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.

Nature on the Rack: Will Falk on Mauna Kea

Please check out this passionate, eloquent essay from Deep Green Resistance member Will Falk. Will deconstructs the issues surrounding the ongoing attempts to block construction of an 18-story astronomical observatory with an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

We can’t add to Will’s work; we only note that western science, like so much of industrial civilization, is merely a toxic mimicry of its indigenous-borne counterpart. And when science gets commoditized, its identity as just another extractive mechanism is further revealed.

JULY 21, 2015
by WILL FALK

Many view the debate surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope’s proposed construction on Mauna Kea and Kanaka Maolis’ opposition to it as fundamentally a question of science versus culture. On the benign end, the word “science” has come to connote something close to cool and objective rationality – nothing more nor less than a collection of knowledge to be used in man’s (isn’t it always “man’s”?) noble aim to transcend nature. More malevolently, however, pitting science against indigenous culture is nothing more than insidious racism. This racism operates on the often unchallenged claim that science is an inherently western way of knowing and therefore superior to indigenous ways of knowing.

In fact, some Mauna Kea protectors wish to avoid this rhetorical ploy so strongly they can be heard saying, “We’re not against science, we’re just against building this telescope on Mauna Kea.” Their words imply that the telescope could be built somewhere else and western science allowed to run its course everywhere but here.

Personally, I am against the construction of telescopes anywhere and I have lots of problems with western science. I am careful to emphasize the adjective “western” in western science because Kanaka Maolis often remind me that they’ve always known many of the things western science claims to have discovered. Remember, as Mauna Kea protector Hualalai Keohula has reminded me, that Kanaka Maoli navigated the world’s largest and greatest ocean in canoes built with wood and stone, aided with nothing more powerful than the naked human eye, centuries before the West realized the world was round. This, it should be said, is the right way, the least destructive way, the non-violent way to practice astronomy.

I speak only for myself, here, but I will go so far to say I wish western science never existed. I know in today’s dominant culture my wish is pure blasphemy. As my friend Derrick Jensen noted in his brilliant work Dreams, science is the new monotheism. The old monotheisms – Christianity, Judaism, Islam – succeeded in removing meaning from the natural world and placed meaning in the hands of a jealous, abstract God dwelling in far-off heavens. Science, then, erased God and obliterated any possibility of meaning with Him. When I make these arguments, I’ve found it to be like Jensen has observed, when you blaspheme God, you are called a disbeliever. When you blaspheme science, you are called an idiot.

Still, on the whole, science has been a disaster for life on Earth. The first problem with science is the first problem with so many products of the murderous culture we live in. The first problem with science is science’s epistemology is rooted in this culture’s epistemology. And, this culture’s epistemology is based on domination. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know.

One way to understand science is to trace what the leading scientific epistemologists have to say. Remember Sir Francis Bacon from your 6th grade science class? He invented what we call today “The Scientific Method.” He said his “only earthly wish is to stretch the deplorably narrow limits of man’s dominion over the universe” by “putting her (nature) on the rack and extracting her secrets.” As if that wasn’t scary enough, Bacon went on to say, “I am come in very truth leading you to Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave.”

Or what about the hugely popular science apologist, Richard Dawkins? He writes in his book A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love that “Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and to predict what will happen and when.”

“To make matter and energy jump through hoops on command” is a soft way to spell domination. Substitute yourself for “matter and energy” (that is what you are, of course). How would you feel if a scientist pointed a gun at you, or shot electrical currents through your muscles, or stuffed you into a cage, starved you, pumped your body full of chemicals and forced you to jump through hoops at his command?

The culture we live in is based on domination. How else do we account for the fact that one in five women will be raped in her lifetime? One in four girls and one in six boys sexually abused before they turn 18? How else do we account for the fact that 2.6 people are killed by American police every day?

Why, then, would we expect western science – a product of this culture – to be any different?

***

There’s a better way to judge science. It is a question that should form all of our moralities. The question is simple.”Is the real world better off because of science?” I think the answer to that question is a resounding no.

I come to that conclusion because my morality takes the needs of the real, physical world as primary. Water, soil, air, climate, my body, your body, and the food that sustains us are all formed by complex relationships of living beings. These living beings form the communities that make life possible. The needs of these communities must inform every action humans take. Anything else is suicidal.

I understand that science can be useful. Western science gives us modern medicine, for example, but modern medicine is more often than not a leaky band-aid applied to a wound created by science in the first place. Many tell me that western science is going to give us the cure to cancer while they forget that most cancers are produced by environmental toxins that exist because of science. I understand that western science can help us predict the devastating consequences of climate change, but science opened the road to the technologies responsible for climate change in the first place. Western science is responsible for napalm, agent orange, and atomic weapons. Of course, the surest way to prevent the destruction those weapons caused would have been to never open the doors of knowledge that lead to them.

The TMT project serves as a perfect reflection of the insanity of western science. Just like western science gains knowledge through domination, the TMT project is only possible through the domination of Kanaka Maoli. If the original people of Hawai’i were not exterminated by genocidal processes, were not made second-class citizens on their own islands, their culture not beaten to within inches of its like by American denationalization programs, Mauna Kea would be truly protected with the highest reverence.

But, western scientists have arrived, confident in the role Francis Bacon has laid out for them, to stretch Hawai’i on the rack and extract her secrets from her. The cops have come twice, with guns on their hips, to make Mauna Kea protectors vacate the Mauna Kea Access Road like Dawkins’ scientists who make matter and energy jump through hoops on command and arresting anyone who refuses the command.

Again, let’s ask the most important question of all. Is the real world better off with or without the TMT?

One way to answer this is to examine the physical processes needed to construct the TMT. Included in these physical processes are the actual materials used in construction. I am no expert on telescope construction and I’ve found it difficult so far to find detailed lists of the materials that will form the TMT (probably because acquiring these materials are a disaster for the environment.) From what I can tell, though, the TMT will be built with materials like steel, aluminum, and other rare earth metals.

You cannot have the TMT without steel, aluminum, and other rare earth metals. You cannot have steel, aluminum, and other rare earth metals without mountain top removal, open pit mining, and the combustion of vast quantities of fossil fuels. You cannot have mountain top removal, open pit mining, and the combustion of vast quantities of fossil fuels without climate change, mass extinctions, the forced removal of indigenous peoples, and the violent labor conditions present in extraction industries. So, before the materials needed to build the TMT ever even arrive in Hawai’i, they will be covered in the blood of humans and non-humans alike.

Telescopes are a disaster for the real world just like western science has been. Telescopes cannot be anything other than disasters for the real world because they are products of a murderous system of knowledge. It might be really super cool to discover the 832nd star in the 412th known galaxy with a new, massive telescope. This knowledge, however, comes through the domination of life on earth.

Mauna Kea – and I would argue all mountains – might be best understood as a complex community of living creatures living in mutual relationship. The needs of this community trump the desires of science. Mauna Kea itself acts as a giant water filter and houses the largest freshwater aquifer on Hawai’i Island. Everyone needs clean drinking water, but there have already been seven documented mercury spills associated with the telescopes on Mauna Kea ) Currently threatened, endemic species call Mauna Kea home. The needs of mamane trees and ahinahina to live trumps the curiosity of astronomers to peep at other worlds.

***

Before I finish, let me anticipate the objections I will receive. Yes, I am quite aware of the comforts brought to some of us by western science. But, when we talk about how great science is for “us,” who are we talking about? Are we talking about the few indigenous societies clinging to their traditional ways of life, clinging to the only human ways of life that were ever truly sustainable? Are we talking about polar bears? Sumatran tigers? Bluefin tuna? We can’t be talking about West African black rhino because they just fell into the deepest dark of total extinction.

I know that science produced the internet, the laptop I’m typing on, and brought the delicious cold brew coffee I’m drinking. People often criticize me asking, “How can you condemn these wonderful tools you are using? You get on planes and travel to Hawai’i, you get in cars to visit places across Turtle Island, aren’t you a” – and they gasp – “a hypocrite?”

My answer is simple. Yes, I might be a hypocrite, but I believe my friend Lierre Keith who said, “Understand: the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible – its to dismantle those systems.” Western science is a system of power and must be dismantled if we have any chance of surviving the catastrophe facing us. Sitting Bull used American made rifles to defend his people from American cavalrymen. Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian poet who was murdered for resisting Shell Oil in his homeland, wrote in English – the language of his oppressors.

I wish with all my heart that I could live as our ancestors lived – a life free from the deepest anxiety that in a few years everything might be gone. I was raised in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains of Utah – a place I just visited – and I wish with all my heart that I could spend my life walking in Indian paintbrush, columbine, daisies, and lupine consumed in the total wonder and beauty of life. I wish with all my heart that I could sit still in simple expression of the love I feel. But, while everyone I love is under attack, it is simply unforgivable not to do everything within my power to protect them. It is simply unforgivable not to use every tool at my disposal to defend them.

History reveals western science as an accomplice to the murder of the real world. Western science is attempting the murder of Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea and the real world demand that we stop it.

Will Falk has been working and living with protesters on Mauna Kea who are attempting to block construction of an 18-story astronomical observatory with an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

 

 

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

Green Technology and Renewable Energy: The Deep Green Resistance Perspective

Solar Power - Not SustainableFew topics generate more commentary on our page than critiques of alternative energy. For many, solar, wind, and other non-fossil energy sources and technologies represent a pragmatic hope for saving the biosphere. Our position on these technologies is that they represent a false hope for a couple of reasons. One: their manufacturing processes are fossil-fuel intensive and involve other nonrenewable resources like metals and plastics. Once built, solar panels and wind turbines have a limited life-span, after which they must be replaced. Two: even if they’re recycled, that process is itself toxic and energy-intensive, and must take place at specialized facilities, which means transportation, which means more fuels and infrastructure. Three: while in operation, both solar and wind facilities kill wildlife by displacement, collisions with turbines, burning in solar mirrors, and so on.

We’re not opposed to solutions to problems, as we’re often accused; only to solutions that have so many hidden costs they’re ultimately ineffective. Rather than prolong a system–industrialism–that cannot exist for long on a finite planet, our focus should instead be on a future that it actually sustainable, which by definition means one that eventually will not have artificial electricity in it. This future is coming one way or another; the only real question is how much of the living world will be left when it does. Ivanpah Destruction 3

Green Technology and Renewable Energy FAQs

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