mining here in Maine (and elsewhere) because they depend on or want the jobs, the “clean” jobs as we are constantly told, that the water mining industry brings. It’s not the workers I have a problem with but the CEOs and the PR people with whom Fryeburg and other towns have had to deal. No, I don’t believe they are evil. I believe that, for the most part, they actually believe what they are saying and that their company’s actions really won’t harm the ecosystem. Still, they are misguided and I sense that hindsight will prove those of us opposed to water mining right. Just as most people now recognize how wrong clearcutting, especially old growth is. There’s little satisfaction in being proven right when the realization comes too late to save what you love.

    What I wish is that somehow we (I) could convince people to have empathy not only for people, but for the Earth and nonhuman creatures. That humans aren’t the be-all-end-all of evolution. That we are one of many species sharing the Earth, and that all of us, human and nonhuman are deserving of respect, consideration, legal standing, empathy, and compassion, and most of all to a full life living in a vibrant, diverse place that supports us and allows us to thrive. Meanwhile I try to channel my raging love and not let the rage part overwhelm me, or veer off into despair.

  103. Susan and Cerulean, and others of your persuasion… For what it is worth from me, you sound like people who have their heads on straight. When we get a couple of billion people spreading that message we just might have something… Will that happen? Beats the crap out of me. But, rage is only useful to those bent on conquest and domination….and then only temporarily.

  104. If a mother, for example, finally fights back with rage the man that has abused her and her children, does that make her a conquistadore?

    When indigenous men and women fought back with rage – here on Turtle Island (America), or anywhere else on the planet for that matter – when their children, women, elders, and nonhuman members of their lands were being attacked, pillaged, raped…civilized, were they being conquerors?

    Am I a conqueror if I use the necessary means to stop some psychopaths who’ve broken in to my home and are intending on, or are torturing, raping, and killing my loved ones?

    Is a mother mouse a conqueror when she counter-attacks me with rage because I inadvertently stepped on one of her babies?

    What does it matter that someone expresses himself or herself with rage if you’re doing what you can to stop this culture of abuse?

    As for those who prefer to continue benefiting from this culture of torture, rape and mass murder of All Life, or for those who’d prefer to continue benefiting from the torture, rape and murder of my family members in my home, well, can we be blamed for yelling, and taking a stand, and taking action against those psychopaths?

    Empathy, education, patience, therapy are great!…with those who have the intention of doing good. But it’s totally useless when dealing with a fuckin psychopath raping a young one for example. You need force, or the threat of force to stop the psychopath.

  105. Well, very interesting. How ’bout we get a bit more practical here. So what keeps the folks who feel very strongly about returning to a pristine Edenic existence (that may or may not have existed?) from banding together and buying land, putting it in trust, and going and living on it with nature?

    I suspect that there are some who do that and I respect their integrity. But many others want or need various levels of technology to live and thrive – in my case, no electricity means my sleep apnea may result in my not waking up one morning. Inasmuch as human beings are part of Nature as much as any other living thing, their needs should be considered as well.

    So, back to practicality, may I suggest a few options?

    1. Many small Midwestern/Plains communities are dying off – maybe part of all the towns could be bought out and reworked at various levels of technology and sustainability.
    2. Irrespective of where the land is acquired, appropriate sustainable technologies need to be implemented. One size does not fit all in politics, policies, problems, or solutions.
    3. Overthrowing existing systems has a very bad track record – remember the old song, “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss”? Seems to me that folks who advocate violence may be forgetting why they are in opposition to the way things are.


  106. Generalizing from a psychopath in your home to the larger situation that we are all concerned about leaps from a situation where you have to act in the moment to one where we might be able to stop what creates the psychopaths to begin with – by taking time. Even if we don’t feel we have time, we have to take it, risk it.

    If we let our urgency cause us to continue to generalize with these analogies, we will miss the chance at getting to the root of the systemic pathology affecting us all (we’re all a part of the pathology, we’re all psychopaths so how would you like to be dealt with? – if you could come from a place of loving yourself?), – the massive trauma and resulting distorted behaviors caused by disconnection from the wild.

    If we could all wake up and just start off our day by saying “I won’t abuse anyone, including myself today,” we’d be starting off pretty well.

    Our urgency and desperation needs to be expressed and witnessed to heal – like READERS and JENSENS. I wonder if either of these two have ever been in a circle where they have gone into the center and weeped and raged – and shared their feelings of fear and numbness and impotency?

    We need to restore the intimacy that can heal the pain of being so deeply untouched/abused most of our illusory separate lives that leads us to this rage about individual situations. It’s a projection of our pain and is a barrier to our thinking about the larger situation we face with love and the ability to allow oneself to experience joy and with that centeredness Chellis Glendinning speaks of in her book, “I’m In Recover From Western Civilization.”


    It’s helped me so much to understand the rage the alienates me from so many people I really want to connect with and open to. It’s helped me to see where I’ve needed to do my work for change/healing for the world.

    Latley I’ve been listening to and watching the songbirds migrating through. They are saying that to transition/migrate, you need an incredible amount of energy and an amazing intuitive vision of your destination – one that involves the creation of new life. They say to do it together, do it with color, do it by stopping along the way over and over again dropping out of the sky like confetti magic that touches all who see, they say to keep following your instinct to return home. They say to eat, rest, keep moving when you are ready. But return home.

    Return home. What actions am I going to take today to return home? Returning home is my way to defend the land. Most of the time I am lost but every once in a while, I feel a part of the path that feels right to me. I follow it on. The songbirds are my guides at the moment. They tell me they are getting lost, too, due to habitat destruction and so much else… but that there are still forces guiding them. Not all is lost yet. They say to trust…and let go. Don’t stay stuck…we must migrate, they say. We must return. They say to turn off the lights at night and enjoy, don’t be afraid of, the dark – and this will give them help on their journey as well. Dare the dark. Dare the unknown. Be without answers for a moment or two or three. Risk.

  107. Practical Solutions?

    I’m not practical. Dancing and collaging and singing and graphic novels are more my style these days. I don’t ask what I am going to do to defend the land. I dream the land and it dreams me. We co-create from a place of love and truth together. We know only magic and miracles will achive anything worthwhile these days. It asks me what I am dreaming and creating out of my love for it and myself – and I ask it the same.

    I want to do what Starhawk envisions folks doing in FIFTH SACRED THING, or Marge Piercy envisioned before that in WOMAN ON THE EDGE OF TIME, or Sally Gearhart envisions in her utopias or what many of the feminist utopians suggest – wild wild wild unexpected marvelous drama.

    So I create a stage out front my house and I perform for my neighbors – I perform the utopias, I perform the dance of the leaves, I sing the chorus of the migrant songbirds and I have a backdrop collage of the wild.

    And entranced, they walk into my world and walk out, seeing for the first time the contrast between the city they see around them created from the destruction of the earth and trading the song of the birds and the dance of the leaves ad the wild and raw home-craft for what is dead and impersonal.

  108. Cerulean, thanks for bringing birds into the conversation. I, too, have been listening to them (as well as the bees). Not just as a gardener, though I am that, but as a bird and bee lover. I’ve noticed many different birds, and heard many different songs this year than in years past, while other birds that are usually more plentiful seem to be in fewer numbers, at least in my yard (which borders what is known as the Old Saco – what is left of the original Saco after its course was changed to straighten it out to make it easier to move logs down the river). So it’s basically bird habitat. My mind screams “climate change” but my heart says “be grateful for the beauty and the birds’ resilience no matter the reason for the changes”. And I try to stay in that place of gratitude and appreciation. Because getting all stressed out about something I cannot change only puts that energy out there. Gratitude, on the other hand, and awareness of beauty, put out positive energy and in my world view, this matters.

    I think more people would love to live in more sustainable communities, as American Patriot discusses. I know I would and my sister and I are seriously discussing this very possibility with three other single people each of whom owns their own place, as do my sister and I. But talking and doing are two different things, much to my personal frustration, and before we can do anything we have to sell our current homes something we’re all waiting to do given the housing situation. It takes lots of money to buy land and then bring in water and so on. Since we are all in our fifties and sixties, there’s a lot we simply will have to pay people to do. But our vision is smaller, energy efficient and providing as much of our own energy (passive and active solar, and wind) as possible, clustered together, even connected, and shared spaces. Growing as much of our food as we can, preserving, drying, canning, making herbal medicines (all of which I do now) – you know, an updated geezer version of the 60s back-to-the-land vision. I want it so bad I can taste it. I have for years. But for the first time some of my best friends also think it’s a good idea (they used to roll their eyes at me).

    None of this solves the problems of the world, but living a more Earth-friendly life will lighten my heart and be an excellent example to my grown children and young grandchildren.

    Interesting about the land trust thing, too. Legally it seems the best way to hold land as a group that also allows those of us who need it to get a mortgage or some kind of loan to build is for the land to be held in trust with each of us having a 99 year renewable lease. He was surprised I knew about such things and I was pleased that my work in community-based economics might make it possible for us to actually bring this vision into reality someday. Fingers crossed.

    Back in the days when I was writing and speaking about community-based economics we taked often about the importance of creating economic alternatives as lifeboats (as Bob Swann of the E. F. Schumacher Society used to call them), so that when the bottom fell out they would be there. At the same time, many of my colleagues were trying to change the system from within, but it was so easy to get co-opted and before you knew it you were “one of them”. The latest issue of Yes Magazine has many articles about community based economic alternatives and I was interested to see that most of them are the same ones I wrote about in my books, the same ones my colleagues either founded or worked in and here we are about 25 years later and they’re being written about as if they are new and unheard of. It’s great to know they’re still out there, it’s frustating to see that they are still on the margins and that so few people know about them. Maybe, just maybe now is the time for them to really take off and make a difference. Maybe now people will be ready to take them seriously.

    I still believe, however, that it will be necessary to overthrow, shut down, or otherwise destroy the worst offenders. But maybe it doesn’t have to be through violence. Maybe our current economic situation will do the job for us. It’s already happening with some corporations. We just have to remember what’s happening in this country is only the tip of the iceberg. Though people in other countries are much more aware of what’s happening and more willing to take serious risks (perhaps because they don’t see themselves as having as much to lose as folks here?) than here in the U.S.

  109. Once again, Cerulean – Yes! Yes! Yes! to everything you just said while I was typing that long comment. Magic and miracles. The Fifth Sacred Thing. All of it. And for folks who roll their eyes, this isn’t woo woo stuff. My sister was seriously brain injured in a car accident 27 years ago, in a coma for 8 weeks, was supposed to be a “vegetable” if she even lived. I knew if she lived she would be whole. I trusted in the power of love and prayer. I envisioned her whole. I dreamed about her, talked to her in my dreams, told her her spirit could heal her body. Many people prayed for her – and for the doctors who worked with her. The fact that she survived and has a good life, though different than what it would have been for sure, taught me about the reality of the power of love. It was a miracle, absolutely. But it took a lot of hard work, pain, and tears from all of us for her to achieve what she did.

    Our culture is so into just what you can see and hear and touch. And there is so much more to life, to the Earth (Gaia), to the Universe than that. Yes, read Brian Swimme. Read Thomas Berry. Read Linda Hogan and Terry Tempest Williams. Talk to trees and birds and sit with rivers and mountains. Let the plants teach you, and heal you. What keeps me going in these times of ecological distress (to put it mildly) is knowing that it’s not just up to us. All life participates in this dance. Everything, everyone. We can participate in the life of Earth, in fact we must and to do so is innate in each of us because we are part of Earth, part of nature. We have what Thomas Berry calls biocellular knowing and are thus connected to all life, not just humans. This is essential, it is part of “human nature”. I believe becoming aware of this is where we’re at in the evolution of consciousness and it inspires me and helps me cope.

  110. The rage and urgency some people are uncomfortable with is not only used to physically dismantle the infrastructure of this system of power – In fact there isn’t much of that going on at all, it seems to me – but this rage, and urgency, which stems from a sense of self-preservation, is being focused into ALL KINDS of actions: healing the land and one another, educating oneself and sharing these with others, building community, being patient, and so on and so on.

    But AGAIN, what will you do if a group of psychopaths…oh sorry! :¬) if a group of people comes to your community that you have patiently, lovingly nurtured, and they take, and/or rape, and/or kill whatever and/or whoever they please…will you stand by? Or will you do what you can to stop them? This IS going on right now as I’m sure you all know, right?

    Dismantling civilization means to do ALL these things, that some of you have mentioned here.

    And in the words of Derrick this is what dismantling civilization is:

    “Depriving the rich of the ability to steal from the poor, and depriving the powerful of the ability to destroy the planet.”

    Again, in my view, this means to do ALL of those things that you’re already doing, including physically stopping a psychopath from raping you, your landbase, or your loved ones. Re-Learn to use that natural impulse of self-preservation, along with the rest of your true humanness.

    Feeling urgency and rage in an extremely dire situation as the one we are ALL in is a sign of sanity in my view.

    Being effective, I think, means, among many things, to be nurturing and loving when nurturing and loving is appropriate to the situation or problem, and to fight like hell when that is appropriate.
    AGAIN, different people have different natural inclinations. But I’m not about to tame the rage and urgency I’m feeling. I’m focusing it to apply my rage-enhanced energy in the most appropriate way that I can. Only death, or…hhmmm…civilization could tame it…if I let “it”. And I’m totally and enragingly against letting this culture do that to me again :¬)

    And yes, we are not saying the right thing, or acting in the best way all the time, but this IS a war that is being waged upon All Life, us humans included of course. And there is alot of pressure. If you don’t feel it, or at least acknowledge that fact, it’s probably because, like me, you’re still in a ‘perceived’or real privileged position, compared to the plant people for example to name just one of a trillion victims of this culture of rape.

    My pocket screening,

    Oh! And who gives a fuck whether we are still not numerous!!? Everyone feeling even the slightest sense of urgency should go ahead and follow his or her heart. And I know we are. And I also think and feel that this whole thing is picking up momentum. :¬)

  111. Misoko, only the years are going to show you this, but there is no psychopath in your house. God bless you, but you will find out that to survive whole in a world of very angry people, all clamoring for their point of view, is victory enough. I wish you peace with your younger self when that realization dawns. At the bottom of it all, we have to forgive ourselves.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation folks. Over and out.

  112. Misko–

    In my experience, anger can be focused and lead to righteous action. Rage mostly leads people to lash out at the nearest available target, usually someone weaker or more vulnerable, often a loved one. It’s literally the difference between life and death.

    When acting, it’s crucial not to be carried away by metaphors. Make sure you’re dealing with a real psychopath, and not a demon of your own imagining.

  113. Thanks Plowboy.

    I don’t agree with all you say either, but hey!

    So long!

  114. In my experience – even if very limited – Rick, I’ve come to transform hot rage into a cold, calculating (although not that good of a calculator, ha!) serene one, as much as this may sound contradictory.

  115. Ironically, I find that the New Age type comments on here make me want to go blow up a dam more than Jensen’s do.

  116. As in all movements, only a very few are actually willing to “do” anything. The rest will dream and wonder and look on, effectively being absolutely useless. But they will kid themselves that they are change, because they changed themselves into something that is totally non-confrontational.

    Meanwhile, the world will go on devouring people like this and the land they live on in gigantic voracious bites (which is exactly what it has been doing for decades now despite all of your movements). And these people will keep (stupidly) telling themselves, “we’ll still win” when clearly, you are not.

    You people are seriously deluded. Your fields of plenty are being stripped away and you invert your minds away from the truth. Your bodies are sitting absolutely useless while your sustenance and entire future is being taken away. And you go right on kidding yourselves that you’re somehow winning.

    Show me the proof. Show me the evidence. Document the facts. I’ll show you a million hectares of devastation, displaced millions and enslaved people who had once lived free for ten thousand years.

    You think this world is going to willingly give up is way of life? This Taker culture that says what’s mine is all mine, anyway I choose to take it? A very few will give it up (a very few have), the rest are kicking and screaming and devouring and insisting at gunpoint that they have a right to do as they damn well please, and if you’re in the way, dreaming your magical visions of fantasy, they will simply devour you, again and again and again.

    The world does not operate on your level. Deep down inside, you all actually know this, but your cowardice tells you to avoid the truth.

    Your all afraid and no, I do not need you, this commentary of mine is not meant to enlist you. To those that I have directed my commentary to, you are all unenlisted already and none of you are bright enough to realize this fact yet.

    The military (when they weren’t so damned desperate) didn’t take just anybody. Weak minds are ineffectual, weak bodies aren’t of any use either. The militant response that Jensen advocated doesn’t include the weak people, how could it?

    You are up against a force that is a million times more powerful then you are, even if all of you, every single one of you were put together. Millions upon millions of you could not actually change a damned thing, because you consistently seek to choose a path that refuses confrontation and weakness.

    This is all too obvious, but isn’t that exactly what you have been doing for the past decades, and why you have so consistently failed? Why don’t you at least acknowledge the truth?

    Even in large numbers, you are absolutely useless. I’m sorry to tell you all this, but it is so very, very true. You’ve lost far, far more ground then you have ever gained and you still believe that if just a few million more ‘join us’ in your weakness, you will finally succeed. This too is delusion and a lie.

    You are all free to go live your lives as best as you can, but many of you will be quick to declare ‘victory’ when any victory is made. But it won’t be your doing that did it, because you aren’t actually doing anything to stop this killer civilization. So don’t be their rejoicing that it was your doing when it wasn’t.

    Curelean — your comments are the type I’m talking about. Apparently for years you have rejected the awareness that you are losing ground. So are some really important others while you and other like you keep imagining it all to just go away.

    I respect tradition, ritual, spirit, sacrifice, but I also respect awareness, honesty, truth, fact, effort. They can indeed all coexist in the same being (and should). But all you deniers who defend your complicity to your guilt of inaction is still undeniable and totally indefensible.

    You clearly aren’t helping anybody, not even yourselves. You cannot, because you refuse the responsibility this requires.

    The real world does not recognize what you claim to “offer” (at all). You will find sympathetic minds among your own kind, but we are not dealing with your kind (in point of fact). We are dealing with voracious, rapacious and greedy people who will (and are) simply killing and devouring whosoever gets in their way. They do not respect your spirituality and your kind, gentle heart.

    This clearly is not a place where there are real activist. Of course not, they do not exist online. Those that think that they can find them here are also deluded. Even conversation ‘here’ is disjointed and nearly impossible, such is the way of our world today that makes it too dangerous, too difficult and too impersonal.

    To the rest, don’t fall for the rhetoric (on both sides of the fence). Look for what evidence there is. What exactly is being done?

    Is it more talk, talk, talk, while lands, lives, culture are destroyed? Who is doing what? Who is doing anything?

    What are you actually measuring here? The minds of the talkers who find solace in their peace steps, but lives in a world that degrades more and more every day? Or in the lives of the doers who are actually walking in the fire, taking the heat and if necessary, getting burned to put the damned thing out?

    Most of you don’t even know what try is. You’ve fallen for the line that you can retreat within, invert yourselves and take refuge in your minds and your imaginations. Good luck with that, you may find peace and you may even find tranquility and you will undoubtedly convince yourselves that this is sufficient, while the world burns to ashes around you. It’ll even get you eventually, and those like me, that shake our fists in your faces at your cowardice and denial and irresponsibility have a point — where the HELL were you when we needed you?

    I live in the real world that implodes and destroy a bit more each and everyday. That is the (real) world you are passing on. You’re definitely NOT helping and this is exactly why you are useless. You yourselves have become what most of us don’t much respect — Useless Eaters, Takers in your own right, doing nothing at all to put a stop to the insanity because you are afraid.

    You are afraid of the responsibility and what this means today. I’m sorry, but this is not my fault and it’s not your fault either, but it remains nonetheless. It “happened” as it were, and the responsibility was dumped into our laps and now it is up to us to accept it.

    Acceptance doesn’t mean we get to retreat into our fantasies and illusions. That is the cowardly way out and does nothing to change anything, ultimately not even for yourself.

    Acceptance means you must confront this in the real world, head-on. It’s not pretty, it’s not nice and it’s not pleasant, but we’re not dealing with pretty, nice or pleasant people. We’re dealing with the most destructive force on Earth.

    I’m sorry, but you get absolutely no sympathy from me. I recognize this fight for what it truly is, it is life and death, future or none at all. My refuge cannot be found in my mind as my body lies around doing nothing.

  117. Part 1:
    Practical actions. (Get court orders to) shut down railroads, shut down ports, shut down military operations, shut down financial districts, shut down the mainstream media, shut down extracting, processing, refining. (Have your rulers) undam the rivers and build spawning habitats, sabotage electrical towers and built bird nests, spike trees and plant trees, pull up land stakes and allow developed land to rewild. Learn about bioremediation.

    (Metaphorically) strike the electrical grid, gradually, just enough so that we lose faith in it while learning to produce our food locally and sustainably — permaculture, Fukuoka Farming, biointensive gardening, food foresting, indigenous land stewardship practices, foraging and scavenging and growing and restoring. Connect to still-living indigenous peoples and learn about sustainability; share skills, share insights, form public assemblies, private discussions, whatever it takes. Be passionate, be courageous, make it enjoyable and rewarding. Don’t burn out.

    (Figuratively) start with the most destructive power structures and target their infrastructure, their logistics, their management. Don’t ask, defy. Support the people who take these necessary actions, in public or in private. Build support networks. Build momentum. Build alternatives that do not rely upon inherently authoritarian and unsustainable processes. Foster a multiplicity of spiritual and social transformations. Diversify direct action. The Underground Railroad needed all sorts of different types of participation. Seek accomplices in your own individual, community, and bioregional liberation. Learn about your native bioregion. Find out what damages it and deactivate, disarm, disrupt, dismantle, destroy. No compromise in nuclear disarmament. Undo your programming, your domestication. Re-connect to people and wilderness.

    Why does a monoculture have more right to kill than an entire diverse web of life to live? Why does a hydroelectric dam have more right to kill than an entire river community to live? Why do earth-destroying machines have more right to kill than an entire forest community to live? Why do asphalt highways have more right to kill than entire wild ecosystems? Why does a government/corporation/church have more right to kill than entire (sustainable) cultures to live? Why is defending our planet from annihilation illegal? What does this tell us about the value system of this culture?

    Soils and rivers, prairies and deserts, forests and mountains, wetlands and tundra, oceans and skies — every day more toxification, more annihilation. And this culture kills and consumes every sustainable culture it meets. 100-200 species per day forced into extinction, countless indigenous peoples…We are under occupation. Defending ourselves, our communities, our homelands does not need to be debated, it needs to be done, and it needs to be supported. If we do not resist, the techniques, machineries and ideologies of this culture will force us into extinction.

  118. Part 2:
    Start at the top:
    Google will give you its own noose.
    * * *
    For Liberation From Abuse:
    1) Minimize and abolish the rituals of abuse
    2) Realize that trivial reforms will not solve this
    3) Choose the premises before the conclusions
    4) Actualize your desires
    5) Discard your abuser(‘s/s’) illusion of “progress”
    6) Question any authority, institution, faith, ideology, justification
    7) Do not equate coercion with consent, distrust your abuser(‘s/s’) deception
    8) Stay level-headed, stay dangerous, build momentum
    9) Resist, on your own terms, in your own way(s)
    10) Abandon faith in external salvation
    [inspired by Keith Farnish’ “Tools of Disconnection”]

    From the wilderness,
    another feral anarchist luddite

    P.S. Helpful starting points (all of these can be found online):

    [Disclaimer: None of these should be used for anything other than in accordance with the will of designated authorities in furtherance of project civilization.]

    “Recipes For Disaster” by CrimethInc
    “Security Culture – A Handbook For Activists”
    “Ozymandias Sabotage Handbook”
    “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching”
    “Electric Funeral: An In-Depth Examination of the Megamachine’s Circuitry”
    “US Army Explosives and Demolitions Manual”

  119. We all make a model of the world by filtering the information we take in with our senses through our ideas about the world. A lot of people who have posted in this thread seem to use the apocalypse model to decode their experiences. That isn’t what I see.

    Life on Earth thrives from pole to pole, from the peaks of the Himalayas to volcanic vents on the ocean floor. It has survived everything that the universe has thrown at it for 4 billion years, and it will thrive long, long after humans have gone extinct or evolved into something else. We are nowhere near capable of what someone in this thread called “omnicide.”

    I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of our problems, but as global ecological crises go, this one is dire, but nowhere near the worst Earth has suffered. The Permian-Triassic catastrophe killed 95 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of land species. Yet, life persisted, as it will through this. Are we damaging the environment? Yes. Could we behave more intelligently? Yes. But will we kill all life on the planet? Hardly.

    Some of the writers who have posted in ths thread have decided that they need to “take action” to “save the planet,” by which they mean destroy things (and cause, directly or indirectly, many, many deaths). I would humbly ask you to consider another path. Don’t destroy, create. Don’t serve death, serve life.

    I don’t think that the “Taker” culture mentioned in this thread is nearly as powerful as some other writers here seem to. I don’t think we who oppose it are nearly as powerless as they seem to think either. Intelligence, creativity, and love seem to me much more likely to bring about positive futures than violence and destruction will. Instead of following the previous poster’s advice and educating yourself on how to blow up things and hurt people, educate yourself in math and science. I think the planet and its life forms will be much better served by intelligent, compassionate people using their creativity to create non-polluting sources of energy and eliminating hunger, disease, and poverty than they will by destructive people using explosives and guns.

    Jensen loves to tell people to talk to land and rivers. If that’s your bliss, great. I’d humbly ask you to look into your own mind. Ask yourself what kind of a future you want, and what actions will be most likely to bring that future about. If you want, as Jensen and some of the posters in this thread do, to destroy “civilization,” kill off 5 billion people or so, and have whatever survivors are left live out all eternity as stone-age hunter/gatherers, then follow their advice. If you want a future of peace and prosperity in which billions of people don’t have to die and which uses intelligent technology to both solve humanity’s problems and begin the renewal of the planetary ecosystem, please consider my path instead.

  120. You have to engage and practice non-violence, love and the powers of the imagination to make them work. And know their possiblities, know their histories, know their use around the world – but especially entertain their visions.

    George Lakey went around the country debating Ward Churchill on this. Check out this article.

  121. Commenter 43 said: “His vision has made him a radical activist. His reasoning is unassailable; it is his premises we cannot accept.”

    Unfortunately, his vision is limited, his reasoning questionable, and some of his premises are incorrect.

    Commenter 53, like Jensen, has “little respect for those who say that [destructive direct actions] are wrong. What’s the alternative?” And then suggests that the only alternative is to be passive in the face of atrocities.

    Yes, civilization itself is the problem, and because it is not sustainable it will be (and is) self-destructive. Even passivity will bring about Jensen’s vision of a global collapse, just not as quickly as he might like.

    But the problem with his premises is in the narrowness of vision which perceives only two alternatives: accelerating the collapse through deliberate sabotage (and possibly violence against people), or passivity (which Jensen confuses with pacifism).

    Even the world’s greatest proponent of non-violent direct action, Mahatma Gandhi, said that if the only options one can perceive are passivity or violence then choose violence. But he (and all the best revolutionary strategists in history) also understood that there are always more than those two diametrically-opposed alternatives.

    Where Jensen and I agree is that revolutionary action is needed, but sabotage and violence is as self-limiting and self-destructive as the status quo we would like to change. Historically, the most effective revolutionary movements have been non-violent ones (and we Americans are ignorant of most of that history, including very recent history). Yet none of those revolutions were revolutionary enough.

    If we were to truly listen to the Earth, we would not only feel it’s pain but also experience the holograhic inseparability of each of us with the fabric of life. Not only each action, but each thought sends ripples throughout the ecosphere.

    Responsible and effective action requires profoundly strategic thinking – a willingness to understand the effects of those ripples. Destructive action is not strategic action – it is guaranteed to fail, just as our civilization is guaranteed to fail.

    What we need to destroy is within us. We need to lovingly release the paradigms, perspectives, and modes of being that have brought us to this point (because whatever we fight we make stronger), and we need to metamorphose those (like the caterpillar) into new wings and an entirely new mode of being – into a new creature that can live in harmony with the Web-of-Life.

    This is not New Age fluff. This is ancient Vision Quest work – the most difficult work we can undertake. We need to “go to the mountain”, listen to the Earth, and return with a new Vision and a new name to take our place in the Community of Life, leaving our adolescent nihilism behind.

  122. Y’all still at it, huh? Good for you.

    I found myself mulling this over in my mind over the weekend and asked myself what reply I would make directly to Mr. Jensen, if I had the opportunity, and then it dawned on me (hello) that this is what I can, and should, do.

    Dear Mr. Jensen:

    You and I do not differ on one thing fundamental to this discussion. I agree that a revolution of one kind or another is long overdue. Your revolution takes the form (as far as I can tell) of armed and violent insurrection and sabotage. If this is incorrect, please contradict me and I’ll move on. If it is correct, here’s a point I would like to make to you in return:

    The revolution won’t be catered, either.

    What I mean by this is that the life of an eco-sapper is all good clean fun, but it is also very hungry work. Right now we are entering the blind tunnel of food scarcity and that reality is building up momentum, as far as I can tell. We’ve got to deal with the issue of NG feed stock depletion and what it means to nitrate inputs to agriculture, as well as how we are going to accomplish the work with less petro fuel in general. Our soils are in the critical stages of compaction and bio-desertification. Most basically, we’ve got to figure out how a decentralized food supply chain can be made and sustained. To put it bluntly, we’ve got much bigger and more pressing matters than those you raise. You want a bonus though? Food insecurity creates eco-devastation wherever you find it. Prevent or even mitigate that, and you’re really on to something.

    But hoeing a garden just ain’t as sexy as detonating a tank farm, is it? It just ain’t the same kick, you know? Yeah, I hear you, but there is a larger responsibility here, and frankly, it is just not as much fun as hiding in the woods and blowing up crap. Sad to relate, for sure.

    Obviously, many of your acolytes are enamored with you and you stand as an heroic figure to them. Frankly (and you’ll have to forgive me for this if possible) your message is rather juvenile. I know this because it is not a new one, and you’re old enough to remember too when it had a wider currency. Since then, I’ve gotten new heroes.

    One of which is a frequent contributor to this publication, one of the foremost thinkers on agrarian policy in this century and the last: Wendell Berry. Mr. Berry can ably speak for himself, but if I had to distill it down for you, it would be this: Ask yourself what is possible, here.

    Yep, it is trite to say, but growing even some of your own food is a revolutionary act….and as profound a one as a human can perpetrate. I’d recommend that you look into it.

  123. Here’s the first couple of bits from George Lakey’s article, which I am sure he wouldn’t mind being shared here but which can be found in full here:

    Nonviolent Action as the Sword that Heals
    Challenging Ward Churchill’s “Pacifism As Pathology”
    By George Lakey


    Translated versions available on-line:

    in Italian [La spada che guarisce: una difesa della nonviolenza attiva] and
    in Spanish [La no-violencia como “espada sanadora”] and
    in Portugese [A Espada Que Cura]

    Ward Churchill’s book “Pacifism as Pathology” has become an important reference point for many of the “new activists” who have made headlines in the “battle of Seattle,” in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Prague and other confrontations with economic and social injustice. Ward Churchill is an activist with the American Indian Movement and other groups, a prolific writer, and a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado.

    While hanging out with the new activists I decided to write a response to Churchill’s book, and was spurred on by the chance to participate in a public debate with him in Boulder in February,01. We had a good and spirited interchange; audience members remarked on the value of seeing two older activists with real differences talk with each other as allies alert for the emergence of common ground.

    Ward and I are both looking for sources of power that are strong enough to cut away the chains of injustice and oppression, and at the same time support the healing of this scarred planet Earth and its trampled people. Martin Luther King believed that nonviolent action is that “sword that heals,” so I’ve taken the title of this essay from King’s writing. I’ll start out with some points of agreement between Ward and me, and then go on to challenge some of the points Ward makes in his book.

    Where can I agree with Ward Churchill?

    We agree that the world has massive injustice, exploitation, and is in a dead-end course in relation to the needs of the planet. We’ve personally experienced the oppression of being brought up working class; his being indigenous and my being gay has brought us still more of the harshness and pain of oppression. We have no illusions about capitalism, about top-down authoritarian structures, or the murderous U.S. Empire.


    More at

  124. cerulean,

    Lakey’s article is an excellent counterpoint to the fundamental misunderstanding of revolutionary non-violence that Churchill, Jensen and others articulate.

    Offering a link to the article was appropriate. Copying the entire text to this comment forum is entirely inappropriate. It should be removed.

  125. I thought George would find it entirely APPROPRIATE so I asked him. If he has problems with it, I will remove it. Or if someone else has problems on this list.

    BTW, please educate me as to why you feel it’s inappropriate?

  126. I copied the entire article because I thought folks might not feel like linking to it – and everything in it seems so appropriate to this discussion. I didn’t want to try to summarize it or quote from it. Maybe I was being lazy, but everything Lakey was saying seemed so right-on, I didn’t want to cut a word.

    But if the moderators want to remove it, go ahead. I don’t mind. I don’t have any attachment to it being here or not.

    There were so many lengthy, casual and thoughtless remarks on violence that I thought we needed some rich, thoughtful depth added to this aspect of the discussion. Lakey has given a lot of thought to these matters for years.

  127. My response to you, cerulean, which was accidentally (?) deleted by the moderator was:

    “I copied the entire article because I thought folks might not feel like linking to it…”

    In other words, you didn’t have the trust in, or respect for, the choices of others that you decided to impose an entire lengthy article by another author on a forum designed for reader’s comments.

    I hope that Lakey would consider that antithetical to revolutionary non-violence. It’s also poor strategy, since it’s more likely to turn people away from an already lengthy discussion.

  128. Back to the discussion…

    Here are some specific examples of Jensen’s faulty reasoning:

    “If someone were rampaging through your home, killing those you love one by one…the question I’d be asking is this: how do I disarm or dispatch these psychopaths? How do I stop them using any means necessary?”

    While I may side with Jensen’s cultural analysis, it is certain that to the defenders of mainstream culture anyone who advocates destructive or violent sabotage is a dangerous sociopath if not a psychopath who should be stopped “by any means necessary”. Thus that person rampaging through his home with murderous intent has exactly the same rationale as Jensen: to stop a mortal threat “by any means necessary”.

    This is the fundamental problem with any violent strategy – it mimics and reinforces the very belief system that we oppose. And, strategically, it only escalates the repressive and violent response.

    “Those who come after, who inherit whatever’s left of the world…are not going to care how you or I lived our lives.”

    In fact, they will care deeply. Because humanity cannot create a new, sustainable culture ex nihilo, the survivors will build a new society based on both the positive and negative examples of those who came before. Some things they will eschew as destructive (such as consumerism, war and violent revolution), and some things they will adopt and modify. Occasionally a spark of creativity will offer a previously-unconsidered option or allow old models to be perceived in a new light.

    “We can fantasize all we want about some great turning, and if the people (including the nonhuman people) can’t breathe, it doesn’t matter…Nothing matters but that we stop this culture from killing the planet.”

    As another has pointed out, we humans – as arrogant as we are – simply do not have the capacity to kill planet Earth, though we are doing a remarkable job in narrowing the diversity of life. And, though we will create much collateral damage, the only species we are certain to drive to extinction is homo sapiens. Perhaps Jensen is being dramatically metaphoric.

    But what he fails to appreciate (or, I suspect, even understand) is that the most powerful creative force in the human realm is imagination. Nothing is created until it is imagined, and almost everything imagined becomes manifest in the world (this is the responsive, reciprocal nature of the Universe). I’m not suggesting merely “visualizing world peace”, but imagining it and then devoting your life to it.

    The Great Turning that Joanna Macy and David Korten speak of is not “fantasy”, but rather a highly perceptive description of the very same cultural malaise that has Jensen so deeply concerned – AS WELL AS (this is where Jensen fails) a clearly-painted vision of the Earth Community that is already in-formation. Paul Hawken, in his seminal book Blessed Unrest, also describes the many facets of this new world a-borning.

    Macy discusses the “three dimensions” of the Great Turning:
    1. Actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings
    2. Analysis of structural causes and the creation of structural alternatives
    3. Shift in Consciousness

    Jensen’s article (and, I believe, much of his work) focuses on 1 and half of 2, while dismissing 3.

    Macy concludes: “The realizations we make in the third dimension of the Great Turning save us from succumbing to either panic or paralysis. They help us resist the temptation to stick our heads in the sand, or to turn on each other, for scapegoats on whom to vent our fear and rage.”

  129. In response to #130’s comments, I trusted and respected the choices of others. I was thinking that sometimes I don’t link to an article if someone hasn’t given me enough reason to – and I didn’t feel I did that for those here.

    Like I said, I think I was being lazy. I should have summarized it or quoted from it and then given the link. I thought about this after posting the link but impetuously decided I wouldn’t do it justice with a summary and posted it in it’s entirety.

    I didn’t think of it as an imposition. I clearly state what it is at the beginning. Someone can easily skip it. As a reader on here, I felt what Lakey wrote perfectly states many things I’d like to say.

    As to what I did being antithetical to revolutionary non-violence?…as to it being poor strategy? hmmm, all I feel like saying is that I seem to hear anger in those words I don’t understand.

  130. Part I

    I am going to repeat some things from other posts but oh, well.

    I have had enough of Jensen’s exploitation of my sense of urgency and desperation. I feel he is a very unhealthy, traumatized, tired human who has good intentions but is only leading to reactionary responses that are not well thought out. It leads to more anger and depression and burnout. I recommend reading Chellis Glendinning’s “My Name is Chellis and I Am in Recovery From Western Civilization.” Her analysis, while somewhat similar to Jensen, takes things much further and opens the door for some real healing possibility in her analysis of the traumatized psyche and a healthy one… and real freeing up of energy for change.

    Jensen has locked himself into a cycle of re-traumatizing himself, and I think that is where he unconsciously leads others – along with using rage to empower himself. He has sounded the same – enraged – for years. I understand this. I have and still do feel this way – often. But it doesn’t feed my imagination and ability to respond to the crisis he and I both already know we face, that we both know is dire. It doesn’t help me with the dire need to heal my own trauma so I can think well hand in hand with others about the trauma the entire planet is facing. He has disagreed with Audre Lorde for years – the best radical black lesbian thinker of our time who wrote the best article you could ever read – “The Uses of the Erotic” in a collection called Sister Outsiders.

    Why does he always pick on a dead woman and one of feminism’s best thinkers? Because he lacks the imagination to imagine using any other tools other than the masters, due to his overriding anger he indulges in constantly that stokes his urgency and desperation. If we work on our healing and look into the furthest reaches of our imaginations for the wildest dreams of change we can find, maybe we will find something new and unimagined, even impossible as the Surrealists say.

    Radical anarchist/surrealists like Ron Sakolsky who wrote the recent book “Creative Anarchy” is a great place for empowerment. Jensen hasn’t thought a new thought in years because he is stuck and needs healing badly. He repeats constantly. He is stuck in a dangerous bitterness and resentment and blocks criticism as “horizontal anger” – I know. I offered a vision of optimism to him once that he totally bashed. It’s tragic and sad that he hasn’t been able to break through to some new ideas. But again, I think he is stuck in old rage. I think his health is failing him because of it too. I understand. I may have problems resulting from the same thing. But I do not want to lead others down this path, or Jensen’s, anymore. We all need healing if we have suffered being ripped from the earth and forced to live in the human-created nightmare machine world – and at this point, who hasn’t?

    Here is what one author, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, says about rage. She is writing about women but you can see its universality. She may talk of rage in the past, but make no mistake, that is the unhealed trauma getting in all our ways – and Jensen’s. The stuff that makes us angry in the present would be far better thought about otherwise, and the need to heal present anger better understood.:

    Stuck in Old Rage

    “If and when rage becomes a dam to creative thought and action, then it must be softened or changed. For those who have spent considerable time working through trauma, whether it was caused by someone’s cruelty, neglect, lack of respect, recklessness, arrogance, ignorance, or even fate, there comes a time to forgive in order to release the psyche to return to a normal state of calm and peace.”

    “When a woman has trouble letting go of anger or rage, it’s often because she’s using rage to empower herself. While that may have been wisdom at the beginning, now she must be careful, for ongoing rage is a fire that burns her own primary energy. To be in this state is like speeding through life “pedal to the metal”; trying to live a balanced life with the accelerator pressed all the way to the floor.

    “Neither is the fieriness of rage to be mistaken as a substitute for a passionate life. It is not life at its best; it is a defense that, once the time of needing it for protection is past, costs plenty to keep. After a time it burns interminably hot, pollutes our ideas with its black smoke, and occludes other ways of seeing and apprehending.

    “Now I’m not going to tell you a big, fat lie and say you can cleanse all your rage today or next week and it will be gone forever. The angst and torment of times past rise up in the psyche on a cyclical basis. Although a deep purging discharges most of the archaic hurt and rage, the residue can never completely be swept clear. But it should leave a very light ash, not a hungry fire. So the clearing of residual rage must become a periodic hygienic ritual, one that releases us, for to carry old rage beyond the point of its usefulness is to carry a constant, if unconscious, anxiety.

    “Sometimes people become confused and think that to be stuck in an outdaged rage means to fuss and to fume and to act out and toss and throw things. It does not mean that in most cases. It means to be tired all the time, to carry a thick layer of cynicism, to dash the hopeful the tender, the promising. It means to be afraid you will lose before you open your mouth. It means to reach flashpoint inside whether you show it on the outside or not. It means bilious entrenched silences. It means feeling helpless. But there is a way out, and it is through forgiveness.”

    ——end of passage

  131. Part II:

    I could quote Clarissa Pinkola Estes further but that last paragraph is so Jensen, so me, so many of us…tired, cynical, dashing the tender, the hopeful, the promising. He lets no one criticize him for fear he will lose before he opens his mouth. I do the same. He has reached flashpoint – the point at which you burst. I have felt it myself. This kind of fed fire kills the self. There are other ways to sustain your energy for change – dare I suggest radical realness?

    I encourage all of you who have read his words and books to understand that I think he has written much that is worthwhile, especially if we wanted to understand how trauma affects the psyche – you can see his unhealed trauma in all his writing – his anger, his rage, his projections….and I think that is like watching a stick of dynamite about to explode and it makes me feel sad for him and all of us.

    If we want to be walking landmines, then don’t think any further about what I am suggesting. But if you’d like a place free of mines to walk and dance and live and respond well to the myriad catastrophes impinging upon us and everything, think twice about what and how he is saying what he is saying. There are ways to be inspired/empowered and then there are ways to be inspired/empowered….Maybe you have some ideas…or responses? It’s time for something really radical in this culture other than stoking anger…the old patriarchal standard. Let’s stoke some erotic responses. Read Audre Lorde’s article…read it, really…and then read Jensen…and I think you might see what I am getting at…..If Audre Lorde can encourage the erotic and its power as our vehicle of change with everything she’d suffered and seen, I think the girl was on to something big….Jensen might want to stop dismissing her. I think he obviously has missed her points…..

    One point that is very important, probably the most important, that I left out is that Jensen furthers a “war” mentality with his words – and therefore abusive righteous abuse on a massive scale. He may act like Mr. Nice Guy but really listen to what he is saying. He is preying upon our deep concerns and putting us on the defensive to get us to flare up in rebellion, not creative action. This would result more in the opposite of what he wants and he can’t even see that.

    Fortunately, most of us are so tired of being at war with one another or this entity or that; we are not moved for long by his war cry, even in defense of the earth – because we are tired of war. It wears us down and defeats us. It drains us. It is a tool of the death culture he so likes to criticize. It is the ultimate weapon of the “master.” We need new inspiration that moves us toward a radical love of the planet and ourselves – and a willingness to withdraw our population’s numbers and give back the land to the land.

    Most of us are knee deep in unrecognized trauma and the need to process so many feelings; most of us are in drastic need of freeing our own sense of agency….Jensen is offering people agency through anger but it doesn’t last. Negative reasons to act never do. Positive ones last way longer and feed the heart and our whole being.

    Most people i know would love to engage together in ways that disarm the energy of war between all of us and free up the joy possible in connecting, instead of repeating the time-worn habits of disconnecting and violating each other in every other sentence. Most would like to find together a new way of being together on this planet. Most people are very afraid and are feeling as if their imaginations have atrophied. Most of us, including me, are using the old habit-mode which is a war-mode – the mode that Jensen exemplifies. Jensen damages his own cause with his simplification of many very complex things that he likes to act like he’s an expert on (after reading one or two of the same books on the subject over and over) like mass denial, abuse, and violence but yet he furthers all three with his words…words that completely and utterly reflect the language of war. He even declares this as a war and is trying to recruit people to his side. But no matter how well intentioned his crusade is, I do not want war. I do not want war any more. I will not show up for his or anyone else’s war.

    The earth is not screaming in my ear for war. It is screaming for love.

    I’ve read a book that I think is critical for all of us to read (and put into practice) if we are serious about wanting to love the earth and examine how we are furthering war upon it and ourselves, seeing it and each other as enemies – Don’t Be So Defensive – see info below – I metioned it earlier. We will never work together toward healing with the Jensen’s of the world still dividing us. Jensen will tell you he doesn’t care about ideas such as mine – that all this is white middle class bullshit because he doesn’t want to do the hard work of really digging deep into the complexity of our situation and examine his own language (talk about really practicing a “language older than words” – because he is angry and is not coming from a place of love.) Many people who are deeply angry people can come off as benign and happy. I am one.

    He is coming from a place he likes to think of as the righteous rage of the earth defending itself…and our supposed lack of response. This is the very thing that most of us who grew up in abusive families had to put up with – a guy justifying his own abuse in the name of loving you, even getting angry if you call it that, name it. He most embodies what he most criticizes. His words act as a paralysis – not wake up call. His hatred is there…you can feel it…it’s almost palpable…he’s like a right-wing fundamentalist preacher…he uses the same style but for a different cause – but his methods are what affect the results – the means equal the outcome…He uses the language of war and righteousness continuously … this is what he furthers that I most am concerned about.

    But I think we can disarm ourselves….if we are willing to try….but for Jensen,…he has spoken so long in such a war-mongering manner (he can’t stand the peace movement – read his writing…) that even if he were to see that he might be stoking the further destruction of the planet, instead of the opposite he so desires, he probably wouldn’t admit it….he’s entrenched in ten books of this way of communicating….of attacking the very people who most care about healing, who most care about thinking about this shit…and he romanticizes the shit out of modern indigenous people….and the earth…

    Please check out the book below – it’s a goldmine on how we can all take the war out of our words:
    Don’t Be So Defensive : Taking the War Out of Our Words With Powerful Non-Defensive Communication by Sharon Alison

    Here’s a little blurb on it….

    “With remarkable clarity, Sharon demonstrates how our verbal communication has, for centuries, been based on a “war model.” Thus we become defensive easily whether we want simply to protect ourselves, or to work toward social change. We cause needless power struggles and pain, even with those we love most. Sharon describes our six common defensive modes and how we communicate in manipulative and controlling ways, even when we have the best of intentions. In the remaining two-thirds of the book, she describes a method of listening and speaking which can give each of us clarity, confidence and power, regardless of whether others cooperate or not. It is a disarming, freeing, and contagious process, which can transform our individual lives and be a potent tool for social change.”

    Jensen’s been saying he’s happy for years – even in his writing. He can be very personable. He’s quite the Dr. Jekll/Mr.Hyde. I have had a taste of both and understand it. I can be accused of it also. He thinks it’s a waste of time to talk to people who don’t think exactly like him. He also thinks you are hostile & abusive for disagreeing with him. He’s got a real chip on his shoulder but then he’s treated like a guru most of the time who thinks he’s got a special relationship with indigenous people & the earth. He sees himself as their mother bear and they his cub — and is not going to take time to think while someone has a gun pointed to their head. That analogy might work if it didn’t oversimplify a very complex problem. A more appropriate analogy is we are all mother bears, we are all cubs, we are all men with guns in our hands…it is that complex…and then, how do we respond?

  132. #134 says: “Neither is the fieriness of rage to be mistaken as a substitute for a passionate life.”

    Here is an ancient tale which defines the difference:

    (scriptural source: the Kalachakra Tantra, 8th century AD)

    “Tell me, Choegyal Rinpoche, about the coming of the Kingdom of Shambhala.”

    “There comes a time when all life on Earth is in danger. Barbarian powers have arisen. Although they waste their wealth in preparations to annihilate each other, they have much in common: weapons of unfathomable devastation and technologies that lay waste the world. It is now, when the future of all beings hangs by the frailest of threads, that the kingdom of Shambhala emerges.

    “You cannot go there, for it is not a place. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala warriors. But you cannot recognize a Shambhala warrior by sight, for there is no uniform or insignia, there are no banners. And there are no barricades from which to threaten the enemy, for the Shambhala warriors have no land of their own. Always they move on the terrain of the barbarians themselves.

    “Now comes the time when great courage is required of the Shambhala warriors, moral and physical courage. For they must go into the very heart of the barbarian power and dismantle the weapons. To remove these weapons, in every sense of the word, they must go into the corridors of power where the decisions are made.

    “The Shambhala warriors know they can do this because the weapons are manomaya, mind-made. This is very important to remember. These weapons are made by the human mind. So they can be unmade by the human mind! The Shambhala warriors know that the dangers that threaten life on Earth do not come from evil deities or extraterrestrial powers. They arise from our own choices and relationships. So, now, the Shambhala warriors must go into training.

    “How do they train?” I asked.

    “They train in the use of two weapons.” That is the word he used – weapons.

    “What are they?” I asked. And he held up his hands the way the lamas hold the ritual objects of dorje and bell, as they dance.

    “The weapons are compassion and insight. Both are necessary. We need this first one,” he said, lifting his right hand, “because it provides us the fuel, it moves us out to act on behalf of other beings. But by itself it can burn us out. So we need the second as well, which is insight into the dependent co-arising of all things. It lets us see that the battle is not between good people and bad people, for the line between good and evil runs through every human heart. We realize that we are interconnected, as in a web, and that each act with pure motivation affects the entire web, bringing consequences we cannot measure or even see.

    “But insight alone,” he said, “can seem too cool to keep us going. So we need as well the heat of compassion, our openness to the world’s pain. Both weapons or tools are necessary to the Shambhala warrior.”

    – from Joanna Macy’s memoir Widening Circles

  133. When you’re talking about something as profound as the human destruction of the Earth (or rather our ability to live on the Earth), I think it’s a bit premature for readers to immediately demand of the author, “what about solutions?” People need to grieve–and reading a single article that both catalogs the list of humanity’s degradations AND list the causes requires a bit of reflection and grieving.

    Going immediately to solutions reminds me of a persistent yet naive insistence on hope. But not all of believe in hope (some of us want action, agency, change.

    “He that lives on hope will die fasting.” – North American proverb

    “Hope is the mother of the stupid.” – Polish proverb

  134. Jim Powell says: “not all of believe in hope (some of us want action, agency, change.”

    Jim–putting aside hope, do you care what kind of action or change occurs–or will any sort do? Do you “believe” in acting with purpose, or is purpose (forethought) just a distraction?

    Just curious.

  135. Of course the purpose of an action is important. An action has to be thought out and intended to achieve a goal that serves the strategy.

    So, signing a petition or buying a Prius is an example of purposeless actions–they may feel good, but they do not achieve anything. The rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions does not go down because I drive a Prius. A petition never changes anyone’s mind (but often is considered an “achievement” for an environmental groups).

    Of course, doing these things are fine because you have to do something, but thinking the world is getting better because you are doing them is naive. And because you do these things, instead of doing something that serves your larger goal, you actually become complacent–“I did my part.”

    I still think that we tend not to grieve at all, or do it briefly and then move on. But grief should lead to a desire to dramatically change things, and individual making individual lifestyle choices doe not amount to change.
    Societal change always come down to power, control, organizing people and/or money. Good societal changes also involve decentralization and an increase in autonomy.

  136. Jim–

    thanks for your response; it helps me understand what you think action is.

    I agree that signing petitions is not enough. What is?

    Can you provide an example of an action I could take that would advance the purpose of reducing the rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions?

  137. #138 ignores the salient point that grief improperly resolved can lead to action based on anger or a sense of desperation. Such action is never strategic action, and almost always counter-productive.

    Grief that resolves itself in a vision of a positive future (not impotent hope) is what fuels the long effort necessary for real change.

    And real change is never centered in institutions of power, but always in individual hearts and minds, reflected in individual choices, coupled with local community organizing that manifests a balance between personal autonomy and the common good.

    Remember, southern Christian theocratic whites want decentralization (local control) and personal autonomy – but that alone does not make for “good societal changes”.

    The greatest cultural poison of Western society is the idolatry of the individual. We demonize socialist nations because of the perceived threat to individual autonomy. It’s time we rein in that monster by emphasizing the commonwealth.

    If we cannot feel and live our responsibility to other people with whom we share our communities, then how are we going to feel a responsibility to the wider web of life? All real change starts at home.

  138. (I wanted to give the correct title to a book I mentioned incorrectly in a prior post. Ron Sakolsky’s book is titled “Creating Anarchy.”)

    Thanks Robert Riversong for quoting Joanna’s THE SHAMBHALA PROPHECY. My trainings with Joanna, and my friendship with her (along with reading her books), are what have kept me alive through the severe disturbance of my psyche as I awakened, witnessed and attempted to respond well to the myriad horrors of what was happening to everyone and everthing I loved all these years. I’d call her on the phone from the depths of despair, and she’d tell me to get my butt to a training. Well, Joanna would never say “get your butt to a training” but nonetheless, she would encourage me to raise the funds and get to the next training.

    At one training, I rememember someone asking John Seed if he got tired of doing so many Council of All Beings, so much mourning. He said he felt that he could use one every weekend of his life. I feel the same. There’s so much to grieve, to allow to sift through me and change and transform me – and return myself to the well of magnificent love inside my being that I have discovered is why I am such a sensitive being. I have discovered that’s not a liability but the only thing that really matters.

    Although you might not feel a kindred spirit, I feel one of you.

    Again, I apologize for being lazy about Lakey’s article. By the way, I, respecting your feelings, asked the moderator to remove the article, since I didn’t feel it was right to keep it with your strong feelings about its presence. And I felt you were right in some ways. You can see he shortened it.

    Thanks for your contributions. They really help me. You have no idea how grateful I am to have support like yours (not that you might see it that way) in my feelings about acting from anger. I have felt very alone amongst my friends who seem to feel that acting out of it is appropriate. All I have seen that result in is more pain and anguish. I have acted out of it enough in my life and am busy figuring out how to stop. Each time I redirect my angry energy with compassion and insight, I feel elated, like I have done one more seemingly little, but truly gigantic action for the planet.

    Thank you. Thank you. You have helped me recenter.

  139. Re: #140

    I agree with you, Robert, especially the part about idolatry of the individual.

    However, the autonomy I’m talking about isn’t individualism, it’s the ability for the individual to act for herself.

    Acting for the commonwealth is the goal, but who can actually act to improve the whole of the planet or the US? I simply don’t know anyone who can. Decentralization isn’t just for theocrats, it’s for everyone. Autonomy acknowledge that there there are many ways of being fully human, and one group can’t force it’s way on another (control, centralization).

    I’m not a grand strategist, so I don’t have “the plan”–but I do believe that decentralization and autonomy (not selfishness)head us in the right direction.

    Also, anger is essential (which is what seems to get many people upset at Derrick Jensen). When people are angry and do not feel that they are heard (e.g., “So what’s your solution?” instead of “Yes, the world certainly is being destroyed; how can we keep doing this?”), they have a hard time towards forging that anger into something goal-oriented. But anger is something that you need to start with.

    And lastly, in response to “all real change starts at home”: of course something in our own lives changes us and wants us to make the world better. But the change that will make the world better is going to be external to my own ego –people’s actions in the world. Meditation, for example, is great tool for the self, but that self still needs to engage other selves in the real world where nasty things occur.

    Nowadays, corporations love people who recycle, buy wind power, buy “sustainable” products, “go green,” etc.–because those corporations still get to extract materials from the Earth, move them around the globe and make money (in other words, the things destroying the Earth do not change).

    Enough from me, though. Others? And thanks for responding, Robert and Rick.

  140. Derrick made me a fan with his “Beyond Hope” article (May/June 2006)–and I really wish that piece had been republished during the hope-change election propaganda.

    I’ve often wondered why I have rarely if ever been able to articulate a response to such questions when asked and Derrick just showed me why I always had that glitch; people are asking the wrong question.

    Ironically I’m more positive, dare I say “hopeful” than ever now that Derick’s sage razor insights will be a regular Orion feature from now on. I’m so tired of people not getting it. The Empire falls or we do. It’s not possible to hope for change or to wait for it from the owning-class down. We at the bottom have to make the change (away from Empire) happen by whatever means necessary.

  141. #142 said: “anger is essential…anger is something that you need to start with.”

    I have to continue to challenge this. Anger can give energy to action, but it is neither essential nor constructive as a “fuel” for revolutionary action.

    Anger is always directed at an object – the blame is always externalized toward an “enemy”. (It can also be self-directed, and self-destructive). Anger might get the adrenaline flowing (which is self-limiting and not sustainable), but it tightens the throat and narrows perception. It closes us off from both understanding that we are as much part of the problem as anyone “out there” and from the possibility of embracing a broader vision and long-term constructive strategy.

    Grief, not anger, is a good place to start. But if the grief morphs into anger, it consumes the self and always undermines the outcome.

    If the fires of grief are allowed to be transformed by the cooling waters of compassion, moderated by the correct use of the analytical mind and grounded in the spiritual realization of Oneness, then it becomes the weapon of the Warrior – the one who acts without ego to serve a higher Master.

  142. #143 repeats Jensen’s dictate: “We…have to make the change…happen by whatever means necessary.”

    As soon as one opens the door to “any means necessary”, one has crossed the line to the Dark Side.

    Those who have crossed that line (out of the best intentions and the highest dictates of conscience) include Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Scott Roeder, the “pro-life” killer of Dr. George Tiller.

    Once you open that Pandora’s Box, you cannot close the lid.

  143. Life is the expression of energy. Emotions like anger hijack life energy and use it for its own destructive purposes. When we deny anger we also cut off the life energy that underlies it and we end up weak and depressed. If we can quickly identify anger as it arises and identify its source and message, then we can let go of it and have access to the energy that was beneath it. We can then use this energy to act vigorously and creatively to solve the problem. When I have expressed direct anger it has never solved a problem, only compounded it. We gain a sense of identity from our expression of anger because it�s easy, the anger is right there, available to us all the time. It�s much harder to develop the self-discipline to catch one�s anger in its formation and utilize it for the good of one�s higher self and for life. I think Jensen is afraid to go any deeper because it would challenge the identity he has gained from his expression of anger. That is how he makes his living and gets his props. We cannot demand the world to change if we are not prepared to change. I could say more, but it�s better to keep it short.

  144. #146 believes: “This root cause is in the very way we view what it means to be human. To many of you, being human means to be a virus and a cancer…Nowhere in these views is there a sense of…the fullness and nobility in being human…”

    I think we would all agree (including Jensen) that the root cause of our cultural dysfunction is our self-appraisal as humans. But this comment misses the point. The problem is that we DO view ourselves as good and noble – more so than any other creature.

    And it is this inflated perception of our self-worth that turns us inevitably into a cancer or virus or parasite on the earth.

    Does the lion consider itself “noble”, or merely a part of the landscape. An antelope will graze near a resting lion, because another part of the landscape need not be feared. But all creatures fear humans, since we have elevated ourselves above them.

    The radical solution is not to reclaim some mythical “nobility” but to get off our pedestal and return to the field of life. The top of the food pyramid is the least important position in the web-of-life. When we remember that, we might find the necessary humility to serve the foundation that holds us up.

  145. A useful rant but somewhat undirected. We govern ourselves with representatives but they appear to have been bought out. We are angry with the “Ancien Régime” and we are right to be so. It is indeed stupid to be deflected into concentrating on lifestyle issues and single issues. However, it is necessary to have consistency between our personal and our political actions.
    All we need to do is go after policies as well as personal practices. And I’m not averse to some civil disobedience in company with non-violent allies.

  146. In his The Rediscovery of North America, Barry Lopez writes:

    I am aware that these words, or words like them, have historically invoked revolution. But I ask myself, where is the man or woman, standing before lifeless porpoises strangled in a beach cast driftnet, or standing on farmland ankle deep in soil gone to flower dust, or flying over the Cascade Mountains and seeing the clear cuts stretching for forty miles, the sun baked earth, the streams running with mud, who does not want to say, “Forgive me thou bleeding earth, that I am so gentle with these butchers.”?

    I must express some disappointment after having read the Derrick Jenson article. I know him to be a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners kind of guy. His “go ask the land” response to the impending global disasters we face, rings a little too shallow and disturbingly aerie-fairy. After all, as the song tells us, the land and “Ol’ man river he don’t say nuttin’. He just keep rollin’ along.”

    His essay left me with two equally depressing prospects, both the result of my own thinking on the issue, quite independent of Mr. Jenson. First is, that there is little alternative to violence in any attempt to curb the violence of Capitalism. Yes Capitalism is the number one agent of interest here. Supporting short-term band-aid solutions actually does more harm than good. Thinking that switching from incandescents to those flickery, epilepsy inducing, irritating, energy-saving bulbs and recycling your toxi-cola cans will accomplish a little more than pissing into the wind is actually more harmful than being a wholesale energy hog. Both will make comparatively little difference in deferring the final disaster. Thinking you are having a saving effect on the already doomed planet will be worse than doing nothing. At least doing nothing accepts the reality without illusions and at least you are being honest enough to realize the futility of our situation.

    If you do want to try to save the planet there are a few actual things you can do that might have a bit of an impact. Try going around the country and blowing up at least a damn a month. Go back to school, study biotechnology and develop a virus that will destroy two or three billion people and help ease the carrying capacity of the planet. Become a real international terrorist (not the mythical kind Dick Cheney wet-dreams of) and do your best to bring this country and its runaway war/energy consumption to its knees. A few more 9/11’s wouldn’t hurt.

    But I jest.

    I am convinced it is too late, so my personal strategy is not to think of it too much—for my own sanity. Ironically one of the few areas that Obama seems to be willing to be even slightly proactive is in the development of alternative technologies and conservation. Talk about pissing into the wind! Actually the best we can hope to do is try to develop strategies to cope with the impending disasters—like buying oceanfront retirement property in Salt Lake City, or moving to tropical Alaska and hope not too many others get hip to it before you do.

    With any luck I will be dead and gone before the worst of it all happens. I have never been so downright glad to be in my seventies in my life.

    Of course old Gaia may have Her own strategy for casting off this global irritant, Homo Sapiens and our deadly toys, sooner rather than later. Part of the answer could come in the form of a mutated variant of the N2H2 virus that tickled our unease this spring and will hopefully return in its virulent form in August or September. It may just do the hard work we are too weak, squeamish or morally challenged to do to save our skins. Humanity cries out, “Good idea, only just don’t let it be me!”


    Bob Boldt

  147. I could not more strongly oppose the previous post. He claims to be joking, but the anger, bitterness, hatred, and misanthropy are clear. Why are so many people in this thread convinced that apocalypse is inevitable? Why are so many so angry at their own species that they wish it detah and destruction? Why are they so unwilling to consider that love, compassion, intellect, and creativity can still bring about a positive future?

    Each of us has choices. Each of us has a human mind, one of the most pwoerful things on Earth. Use it well. Devote yourself to solving one particular problem. If enough well-intentioned people use love, will, creativity, and intelligence, we can change the world.

    Those of you who choose to live in gloom and doom, who wish death on the rest of us, please consider, just for a moment, that there may be hope. Please consider, just for a moment, that you might still be able to do something constructive for life on Earth rather than adding to the destruction and eath you claim to abhor.

  148. I did not wish to express anger, bitterness, hatred and misanthropy in my post to the extent that Jim took it to mean. Sometimes it requires hyperbole and extreme rhetoric to wake people up to a crisis like this one that most people on earth and nearly all political leaders seem to be sleeping through. I was not wishing death on destruction on our species. If there is any hope of preserving earth as the Mother of all life, it is essential that we take a deeper ecological view in which humanity assumes its proportionate place of parity along with all other life forms great and small. To the extent that we assume the worldview proposed by the Capitalist/Christians, that Man is the “crown of creation” and from the lofty height of his megalomania he my dispose of other life forms for profit and pleasure, that “crown of creation” richly deserves extinction as an ideology and as a life form. I would wish that someday humans would take on what I regard to be our true calling which is as the guardian not the rapist of the Mother of us all, Gaia.

    The only part of my post which was proposed in jest was the call for dam destruction, mass euthanasia and more 9/11s. What I mean by even proposing these “solutions” is that, the more we continue down the present course, the more severe will be the consequences and the more dire must be any attempt at remedy.

    For me it is an insurmountable paradox that the beautiful human mind has been largely responsible for the current horror. The awesome strength of our unfettered intellect and creativity has given us the means, power and the direction to our own ultimate destruction. I hope Jim will forgive me if I am mistaken, but I sense in his argument the tacit assumption that we can somehow find a technological fix to our present problems without draconian sacrifices or a major shift of priorities.

    “If enough well-intentioned people use love, will,
    creativity, and intelligence, we can change the world.”

    If, if, if.

    Such simple optimism is indeed touching and compelling. I’m afraid we have reached a scale of disaster where such sentiments seem merely hopelessly naïve.

    The real rub of this wonderfully optimistic argument is that at the present moment not nearly enough well-intentioned people have the love, will, creativity and intelligence to change the world. Worse than that, most people and their all too willing elected representatives are hell-bent on the opposite path. I hate to be simplistic, but the answers to our problems viewed on a global scale can be solved in a generation by already available “technologies.” Two prominent solutions would be to drastically reduce populations and ceasing the use of all fossil and nuclear fuels. You say “We can’t do that!” No, I say “We won’t do that.” Of course we have already gone so far down the path of destruction that some believe that nearly anything we do now will be too little too late.
    Even if the human population of earth were reduced to zero tomorrow the runaway effects of global climate change may well persist undeterred.

    Perhaps if we are all heading to Hell in a hand basket, Jim’s strategy of continuing to believe in simple messages of hope and love is a far better way than my cynical despair. I think most people would prefer Jim’s approach. In my darker moments, I envy him.

    Years ago I fell in love with the plays of Samuel Beckett. Back then people asked me how I could be so morbidly inspired by such a message of unrelenting gloom and doom. I replied, that for me, that is the way things really are. Most people would by far rather have messages that promise the possibility of hope of survival—no matter how hopeless the situation. For me, Jim’s argument is just a kind of a wistful, very human reflex, a clinging to platitudes like Estragon in Waiting for Godot. Beckett makes no judgment as to the validity or even the probability of the meaningfulness of either the intellectual, cynical despair of Vladimir or the naïve, blissful, practicality of his companion. Neither does he dictate the likelihood of a solution. He leaves that up to us.


    Bob Boldt

  149. Bob,

    It was perfectly clear to me that your post #149 was satyrical more than cynical. There was little trace of the “anger, bitterness, hatred, and misanthropy” that Jim (post #150) thought were so clear.

    Jim was either projecting his own negativity that is likely buried behind his trite optimism, or was simply incapable of imagining that one could desire a positive outcome for Life that necessitated a karmic rebalancing to the one species which has drastically upset the balance.

    While your despair (which you acknowledge in #151) was evident, most of your insights were legitimate. The one which showed your own lack of imagination was your statement that the only recourse to violence is violence. That is not only morally untenable but logically contradictory, and denied by history as well.

    The problem with Jim’s prescription for hope is that it is based on the power of the human mind – a power which we have misused precisely because we have exalted the mind over the heart.

    In indigenous cultures, a good-hearted elder might walk out into the snow to meet death or abort a pregnancy when there was not enough food for the rest of the tribe. Our inward-focussed minds cannot comprehend such altruism or perceive the necessity of dramatically reducing the human footprint on the planet.

    The mind always believes itself clever enough to figure out a solution. The heart knows when it’s time to let go for the good of the Whole. Ironically, it is you who demonstrate great heart, while Jim offers only naive faith in a clever mind.

  150. I disagree that my optimism is naive. I would argue that pessimism seems naive to me because it rests on the unprovable assumption that catastrophe is inevitable.

    Both responses to my last post just assume that a population of 6.7 billion is “unsustainable.” I see no reason why this has to be so. Granted, with current western lifestyles using current technologies, we are both depleting resources and degrading habitats other species depend on as much as we do. But I don’t buy the claim that we can’t use our minds to develop technologies that solve problems better.

    Yes, I prize intelligence. Yes, I think that it is much more likely to lead to positive futures than anger and violence. But I do not see the schism between “mind” and “heart” that you seem to suggest is inevitable. I see no reason that mind cannot be used in a loving way.

    Bob wrote “but I sense in his argument the tacit assumption that we can somehow find a technological fix to our present problems without draconian sacrifices or a major shift of priorities.” Let me say that I did not mean this to be tacit at all. Let me say it directly: I think we can find technological solutions to the problems facing humanity in particular and the biosphere in general. I’ll go further, I don’t think we can solve the problems facing humanity through any other means, although I think the biosphere will be just fine over the long haul regardless of what we do (as I argued earlier in this thread).

    Science and technology are not inherently “evil” any more than they are inherently “good.” Science is just a method of inquiry to learn about our universe. Technology is just the way we employ that knowledge to adapt to our environment. Have science and technology been used in the past in ways I object to and that seem to me to have damaged the global ecosystem? Absolutely. But that is not an indictment of science and technology, but of the decisions made (often out of greed and/or ignorance) about how to apply them. I don’t think that degrades their value as potential solutions to our problems.

    Bob, I’ll accept that you were just joking when you suggested that we kill off 2 or 3 billion people, but I have met “environmentalists” who were not joking in the least when they said that the “carrying capacity” of the Earth is 1 billion, so we need 5 to 6 billion to die, and if people follow Jensen’s advice, that outcome seems very, very likely to me. I refuse to see that as desirable.

    We can apply our intelligence and creativity to solve the problems that have led us to the current situation. The first big step is discovering a clean, inexhaustible source of energy (one possible source: the sun, which shines more energy on the Earth’s surface in one hour than people use in a year).

    Technology can solve that problem, but I will grant that it can’t solve all of our problems. Some of them we will have to solve in another way, by making more intelligent choices. I would argue that, after energy, the second biggest problem we face is food, and that we need to reinvent the way we provide food for ourselves. One simple step that would go a long way to improving things is to convert to vegetarianism. In addition, I would advocate eating locally produced foods and growing as much of your own food as you can. I do not advocate forcing anyone to make this change, but I think that it is a simple and effective way to reduce humanity’s impact on the global ecosystem.

    Similarly, we can intelligently choose to use less of that which we do not need. I grant some hypocrisy here on my own part. I am writing this on a computer, after all. But I don’t feel a need to have a cell phone or an HDTV or doznes of other technological gadgets just because they exist. I don’t demonize them or the people who buy and use them, but I just choose not to. If enough people make similar choices about which technologies they use, that can help.

    I would like to give people choices, to expand the realm of the possible, not to destroy technological society as Jensen advocates and narrow our choices down to living as hunter/gatherers. I am not disparaging that lifestyle for those who choose it; I just don’t wish to have it imposed on me. I would also encourage anyone reading this post to consider that they have choices, that doomsday is neither inevitable nor desirable, and that the choice of using your mind to solve problems will serve you and the biosphere better than the choice of blowing up things and shooting people.

  151. jim on Jun 11, 2009:

    “I disagree that my optimism is naive. I would argue that pessimism seems naive to me because it rests on the unprovable assumption that catastrophe is inevitable.”

    1) The naïve are, by definition, incapable of recognizing their naiveté.
    2) That catastrophe is inevitable is the greatest scientific consensus in the history of science.
    3) Science doesn’t deal in proofs, it makes logical inferences based on the preponderance of evidence.

    “I don’t buy the claim that we can’t use our minds to develop technologies that solve problems better…I prize intelligence…I think that it is much more likely to lead to positive futures than anger and violence. But I do not see the schism between “mind” and “heart” that you seem to suggest is inevitable.”

    4) Intelligence and anger/violence are not opposites – they are not even on the same spectrum.
    5) The greatest mind of the 20th century, A. Einstein: “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.”
    6) The dominant mindset of the Industrial/Cyber Age: all problems can be solved with better technology.
    7) Every technology creates unintended consequences – the more complex, the greater the range of the consequences – the more diversity of technologies, the greater the impact.
    8) No one suggested that the heart/mind schism is inevitable – there was no such schism for the first 20 million years of human evolution.

    “I don’t think we can solve the problems facing humanity through any other means… ”

    9) The universal response of the true believer.
    10) Scientism is the unrecognized religion of 20th century Western man, particularly in the US.

    “Science and technology are not inherently “evil” any more than they are inherently “good.” Science is just a method of inquiry to learn about our universe. Technology is just the way we employ that knowledge to adapt to our environment.”

    11) No human institution is value-neutral. This is the scientific myth about science.
    12) All methods of inquiry are based on fundamental assumptions (axioms) about ‘the way things are’.
    13) Science is based on a mind/matter dichotomy, a materialist philosophy, and – in spite of 20th century scientific advances – primarily on a Newtonian cause-effect mechanistic reductionism.
    14) The medium IS the message – technologies have inherent effects regardless of intent.

    “I have met “environmentalists” who were not joking in the least when they said that the “carrying capacity” of the Earth is 1 billion…I refuse to see that as desirable.”

    15) The best evidence suggests that the human population carrying capacity of the Earth was passed about the time of the US Civil War – at about 1 billion worldwide.
    16) Through technology, the human race has maintained this growing imbalance but at great and growing expense to the rest of the biosphere.
    17) Anthropocenticity is what prevents us from seeing a reduction in human biomass as desirable. From Gaia’s perspective, nothing could be more desirable.

    “We can apply our intelligence and creativity to solve the problems that have led us to the current situation. The first big step is discovering a clean, inexhaustible source of energy (one possible source: the sun, which shines more energy on the Earth’s surface in one hour than people use in a year)…the second biggest problem we face is food, and that we need to reinvent the way we provide food for ourselves.”

    18) If we were truly intelligent (and not simply clever) we would realize what indigenous peoples always knew: that solar energy is benign only if we allow nature to do the conversion, through photosynthesis and the food chain, which places humanity at the highest (narrowest) and most precarious position at the top of the pyramid.
    19) The solar conversion loop is unlimited only if we consume what nature provides and no more, and do nothing to diminish its conversion ability.
    20) Those at the top of the food chain are the least important and most expendable (last hired-first fired).

    “I would like to give people choices, to expand the realm of the possible, not to destroy technological society…”

    21) To expand the realm of the possible, we need only think outside of our cultural box.
    22) Human freedom (autonomy) is not the omega point of evolution – the proper domain of personal freedom is within the constraints of the larger needs of the tribe, community, species, biosphere and web-of-life.

    “…the choice of using your mind to solve problems will serve you and the biosphere better than the choice of blowing up things and shooting people.”

    23) Creating a devil’s choice does not advance dialogue or understanding or solutions.
    24) To deliberately destroy civilization is as naïve as to perpetuate it.
    25) Either counterproductive choice will result in the same outcome.

  152. Robert wrote: “The naïve are, by definition, incapable of recognizing their naiveté.”

    The word “naive” is related to the words “native” and “innate”–it’s what we’re born with. Since most of us have been born, naivete is something we’re stuck with, not something we can outgrow. We’re all–by definition–naive.

    To my mind, the question then becomes: what relation do we have with our own–and others–naivete? Do we pretend we can outrun the condition of being born–perhaps by accumulating more knowledge than others? Or do we acknowledge naivete as an integral condition of our own vulnerability and dependence?

    Naivete denied hardens into certainty. Naivete accepted can grow into wisdom.

  153. Rick on Jun 12, 2009:

    “The word “naive” is related to the words “native” and “innate”—it’s what we’re born with. Since most of us have been born, naivete is something we’re stuck with, not something we can outgrow. We’re all—by definition—naive.”

    Surely you jest. The human condition requires that we progress beyond the “native” state of ignorance after birth, and develop experience, judgement and wisdom.

    The profound lack of those qualities is broadly evident in civilized nations, particularly the US.

    When a Western reporter asked Gandhi what he thought of Western Civilization, the great one responded “I think it would be a good idea.”

  154. Robert Riversong writes (#145):
    > As soon as one opens the door to “any means necessary”, one has crossed the line to the Dark Side.
    > Those who have crossed that line (out of the best intentions and the highest dictates of conscience) include Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Scott Roeder, the “pro-life” killer of Dr. George Tiller.
    > Once you open that Pandora’s Box, you cannot close the lid.

    And what “Pandora’s Box” might anybody reading this list be about to ‘open’ that wasn’t opened long before any of us were born? How does the violence of either the perhaps-misguided environmentalist Ted Kaczynski or the anti-abortion fanatic who killed Dr. Tiller compare to the violence of those, like the paymasters, officers and ranks of the U.S. and Israeli militaries, and those who arm them, who are motivated by the desire for individual, family and group material benefit at the expense of others?

    We are already living on ‘the dark side’, and it will take a significant amount of targeted violence by those who care about the future of humans and other species to counter the massive violence of the capitalist war-makers and environmental predators, so that the world can move into the light.

  155. Robert says: “The human condition requires that we progress beyond the “native” state of ignorance after birth, and develop experience, judgement and wisdom.

    The profound lack of those qualities is broadly evident in civilized nations”

    Robert, I guess I think that the absence of those qualities is pretty good evidence that the idea of “progress” is misguided.

    Gandhi certainly didn’t think that naivete was something to be overcome–on the contrary. It may leave us vulnerable and easily taken advantage of, but it’s an essential part of the human condition, and therefore something to be cherished.

    Personally, I try to think about naivete as a parent, as a quality of childhood that deserves respect and protection. Learning to live with the naive is, to my mind, one path to wisdom.

  156. Aaron²,

    Of course we live on the dark side. Of course nation-states, particularly history’s greatest empire (the US), maintain their power and dominance and control by a monopoly on violence.

    And that’s exactly the point which you’ve blinded yourself to in your enmity towards the “evil ones”. All the greatest ills of civilization come from the use of coersion and violence – domestic, economic, social, civic, political, and ecological.

    Strategically, counter-violence is a fool’s errand:

    1) None of us, indiviudually or collectively, can compete in the field of violence with the State. We’re no longer facing off with muskets and canon.
    2) A violent insurgency can annoy the State and distract it, though not for very long. There is no limit to its repressive power or its will to use it.

    Ethically, spiritually and ecologically, violence is counterproductive to every goal no matter how lofty for it destroys the heart of the perpetrator (PTSD).

    The US State response to the pin-prick violence of everyone from McVeigh to Al Qaeda, for instance, gave a victory to the terrorists – they forced us to further veer away from constitutional democracy, individual freedom and economic opportunity.

    All human wisdom, from time immemorial, suggests that confronting violence with violence only feeds the beast.

    There is no belief more naive (or deliberately deceptive) than the one which claims that we need “targeted violence by those who care about the future…so that the world can move into the light.”

    This is the Orwellian rationale for all Imperial wars: “make war for peace”, “destroy their villages to reach their hearts and minds”, “shock and awe to bring democracy”…

    And it’s the self-deceptive rationalization of faux revolutionaries who lack the imagination to envision a third way between the horns of the dilemma.

    The man who defeated the world’s greatest empire in his own land understood this. “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it – Gandhi.” Adding more darkness does not – can not – bring light.

    But the greatest error that such well-meaning terrorists fall victim to is that the enemy is “out there” and can be defeated by physical means. There is not a one of us who does not daily contribute to the madness of the world by our thoughts and deeds and labors. This simple and timeless truth necessarily evades those who act from frustration or desperation at their projections of evil. The only revolutionary battle is within the soul. Change your heart and you change the world, for the world that we know is entirely human-made and each of us feeds it with every breath.

    If you want to walk the Warrior’s path, then defeat the beast in your own breast. And that beast is defeated only by recognizing it as a holy ally. At that point, you take on its true power and you can manifest great things.

    “An eye for an eye makes us all blind – Gandhi”. Isn’t there enough blindness already? Isn’t it time we opened our eyes?

  157. Rick on Jun 13, 2009:

    “I guess I think that the absence of those qualities is pretty good evidence that the idea of “progress” is misguided.”

    You’re confusing techological/economic “progress” with psychological/spiritual progress. The purpose of incarnate life is to gain wisdom.

    “Gandhi certainly didn’t think that naivete was something to be overcome…”

    You’re confusing naivete with humility. Gandhi was successful precisely because he was one of the best strategic thinkers of the last century.

  158. Robert: “The purpose of incarnate life is to gain wisdom.”

    I don’t think we disagree about this. We may differ about whether exposing the naivete of others is a path to wisdom.

    Gandhi embraced the (multiple) faiths of ordinary Indians, despite having been educated in England and admitted to the bar. You may call that humility or strategic insight; I see it as wisdom, which embraces naivete rather than distancing itself from it. Gandhi’s affirmation of moral truth and soul-force captures the inner strength of the naive, over against the more realistic or enlightened attitudes of leaders like Nehru. Gandhi’s conviction that he could get the British to leave India without resorting to violence is, by any measure, extraordinarily naive–in a good sense.

  159. Rick continues to confuse such valuable traits as simplicity and humility with the undesirable (for an adult) trait of naiveté.

    In common usage, to be naive is to be deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment. No one can truthfully claim that such a brilliant strategist and moral philospher as Gandhi was naive. Nor can anyone who understands the immense power of strategic non-violence consider its use naive.

    But we live in a culture, epitomized in the US, in which adolescent or even childish ignorance and naiveté, along with pandemic denial, are the norm.

    An important element of strategic non-violence (or satyagraha – truth force) is to name things for what they are. By so doing, the veneer of respectability is stripped and the reality must be faced – if not by the pretender, at least by others.

    One can excuse culturally-enforced ignorance. Gandhi, for instance, asserted that when faced with evil, if the only choice seems to be between complacency and violence, choose violence over inaction. But he spent his life – and offered it as a living example – demonstrating that there is a far more effective (and moral) third way.

    While much of our cultural ignorance and naiveté is entrained by public schooling and mainstream media, in a free society we are each responsible for our psycho-social and spiritual evolution.

    The anti-historical, illogical, immoral, and strategically counterproductive propensity of Jensen and his acolytes toward violence must be named and acknowledged in order to be transcended. It is stunningly naive.

    There is no more sophisticated wisdom than strategic non-violence (satyagraha) for initiating authentic and sustainable social change.

  160. I won’t waste time responding to most of Robert Riversong’s response to me (#159). since it consists mostly of the kind of statements that have no empirical content and therefore can’t be tested. However, his description of Gandhi as “The man who defeated the world’s greatest empire in his own land” is absurd!

    England after WW II was a rather weak empire that was fighting a largely losing battle to hold onto colonies that were a lot smaller than India. There had already been armed revolts in India, and the British knew there would be more if they didn’t leave, and they probably feared that such revolts might lead to a socialist/communist revolution. So they made sure to transfer power more-or-less peacefully to the Indian bourgeoisie. And that bourgeoisie is just as oppressive and murderous as any neo-colonial ruling class, despite not having gotten any British blood on their hands to besmirch their Gandhian purity.

  161. Aaron: “So they made sure to transfer power more-or-less peacefully to the Indian bourgeoisie. And that bourgeoisie is just as oppressive and murderous as any neo-colonial ruling class”

    Could I suggest you read the history a bit more carefully? Few people would describe the partitioning of British India into the nation-states of India and Pakistan as “more or less peaceful.” At least a million dead, and several million displaced persons–not a simple transfer of power.

    The notion of a homogeneous Indian “bourgeoisie” is, I fear, terribly oversimplified, overlooking tensions of language, region, religion, caste and economic status (India was–and is to this day–still a nation of villages): I refer you to the work of the Subaltern Studies historians, especially Partha Chatterjee’s The Nation and Its Fragments.

    Take a look, too, at the work of Ashis Nandy (The Intimate Enemy), which argues that the embrace of toughness–displayed, for instance, by Gandhi’s assassin and the Hindu Right generally–is a form of psychic colonization, adopted in response to the British imperial line that Indian men (especially the urbanized plains-dwellers) were weak and hysterical and in need of a strong masculine hand.

  162. Robert: “the undesirable (for an adult) trait of naiveté.”

    Ashis Nandy (in Tradition, Tyranny and Utopia) also has some interesting commentary on the Western idea of “adulthood” and “maturity.” He notes the tendency to see it in opposition or contrast to the qualities of childhood (autonomy vs. dependence; self-discipline vs. spontaneity,etc). Nandy connects this concept to the work of colonization, which demands a self-image of mastery.

  163. Rick,

    I’m not basing any argument on the dysfunctional Western notions of personhood, but rather on ancient indigenous traditions.

    Native Americans understood life as a cyclical journey around the Medicine Wheel. One enters and leaves at the Eastern gate of Spirit, though neither is a beginning or an end – the wheel spirals infinitely.

    If, in the South shield of childhood and innocence (naiveté), we receive the gifts of welcome and nurturance, we then progress (yes, progress) to the Western shield of adolescent introspection (facilitated by a solo rite-of-passage, the “little dying” to release the naiveté of childhood). If we see within us the beauty, faith and trust that was implanted by our community, we then progress to the mastery (of self and skill) of adulthood. Once sufficient wisdom is gained from life’s experiences and judgement is honed, we move into elderhood from which we are expected to lead by example and advice and to give-away (through self-less altruism) to the tribe. If the cycle is completed in harmony and fullness, we can face death without fear or regret.

    In Western (particularly American) culture, very few of us are fully welcomed into the world or granted full reign to our (appropriate) naiveté. Few receive the unadulterated (pun inteded) nurturing that we deserve, and we are taught that parts of our body are “dirty” and must be hidden and never touched.

    Hence, when we enter adolescence, we are either destructively self-critical or boastfully self-centered, unable to comfortably look at ourselves in the mirror. And because we are not guided through the passage nor able to relinquish the naiveté we never got to fully enjoy, nor carry within us the complete trust in a loving Universe, we stumble eventually into a misformed adulthood that often manifests either aggressive self-interest or passive aquiescence to authority.

    Without the fertile and healthy soil of innocent childhood and adolescent self-reflection, we can never achieve the self-mastery of the fully-realized adult nor become the wise elders that our society so desperately needs (which is why we warehouse our aged rather than revere them). And we spend our lives fearing death and dragging regrets like an anchor to our graves.

    To everything there is a season. If the garden soil is not properly prepared, the seedlings not watered and tended, the growing plants not properly pruned, one cannot expect a good harvest.

  164. Robert: I appreciate the clarification, and your understanding of the life cycle. As before, I don’t think we’re that far apart on the basics.

    What I wonder about is whether using terms like “progress” can actually get you where you want to go. Given how important they are to Western/American notions of identity, I think it’s hard to dislodge everyday usage and you wind up leaving the impression that ordinary ways of thinking are just fine. Whereas using the term “naivete” affirmatively is an invitation to approach our current norms and expectations with a fresh mind, open to alternative understandings.

  165. We all understand the meaning of “progress”, which is to move forward or evolve. If it’s been misappropriated and misused by proponents of the status quo, then we need to reclaim it. Nature progresses, both on the small scale (acorn to oak) and the grand scale (from single cells to complex organisms, all in interdependent harmony). That the term has been used in an Orwellian fashion to describe a way of life increasingly disharmonious to the web-of-life is no reason to scrap the word, but to apply it properly.

    There is similarly a broad vernacular consensus about the meaning of “naive”. To turn its meaning upside down is just another Orwellian twist and will do nothing to increase understanding or enhance communication.

    Naive is merely a neutral descriptive when refering to an infant. When refered to an adult, it is rightly a pejorative since we all expect adults to have progressed, evolved, matured (take your pick) beyond the ignorance and self-centeredness of childhood.

    They are both good words if we use them properly. No need to reinvent the language. We need, instead, to reinvent the culture.

  166. Sorry, Robert, I don’t agree that Nature progresses, or that there’s a general consensus about what’s advanced and what’s retrograde.

    To change the culture, I think it’s necessary to challenge the language. As long as calling someone “naive” amounts to calling them “childish”–which it seems to me you’re doing– we’re all stuck at the level of the playground. Naming something is not the same as name-calling.

  167. Rick, you continue to miss the salient point: that the typical American IS stuck in the sandbox. American culture IS somewhere between childish and adolescent.

    It’s time for us to grow up as a culture and as individuals. To get past our pandemic denial, we must name things for what they are.

    That is not name-calling. That is truth-telling.

    Morpheus (change man) to Neo (new – naive): “I didn’t say it would be easy. I just said it would be the truth.”

  168. Robert: “American culture IS somewhere between childish and adolescent….That is not name-calling. That is truth-telling.”

    Robert, what makes you think you and I are any different?

  169. “Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle.” John Denver
    Life is too sweet to waste, enjoy a little, its always the darkest before the dawn.

  170. “how do I live my life right now?” is a very good and existential question. All we have is this moment. The past is gone, but we hopefully have learned from it. The future is shaped by this moment in time, and my current action will have future consequences. And the person I am is the only person I have (relatively) total control over.

    When the author says,
    “How do I stop them using any means necessary? ”
    he has made a logical jump that the be-all and end-all is “stopping them.” Stopping the collapse of ecosystems is a critical goal, but it is not the only goal that a balanced person would have. It is also important to love the people and animals and plants that you personally encounter. For instance, if you could by some means stop global warming by exterminating the Inuit people of Alaska and Canada, would you do it? I know that’s a hypothetical and unlikely scenario, but logical arguments are supposed to be able to survive such hypothetical scenarios. There is more than one good in this world, and environmentalism is just one (though a very important one.)
    I would much rather that a person be a loving, compassionate person than a committed environmentalist. Of course it would be better to be both.

    He goes on to say;
    “Nothing matters but that we stop this culture from killing the planet. It’s embarrassing even to have to say this.”
    The author should be embarassed; he has lost all perspective. I doubt that the indigenous people that he most likely venerates would agree. They probably have all sorts of other priorities, including duty to family, obedience to the supernatural (however they percieve it), and enjoyment of life (for a few examples).

  171. I will address Robert’s comments in the same format in which he addressed mine. Let me begin by saying that I am not attempting to rebut his claims—I think “truth” is unknowable and certainty a folly—only to address them. My goal, as always, is to inspire thought, not to impose my view on others. Alas, one of my many personal weaknesses is a tendency to let my passions run away with my rhetoric when I am writing polemic. If I cross the line into rudeness or personal attack, I apologize in advance.
    1) The naïve are, by definition, incapable of recognizing their naiveté.
    Okay. But I think this applies to everyone, including you and me.
    2) That catastrophe is inevitable is the greatest scientific consensus in the history of science.
    At the risk of sounding like Bill Clinton, it depends on what your definition of “catastrophe” is. I would concur that the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is occuring and that many species are endangered. Beyond that, I see much less unanimity of opinion than you imply. If you work in academia, as I do, one of the first things you discover is that there are deep divisions within every discipline. Most academics are passionate about ideas, but no discpiline that I am aware of has settled on what the “right” ideas are. The sciences, in particular, change so fast because of the accelerating information curve that the prevailing models come and go very quickly. The fundamental ideas of Geology and Astronomy, for example, are so different from the ones promoted 60 years ago that much of how academics model events in those fields was unknown then. There are many competing models about what the impact of climate change will be, and few of them are as dire and “catastrophic” as the ones promoted by the doomsayers in this thread. I fully agree that the climate is changing. I fully agree that many species are in danger of extinction, and I lament that deeply. I do not, however, think that means we should “bring down civilization” as Jensen advocates, or hasten the deaths of 5/6 of our species as I have heard others advocate.
    3) Science doesn’t deal in proofs, it makes logical inferences based on the preponderance of evidence.
    “I don’t buy the claim that we can’t use our minds to develop technologies that solve problems better…I prize intelligence…I think that it is much more likely to lead to positive futures than anger and violence. But I do not see the schism between “mind” and “heart” that you seem to suggest is inevitable.”
    4) Intelligence and anger/violence are not opposites – they are not even on the same spectrum.
    Agreed. I never claimed that they were. I was indirectly responding to these claims of yours:
    “The problem with Jim’s prescription for hope is that it is based on the power of the human mind – a power which we have misused precisely because we have exalted the mind over the heart. . . The mind always believes itself clever enough to figure out a solution. The heart knows when it’s time to let go for the good of the Whole. Ironically, it is you [Bob] who demonstrate great heart, while Jim offers only naive faith in a clever mind.”
    I find the distinction of “heart vs. mind” misleading. The heart, in my view, is a muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. I presume you mean “compassion/intuition/awareness to a connection to the universe beyond yourself” vs. “intellect/symbolic reasoning” Both of these seem epiphenomena of the brain to me, and I see no reason why any individual cannot use both.
    5) The greatest mind of the 20th century, A. Einstein: “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.”
    Gee, I seem to recall that Einstein was a physicist, so apparently, a scientist every once in a while manages to have a worthwhile idea. Okay, sorry, there’s my snide side again. I would argue that the mindset that created the problems facing us now is largely of political and economic nature, not scientific. If you want to advocate a political and economic revolution, sign me up, brah. I see the problem differently. As Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s wonderful novel Cat’s Cradle (which ends, ironically enough with the extinction of mankind through global freezing) points out, the problem is that scientists have for too long done the bidding of the government, military, and business without considering the implications of their work. (I could not agree more. I would love it if our best and brightest scientists refused to work on weaponry and other technologies that seem destructive to me.) But that does not discredit science as an approach to problem solving in my eyes.

    6) The dominant mindset of the Industrial/Cyber Age: all problems can be solved with better technology.
    Please reread this line from my previous post: “Technology can solve that problem, but I will grant that it can’t solve all of our problems. Some of them we will have to solve in another way, by making more intelligent choices. “
    Carlo Cippola wrote a fascinating satirical essay in the 1980’s called “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” (you can find it here: ). In it, he proposed a four-fold method of analyzing human behavior. He defined intelligence as behavior that benefits both the actor and those affected by the action, helplessness as behavior that harms the actor but benefits those affected by the action, banditry as behavior that benefits the actor but harms those affected by the action, and stupidity as behavior that harms both the actor and those affected by the action. I have found this model very useful, and this is what I mean by “intelligent choices.” I see one of our big problems as the tendency to allow bandits (by Cippola’s definition) in business and government to make decisions for all of us about how we use our brainpower and physical resources, and again, if you want to take that on, I’m in your corner.

    7) Every technology creates unintended consequences – the more complex, the greater the range of the consequences – the more diversity of technologies, the greater the impact.

    8) No one suggested that the heart/mind schism is inevitable – there was no such schism for the first 20 million years of human evolution.
    I am a little fuzzy on this. First, most anthropolgists would take “human evolution” back a little less than 4 million years, at most (the arrival of australopithecus afarensis on the scene). That’s a minor quibble, sorry. Second, I argued earlier in this post that I see “rational thought” and “emotional feeling” as epiphenomena of the brain and in no way mutually exclusive. I would argue that all of us are capable of both, and I wish that we would all exercise both.
    “I don’t think we can solve the problems facing humanity through any other means… ”
    9) The universal response of the true believer.
    If you only knew me better, you would see how ironic this statement is. I am forever railing against belief. Notice that I used the verb “think” in that passage, not the verb “believe.” I don’t believe anything, but I think about things a lot. I think that belief impedes people from thinking clearly because once people embrace a belief system, they tend to discredit ideas that contradict it. I would argue that we make models of events by filtering our perceptions through our ideas about the world, and that people who have beliefs tend to filter out events that challenge those ideas. When I am writing polemic, as I am now, I tend to write forcefully, so it may appear that I “believe” the things I write, but I doubt and question my ideas constantly. I can’t think of anything that I am sure is “true” (although some ideas, such as “force = mass x acceleration” seem to have stood up to the test of time pretty well so far). I would strongly encourage everyone reading this post to doubt and question their assumptions regularly. I wish Jensen would; maybe then he wouldn’t be so sure that “bringing down civilization” and leading to the deaths of 5 or 6 billion people is such a great idea.

    10) Scientism is the unrecognized religion of 20th century Western man, particularly in the US.
    Man, I sure don’t see that. It seems to me that worship of money and the worship of dogmatic religion are far, far more prevalent, at least here in the U.S. The mass culture of the U.S. seems pretty anti-intellectual to me.
    “Science and technology are not inherently “evil” any more than they are inherently “good.” Science is just a method of inquiry to learn about our universe. Technology is just the way we employ that knowledge to adapt to our environment.”
    11) No human institution is value-neutral. This is the scientific myth about science.
    I never claimed that it was value-neutral. I only claim that science is a method of investigation that can be used in service of any ideology or set of values. Science requires only that you begin with a hypothesis, devise and conduct an experiment to test it, and evaluate the results. I would argue that Buddhist meditation qualifies as a “scientific method” in this definition since the individual begins with the hypothesis that if she carries out the method, her consciousness will be transformed, she performs the experiment, and then she sees if she indeed experiences the unique transformation of consciousness described as “enlightenment.”

    12) All methods of inquiry are based on fundamental assumptions (axioms) about ‘the way things are’.
    Again, agreed. But, at least ideally, science–unlike metaphysics–starts from the position that those assumptions must be constantly tested and re-evaluated, not taken as a priori “eternal truths.”

    13) Science is based on a mind/matter dichotomy, a materialist philosophy, and – in spite of 20th century scientific advances – primarily on a Newtonian cause-effect mechanistic reductionism.
    Man, when did you get your science education? The history of physics for the last century or so directly refutes this claim. Beginning in 1887 with the Michelson-Morley experiments (which attempted to address the “paradoxical” wave/particle duality of light), to the Copenhagen Interpretation promoted by Niels Bohr, to the Scrhodinger Wave equations (check out the Schrodinger’s Cat and Wigner’s Friend problems, which address the inherent problem of separating the observer and the observed), physiocists found that mind and matter cannot be separated, that the observer and the observed are intertwined. Scientific Materialism has given way to Scientific Idealism for many, but admittedly not all. Still, I think defining current science as materialistic seems inaccurate, at least in part. Quantum mechanics has also poked huge holes in cause/effect and determinism, and even what the “time” aspect of the spacetime continuum is. If you want to take on Descartes and Newton, especially Descartes, I’m right with you. But Descartes’ mind/matter dualism and “ghost in the machine” metaphysics (buttressed by his laughable Ontological Proof of the Existence of God) don’t have nearly as many adherents in the scientific community as you seem to assume.

    14) The medium IS the message – technologies have inherent effects regardless of intent.
    “I have met “environmentalists” who were not joking in the least when they said that the “carrying capacity” of the Earth is 1 billion…I refuse to see that as desirable.”
    15) The best evidence suggests that the human population carrying capacity of the Earth was passed about the time of the US Civil War – at about 1 billion worldwide.
    What best evidence? Why is 1 billion the magic number? Details, please.

    16) Through technology, the human race has maintained this growing imbalance but at great and growing expense to the rest of the biosphere.
    Again I would argue that politics and economics have played a much bigger role in this.

    17) Anthropocenticity is what prevents us from seeing a reduction in human biomass as desirable. From Gaia’s perspective, nothing could be more desirable.
    I have no idea what the biosphere “wants,” but I think that personifying it clouds the issue. I don’t think of it as a godlike or goddesslike being with human attributes, but as a single living system made up of astronomical numbers of individual life-forms who interact with each other in a continuous feedback system. I agree that many species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians would do better if there were fewer of us, or even, as I wish, if the same number (and gradually decreasing, see below) of us behaved more intelligently (in Cipolla’s model). I would also argue that if we solve the energy and food problems, population will trend downward because empirical evidence shows that in the “industrialized world,” where material affluence is relatively high, birth rates have already dropped below replacement rates. Unless you advocate killing lots of people, directly or indirectly, then it would seem to me that raising living standards is the most likely way to reduce population without violence.
    “We can apply our intelligence and creativity to solve the problems that have led us to the current situation. The first big step is discovering a clean, inexhaustible source of energy (one possible source: the sun, which shines more energy on the Earth’s surface in one hour than people use in a year)…the second biggest problem we face is food, and that we need to reinvent the way we provide food for ourselves.”
    18) If we were truly intelligent (and not simply clever) we would realize what indigenous peoples always knew: that solar energy is benign only if we allow nature to do the conversion, through photosynthesis and the food chain, which places humanity at the highest (narrowest) and most precarious position at the top of the pyramid.
    I have problems with this statement on multiple levels. First, the “indigenous peoples” of Earth are an incredibly diverse group with a large number of worldviews. The Aztecs, for one, held that the sun would not rise unless preists cut out the hearts of living human beings atop the great pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Second, I cannot for the life of me understand why you would imply (or at least seem to imply) that the use of photovoltaic cells to convert photons into electricity is “malignant.” Third, I see humans as part of “nature,” not as separate from it, so our actions are allowing nature to do the conversion, in my view. Fourth, I argued in my last post that I think humanity and the biosphere would greatly benefit from our deciding to move down the food chain by abandonning the carnivore strategy.

    19) The solar conversion loop is unlimited only if we consume what nature provides and no more, and do nothing to diminish its conversion ability.
    Maybe I am misunderstanding this claim, but it seems to me that you are arguing that solar power is unlimited (I would argue that it is not, but that the sun shines about 175,000 terawatts of energy per hour on Earth, enough to meet our current energy usage for a year) and that somehow using photovoltaics would “diminish its conversion ability.” How? Please explain.

    20) Those at the top of the food chain are the least important and most expendable (last hired-first fired).

    I have trouble with this claim too. Are you privileging rabbits over foxes? I have already argued in favor of us moving down the food chain, but I’m not ready to try to encourage predators like foxes and tigers to do the same.
    “I would like to give people choices, to expand the realm of the possible, not to destroy technological society…”
    21) To expand the realm of the possible, we need only think outside of our cultural box.

    22) Human freedom (autonomy) is not the omega point of evolution – the proper domain of personal freedom is within the constraints of the larger needs of the tribe, community, species, biosphere and web-of-life.
    I have no idea what “the omega point of evolution” might be. I would argue that it has none, but that the biosphere strives to survive, which it has done remarkably well for 4 billion years or so despite amazing difficulties. I strongly suspect that it will continue to thrive for the next 4 or 5 billion years until our sun goes red giant. If you want to argue that you don’t see humanity as the “crown of creation,” I’m right with you. We are here now, but we are relative newcomers to the stage, and I strongly suspect we will either go extinct or evolve into something else, as other life forms do.
    ”…the choice of using your mind to solve problems will serve you and the biosphere better than the choice of blowing up things and shooting people.”
    23) Creating a devil’s choice does not advance dialogue or understanding or solutions.
    I apologize. As I said earlier in this post, I have a tendency to get carried away with my rhetoric when I write polemic. I don’t mean to suggest that there are only two possible futures. I see myriad possibilities. But I do want to argue against Jensen’s idea that blowing up things and leading to many deaths will lead to a desirable future.

    24) To deliberately destroy civilization is as naïve as to perpetuate it.
    I’m not sure what you mean by “perpetuate” here. I don’t advocate perpetuating the current system. I see plenty of room for improvement.

    25) Either counterproductive choice will result in the same outcome.
    I have no idea what the future holds. I’m not sure which ideas and events will shape it. I only hope that we let intelligence (in Cipolla’s model) guide us rather than banditry or stupidity.
    Okay, I’ve said my piece. Again, I apologize for any parts of this that seem rude or dismissive. I don’t mean to say that I am “right” and you are “wrong,” but I do mean to put my point of view forward in the hopes that some people will thoghtfully examine it and find at least some parts of it useful. I encourage you to do the same. I think we both want a better future even if we greatly disagree on how to bring that about.

  172. wonderful destabilizing conversation.

  173. Robert, I have taken the red pill–many, many times. LOL!

  174. Yes, I too appreciate the deep ecology of this, and want to believe we can discern some insight from listening well. Perhaps I’m tone-deaf. Or is this just gnostic nonsense that can’t be critiqued reasonably? That is, if he says the land told him to blow up a dam, who is anybody to argue? Heck, I could justify nearly anything if I get my marching orders from listening to the dirt.

  175. The challenge is to discern between what the Earth tells us and what the “dirt” tells us.

    The Earth has always spoken of living in harmony – that’s its song.

    The problem is, we’ve treated the Earth like dirt so long that we can no longer differentiate the music from the static.

  176. In my view, Derrick Jensen equates intellectual understanding with visceral enlightenment. First of all Derrick, no, violence will not solve violence. You lose. Your endgame sucks. Secondly, get off your little literary wagon and do something real, act out your violent fantasies and suffer the consequences, or you risk becoming like every other asshole dictator in the world, telling people what to do while you relax in your comfortable world, which you do. You use your intellectual prowess to justify your every thought and habit, and that is not recommended to anybody looking to seriously live life, I think. I would love to see DJ get a grip and maybe understand that the slowest and smallest movement will possibly change the world.

  177. “When I give food to the poor I am called a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food to eat, I am called a communist”{or worse}
    —- Dom Helda Camera

  178. I’ve been following this thread even though I haven’t commented since fairly early on in the discussion. Obviously Orion was on to something including Jensen’s writing regardless of who agrees or disagrees with him. His writing is thought-provoking and stimulating. Which is why I’ve decided to comment today. (That, plus it’s raining again, my garden is rotting, and I need something to keep my mind off of this so far yucky, nonexistant summer in Maine).

    Jensen is in no danger of becoming like “every other asshole dictator” because he’s not. That’s not what he’s about, not what he aspires to. Though I don’t know him personally, I think it’s fairly safe to come to that conclusion.

    Furthermore, writing, especially what Jensen’s done over the course of his career, IS something real. And as a writer myself, I too have fallen into the trap of thinking that my books, articles, columns, newsletters, etc. are essentially meaningless because they aren’t direct action, they aren’t protesting in the streets, they aren’t directly creating the alternatives we need to survive. But they have made a difference, and Jensen’s writing has, and is, making a difference. Getting people to think differently, to be willing to take their thoughts outside of their comfort zone is real. Making people aware of other ways of seeing the world, of being in the world, is real. Providing information and contacts so that communities can create (in my case) economic alternatives like community currency, for example, is real. Yes, I’ve done stuff too. I’ve organized conferences, participated in protest marches and demonstrations, cofounded a community currency project and more. But first and foremost I consider myself a writer. My purpose is to “listen to the Earth, write what she tells me, and share it with others”. This is what the Earth told me many, many years ago, as clear as if I was having a conversation with another human being. (So the Earth does speak!) Almost three decades after that conversation with Earth, I’m still trying to find the best way of going about it. But to tell me that what I’ve spent the last 30 or so years of my life doing is nothing just isn’t true. There was a time when I would have agreed. When my EF! friends were getting arrested for protesting logging out west or protesting Wall Street in NYC. But no more. No, I haven’t changed the world the way I wanted. But neither have my friends who got arrested. We all do what we can and hopefully, together the mix of purpose, ideas, commitment, sharing and mutual respect will accomplish something useful and long-term. So, if the “slowest and smallest movement” can change the world, then certainly Jensen’s passion, and mine, and all of ours can have an impact.

    As a writer, however, I do have to be careful not to preach because I am so not perfect. My lifestyle still leaves a lot to be desired though my vision is to move in the right direction, hopefully getting closer before I die. We all have lots of “shoulds” in our lives and those of us who are more public with our thoughts and visions run the risk of being called on every inconsistency. But let’s remember than none of us is perfect.

  179. Are we all ready to live a much simpler life? Are we ready to give up so much of what we have grown accustomed to? We need a major shift in consciousness, day to day interactions, and spiritual approaches. If the Earth isn’t at the forefront of our being-daily-then we can only imagine how much more destruction and pain we are going to experience. If what we have been doing for years is called living, then we need to stop living completely-because death cannot be considered living. The Ancients lived simple, but complex lives. We need to back step and implement a lot more of their “uncivilized customs”. Now is the time. Thanks Orion.

  180. theres simply too many people. you cant give up industrial ag. and still feed everyone your permaculture gardens are not going to cut it. its got nothing to do with culture ,its 7 billion ppl getting hungry 3 times a day. bring the pop. down by 4 bil or so and all the worlds problems become manageable . who wants to start with that grusome task? its late. dont fret things will work themselves out it wont be pretty but hopefully quick.

  181. I don’t know if these issues have been raised yet- at least they haven’t been in the earliest or latest of posts.

    I’d like to turn to the philosophical arguments of this specific article. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t extremely fitting, but I wrote an essay on my blog a few weeks ago disagreeing with arguments for saving our (yes, OUR) environment such as the one Jensen puts forward in this article. You can read it here but I’ll paraphrase below.

    We tend to create this imaginary division between organism and environment, when in reality the relationship between the two is dialectical- organisms partially create, and in turn are partially created by, the environment which they live in. So, humans are not alone in their consumptive practices- proportionally to their body mass, ants actually consume more than humans. So I think its incorrect to see the conspicuous consumption of humanity as cultural (aka unnatural). Jensen writes of the long history behind these practices. In fact, we could trace these practices back far past the evolution of humans, arguably to the base of the tree of life, wherever that may lie. What we need is not a consumption that is more or less natural, but a consumption that isn’t so damned destructive to the world around it.

    Contrary to what Jensen writes, there is no THE environment, and never was (he uses the term world, but I’m sticking with environment). There is no such thing as a fixed state of things that life on Earth has ever been in. Life and the world it has existed in have continually fed back upon each other going back, again, to the base of the tree of life. Therefore, what we are trying to save is not THE environment, its AN environment. Why is this particular environment so important? Because we exist in it. We are not fighting for life, but for a specific version of life, one which has humans in it. Life is much stronger than climate change, or for that matter any human-induced catastrophe. Were the Earth to warm 5-6 degrees in the next 100 years, life would not come to an end. What we fight for is THIS environment, and there’s nothing wrong with that selfishness.

  182. To Bilblo:
    If the issue was only the number of human beings, I would say “bring it on – sooner is better”. Unfortunately, we (human civilization) are wiping out a large number of other species as “collateral damage”. We appear intent on taking the place down with us.

    To Sam who says:
    “Life is much stronger than climate change, or for that matter any human-induced catastrophe. Were the Earth to warm 5-6 degrees in the next 100 years, life would not come to an end.”

    Please keep up. The 5-6 degree climate change spoken of recently is no longer credible. The current, unexpectedly rapid pace points now to an increase of 10 or more degrees. This is not just hot, but a tipping point for a number of natural systems.

    Peter Ward in “Under a Green Sky” presents three possible Anthropocene scenarios:

    1. Humanity manages to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels below 450 ppm (parts per million) by the year 2100. Earth warms somewhat, additional ice melts, but sea level rise is manageable and life goes on much as it has in the past. This outcome, as Ward notes, is hopelessly optimistic unless a massive initiative to limit or sequester greenhouse gas emissions is successfully implemented within this decade.

    2. Greenhouse gas emissions accelerate as China and India continue to industrialize; carbon dioxide levels reach 700 ppm by the year 2100. Rising seas have forced countries to relocate some essential coastal infrastructure and deal with regional population displacements. Scientists note that the ocean conveyor recently shut down – triggering climate and weather pattern changes that even politicians can’t ignore. Famine and scarcity replace consumer culture as societal norms. The future is bleak but technological civilization may continue to exist if it adapts quickly enough.

    3. Carbon dioxide levels hit 1,100 ppm by 2100. The result resembles the worst parts of the Bible – no adequate secular alternative is available. Earth is 10 degrees Celsius warmer. All of the world’s ice is melting. Sea level rise is measured in meters. Much of the world’s population is displaced by rising waters and vital infrastructure losses cannot be replaced. Polar bears are long gone, Homo sapiens is the latest endangered species. The ocean conveyor shut down decades ago. Signs of deep ocean anoxia are increasingly apparent and appalling – the sky turns a sickly shade of green. The sixth great mass extinction is underway. Remaining governments fight savage wars over scarce resources as entire ecosystems collapse. Natural selection and humankind are brutally reacquainted when medicine reverts to pre-industrial norms. Rampant famine and disease causes a global population implosion. Humanity will probably survive but a second stone age is the most likely outcome.

    A recent article on Alternet by Scott Thill suggests that once we reach a certain diminished level of oxygen in the ocean, it begins to release enormous blooms of hydrogen sulfide – deadly to most species on Earth. He posits that “Too much CO2 in the air and not enough oxygen in the oceans may release a toxic dose of hydrogen sulfide — an unheralded executioner to 96% of the Earth’s species.”

    The issue here is not one of whether to wear a short sleeve shirt or not.

  183. To Silverbee:

    I think my argument still stands. What we are fighting for is not LIFE or THE environment, its a specific version of life and a specific environment that it exists in. The example you provide only hammers this home. Even in the worst of doomsday scenarios, nobody would conjecture that life ends.

    I’m sorry if the tone of my argument makes it seem as though this is a choice between what cloths to wear. What I’m saying is this is a choice between whether we, humanity, want to remain in existence or not. I think this is a more accurate depiction of the situation, and additionally might be a more motivating idea for people who don’t care about the environment to get behind.

  184. Wonderful stuff. I always liked Orion for their wonderful stuff.

    The whole crew of us remind me of the cast of the Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey. Arguing about the best way to act, while their jeep careens towards the edge of the canyon, beer cans flying out the windows regardless.

    I read all 24 pages of comments. And what happened? I am tired. The world will not end if I get some sleep.

    Then tomorrow, I will try to get excited enough about the possibility that the world will not end by tomorrow night to get up and go do something about the whole mess.

    And rage. And hope, and feel fierce love again. And then sleep.

    Every day these days is a wonder. That is the only message I have. At least the way I am feeling now.

    Tomorrow? Who knows? I will try to do today what I must, and then let the universe sort it all out.

    I swear that I had some more stuff to say before y’all made me so… tired…

    Good night, and good luck.

  185. Dear Sir,

    I have done as you instructed and asked the land where I live, “What can and must I do to become your ally, to help protect you from this culture? What can we do together to stop this culture from killing you?”

    And the Land did laugh and then sayeth unto me, “You silly delusional child, do you think I care what you do?”

    And I was confused and dismayed by the Land’s response unto me. And, upon seeing mine eye’s despair, the Land took pity on me and did sayeth, “Child, your question is but a reflection of your ignorance of the truth of impermanence. When you are able to realize this truth, you will have your answer.”

    So sayeth the Land.

  186. Dear Craig Anderson:

    When was the last time you had your hearing checked?

    Do you pretend not to hear your mother when she calls you? Do you twist her words until they suit you?

    Tidy up your room. Don’t leave your things all over the house. Turn down the heat and stop leaving the fridge open. Do your chores. Show some respect.

  187. Land,

    I may be Craig’s step sister. Ground us. Spank us and take away our birthdays then.

  188. Would that there was some way a few determined individuals could stop the destruction of the planet. There is not. We do this collectively, painfully, bit by bit, or it doesn’t get done. Yes, we need to stop gazing at our own navels – but the right question is only slightly different than the one Jensen dismisses: How do WE live our lives, to slow and stop the destruction of the planet.

    If my township want to pave over a forest with a shopping mall, I won’t be able to stop them with a shotgun or by chaining myself to the bulldozer. I might stop them by organizing my neighbors, attending endless meetings, writing letters, and do all of the painstaking drudgery required to build social movements. It’s exhausting, and we often lose. But we have to keep trying because there is no other alternative.

    Jensen suggests there is — if only we had enough gumption and courage — but I can find this alternative no where in this essay or in any of his other writings.

    We just have to keep at it and that takes courage enough

  189. Go wild, Rose, and grow up. Do you think you won’t miss your mother when she’s gone?

  190. For those of us living with severe environmental illness, the time has already come where the earth – our environment – does not support us. Breathing the air, drinking the water, living in neighborhoods – even GREEN ones – makes us so, so sick.

    Dismantling cell towers might be a political statement to most of you, but for those like myself who are electrically sensitive, it could make the difference between bearable and hellish for our daily existence. The alternative is that we are forced into isolation. There are millions of us around the world.

    We search the globe for a place to live where humans have not destroyed the environment and cannot find anywhere untouched by pesticides, fragrance, digital technology and other forms of pollution that have become way of life.

    When we finally find a small piece of land miles away from civilization, they want to install wind farms 500 feet from our newly built homes (this is currently happening to a friend of mine).

    It’s all about money/power.

    I don’t have any solutions on the scale of the problem Derrick presents to us. I once wrote him and asked what we, as a disabled population, could do. He wrote that “our job is to survive.” Somehow, that just doesn’t seem enough.

    I agree with the posters who say we need to role model solutions rather than kill and harm property. I always wondered why Al Qaeda blew up buildings rather than creating villages across the world that modeled the way of life they believed in. It seemed like it would be more effective.

    But I wouldn’t be unhappy if people tore down cell towers. I’m in the process of trying to switch to a 100% plant based diet since we have effectively poisoned our food sources. I’ve given up 99% of my past life/belongings/lifestyle. But I’m still part of the problem judging by the amount of garbage I produce.

    I’m really not sure there IS a solution, at this point. At least not for humans and many species currently on the planet. But I have faith in the planet and the plants to recover and rebirth new life forms down the line. And I will do what I can – to survive, and to minimize my imprint, and to educate others – in the meantime.

  191. With love and hate, from a corner in central India. This is one gun shot of a wake up call. Every church, mosque, temple, school, radio, TV should debate the great question by Derrick Jensen.

  192. Time to establish a symbiotic relationship with the planet. Before that can happen however we need a paradigm shift that eliminates once and for all the notion that human species are separate from and superior to nature. Now check this out:

  193. Thank you to Derrick Jensen for being out there with all of this, and thanks to Orion for publishing the writing.

    Very few people really care about saving/killing the planet. Nobody has time for this. We all have our own personal stories to live out and we’re all going to die soon enough. It seems to me that most (lower income) bright people who think it through know that the culture is doomed. Planetary death or personal death: it’s better to put it out of your mind and deal with the situations that present themselves to you one day at a time.

    Jensen does the right things: try to save a little bit of nature here and there, while walking the walk and talking the talk. Lots of us are doing our little bit. Not enough of us to matter much, unfortunately.

    Cheer up. There will be survivors after the apocalypse, and they will live in harmony with nature: they will have no other choice.

    “Visualize Industrial Collapse”

  194. Derrick Jensen is as always, amazingly eloquent at leading us away from delusion though a path almost poetic and dropping us in a clarity outside of self indulgence, where we rightly should be poised. I need to say this again for we are ALL self indulgent and suffer (and make everything else suffer in our wake) from that same tendency that once suggested the earth is the centre of the universe or that men are smarter than women or other bizarre truths people at one time or other held to be self evident. The future is infinate, (whether it includes us or not) Our self importance may make us think we are super advanced but we are still so impossibly prehistoric and ignorant about our universe, we forget over cell phones and facebook how our insecurities tend to rashly and falsly conclude so we don’t have to feel the insecurity of ambiguity. Just as our ancestors always did, just as all history shows us, if we hadn’t repackaged it or conveniently not bothered to learn from it.Hence our oft silly questions.

    If you don’t understand what Mr Jensen means by asking the land where you live, the land that supports you, “What can and must I do to become your ally, to help protect you from this culture? What can we do together to stop this culture from killing you?” then you don’t understand that that is a solution because it is asking a new question from a new perspective. From taking ourselves out from the centre of importance and remembering instead that we are from and return to this land, that we are of it, we slightly evolve away from asking how long does it take before the ship falls over the edge of the earth?
    The next step of being able to listen to the earth for a response is of course still abstract and magical to those who know not how to exist outside the fetishizing of logic. Just another another snake eating it’s tail in the synapses and psychology of the collective “first world”

  195. A big thank you to Orion for getting Derrick to put in a regular column. It’s highly refreshing to see material of such depth, clarity and some really onto it comments, like those of the last posters John and sheila.

    I personally find in my own grief work there’s nothing wrong with anger. It’s the fire in the belly that moves me, it’s part of the passion in compassion that has my guts churning on behalf of all my brothers and sisters of other species, as more than 200+ a day go to extinction. I consider fleeing from anger at this time and staying in “positivism” to be pathological!

    Resistance is fertile!

  196. Derrick Jensen is not always easy to read. Probably because he says it like it is without mincing words and without trying to make sure he doesn’t step on anyone’s toes. Derrick Jensen steps on toes. He needs to step on more toes. However, while writing for Orion he is – for the most part – preaching to the choir.

    Actually, I think Derrick needs to take his question even deeper – ask a really difficult question of the human race. Not, how should I live my life but rather, how do we reduce the human population of this planet? There are too many of us and we are using too many of the planet’s resources. I heard recently on someone’s news (we don’t get TV and our radio rarely works)an item regarding fertility. I could not help but wonder at this. We don’t need fertility clinics, we need infertility clinics. We don’t need more people, we need fewer people. Babies are nice. Babies make people happy. Babies make adults talk like idiots. I know, I had two babies a long time ago before I knew any better; before I knew about over-population. I love my two sons and I’m glad I didn’t have any more. One of my sons never had and never will have any children. The other one had two of his own and there won’t be anymore. I have friends and colleagues who have never had and never will have children. Not a one of them is pining away for what might have been if only they had had children.

    About a decade ago or more I took a class called “Environmental Biology”. The instructor considered herself a true environmentalist – she rode her bike to class. When I brought up the issue of population and that we are ever more quickly rendering the human population extinct she told me I was crazy. She told me to just look around and see all the people. I suggested she look around and see all the people – billions of us – all using more and more of the Earth’s finite resources. I asked her what was going to happen to us when there were no more resources, when there was no clean air anywhere to breathe, and when there was no water – clean or otherwise – anywhere to drink? She said that would never happen. She told the class that I was fundamentally wrong to think that man (sic) could not always come up with whatever we needed. She used the tired old cliche’ – if men could put men on the moon we could do anything.

    I applaud Derrick Jensen. We need more authors who are willing to tell it just like it is. Step on toes, make people cringe, make people angry. Force us all to face reality. YEAH Team!

    I rest my case.

  197. I first realized that the true source of the contagion was industrial civilization about 20 years ago. I had been a professional activist up till then, and for some periods since then, but never have I heard one person — not one, including you — offer even a glimmer of a “plan” that would reasonably lead to stopping it. Many books have pointed to the real problem and urged, as you do, that we all must do “something”, eg. “Ishmael,” but no one has offered any plan to change course. Neither do you. I’m ready to do whatever it takes. Just come up with I plan. I’ve tried, and I can’t. The best minds on the planet have tried. Not one has pointed to a way to eliminate “industrial civilization.”

  198. We could start to eliminate industrial civilization by learning to live without. I know you can’t do it 100%. Purity needs to be eliminated from your thoughts because it’s the path to inaction. Just make a start.

    Reduce your work hours and spend your extra time working in a community garden. Rip out your lawn and plant your garden there. Start a neighborhood foodshed to share the results of your garden and your seeds. Eat real food and not mass-produced food.

    Learn some kind of skill you can share with others so that your neighbors and you can start to become less dependent upon the work of faraway Chinese labor. Barter more. Volunteer more.

    Don’t have any more babies and with the children you do have, try to meet their needs without so much dependence on industrial society. Make them walk or ride bikes to school. The only reason you think it’s so dangerous is because all the other parents are driving like maniacs to the same school. If you all just quit doing it, it would be safe again.

    Drive less, walk more, ride a bicycle once in a while. Imagine the world after the crash and think about what it would be nice to have in place already, what skills it might be good to know, and start working on them now.

    Industrial civilization only exists to meet our needs. It has convinced you that it’s the only way to get your needs met. It has even created new needs you didn’t realize you had. Take a very long walk in nature sometime, a couple thousand miles ought to do it, and you’ll learn very quickly what is truly necessary for happiness.

  199. I agree with comment #14, in that we, the human race, ARE nature. However, it is not true that the entire human species is responsible for killing off the mega fauna where ever humankind has set foot on a new continent. Native Americans, although not a perfect culture, have not done this. The same goes for most indigenous peoples.

    I believe Jared Diamonds book, Guns Germs & Steel makes some interesting points about how our species has a propensity for exploitation when those “resources” are available to a creature with our intelligence and so on. So it would seem none of this is our fault. Did those early civilizationists just do what came natural to them?

    Did we have a choice all along? When it comes to our ingenuity it seems the answer is no. However when looking at their colonization, occupation, greed, gluttony, wars, authoritarianism and so on one must admit that humans have always had a choice in these matters. And so even though humans had a propensity for manipulating nature they didn’t have to bring it all the way to what we see today – but that was their choice.

    And so now we come to find that this thing we call Civilization (which I believe is the result of a psychosis some humans suffer from)is insane, and indeed Extremist. I’d go as far as saying it’s an Extremist Cult we are each born into and thus making it hard to look at objectively.

    This is why Jensen appears to be himself an Extremist, for his advocacy of violence (and non-violence) in defense of the Earth and nonhumans. The truth is he is very much like anyone who has awakened to the fact of their cults extremism.

    Although I’m sure you know what makes Civilization an Extremist Cult. I’m going to point a few of them out for anyone who might think otherwise: There is an obvious hierarchy with people at the top who feel they have a monopoly on violence and the members at the lower ends of this hierarchy are for the most part ok with granting them this power.

    Another example of extremist behavior: 1)Over production of things that are not necessary for human survival, to the point that we run out of the resources needed to make such pointless things.2) Forcing assimilation onto peoples living beyond the context of our culture. 3) Taking animals from their environment and placing them on display for our enjoyment.
    4) members of this cult experience a dependency on it, as the cult has made it a point to not teach alternative ways of life… This list could go on for a very long time…

    So, yes, what I am saying is that Jensen is right and we must learn to look at this culture from beyond its context. I am actually working on a novel about just that (see my URL link). I do not believe violence is the only answer but when you look toward nature you will find that animals do not hesitate to use violence to defend that which they love. Just as our Extremist Cult hasn’t hesitated to use violence to keep us and all who oppose it in-line, along with using violence as a means to obtain more resources. The mere fact that you and I drive a car, or use ANY oil in our daily lives means we depend on this violence as a way of life.

    Jensen is by no means saying that violence is the only answer. He’s just saying that it has its place in resistance, a real resistance. You can vote against drilling offshore (and everything else that’s killing the planet) all you want, its not going to stop them – but if someone actually goes and physically stops them by skipping all the too-slow politics (in a self-serving system of liars)and using some violent means – they are taking a real stance, they are involved in a true resistance (yet they require the support of people who are not willing to use violence.)

  200. #203 — you say Jensen advocates violence in defense of the earth, along with non-violence. I didn’t pick up that he advocated anything but asking the proper question. Beyond that, he didn’t proscribe any actions in particular.

    And that’s the problem. Nobody has come up with an idea for HOW to stop it. Jensen isn’t saying anything new. The reason most people don’t bother asking the proper question is because so far, no one has a clue about HOW to answer it — what exactly will stop the rampage?

  201. #204: If you read Endgame (Vol 1&2) it will be clear to you. I totally agree that Jensen isn’t saying anything new. I’m sure he’s aware of that too. I think that’s why he points to people like John Livingston, and others who have been spreading the warning. One way or another it will stop, but at this point- anything that will stop it is going to bring much suffering. But the more we are prepared the easier it will be. Michael C. Ruppert is working on a Lifeboat project.

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

    Objectively codifiable support for a conclusion what’s that?

  203. Of course not. If people were willing to do it, it would be done
    already. You’re objection to the question is ironic since you’ve replaced their question with one that asks the same thing with different words. How should you live your life right now? Do what needs to be done. Ain’t nobody gonna do it though… bravery and hardship are no longer valuable traits.

    Example: What are you doing Derrick?.. besides writing about how nobody’s doing anything… profiting from that much?

  204. What is meant by spirituality here?

  205. Prior Derrick Jensen article, “But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care.” Perhaps divergent from this thought, and the content of “World at Gunpoint,” and perhaps much more so, but maybe not, is the following muse… It comes to me, that my quirkiness to follow NASA, is oft at odds with my primitive primal instinct to flee such techno matter. Maybe I am sentinel sniper. Of late, the mantra there at NASA is this: “your planet is changing, we are on it.” I see, thinks I …As the hole in ozone grows. As we see our only way to survive as a species is the get the hell off our, “the” planet. As we worry about another galaxy crashing into ours somewhere in a billion light years. Only under threat of death may we stand a chance to undue the harm that civilization has wrought. This on account that there is little chance in our current democracy that the forewarned are actually better for-armed. Likely we are just better fore-sickened. So we should take those allegedly “cryptic” steps avert the disaster. That is the smart thing to do.

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