The Ecomodernist Manifesto is a program for genocide and ecocide

Perhaps you’ve heard of the false promise of Bright Green Technology? If you couple that with a strong dose of human-centrism, you might have something like Ecomodernism. That’s not a good thing. Deep Green Resistance co-founder Derrick Jensen explains.

Remade by man: the Passenger Pigeon. Juvenile (left), male (center), and female (right), from 'Birds of New York' (University of the State of New York) 1910-1914. Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927), Public Domain via Patrick Coin on Flickr.

Remade by man: the Passenger Pigeon. Juvenile (left), male (center), and female (right), from ‘Birds of New York’ (University of the State of New York) 1910-1914. Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927), Public Domain via Patrick Coin on Flickr.

The idea of a ‘good, or even great, Anthropocene’ as promised in the Ecomodernist Manifesto is purely delusional, writes Derrick Jensen. Worse, it underlies a narrative in which the wholesale destruction of nature and of sustainable indigenous societies is repackaged as a noble mission – one whose ultimate purpose is the complete alienation of humans from the planet that spawned us.

 

 

“If we wish to continue to live on this planet, we need to recognize and remember that it is our only home and that we are dependent upon this planet, and that this dependence is a very good thing.”

Robert Jay Lifton noted that before you can commit any mass atrocity, you must convince yourself and others that what you’re doing is not atrocious, but rather beneficial. You must have what he called a “claim to virtue”.

Thus the Nazis weren’t, from their perspective, committing mass murder and genocide, but were ‘purifying the Aryan Race’. They weren’t waging aggressive war but gaining necessary Lebensraum.

The United States has never committed genocide, but rather has fulfilled its Manifest Destiny. It has never waged aggressive war, but rather has ‘defended its national interest’ and ‘promoted freedom and democracy’.

Today, the dominant culture isn’t killing the planet, but rather ‘developing natural resources’.

This is to say that any culture foolish and insane enough to murder the planet that is our only home would of course be foolish and insane enough to attempt to provide justifications for this murder.

That brings us to An Ecomodernist Manifesto, the same sort of claim to virtue we’ve come to expect from this culture’s several thousand year tradition of nature-hating.

And the Earth is remade by human hands

Heck, the first written myth of this culture is of the hero Gilgamesh deforesting what is now Iraq to build a city and make a name for himself. Fast forward a few thousand years, and that’s the same nature-hating and empire-building story being told in An Ecomodernist Manifesto (and that has been told in myriad ways in between).

The narcissism, entitlement, and gaslighting starts at the beginning: “To say that the Earth is a human planet becomes truer every day. Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands.

“Many earth scientists express this by stating that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene.”

“The Earth is remade by human hands” … ‘Remade’ is such a nice word, isn’t it? Much better than ‘destroyed, murdered, ravaged, grievously harmed’, don’t you think? Gilgamesh and those who came after didn’t deforest and desertify what was once called the Fertile Crescent, they ‘remade’ it from cedar forests so thick that sunlight never touched the ground into cities and deserts.

The Egyptians and Phoenicians didn’t kill the forests of North Africa, they ‘remade’ them into navies and deserts. This culture hasn’t wiped out 98% of the world’s ancient forests, wetlands, grasslands; it’s merely ‘remade’ them, complete with ‘remaking’ the plants and animals there into extinction.

This culture isn’t killing the oceans; it’s merely ‘remaking’ them such that there probably won’t be any fish. It’s not extirpating elephants and great apes and great cats and two hundred species per day; it’s merely ‘remaking’ them so they’re extinct. It doesn’t commit land theft and genocide against Indigenous peoples, instead it merely ‘remakes’ them and their landbases.

Not all humans – just the powerful ones

Further, the sort of remaking they’re talking about in this Manifesto is not done by all humans, as they claim. It’s done by specific sorts of humans, who feel entitled to take everything on the planet, the sorts of people who might call it a ‘human planet’.

I live on Tolowa Indian land in what is now far northern California. The Tolowa lived here for at least 12,500 years, and when the Europeans arrived, the place was a paradise. There were so many salmon in the rivers that the rivers were “black and roiling” with fish. The Tolowa and Yurok and Hoopa lived here truly sustainably, and could have continued to do so more or less forever.

Members of the dominant culture arrived less than 200 years ago, and immediately embarked on campaigns of extermination – the authors of An Ecomodernist Manifesto might call these ‘campaigns of remaking’ – against the human and nonhuman inhabitants.

And what was the point of all of these campaigns of extermination remaking? It was no different in the 1830s than it is now, and it is no different now than it was in the time of Gilgamish.

The point is to allow Gilgamish to create a city and make a name for himself; I mean, to allow the Chosen People to enter the Promised Land; I mean, to allow the superior ones to create an empire upon which the sun never sets; I mean, to allow the superior ones to Manifest their Destiny; I mean, to allow the superior ones to create a Thousand Year Reich; I mean, to allow the superior ones to do so much damage to the planet that they name a fucking geologic epoch after themselves; I mean, to “allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene.”

The end of violence! Really … ?

The authors of An Ecomodernist Manifesto also state: “Violence in all forms has declined significantly and is probably at the lowest per capita level ever experienced by the human species, the horrors of the 20th century and present-day terrorism notwithstanding.”

Who would have guessed that when you redefine violence perpetrated by your culture as not being violence but rather as ‘remaking’, that you can then claim that “violence in all forms has declined significantly”?

I’m not sure members of the two hundred species driven extinct today would agree that “violence in all forms has declined significantly.” Nor would members of Indigenous human cultures being driven from their land, or being exterminated: Indigenous human languages are being driven extinct at an even faster relative rate than are nonhuman species.

But I guess none of this counts as violence in any form whatsoever. Because of this culture’s ‘remaking’ of the planet, wildlife populations across the world have collapsed by 50% over the past forty years. Because of this ‘remaking’, the oceans are acidifying, and are suffocating in plastic. I guess none of this counts as violence in any form.

This ‘remaking’ of the planet is causing the greatest mass extinction in the history of the world, in fact so far as we know the greatest mass extinction in the history of the universe. And violence is down? Only because they don’t count the violence they don’t want to count.

They also don’t count the violence of subsistence farmers being driven from their lands. Nor do they count the violence of humans (and nonhumans) losing their traditional ways of living in this great ‘remaking’. They don’t count the horrors of factory farming or row-crop agriculture.

The rule of law and increased freedom. Oh yeah?

The authors state, “Globally, human beings have moved from autocratic government toward liberal democracy characterized by the rule of law and increased freedom.”

I don’t think those subsistence farmers forced from their land and into cities would agree they’re living in a time of increased freedom. And I don’t think any of us have the freedom to live free of the world this culture is ‘remaking’.

Do I have the freedom to live in a world with more migratory songbirds each year? More amphibians? Do I have the freedom to live in a world not being murdered? This culture gives its victims the choice: “Adapt to the world we are remaking to suit us, or die.” This is not fundamentally different to the choice this culture has long offered Indigenous peoples, of ‘Christianity or death’, or ‘Give away your lands and assimilate, or death.’

Once you give in to this culture, stop defending your land from this culture, become dependent on this culture, work for this culture, identify with this culture, propagandize for this culture, serve this culture, then the culture and its proponents may stop attacking you. But if you don’t give in, you will be exterminated. As we see. And none of this is considered violence.

Living Marxism?

A few years ago I was interviewed by a dedicated Marxist who believes it’s possible to create an industrial system in which all economic exchanges are voluntary, absent of any violence or coercion.

Of course, as with the authors of An Ecomodernist Manifesto, he didn’t count violence against nonhumans or the natural world as violence. He also said that cities could exist under such a society.

I asked, “What do you use for transportation?”

He said, “Buses.”

I asked, “Where do you get the metals for the buses?”

“Mines.”

“Where do you get the miners?” Mining is one of the first three forms of slavery, and the primary way to get people into mines has always been coercion, whether it’s at the point of a sword or gun; or through laws such as those of apartheid; or through other means of destroying people’s access to land, and therefore access to food, clothing, and shelter, and therefore self-sufficiency.

He said, “You pay them enough that they’ll do it.”

I said, “What about pollution in the river? We agree that mines pollute, right? It’s impossible to have a mine without harming the land and water and air, right?”

He agreed.

I said, “What about the people who live next to the river which will now be polluted?”

“You pay them to move.”

“What if they’ve lived there for 12,500 years, and their ancestors are there, and they refuse to move?”

“Pay them more.”

“They refuse your money.”

“How many are there?”

“What difference does that make? Let’s say 500.”

He said, “We vote.”

I said, “So the million people in the city vote to take the land from the 500 people who live along the river?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “You do realize that by not questioning the industrial infrastructure, you have moved within one minute from being a staunch advocate for only voluntary economic exchanges, to defending colonialism, land theft from the Indigenous, and democratic empire, right?”

The Ecomodernist goal: ‘decoupling’ humans from the natural environment

Cities have always depended on a countryside (also known as colonies, also known as nature) to exploit.

The authors state, “Whether it’s a local indigenous community or a foreign corporation that benefits, it is the continued dependence of humans on natural environments that is the problem for the conservation of nature.”

Often those trying to justify the destructiveness of this culture conflate Indigenous people living in place and affecting their landbase with the clearly destructive activities of transnational corporations. The claim seems to be: because humans lived someplace, and affected the land there (as every being will affect all other beings: the bacteria who live inside of you affect you, some in very positive ways), then that gives the dominant culture carte blanche to act however it wants.

As the anti-environmentalist Charles Mann puts it: “Anything goes … Native Americans managed the continent as they saw fit. Modern nations must do the same.”

This is, of course, completely insane (and self-serving). Anyone with integrity understands the difference between Indigenous peoples living in the same place for 12,500 years and the place being capable of supporting them for another 12,500 years, and the dominant culture extracting resources to make a buck (oh, sorry, ‘remaking’ the place).

Of course humans affect the land. Salmon affect the land. Alder trees affect the land. Beavers affect the land. Prairie dogs affect the land. Wolves affect the land. Oyster mushrooms affect the land. But the question becomes: does your presence on the land help make the land healthier? There’s a world of difference between participating in a living landbase on one hand; and extracting resources or ‘remaking’ the land on the other. The former is a relationship; the latter is theft, murder, and control.

We are part of this planet – and we better get used to it

It was said of the Indians of northern California that they of course made decisions that affected the land (just as do salmon, redwood trees, and everyone else), but that these decisions were made on the understanding that the people were going to be living in that same place for the next five hundred years. In other words, their decisions were made based on their embodied understanding that their own health was entirely dependent upon the health of the land.

This is precisely the opposite of what those who promote extractive economies do, and it is precisely the opposite of what the authors of An Ecomodernist Manifesto propose. They propose that the ‘problem’ is “the continued dependence of humans on natural environments.”

But that’s not the ‘problem’. That’s the reality. We live on the Earth, our only home, our only source of air, water, food, shelter, our only source of everything that brings life. It is physically impossible to ‘decouple’, to use one of the favored words of the Manifesto’s authors, the health of the land from the long term health of those who are dependent upon this land.

Sure, you can steal from the land to build a city and a navy, and use that city and navy to conquer more land. Sure, you can continue on a path of expansion across the globe, cutting down forests and draining wetlands and damming rivers and making dead zones in oceans and extirpating nonhumans and stealing land from Indigenous peoples who were living there sustainably, so long as there are always new forests to cut down, new prairies to convert to croplands (and then to wastelands).

So long as there are new frontiers to violate and exploit, new places to conquer and steal from (sorry, ‘remake’) you can continue to overshoot carrying capacity and destroy the planet. And in the meantime, you can build a hell of a big city and a hell of a big name for yourself. But you should never pretend that can be sustainable.

The authors ask, “Given that humans are completely dependent on the living biosphere, how is it possible that people are doing so much damage to natural systems without doing more harm to themselves?”

I keep thinking about what might be the internal and social experience of bacteria on a petri dish. At some point, a few of the bacteria might say, “There are limits to how much we can grow. Do you think we should start planning on how to live here sustainably?”

Others respond, “Things have never been better. If we just keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll create not only a good but great bacteriocene!”

The naysayers again point out that the petri dish is finite. They’re shouted down by the optimists, who say, following the authors of An Ecomodernist Manifesto, “To the degree to which there are fixed physical boundaries to … consumption, they are so theoretical as to be functionally irrelevant.”

The Ecomodernist bacteria insist that what’s really necessary is to decouple (one of their favorite words, too) their own well-being from that of the petri dish. This discussion flourishes until the end, when the ‘remade’ petri dish can no longer support life.

The industrial monoculture diet – you call that ‘rich’?

I briefly want to point out one more explicit lie, and one more false conceit. The explicit lie is, “The average per-capita use of land today is vastly lower than it was 5,000 years ago, despite the fact that modern people enjoy a far richer diet.”

First, ‘average per-capita use of land’ is a ridiculous measure of ecological or social health. The point of life is not, as the Bible suggested, to “go forth and multiply.” The point is not, to move this to the 21st century, to project capitalism’s definition of success onto the real world and try to ‘get large or get out’.

The point is and always has been the health of the land. A society with fewer members living in a long-term participatory, mutual relationship with the land is a far better measure of ecological and social health than is how much land each person requires.

A sane culture would figure out how many people a piece of land can permanently (and optimally) support, and then make sure they’re below that number. An insane culture would overshoot carrying capacity and then consider itself superior because it (temporarily) supports more people per square mile.

But that’s not even the main lie, which is the absurd claim that “modern people enjoy a far richer diet.” Right now just three plants – rice, wheat, and millet – provide 60% of humans’ food energy intake, and 15 plants provide 90%. Further, the provision of these foods is increasingly controlled by large corporations: four corporations control 75% of the world grain market. We can make similar statements about other food markets.

In contrast, the diet of hunter gatherers routinely included scores or hundreds of varieties of plants, plants not controlled by distant corporations. This is crucial, because if those in power can control a people’s food supply they can control their lives, which means they can force them to work for the elites: so much for the ‘freedom’ of this new ‘remade’ world.

And then there’s the fact that no one can anymore eat passenger pigeons, Eskimo curlews, great auks, or any of the other food staples this culture has caused to go extinct in its great remaking. And these days with the best tasting fish generally having been driven (at least commercially) extinct, increasingly corporations are selling what were once considered ‘trash fish’ as luxuries. All of this is one reason the corporate press is increasingly praising insects as food: we’ve either destroyed or are destroying other foodstocks.

So it’s simply a lie to say modern diets are richer.

Human and planetary health are inseparable – like it or not

And finally, for the primary conceit of the Manifesto, which is that the world can be ‘remade’ without destroying it. Let’s test their thesis. Name five biomes that have been managed for extraction – ‘remade’, to use their term – by this culture that have not been significantly harmed on their own terms.

Okay, let’s try four.

Three?

Two?

Okay, name one.

It can’t be done. Over the past several thousand years, this culture hasn’t managed for extraction a single biome without significantly harming it.

They say one sign of intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns. How stupid must our claims to virtue make us if we cannot recognize this pattern, with an unbroken string of failures running several thousand years and at this point literally covering the entire planet, from the deserts of Iraq to the garbage patches in the oceans to the melting icecaps to the dammed and polluted rivers?

Of course if your goal is to ‘remake’ the world to create luxuries for yourself, and if you don’t care that this ‘remaking’ destroys life on the planet, then you might not consider this to be a consistent pattern of failure. You may consider this a great success. Which in and of itself is pretty stupid.

Out of the more than 450 dead zones in the oceans – caused by this culture’s ‘remaking’ of the planet – only one has recovered. It’s in the Black Sea. It recovered not because humans ‘decoupled’ themselves from the earth, but rather because humans were forced to ‘decouple’ themselves from empire.

The Soviet Union collapsed, and this collapse made it so agriculture was no longer economically feasible in the region. In other words, humans could no longer ‘remake’ the world in that place. And the world, or rather, that one small part of the world, began to recover.

The authors of An Ecomodernist Manifesto have it completely backwards. For several thousand years this nature-hating culture has tried as hard as it can to define itself as other than nature. It has tried to separate itself from nature, to pretend it is not of nature. To pretend it is above nature, better than nature. That what it creates is more important than what nature creates. It has tried to pretend that it is not dependent on nature.

If we wish to continue to live on this planet, we need to recognize and remember that it is our only home and that we are dependent upon this planet, and that this dependence is a very good thing.

Far from attempting to ‘decouple’ our well-being from that of the planet – which this culture has been trying to do for a few thousand years now, to the detriment of everyone this culture encounters – we need to recognize and remember that our own well-being has always been intimately dependent on the health of the planet.

And those of us who care about life on the planet must stop those who are currently remaking – read, killing – this planet that is our only home.

Liberals and the New McCarthyism

Deep Green Resistance co-founder Derrick Jensen published a new essay, which we encourage liberals, progressives, radicals, and others interested in the free exchange of ideas to consider.

 

From Counterpunch

AUGUST 10, 2015
Liberals and the New McCarthyism
by DERRICK JENSEN

It’s easy enough, some sixty years after the fact, for us to cluck our tongues at the cowardice and stupidity of those who went along with McCarthyism. It’s especially easy for liberals and academics to say that had they been alive back then, they would certainly have had the courage to stand up for discourse and to stand up for those being blacklisted. That’s partly because universities like to present themselves as bastions of free thought and discourse, where students, faculty, and guests discuss the most important issues of the day. Liberal academics especially like to present themselves as encouraging of these discussions.

Bullshit.

A new McCarthyism—complete with blacklisting—has overtaken universities, and discourse in general, and far from opposing it, liberal academics are its most active and ardent perpetrators, demanding a hegemony of thought and discourse that rivals the original.

For the past decade or so, deplatforming—the disinvitation of a speaker at the insistence of a special interest group—and blacklisting have been, to use the word of an organization that tracks the erosion of academic freedom through the increased use of deplatforming, “exploding.” Between 2002 and 2013, disinvitations from universities went up six times. And no longer are the primary blacklisters the capitalists (as was the case in the 1950s) or the pro-Israel lobby (as it has been for the past few decades). The pro-Israel lobby is still blacklisting like mad, but it’s been overtaken these days in the anti-free-speech sweepstakes by those who often consider themselves the brave heirs of Mario Savio: the liberals and leftists. And the targets of the liberals and leftists are not confined to the right (although they do certainly target right-wingers as well). Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges was recently deplatformed because he speaks out against prostitution as exploitative of women. Only outcry by women forced the college to reinstate him. Writer and activist Gail Dines was recently deplatformed because she speaks out against pornography. Last year an anarchist organization called “Civil Liberties Defense Center” lent its efforts to attempts to deplatform writer and activist Lierre Keith from the University of Oregon because she’s a radical feminist. The irony of an organization with “civil liberties” in its title attempting to deplatform someone because her ideology doesn’t fit its own doesn’t escape me, and probably won’t escape anyone outside of anarchist/liberal/leftist circles. Last year, female genital mutilation survivor, child bride survivor, and feminist activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali was disinvited from receiving an honorary degree at Brandeis because she writes, from unspeakably painful experience, about how millions of women are treated under Islam.

Capitalists used the rhetoric of “communism” to blacklist. The pro-Israel lobby uses the rhetoric of “Anti-Semitism.” And the modern-day McCarthys use the rhetoric of “oppression” and “trauma.”

Things have gotten bad enough that comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Larry the Cable Guy have all said they can’t or won’t play colleges any more. As fellow-comedian Bill Maher commented, “When Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry the Cable Guy say you have a stick up your ass, you don’t have to wait for the X-rays to come back. That’s right, a black, a Jew and a redneck all walk onto a college campus and they all can’t wait to leave.”

Things have gotten bad enough that this spring The Onion put out a satirical piece titled, “College Encourages Lively Exchange of Idea: Students, Faculty, Invited to Freely Express Single Viewpoint.” The article concludes with fictitious college President Kevin Abrams stating, “‘Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here.’ Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.”

Things are much worse than I’ve so far made them seem. Brown University recently held a debate about sexual assault on campus. In response to the very existence of this debate—and this time it’s not The Onion reporting, but rather The New York Times—the college set up a “safe space” where those who might be made uncomfortable, or to use the politically correct parlance, “triggered,” by the debate could remove to relax with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.” A student gave her reason for using the safe room: “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.”

Silly me. I thought being challenged was a primary point of college.

Over the past few years I’ve talked to several university instructors (especially adjuncts) who’ve told me they’re afraid of their students. Not physically, as in their students killing them, but rather they fear that uttering any opinion that any of their students—eitherdeepgreenr
conservative or liberal: it swings both ways—find objectionable will lead to that student complaining to the administration, after which the instructor may lose her or his classes, in effect be fired. And I just read an essay by an instructor in which he mentions an adjunct whose contract was not “renewed after students complained that he exposed them to ‘offensive’ texts written by Edward Said and Mark Twain. His response, that the texts were meant to be a little upsetting, only fueled the students’ ire and sealed his fate.”

The political correctness posse has started coming after me. I’ve been deplatformed twice this year, by liberals at Appalachian State and Oregon State Universities. The logic behind the deplatformings makes an interesting case study in the McCarthyism and circular firing squad mentality of the liberal academic class.

Part of what’s interesting to me about these deplatformings is that given what I write about—my work more or less constantly calls for revolution—I always thought it was inevitable that I’d start getting deplatformed, just as I’m always detained when I cross international borders, but I thought this deplatforming would come from the right. Not so. It’s come from the left, and, well, to use a cliché, it’s come out of left field.

To be clear, I’ve never been deplatformed because I’ve written scores of lines like, “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam.” I’ve never been deplatformed because I’ve written about the necessity of using any means necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet. I’ve never been deplatformed because I’ve written about taking down capitalism. I’ve never been deplatformed for making the satirical modest proposal that a way to stop environmental destruction is to attach remote controlled cigar cutters to the genitals of CEOs, politicians, and land managers who claim their decisions won’t harm the land (let them put their genitals where their mouths are, I say (which is something they’ve probably already tried to do)) and when their decisions harm the land, well, bzzzt, and I guarantee the next CEO, politician, or land manager won’t be quite so quick to make false promises. I’ve never been deplatformed for calling in all seriousness for Tony Hayward, ex-CEO of BP, to be tried and if found guilty executed for murdering workers in the Gulf of Mexico, and for murdering the Gulf itself. I can say all of those things, and not have the slightest fear of deplatforming.

Why was I deplatformed? In both cases because I hold the evidently politically incorrect position that women, including those who have been sexually assaulted by males, should not be forced—as in, against their will—to share their most intimate spaces with men. I’ve been deplatformed because I believe that women have the right to bathe, sleep, gather, and organize free from the presence of men.

That’s it.

Yes, I think it’s ridiculous, too.

Even though I wasn’t going to talk about this right of women at all, but rather the murder of the planet, a small group of students—in this case those who identify as transgender—at Applachian State was given veto power over whether I would speak at the university. They said that my mere presence on campus would be “an offense” to their community. Bingo: disinvitation. I was likewise deplatformed from Oregon State because, in the words of the professors who deplatformed me, my presence would “hurt the feelings” of the students who identify as transgender. Never mind, once again, that I wasn’t going to talk about them at all.

Do we all see what’s wrong with deplatforming someone because he or she may hurt someone’s feelings? Once again, silly me: I thought I’d been invited to speak at a university, not a day care center.

My recollection of the universities I have attended or taught at is that a primary purpose was to foster critical thinking and the exploration of vital issues of the day, not to protect students from anything that might “hurt their feelings.” A purpose was to help them become functioning adults in a pluralistic society. Clearly, that’s gone by the boards. And I wasn’t even going to talk about transgender issues, which means it would be my mere presence that would hurt their feelings. Do we all see what is very wrong with basing campus and regional discourse on whether someone’s feelings will be hurt, and worse, on “hurt feelings” that won’t even be based on what the blacklisted speaker was actually going to talk about? What does it mean to our society and to discourse that one group of people—any group of people—is allowed to hold campus and regional discourse hostage by threatening that their feelings may be hurt? Should Christians be able to deplatform Richard Dawkins because he hurts their feelings? Should atheists be able to deplatform Christians because the Christians hurt their feelings? Capitalists are killing the planet. The murder of the planet certainly hurts my feelings. So let’s deplatform all the capitalists.

The kicker on me getting deplatformed because my presence would be an “offense” to, and “hurt the feelings” of, those students who identify as transgender, is that not only was I not going to talk about them, I barely even write about them. I’ve done the math, and out of the literally millions of words I’ve written for publication, only .14 percent (yes, that’s point 14 percent) of those words have to do with their issues: two short essays, only written after my female comrades began receiving a host of rape and death threats simply for wanting to sleep, bathe, gather, and organize free from the presence of males (and you’d think that rape and death threats by men who object to women wanting space away from men would be the end of the discussion: it is, but not in the way you think: it’s the end of the discussion because the men win and the women and their allies get deplatformed). .14 percent of my work is 1.4 words per every thousand. That’s the equivalent of five words in this entire essay. Even if it were worthwhile to deplatform me over the issue at all, they’re deplatforming me because they disagree with .14 percent of my work. Hell, I disagree with a lot more than that. The cult-like demand of loyalty on the part of the new McCarthyites is so rigid that 99.86 percent agreement does not suffice.

And the essays they object to weren’t even disrespectful (which is more than I can say for my treatment of, say, capitalists), just a political and philosophical disagreement.

Part of the problem is that a terrible (and manipulative) rhetorical coup has taken place in academia, where political and philosophical disagreement have been redefined as “disrespect” and “traumatizing” and “hurting their feelings,” such that the “victims” may have to dash off to a “safe space” to play with Play-Doh and watch videos of puppies. As the (highly problematical) professor and writer Laura Kipnis puts it, “Emotional discomfort is [now] regarded as equivalent to material injury, and all injuries have to be remediated.” A fearful college instructor observed, “Hurting a student’s feelings, even in the course of instruction that is absolutely appropriate and respectful, can now get a teacher into serious trouble.”

That is a rhetorical coup because it makes discourse impossible. Those who perpetuate or support this coup have made it impossible to talk about the subject (or, clearly, any subject, including the murder of the planet), because any disagreement on any “triggering” subject is immediately labeled as a lack of acceptance and as disrespect.

To be clear, if no one is allowed to disagree with any one particular group of people—whether they be Christians or Muslims or capitalists or those who support (or oppose) Israel or those who identify as transgender, or, for that matter, members of the chess club—for fear their feelings will be hurt, then there can be no reasonable discourse. And if the purpose of a college lecture series is to make sure that no one’s feelings will be hurt, there can be no speakers. Allowing any group to hold discourse hostage to their feelings is the death knell for pluralistic society. It leads to fundamentalism. It is a fundamentalism.

It’s a classic trick used by despots and pocket despots everywhere: to ensure agreement with your position, make certain that all other positions are literally unspeakable. For the religiously minded, the epithet of choice has often been blasphemy. For the patriot, it’s traitor. For the capitalist, it’s commie. And for the liberal/leftist/anarchist, it’s oppressor.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

When I was a sophomore in college, the Colorado School of Mines invited Edward Teller to speak. One of my classes required attendance. The lecture was precisely what one would expect from one of the worst human beings of the twentieth century. But some thirty-five years later, the only thing I remember of that year-long class consisted of the great classroom discussion the next day, with some students hating him and others defending him. The professors—no fans of Teller’s insanity—used this as an opportunity to teach their twenty-year-old charges to build and defend an argument. Why did you find his views so offensive? Defend your position. Convince us.

To my mind, that is the point of college.

I once asked my friend the Okanagan activist Jeannette Armstrong what she thought of an attack by another writer on Jerry Mander’s book In the Absence of the Sacred. Her answer has guided my life and career: if he didn’t like the book, he should have written his own damn book.

And that is the point of writing.

So, if you disagree with me, great! If you think women don’t have the right to gather free from the presence of males, then make your argument. If you feel Israel is not committing atrocities, then make your argument. If you feel capitalism is the most just and desirable social arrangement possible and that communism is the devil’s handiwork, then make your argument. In each case make the best argument you can. Show that your position is correct. Make your argument so sound that no sane person could disagree with you (and lots of people—sane or otherwise—will still disagree with you: that’s the fucking point of living in a pluralistic society). And when somebody doesn’t agree with you, don’t fucking whine that your feelings are hurt or that you’re offended by an opinion different than your own, but instead use that disagreement to hone your own arguments for future disagreement. Or change your perspective based on that disagreement.

That is the point of college.

We’re not all going to get along. But no one is saying you have to invite every speaker into your home. No one is saying you have to accept them into your internet- or face-to-face-discussion groups. No one is saying you have to like them. No one is saying you have to listen to them. Hell, no one is even saying you have to acknowledge their existence. But if you fear a certain discussion or lecture is going to traumatize you such that you need to go blow bubbles and watch videos of puppies, then maybe you should just not attend that discussion or lecture, and later on maybe you should discuss those feelings with a therapist. Don’t project your triggers onto your fellow students. Don’t deprive everyone else of something because you object or because it might trigger you. It is not everyone else’s—or the world’s—responsibility to never make you uncomfortable.

That’s the point of living in a pluralistic society.

I blame society for this mess. Every indicator is that people are becoming significantly more narcissistic and less empathetic: as Scientific American reported back in 2010, “A study of 14,000 college students found that today’s young people are 40 percent less empathetic than college kids from 30 years ago,” and noted that “the sharpest drop in empathy occurred in the last nine years.” The article reports that “today’s students are less likely to agree with statements like, ‘I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective’ and ‘I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me [sic].’” So it should not come as a surprise that these students demand and expect that public discourse be formed so as to not “hurt their feelings.” Pretty much everything in this society—from capitalism to consumerism to incessant advertising and corporate culture to the selfish gene theory to neoliberalism to postmodernism to the superficiality of Internet culture—reinforces this narcissism. How many decades ago was “The Me Decade”? And how much worse has it become since then? Well, about 40 percent.

I also blame liberals/leftists/anarchists, who are in some ways merely replicating the Stanford Prison Experiment, in that having gained some power in the Academy, they’re using that power the same way that capitalists or anybody else who gains power so often does, by denying voice to anyone who disagrees with them.

And I blame the groundlessness of postmodernism, with its assertion that meaning is not inherent in anything, that there are no truths, and that each person’s perception of reality is equally valid. As well as destroying class consciousness—which is one reason modern blacklisting is often based on claims of how some speaker will supposedly hurt or trigger the individual, rather than emphasizing harm or gain to society as a whole—postmodernism has led to much of the insanity we’re discussing. As philosopher Daniel Dennett commented, “Postmodernism, the school of ‘thought’ that proclaimed ‘There are no truths, only interpretations’ has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for ‘conversations’ in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.” And if all you’ve got is rhetoric, that is, “interpretations” and “assertions,” as opposed to, say, factual evidence, then the only way, or at least the most tempting way, to conclusively win an argument is through rhetorical manipulations. If you can’t say, “Your opinion is wrong, and here are facts showing your opinion is wrong,” you’re pretty much stuck with, “Your opinion is oppressing me, triggering me, hurting my feelings.” And that’s precisely what we see. And of course we can’t argue back, in part because nobody can verify or falsify your feelings, and in part because by then we’ve already been deplatformed.

Among other problems, this is all very bad thinking.

And finally I blame the professors themselves. The word education comes from the root e-ducere, and means “to lead forth” or “draw out.” Originally it was a Greek midwife’s term meaning “to be present at the birth of.” The implication is that the educator is an adult, who is helping to give birth to the student’s capacity for critical thinking, and to the student’s adult form. This is not accomplished by making certain that no one be allowed to speak who might “hurt their feelings.” This is not accomplished by protecting students from “viewpoints that go against . . . dearly and closely held beliefs.” It’s accomplished by challenging students at every moment to be better thinkers, challenging them to question their own assumptions, challenging them to defend their positions with far more intellectual rigor than merely stating, “That hurt my feelings.”

I blame the professors also for not standing up for discourse itself. If you’re going to be a professor, if you’re going to be a midwife present at the birth of the critical minds of your students, then defending free and open discourse should be a calling and a duty. It should be a passion. It takes no courage whatsoever to fail to stand up to attempts to destroy discourse, whether the blacklisters are capitalists, the pro-Israel lobby, leftists, liberals, or students who perceive themselves (and who are evidently perceived by professors) as so fragile their feelings will be hurt by dissenting opinions, their feelings which must be protected no matter the cost to society and to discourse. This failure of courage does great injury to everyone, including the students perceived as needing protection from disagreement. I wish the professors understood that their job is to be educators, not baby-sitters (and codependent baby-sitters, at that). I wish the professors were defenders of discourse.

Derrick Jensen is numerous books, including Endgame, Listening to the Land, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution, and co-author of Deep Green Resistance.

 

 

 

Destroy the World… and Feel Good About It

Members of Deep Green Resistance identify as ‘radicals’.  That term, however, means that we identify and address the root causes of  our planet’s ecological and social injustices; it does not mean ‘extremist’. On the other hand, we know of those who are extremists. The following article, by Derrick Jensen, is reposted from Fair Observer.

© Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

Destroy the World… and Feel Good About It
DERRICK JENSEN July 1, 2015

There are “environmental extremists” on this planet, and Derrick Jensen believes they are called capitalists.

I have been sometimes labeled an environmental extremist, primarily because I believe the real world is more important than the economy, and because I believe we should do whatever is necessary to stop this extractive culture from killing the planet that is our only home.

Labeling someone an extremist is a standard rhetorical device to demonize the “extremist” and dismiss the person’s perspective. It’s kind of the loco-motion of the rhetoric world in that everybody’s doing it. The Nazis said the Jews were extremists. Slavers said abolitionists were extremists. The Founding Fathers of the United States complained of how poorly the Indians were treating them as they stole the Indians’ land.

Today, the US bombs extremists all over the world, oftentimes using as their reasoning the fact that extremists want to bomb the Americans, whom they label as extremists. Corporate apologists and other right-wingers often call environmentalists “extremists” for any reason. You want genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeled? They’ll call you an extremist. You want areas of the ocean off limits to fishing, they’ll call you an extremist. You want to stop logging of old growth forests? They’ll call you an extremist.

It happens on the personal level, too, as garden-variety abusers would never perpetrate their abuse if it weren’t for the extreme behavior of their victims.

CLAIM TO VIRTUE

It always pays to present oneself as the reasonable one—the one in the reasonable center—and one’s opponent or enemy as the unreasonable one, the extremist.

Robert Jay Lifton wrote about how people can’t commit any mass atrocity without having what he calls a “claim to virtue.” That is, they must convince others and especially themselves that they’re not in fact committing an atrocity, but rather a positive good. Nazis weren’t committing mass murder and genocide, but purifying the Aryan “race.” The United States has never committed mass murder, land theft and genocide, but rather it has “manifested its destiny.” The dominant culture isn’t killing the planet, but “developing natural resources.”

All of this is true in our personal lives too. I have never once in my life been a jerk, by which I mean that every time I have objectively been a jerk, I have had my actions fully rationalized.

And likewise, by definition, almost no one will consider their own position extreme. Their own position is the reasonable one, or they wouldn’t have it. And their own position is in the center, once again by definition, because it is from their own perspective. This is as true of capitalists as it is of Christians, atheists, environmentalists, Scientologists or members of the Manson family.

All of which speaks to the power of rationalization.

Derrick Jensen at Earth at Risk 2014

But that doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and give in to any sort of relativism. The fact that an argument is misused doesn’t mean the argument is never true. The Germans’ excuse for invading Poland to start World War II was that a detachment of Polish soldiers had attacked a German installation. The fact these “Polish soldiers” were really Germans in Polish uniforms doesn’t mean that no one can ever claim self-defense. The fact that people rationalize atrocities doesn’t mean no one ever commits atrocities, and it doesn’t mean that every statement everyone makes in defense of their actions is a rationalization.

The question becomes, where do we find solid ground?

Years ago, I got into an argument with a woman over whether rape is a bad thing. I said it was. She—and I need to say she was dating a postmodern philosopher at the time, and has since dumped him and regained her sanity—responded: “No, we can say that rape is a bad thing. But since humans assign all value”— and of course that statement is itself both inaccurate and a big part of the problem—“humans can decide whether rape is good or bad. There is nothing inherently good or bad about it. It just is. Now, we can certainly tell ourselves a series of stories that cause us to believe that rape is bad, that is, we can construct a set of narratives reinforcing the notion that rape is harmful, but we could just as easily construct a set of narratives that tell us quite the opposite.”

There’s one sense in which she was right: We can certainly create a bunch of stories that valorize rape (or that valorize the Aryan race and demonize Jews; or that valorize capitalism and demonize everyone who disagrees with it; and so on).

To bring this back to environmental “extremism,” we can certainly create a series of stories that cause us to believe it makes sense to deforest the planet, vacuum the oceans, impoverish the majority of humans. If the stories are effective enough at convincing us the stories are more important than physical reality, it does not only make sense to destroy the world, but we will feel good about it, and we will feel good about killing anyone who tries to stop us.

NOT ALL NARRATIVES ARE CREATED EQUAL

But not all narratives are equal. For example, what if someone told you story after story extolling the eating of dog shit. You’ve been told these stories since you were a child. You believe them. You eat dog shit hot dogs, dog shit ice cream, General Tso’s dog shit. Maybe your enculturation is so strong that dog shit actually tastes good to you. But you have a physical body, and no matter what stories you tell yourself, this diet might make you sick or kill you. To make the example a little less silly, substitute the words Big Mac, Whopper or Coca Cola for dog shit.

Here’s the point: Physical reality eventually trumps narrative. It has to. It can just take a long time. In the case of this culture’s destruction of the planet, it has so far taken some 6,000 years (considerably less, of course, for its victims).

No matter what stories we tell ourselves, drinkable quantities of clean water are a good thing. I recently saw an article that began: “Fracking for oil and natural gas—or having enough water to drink. That’s the possible dilemma facing a number of countries including the United States, according to a new report released by the World Resources Institute last week—though experts disagree on the real implications of the report and what should be done about it.” The journalists evidently consider it perfectly sane to consider the choice between having water to drink and oil and gas from fracking a dilemma, and consider it perfectly reasonable for “experts” to disagree as to what should be done about this.

Pollution-2

© Shutterstock

This is insane.

We are animals. We require clean water to drink. We require clean and healthy food to eat. We require a livable habitat. We require a livable world. Without them we die.

The health of the real world is the basis of a functioning, healthy, sustainable moral philosophy. It has to be, because it is the source of life.

ENVIRONMENTAL EXTREMISM EXISTS

And now, at last, to environmental “extremism.” I do believe environmental extremists exist. I believe it is extremist to intentionally fabricate quadrillions (with a q!) of lethal doses of Plutonium. I believe it is extremist to bomb the moon.

I believe it is extremist to construct so many dams—more than one large dam per day for hundreds of years—that 25% of this world’s rivers no longer reach the ocean. I believe it is extremist to build more than 70,000 dams over six-and-a-half feet tall in the United States alone (if we removed one of these dams every day, it would take more than 200 years to get rid of them all: salmon don’t have that time; sturgeon don’t have that time). I believe it is extremist to drive runs of salmon extinct, runs that were so big that entire rivers would be “black and roiling” with fish, runs so big you could hear them for miles before you would see them.

I believe it is extremist to drive passenger pigeons extinct, pigeons who flew in flocks so large they darkened the sky for days at a time. I believe it is extremist to cause 200 species per day to go extinct. I believe it is extremist to cause, as biologist Michael Soulè has said, vertebrate evolution to come to an end. I believe it is extremist to bathe the world in endocrine disruptors. I believe it is extremist to put so much plastic into the oceans that there is ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton (imagine that of every eleven bites you take, ten of them are plastic).

I believe it is extremist to have an economy based on infinite growth on a finite planet. I believe it is extremist to have a culture based on having been told to “go forth and multiply” on a finite planet. I believe it is extremist to destroy 98% of native forests, 99% of native wetlands, 99% of prairies. I believe it is extremist to go on destroying them.

I believe it is extremist to put in yet another shopping mall on the largest remaining prairie dog village in the Front Range of Colorado, especially when prairie dogs have been reduced by 98% of their range and population. I believe it is extremist to vacuum the oceans, such that if you weighed all the fish in the oceans, the total weight would be only 10% of what it was 140 years ago. Stolid scientists are saying the oceans could be devoid of fish within the next generation.

I believe it is extremist to murder the oceans. I believe it is extremist to murder the entire planet. I believe it is extremist to mass produce neurotoxins (e.g. pesticides) to release into the world. I believe it is extremist to change the climate. I believe it is extremist to steal land from every Indigenous culture. I believe it is extremist to commit genocide against every Indigenous culture. I believe it is extremist to have one culture overspread the entire planet.

I believe it is extremist to believe the world was made for you. I believe it is extremist to act as though you are the only species on the planet. I believe it is extremist to act as though you are the only culture on the planet.

I believe there are “environmental extremists” on this planet, and I believe they are called capitalists. I believe they are called “members of the dominant culture.” I believe that unless they are stopped, these extremists will kill the planet. I believe they must be stopped.

Photo Credit: Woeii / Artisticco / Shutterstock.com

Open Letter to Reclaim Environmentalism

Given the events of the past few months in Castle Rock (resisting the efforts of Alberta Development to slaughter prairie dogs in the name of a mall), it seems appropriate to re-post a letter by Derrick Jensen of Deep Green Resistance:

Open Letter to Reclaim Environmentalism

Once, the environmental movement was about protecting the natural world from the insatiable demands of this extractive culture. Some of the movement still is: around the world grassroots activists and their organizations are fighting desperately to save this or that creature they love, this or that plant or fungi, this or that wild place.

Contrast this to what some activists are calling the conservation-industrial complex–­big green organizations, huge “environmental” foundations, neo-environmentalists, some academics–­which has co-opted too much of the movement into “sustainability,” with that word being devalued to mean “keeping this culture going as long as possible.” Instead of fighting to protect our one and only home, they are trying to “sustain” the very culture that is killing the planet. And they are often quite explicit about their priorities.

For example, the recent “An Open Letter to Environmentalists on Nuclear Energy,” signed by a number of academics, some conservation biologists, and other members of the conservation-industrial complex, labels nuclear energy as “sustainable” and argues that because of global warming, nuclear energy plays a “key role” in “global biodiversity conservation.” Their entire argument is based on the presumption that industrial energy usage is, like Dick Cheney said, not negotiable–­it is taken as a given. And for what will this energy be used? To continue extraction and drawdown­–to convert the last living creatures and their communities into the final dead commodities.

Their letter said we should let “objective evidence” be our guide. One sign of intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns: let’s lay out a pattern and see if we can recognize it in less than 10,000 years. When you think of Iraq, do you think of cedar forests so thick that sunlight never touches the ground? That’s how it was prior to the beginnings of this culture. The Near East was a forest. North Africa was a forest. Greece was a forest. All pulled down to support this culture. Forests precede us, while deserts dog our heels. There were so many whales in the Atlantic they were a hazard to ships. There were so many bison on the Great Plains you could watch for four days as a herd thundered by. There were so many salmon in the Pacific Northwest you could hear them coming for hours before they arrived. The evidence is not just “objective,” it’s overwhelming: this culture exsanguinates the world of water, of soil, of species, and of the process of life itself, until all that is left is dust.

Fossil fuels have accelerated this destruction, but they didn’t cause it, and switching from fossil fuels to nuclear energy (or windmills) won’t stop it. Maybe three generations of humans will experience this level of consumption, but a culture based on drawdown has no future. Of all people, conservation biologists should understand that drawdown cannot last, and should not be taken as a given when designing public policy–­let alone a way of life.

It is long past time for those of us whose loyalties lie with wild plants and animals and places to take back our movement from those who use its rhetoric to foster accelerating ecocide. It is long past time we all faced the fact that an extractive way of life has never had a future, and can only end in biotic collapse. Every day this extractive culture continues, two hundred species slip into that longest night of extinction. We have very little time left to stop the destruction and to start the repair. And the repair might yet be done: grasslands, for example, are so good at sequestering carbon that restoring 75 percent of the planet’s prairies could bring atmospheric CO2 to under 330 ppm in fifteen years or less. This would also restore habitat for a near infinite number of creatures. We can make similar arguments about reforestation. Or consider that out of the more than 450 dead zones in the oceans, precisely one has repaired itself. How? The collapse of the Soviet Empire made agriculture unfeasible in the region near the Black Sea: with the destructive activity taken away, the dead zone disappeared, and life returned. It really is that simple.

You’d think that those who claim to care about biodiversity would cherish “objective evidence” like this. But instead the conservation-industrial complex promotes nuclear energy (or windmills). Why? Because restoring prairies and forests and ending empires doesn’t fit with the extractive agenda of the global overlords.

This and other attempts to rationalize increasingly desperate means to fuel this destructive culture are frankly insane. The fundamental problem we face as environmentalists and as human beings isn’t to try to find a way to power the destruction just a little bit longer: it’s to stop the destruction. The scale of this emergency defies meaning. Mountains are falling. The oceans are dying. The climate itself is bleeding out and it’s our children who will find out if it’s beyond hope. The only certainty is that our one and only home, once lush with life and the promise of more, will soon be a bare rock if we do nothing.

We the undersigned are not part of the conservation-industrial complex. Many of us are long-term environmental activists. Some of us are Indigenous people whose cultures have been living truly sustainably and respectfully with all our relations from long before the dominant culture began exploiting the planet. But all of us are human beings who recognize we are animals who like all others need livable habitat on a living earth. And we love salmon and prairie dogs and black terns and wild nature more than we love this way of life.

Environmentalism is not about insulating this culture from the effects of its world-destroying activities. Nor is it about trying to perpetuate these world-destroying activities. We are reclaiming environmentalism to mean protecting the natural world from this culture.

And more importantly, we are reclaiming this earth that is our only home, reclaiming it from this extractive culture. We love this earth, and we will defend our beloved.

-Derrick Jensen

*If you agree, please sign the letter

Derrick Jensen: A New Declaration

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That the real, physical world is the source of our own lives, and the lives of others. A weakened planet is less capable of supporting life, human or otherwise.

Thus the health of the real world is primary, more important than any social or economic system, because all social or economic systems are dependent upon a living planet. It is self-evident that to value a social system that harms the planet’s capacity to support life over life itself is to be out of touch with physical reality.

That any way of life based on the use of nonrenewable resources is by definition not sustainable.

See the rest of Derrick’s “New Declaration“.