Several months ago, Dillon Thomson and myself (Max Wilbert) were interviewed by our friends Devin Hess and Mel Sweet, filmmakers from the region of Bend, Oregon. Mel and Devin are skilled photographers and talented storytellers. Their new documentary project is called Occupied Cascadia, and will be released in 2012. Other interviews include Aric McBay, Lierre Keith, Peter Bauer (Urban Scout), Charles Eisenstein, and others.
‘Occupied Cascadia’ is a documentary film exploring the evolving concept of bioregionalism across our land base. Historically, the diverse voices throughout this land have paved the way for many movements. We feel we have captured an essence of this evolving culture. So, what defines the people of this region?
With resource wars upon us, governments are more oppressive than ever, global economies are destabilizing, corporations and media are continually dividing us and most seem to have some notion of an imminent collapse on the horizon. Are we capable of coming together, and if so, where do our commonalities lie?
You can see the trailer below, and support their project by visiting their kickstarter page
. We are looking forward to the final release!
Former FGEI founding board member Cameron Murphey reviews Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by 2100, by Michio Kaku.
Rarely am I made to feel sick. Movies have done it to me a few times—say, Silence of the Lambs or the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. But today was the first time I’ve felt sick from a book; some of you may have heard of it: Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by 2100, by Michio Kaku.
Kaku’s argument is simple. When predicting the future, the most common mistake is to underestimate the rate of scientific progress. In 1903, for example, the New York Times claimed that airplanes were a waste of time; and the chairman of IBM, in 1943, expressed doubt that demand would ever exist for more than a dozen or so computers. Here Kaku is right: what each of them, along with countless others, got wrong was the exponential pace at which the sciences develop.
So what was it that made me so sick? In the epilogue, Kaku describes the life of an “average” person in the year 2100:
After a night of heavy partying on New Year’s Eve, you are sound asleep.
Suddenly, your wall screen lights up. A friendly, familiar face appears on the screen. It’s Molly, the software program you bought recently. Molly announces cheerily, “John, wake up. You are needed at the office. In person. It’s important.”
Slowly you drag yourself out of bed and reluctantly head off to the bathroom. While washing your face, hundreds of hidden DNA and protein sensors in the mirror, toilet, and sink silently spring into action, analyzing the molecules you emit in your breath and bodily fluids, checking for the slightest hint of any disease at the molecular level.
Leaving the bathroom, you wrap some wires around your head, which allow you to telepathically control your home: you mentally raise the temperature of the apartment, turn on some soothing music, tell the robotic cook in your kitchen to make breakfast and brew some coffee, and order your magnetic car to leave the garage and be ready to pick you up. As you enter the kitchen, you see the mechanical arms of the robotic cook preparing eggs just the way you like them.
Then you put in your contact lenses and connect to the Internet. Blinking, you see the Internet as it shines onto the retina of your eye.
What follows are example after example of human life transformed by ‘amazing’ scientific advancements. Magnetic cars cruise effortlessly through vast networks of superhighways; workers on Earth telepathically operate robots on the moon; doctors manipulate the genomes of unborn children, optimizing all the expected categories—even human aging has been halted (the main character asks his robotic doctor if his seventies are an appropriate age to start having kids).
But I’ve still avoided the question: what brought on my sickness? It wasn’t the unrealistic depiction of a classless, conflict-free technotopic future. Nor was it its embarrassingly unoriginality (floating cars and robot chefs—really?). It was something much larger instead, not any specific point in his characterization of the future but—like a stage-light coloring the entire scene—the near-total lack of human connection. Upon awaking, for example, whose “friendly, familiar face” does the main character first see? Not his mother’s, the mother who patiently and lovingly raised him. Not his lover’s, the lover for whom his heart burns. Not even his dog’s, the dog who farts in her sleep. No. He sees the face of a computer program, one that thousands of other men probably see upon waking as well—a pornographer’s dream! And who cooks his breakfast? Not his mother; not his lover; certainly not his dog—but a robot.
Like the dominant culture, Kaku’s book encourages us to further remove ourselves from the random sway of nature and to establish ourselves as its master. We find a laughable anthropology in the introduction—“For countless eons we were passive observers of the dance of nature. We only gazed in wonder and fear at comets, lightning bolts, volcanic eruptions, and plagues, assuming that they were beyond our comprehension. To the ancients, the forces of nature were an eternal mystery to be feared and worshipped…” We civilized humans, though, are on the track to total mastery. “By 2100, our destiny is to become like the gods we once worshipped and feared.”
When I think of the future, of what kind of world I want to live in, I don’t see myself surrounded by more and more technology. I don’t see myself as a god. I don’t even want to be a god! I see myself living with the people I love most and, hopefully, the people who love me.
I see better now why I felt so sick, nauseous even, reading Physics of the Future. For me, Kaku’s world, along with that of other technophiles, is suffocating. It marks the realization of the fantasy of science—a sterile city-space in which every human interaction is mediated by technology. Nothing is left to chance. Nothing is left to nature. If I ever found myself somewhere on that endless sheet of aluminum that Kaku dreams of, I imagine that I would starve of loneliness.
The community of Bellingham, Washington, has launched a campaign that seeks to revoke the supremacy of corporate rights over the local municipality. Its goal is to reassert the rights of nature as a necessity for the continued survival of the human community, and block the construction of a massive coal-export terminal proposed for the region. The initiative is using an innovative model developed by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a law firm that specializes in this sort of radical experiment in local democracy.
This is a huge step forward for community organizing. It directly addresses the systems of oppressive power that are destroying the planet. This model has been used very effectively in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Shasta, and other communities around the world. A similar model was used to incorporate rights for nature into the Ecuadorian constitution in 2008 and Bolivia in 2011. This initiative is, in practice, a violation of US federal laws and constitutional provisions regarding commerce, which stipulate that local communities have no power to protect their regions from ecocidal "development."
So far, there have been no federal challenges to this model, but such challenges, if and when they occur, may actually strengthen the strategy by clarifying the division between the exploited and the exploiters; by clearly demonstrating how little "democracy" is actually present in this system of government. The sort of direct repression required to reverse one of these decisions could make a lot of enemies for the federal government and the financial interests that they serve.
There is no telling just what the outcome will be if the federal government informs its citizens that they have no legal rights to decide the fate of their own homes and the wellbeing of their offspring. One possibility is the radicalizing of progressives. It should also be noted that many of the communities that have passed these types of initiatives have been politically conservative. For once, challenges to the model would put both the right and the left on the same side.
The Fertile Ground Environmental Institute recognizes that such outcomes that result in the restriction of corporate rights are only positive for the health of our planet. At the same time, we assert that these tactics are just the beginning, a first step in building a strong culture of resistance. To truly overturn the corrupt, brutal system of power that is industrial civilization, other big steps must be taken.
We must address oppression within our communities, oppression of women, people of color, and many other groups. We must address the issue of the American genocide, and make material and spiritual amends for the blood-soaked land we now inhabit; land that was stolen cruelly from the indigenous communities here at a cost of nearly 100 million indigenous dead. However, first and foremost, we must completely dismantle the industrial economy and all of its associated practices: strip mining, clear-cut logging, ocean trawling, chemical production, mono-crop agriculture, etc. This will take a serious resistance movement.
There are groups and communities who are actively building that resistance movement. Among them are CELDF
, Deep Green Resistance
, Indigenous Environmental Network
, and many others. They need your help. Join them.
More information: http://coal-free-bellingham.org/ www.deepgreenresistance.org
"Too often when we don’t succeed, we don’t escalate. Too often when they escalate their attacks against the planet and all living beings, we don’t escalate. (Have you noticed that all of our victories are temporary and defensive, and all our losses permanent and offensive?) No more. If our actions do not succeed, we promise to escalate. We will regroup, reorganize, and go for more than before, risking more and holding nothing back. We promise they will lose more money and we will get stronger and fight harder."Occupy the Machine is an ad hoc umbrella group using serious, sustained direct action campaigns to shut down major targets that destroy the land and exploit humans, permanently.More information here:https://occupythemachine.wordpress.com/or find OTM on Facebook:https://facebook.com/occupythemachine
As Anti-Civilization educators, we rely on supporters like you. The recent 2011 Deep Green Resistance speaking tour that we sponsored was a success in great part because of the generosity of our supporters. Without you, we would not have been able to make it happen.
Our work requires traveling, attending and planning trainings, renting meeting spaces, organizing community events like Earth At Risk, developing multimedia presentations, and more. This is why we are asking for your support. Every dollar counts and 100% of your donations go to this work. We sincerely appreciate your help. If you don’t have the means to donate but would like to volunteer or otherwise support our work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a limited time, we are able to offer special gifts to those who can donate – one of four fantastic books – Columbus and Other Cannibals, Deep Green Resistance, and Vol. I and II of Endgame.
These are critical texts in Anti-Civilization thought, and make great gifts to folks who are interested in this burgeoning movement.
Please indicate if you would like to receive one of the premiums listed below as a thank you from Fertile Ground for the suggested donation amount – if not, we are happy to accept donations. Descriptions of the books can be found below. $35 – One book of your choice $60 – Two books of your choice $75 – Three books of your choice $100 – All four booksClick here to DONATE!Please include your choice of gift and your mailing address in the "comments" field of the Paypal website.Thank You! Columbus and Other Cannibals by Jack D. Forbes
Celebrated American Indian thinker Jack D. Forbes’s Columbus and Other Cannibals
was one of the founding texts of the anticivilization movement when it was first published in 1978. His history of terrorism, genocide, and ecocide told from a Native American point of view has inspired America’s
most influential activists for decades. Frighteningly, his radical critique of the modern “civilized” lifestyle is more relevant now than ever before.
Identifying the Western compulsion to consume the earth as a sickness, Forbes writes: “Brutality knows no boundaries. Greed knows no limits. Perversion knows no borders. . . . These characteristics all push towards an extreme, always moving forward once the initial infection sets in. . . . This is the disease of the consuming of other creatures’ lives and possessions. I call it cannibalism.”
This updated edition includes a new chapter by the author. Endgame Volume 1 by Derrick Jensen
The long-awaited companion piece to Derrick Jensen's immensely popular and highly acclaimed works A Language Older Than Words
and The Culture of Make Believe
. Accepting the increasingly widespread belief that industrialized culture inevitably erodes the natural world, Endgame
sets out to explore how this relationship impels us towards a revolutionary and as-yet undiscovered shift in strategy. Building on a series of simple but increasingly provocative premises, Jensen leaves us hoping for what may be inevitable: a return to agrarian communal life via the disintegration of civilization itself. Derrick Jensen
, activist, author, small farmer, beekeeper, teacher, and philosopher, is the widely acclaimed author of A Language Older Than Words
and The Culture of Make Believe
, among others. A finalist for the 2003 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize whose writing has been described as "breaking and mending the reader's heart," Jensen's speaking engagements in recent years have packed university auditoriums, conferences, and bookstores nationwide. He lives in rural California Endgame Volume 2 by Derrick Jensen
Whereas Volume 1 of Endgame
presents the problem of civilization, Volume 2 of this pivotal work illustrates our means of resistance. Incensed and hopeful, impassioned and lucid, Endgame
leapfrogs the environmental movement's deadlock over our willingness to change our conduct, focusing instead on our ability to adapt to the impending ecological revolution. Deep Green Resistance by Aric McBay, Lierre Keith, and Derrick Jensen
For years, Derrick Jensen has asked his audiences, "Do you think this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of life?" No one ever says yes. Deep Green Resistance
starts where the environmental movement leaves off: industrial civilization is incompatible with life. Technology can't fix it, and shopping—no matter how green—won’t stop it. To save this planet, we need a serious resistance movement that can bring down the industrial economy. Deep Green Resistance
evaluates strategic options for resistance, from nonviolence to guerrilla warfare, and the conditions required for those options to be successful. It provides an exploration of organizational structures, recruitment, security, and target selection for both aboveground and underground action. Deep Green Resistance
also discusses a culture of resistance and the crucial support role that it can play. Deep Green Resistance
is a plan of action for anyone determined to fight for this planet—and win.
When a government ignores anguished cries that span the globe, in order to sustain an economic system that feeds on death, that government MUST be removed. That government has prioritized greed over life.
When a culture promotes consumption over the social responsibility to protect interdependent communities of life, that culture MUST be dismantled. It no longer serves the best interest of the people.
When a person consciously decides to reap personal gain at the cost of another’s well being, that person MUST be stripped of the power to do so, by whatever means necessary.
When the majority of the planet’s web of life needs you
to do whatever you
can to make these things happen, you MUST act. Otherwise, your allegiance lies with the perpetrators by way of your inaction.
When every tactic attempted thus far by social and environmental justice movements has failed to slow down the assault on life and the erosion of human decency, we MUST escalate our strategy. Consciously repeating the same failures is insane.
When decades of defense have failed to protect the threatened and when further retreat means death, we MUST turn and face the oppressor. We MUST go on the offensive.
There is a movement to wrest control from those who would have us render the earth uninhabitable. There is a plan to upset the balance of power. There is nothing easy about it, but it will
work. That is, if you
Your part, no matter how small, could be the deciding factor. Your philosophical allegiance, your money or your life; you are a valuable member of the resistance. With love and respect, T. Rogers and Dillon Thomson Fertile Ground Environmental Institute http://www.dgfg.org/ http://www.deepgreenresistance.org/
Reviewed by Max Wilbert
Lester Brown’s exhaustively researched book, Plan B 4.0 – Mobilizing to Save Civilization, is a bold and impressive effort to chart a course to ecological sustainability, one of very few books that attempts this worthwhile goal. Brown lists 4 steps that Plan B 4.0 focuses on to achieve sustainability:
Step 1. Stabilize climate by cutting emissions by at least 80% by 2020
Step 2. Stabilize population at 8 billion or lower
Step 3. Eradicate poverty
Step 4. Restore natural earth systems (soil, aquifers, forests, grasslands, oceans)
These are excellent goals to begin with, and show that Brown is extremely serious about his mission, and is truly concerned about justice and the welfare of the human population. They also show that he understands one of the fundamental obstacles to true change – the interlocking relationship between environmental destruction and human exploitation. For example, Brown calls for debt relief for poor nations – an admirable position against the interests of international financiers and for the interests of poor and exploited people. Few analysts truly understand this relationship at both a theoretical and real-world level, and Brown moves beyond the average call for sustainability by acknowledging the seriousness of this issue.
Plan B lays out a compelling and comprehensive vision of the converging crises that are threatening life on earth – from oceanic collapse and peak oil to soil erosion and food instability. Brown understands that the collapse of global civilization is likely if business-as-usual continues. The undermining of the biological life-support systems of the earth has left life as we know it teetering on the brink. For many species and communities around the world, it is already too late.
The fundamental basis of Brown’s approach is that it is a social change approach. Brown understands that social problems require social solutions. While personal lifestyle changes (to transport, diet, and other consumption) are an important and moral way to address these problems, they are not sufficient to solve ecological and social injustice by themselves. This is an important step – a foundation for serious political work. From here, we can analyze each of the goals of Plan B 4.0 for strategic soundness, moral rigor, and good scholarship.
Step 1: Stabilize Climate
Brown’s approach to solving the climate problem relies on several strategies. First, he advocates massive adoption of alternative energy. Second, he calls for replanting of billions of trees to sequester carbon and rehabilitate habitat. Third, he describes an efficiency revolution centering on recycling, reusing, and refining urban planning and architecture and material flows throughout global society.
The focus on replanting of forests and restoring habitat around the world is extremely important and is an admirable goal, as is the elimination of coal and gasoline as energy sources. However, the fundamental failure of Brown’s approach to solving climate change is the insistence on maintaining an industrial way of life. Efficiency in cooking, housing, and production is doubtlessly important, but too many of Brown’s solutions call for centralized industrial production instead of local self-sufficiency – the maintenance of privileged lifestyles.
In short, while Brown's plan is truly radical, he does not go far enough. In advocating massive production of solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars and trains, a “smart grid,” and other industrial technologies, Plan B 4.0 does not question the fundamental system of resource extraction and industrial production. It does not question global capitalism, which will continue to get rich by feeding on human and non-human communities.
The industrial products sold within the capitalist economy are created through a complex global system of mining, refining, production, distribution, and trashing/recycling. In each stage of this process, natural communities of humans and non-humans are exploited, poisoned, and destroyed for the sake of luxury goods like cars and electricity.
Electric cars and alternative energy do not address this fundamental destruction that is required for industrial technology to exist. Wind turbines, to use one example, still require mining for bauxite, the ore refined into aluminum. In central India (and other regions around the world) mountains containing bauxite are blown up and strip-mined to extract bauxite. About six tons of bauxite and a thousand tons of water a required to produce one ton of aluminum. There is no sustainable way to do this – most rich countries have exported this process to poor nations. The pollution is hidden.
This process not only destroys or displaces the non-human life on these mountains, but leads to runoff, pollution, and extirpation of indigenous communities. Smelting bauxite requires extremely high temperatures – usually provided by big dams – and leads to vast amounts of carbon emissions and other air pollution. And the entire system of distribution depends on vast ocean-going ships that burn bunker fuel, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels. It is estimated that one container ship releases as much carbon dioxide as 50 million cars.
Another example: the Toyota Prius, widely praised by environmentalists (including Brown), requires 5 times as much energy to produce as an average car due to the complex process of creating electric motors, circuitry, and batteries. Accounting for production energy and transportation fuel and average over the lifetime of the car, a Prius actually uses 1.4x as much energy per mile as the average American car.
Solar panels provide another example. The average solar cell requires the mining of about 2,000lbs of earth material for Silicon. The production process is extremely dangerous – in China, workers at a solar panel factory went on strike in 2011 because of the pollution released by the plant had toxified a lake nearby that was causing respiratory problems and cancers in the community.
This is just touching the surface of the devastation that is wrought by these “environmentally friendly” technologies. These technologies also require rare earth minerals like cadmium and tellurium, which simply do not exist in sufficient quantities to allow mass adoption of alternative energy.
This reliance on technological solutions is one the major failings of Plan B 4.0. Brown has bought into the hype surrounding these alternative technologies, when in reality they only represent more of the same – more resources extracted from poor nations, more money flowing to corporations and rich nations, more pollution, more destroyed communities. While the standards of research and scholarship in Plan B 4.0 are generally very high, Brown does not apply the same rigorous research methods to the technological solutions he advocates.
A better model for halting global warming would revolve around the creation of land-based communities that are able to take their sustenance from within healthy, flourishing ecosystems that they coexist with. This model is the way of life practiced by humans for 99% of our existence, so it is clearly not impossible, but it would require addressing the serious issue of population, to which Brown turns next.
Step 2: Stabilize Population
In addressing overpopulation Brown is facing an issue before which many have balked, with good reason. There is a history of racism, eugenics, and forced sterilization that makes population reduction a touchy issue to deal with directly. But Plan B 4.0 takes the right tact. Brown’s plan calls for massive programs of education and empowerment of women, combined with government incentives for small families, widespread family planning programs, and universal birth control availability. This humane and effective model has been used around the world in places like Iran with great success.
While this approach is laudable, Plan B 4.0 could use a slightly more radical feminist analysis. While Brown does call for the education of women, he does not explicitly state that empowered women rarely chose to have large numbers of children. High birth rates usually occur in patriarchal arrangements where women have few rights and little power of their own. Acknowledging this fact and working to dismantle patriarchal social forms will be a much more difficult task than the more straightforward path that Brown presents, but will lead to more lasting and fundamental change in birth rates and the overall direction of society.
Step 3: Eradicate Poverty
By acknowledging the fundamental connections between global poverty and environmental degradation, Brown goes further towards truth than many of his contemporaries. He advocates for debt relief for poor nations, which would go a long way towards relieving the pressures on “developing” nations. He calls for an increase in small gardens and other simple techniques that reduce burdens on poor people around the world, such replanting forests and allowing degraded lands to fallow.
However, without access to land, poor people have no chance for survival. The critique of contemporary lands grabs is an important part of Plan B 4.0. Here Brown details how food importers, nations that cannot grow enough food to support their population, are purchasing and leasing arable land in poor nations to grow food for export. Many times these poor nations cannot even feed their own population, so these vast foreign-held farms must employ armed guards to ensure that the food is not taken back.
Brown understands that agriculture, logging, and overgrazing are devastating much of the land around the world through salinization, soil erosion, and desertification, and that this process is destabilizing populations and leading to poverty and social breakdown.
However, Brown is lacking a fundamental critique of industrial agriculture as a practice. He advocates the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which are overwhelmingly toxic and derived from fossil fuels. He advocates for increased efficiency in irrigation, while acknowledging the fact that 70% of the fresh water used worldwide is used for irrigation. And he advocates for the use of genetically modified and high-yield varieties, which is a gamble with the genetic code. This is also leading to a narrow range of varieties, which are more vulnerable to future disease of plague. The result has been an arms-race between GMO and pesticide companies and the constantly evolving creatures that feed on monocropped fields.
Even more fundamentally, Brown does not appreciate the fact that annual monocrop agriculture is the practice that has enabled rampant overpopulation. Population tracks food supply, and it has been well documented is recent years that many creatures (including humans) regulate their own population based on the food available. When humans began farming the land and stopped getting their food from within biodiverse, perennial ecosystems, they stopped paying attention to these natural limits. They were not sharing their food anymore.
This lack of sharing is also the foundation of modern ecological devastation. After all, agriculture is the practice of clearing natural ecosystems and replanting them for human use. The forests and grasslands that have fallen before the plow are the primary location for species loss worldwide. Ninety-eight percent of old-growth forests and 99% of native grasslands are gone. Human population has grown in direct proportion to the decline in non-human populations worldwide, because they have been consumed by civilization, by agriculture.
Brown’s failure here is the same as above – he has no fundamental critique of capitalism (the dominant economic system) and civilization (the dominant form of social organization – a way of life based on annual monocrops and life in cities). These systems are a major reason why people are poor.
By extracting resources in destructive ways and exploiting workers for less than the full value of their labor, capitalism impoverishes people around the world. A large class of poor people is required for the functioning of the global economy – it is structurally mandated. And civilization is a social form that inevitably leads to overshoot of natural limits, colonial expansion, wars of conquest, further environmental damage, and finally collapse (for a further explanation of these ideas, see Sources). Any efforts to address poverty will have to first deal with the stifling influence of capitalism and civilization.
Step 4: Restoring Earth
The final goal of Plan B 4.0 is to restore natural ecosystems around the world – oceans, grasslands, soils, and forests. In order to protect biodiversity and the range or natural services provided by these ecosystems, Brown advocates massive replanting of forests (as previously mentioned), soil conservation measures, and the creation of protected marine zones in the ocean, as well as a program of parks and other measures to protect biodiversity.
Replanting forests is an important way to restore the life-support systems of the planet, and Brown is right advocate for it. However, he also advocates for an increase in plantation style forests to be grown for timber and pulp products. While the US Forest Service is a division of the Department of Agriculture, forests are not fields, and few soils can sustain more than three consecutive harvests of timber before soils are too depleted to continue. An imposition of human standards upon a natural system decreases the health of the system, and as such, plantations are not a long-term solution.
Restoring soils is perhaps the most critical task in this section. Terrestrial life as we know it is only possible because of a thin layer of topsoil – without it, plants cannot grow. Brown’s tactic of allowing steeper slopes and other marginal farmland to fallow and return to forest is a good one, but he still lacks a full critique of agriculture as a practice. Annual monocropped fields lead to erosion and loss of soil fertility – this type of agriculture kills the soil. This is true around the world, except in small river valley regions where alluvial soils are constantly replenished.
However, these natural wetlands are also biodiversity hotspots, which means the one place where agriculture can be practiced somewhat sustainably is also the place where it will lead to the biggest loss of habitat for other creatures. Brown’s plan for protecting biodiversity is not elaborate – there are almost no details in the book. But any course of action that does not challenge the human appropriation, destruction, and toxification of land, water, and atmosphere will not lead to substantial progress in the conservation of biodiversity.
Plan B 4.0 is a unflinching attempt to chart a course for sanity, but Lester Brown and his researchers fail to apply the same rigor to human society and proposed solutions that they apply to environmental problems. Brown states that in 1950 the world economy was based on “sustainable yield, the interest of natural systems.” This is simply not true. Europe was deforested before industrialization. So was the Middle East. The forests and soils of North Africa fueled the Roman war machine until they were exhausted, and now support only goats and olives – ecological poverty food that can survive on desiccated, impoverished soils. The forests of the United States were felled largely before the mechanical saw. While industrialism greatly accelerated in the 1950’s, the problem goes much deeper than that.
Brown’s approach, along with the approach of many other environmentalists, is fundamentally anthropocentric and short sighted. He does not account for the experience of prehistory, that span of 99.7% of human existence when the natural world flourished alongside us. He does not even mention indigenous people, the only communities that have truly lived in a sustainable manner. Any understanding of environmental sustainability must advance from the basic position that humans have the ability to coexist with the natural world. These model societies exist, but they are being destroyed by the very industrialism that Brown supports with his calls for alternative technology (for example, the Dongriah Kondh of the central Indian foothills).
Instead of exploring how human societies may better conform themselves to the needs of the land, Brown falls into the trap of reform – how can we adapt nature to better fit our needs? How can we maintain the energy grid, industrial production, a high population, and the conveniences of globalized capitalist civilization while simultaneously addressing environmental problems? The fundamental answer to this question is that such a solution is not possible. In failing to see this point, Plan B 4.0 stumbles and falls along with the vast majority of the environmental movement.
Against The Grain by Richard Manning
Collapse by Jared Diamond
Columbus and Other Cannibals by Jack Forbes
Deep Green Resistance by Lierre Keith, Aric McBay, and Derrick Jensen
Endgame by Derrick Jensen
Overshoot by William Catton
Solar panel factory protests tarnish China's clean-tech efforts. Guardian UK. September 18th 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/18/chinese-solar-panel-factory-protest
The Final Empire by William Kotke
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann
The Original Affluent Society by Marshall Sahlins
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith
Walking With The Comrades by Arundhati Roy
Max Wilbert is a member of Fertile Ground Environmental Institute's Board of Directors
Reflections on the 2011 DGR Speaking Tour
I have returned from the six-week West Coast Deep Green Resistance speaking tour that I began in Bellingham, WA on October eighth. From Bellingham I travelled south to Seattle, then on to Oregon where I spoke in Portland and in Bend for the Real Food and Resistance Conference, and then on to California where I spoke in Chico, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz. My venues included university classrooms, living rooms, infoshops, cafes, independent activist spaces, and the Occupy encampment in San Francisco. Every event was attended by between 15 and 30 people.
Overall, the tour was great. I had no idea what to expect in terms of crowd size or how people would receive my ideas and the DGR plan, but I was pleasantly surprised again and again as I met people who were not only ready to hear what I had to say, but actually yearning for it. As I talked to people who had fire in their eyes and an obvious readiness to get to work, I was reminded of myself more than four years ago when I first heard Derrick Jensen speak in Bellingham. It was a liberating experience for me to hear someone articulate something that I had been feeling in my bones for a long time but that no one had yet put words to, and I could tell that many people in my audiences felt similarly after my talks ended. To me, seeing that response in people made it all worth it, and I have a feeling that I will be seeing many of them again in future resistance work.
What surprised me the most along the way was the baseline attitude of acceptance from all of my audiences. My premise that resistance is a legitimate and necessary method of making political change was generally an accepted point, and no one once suggested to me—in public or in private—that I was unnecessarily delegitimizing more mainstream or legal tactics for making change. To me, it was an indicator that more and more people are becoming less faithful in the institutions of industrial capitalism, especially when it comes to stopping the dominant culture from killing the planet. I believe that it is becoming easier for people to admit that the problems we are facing—ecological and social—are not going to be solved by fixing certain parts of the existing system. An overhaul is needed.
In looking towards the future, I am inspired and hopeful. I realize that there is still a huge amount of work to be done and that our goal is ambitious, to say the least. But when I think not only of the people who I talked with on my tour but also the countless nonhumans who are out there holding on to their homes, keeping the remaining fabric of life intact, just waiting for us to get out of the way and rejoin them in healing it, I am filled with encouragement. We must keep struggling—for them, for us, and in the end, for everyone.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement.
Dillon Thomson is a founding member of the FGEI Board of Directors.
On December 12th, 2011, we (Max Wilbert and Dillon Thomson) spoke at a rally in Bellingham in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and the shutting down of ports along the west coast. Bellingham was one of several west coast cities to carry out actions in support of Oakland protesters.
Around noon, the rally marched to the railroad tracks near the waterfront. Five people immediately locked themselves together by their necks with bicycle u-locks and laid down across the tracks. Their aim was to block freight trains for as long as possible: in other words, to obstruct the flow of trade and capital which is destroying the natural world and human communities.
The protesters were able to hold the tracks for about five hours before being removed by Bellingham police. As night fell and trains backed up, the police were forced to use specialized drills and bolt cutters to remove the locks.
This action shows that small numbers of people who are willing to take risks and make sacrifices can have a decisive material impact. What happened in Bellingham could be used as a model for disrupting other targets such as refineries, coal terminals, mines, factories, etc. With proper support, repeated use of such tactics over a sustained period of time could bring industries to their knees.
The protesters who locked themselves down on the railroad tracks were supported by at least a hundred other protesters, who impeded police officers for as long as possible and boosted the spirits of all who were present with speeches, chants, and music.
These kinds of actions are most effective when many roles are filled. Some are prepared to take direct action and risk injury and arrest. Some are public speakers. Some are willing to donate time, money, or food to support actions. Others can provide legal counsel. Together, we are strong.
The protesters who were arrested in Bellingham during this action will need continuing support and solidarity.
This is just the beginning.
Max Wilbert and Dillon Thomson are both board members of Fertile Ground Environmental Institute.
Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. New Left Project’s Alex Doherty talked to him about Thanksgiving, the murder of indigenous people and the theft of their land by European colonialists.You choose not to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and you have urged other Americans to do the same. Can you explain why you oppose this celebration?
For years I had felt uncomfortable at Thanksgiving Day dinners, not just because of the gluttonous consumption but because of the disjuncture between my evolving radical political ideas and the distortion of history embedded in the holiday. As it became increasingly difficult for me to be “normal” on that day, I struggled to understand why and what to do about it.
Here’s what I eventually came to understand: Thanksgiving Day is part of the national mythology that obscures the reality of the European/American genocide against indigenous people. White America tells a lovely story about the English Pilgrims—their search for freedom took them to Massachusetts, where aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims’ first winter.
Some aspects of the conventional story are accurate, but by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the genocidal project that opened up additional land to the English invaders. That was the beginning of the conquest of the entire continent, until 95 to 99 percent of American Indianshad been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations.
That is the American holocaust, and the Thanksgiving story wraps that holocaust in fantasies of innocence. Instead of celebrating a day of thanksgiving, we should be observing a day of atonement. In short, Thanksgiving Day is holocaust denial.Defenders of Thanksgiving often argue that whatever the original meaning of the holiday for many it is now a rare chance to spend time with family and to show appreciation for what one has. What is your view?
Even in radical circles where that basic critique of the genocide is accepted, only a relatively small number of people argue that we should renounce the holiday and refuse to celebrate it. Most leftists who celebrate Thanksgiving claim that they can individually redefine the holiday in a politically progressive fashion in private, which is an illusory dodge: We don’t define holidays individually or privately—holidays are rooted in a collective, shared meaning. When the dominant culture defines a holiday in a certain fashion, one can’t magically redefine it in private. To pretend that is possible is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.
The argument about spending time with family is a rationalization. We can show appreciation for the material comforts we enjoy by coming to terms with the crimes that allowed us to have them, which can be done collectively. Families could spend time together reflecting on that history and the contemporary consequences. We could dump Thanksgiving Day for a Day of Atonement without losing that time together.It is often argued that we cannot condemn the early American settlers by the standards of our own time. What do you make of that claim?
First, we should remember that not all people alive at that time endorsed genocide. Indigenous people fought wars, but they typically did not engage in the wholesale slaughter of anyone who got in their way. And within European society there were dissenting voices, such as Tom Paine, the most radically democratic of the “founding fathers” (and, hence, the founding father most ignored).
But that’s really not relevant to the question we face today. My critique of Thanksgiving is not aimed at condemning people in the past but dealing with history in the present. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we decide to make no moral judgment of the Europeans who committed or endorsed genocidal policies. The question today is whether we celebrate a holiday that covers up the genocide, whether we routinely lie about that history.
My focus is not on the standards of the past but our intellectual, political, and moral standards today. The crimes of the United States are, of course, not confined to centuries past. The genocide of indigenous people and African slavery are particularly gruesome aspects of U.S. history, but the large-scale assault on other peoples and cultures to expand the wealth of elites in the United States has continued up to this day. The U.S. wars of empire—covert and overt—in Latin America, southern Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia have produced millions of corpses and left societies in ruins. If we can’t be honest about the past, we won’t be able to tell the truth about the present, which increases the likelihood of repeating the crimes in the future.You have claimed that a close parallel to the conquest of America is the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe. To many that will seem an outlandish and even an offensive comparison - can you explain why you think it is apt comparison?
I’m not comparing the events but rather the reaction to them. Here’s my argument I have made: Imagine that Germany had won World War II and that a Nazi regime endured for some decades, eventually giving way to a more liberal state with a softer version of German-supremacist ideology. Imagine that a century later, Germans celebrated a holiday based on a sanitized version of German/Jewish history that ignored that holocaust and the deep anti-Semitism of the culture. Would we not question the distortions woven into such a celebration and denounce such a holiday as grotesque?
Now, imagine that left/liberal Germans—those who were critical of the power structure that created that distorted history and who in other settings would challenge the political uses of those distortions—put aside their critique and celebrated the holiday with their fellow citizens, claiming that they could change the meaning of the holiday in private. Would we not question that claim?
Comparisons to the Nazis are routinely overused and typically hyperbolic, but this is directly analogous. When I offer this critique in left/liberal circles, some people acknowledge that the argument is valid but make it clear they will continue to celebrate Thanksgiving. Others get angry and accuse me of posturing. It’s not posturing, but rather a struggle to understand how to live in a culture that cannot tell the truth.How significant is Thanksgiving - what are some of the negative effects of continuing to deny the American holocaust?
Thanksgiving is, by itself, not all that important. What does matter is the denial of history at the heart of Thanksgiving, which is commonplace in the United States, especially in education and media. After years of talking about this, I have come to the conclusion that the dominant culture cannot come to terms with two realities: Without the genocide of indigenous people, there would be no United States. Without African slavery, the United States would not have so quickly become the dominant industrial nation in the world. That means that the wealth concentrated in the United States is the direct result of two of the most grotesque crimes in recorded human history, perpetrated by the nation that claims to be the birthplace of modern democracy. The contradictions of this seem to be too much for the culture to absorb. My hope is that Thanksgiving could be a day set aside for facing that contradiction.
Surely leftists and radicals should give some priority to interventions where they face decent prospects of connecting with those beyond its ranks. However, it seems unlikely that a boycott of Thanksgiving would resonate with much of the American population and, moreover, it might throw up even more cultural barriers between those on the left and the rest of society. How do you respond to this line of thought?
I’m not arguing that the left should initiate a boycott of Thanksgiving aimed at the general public. I have for years wanted to hold an alternative Thanksgiving public event, but I haven’t done it precisely because I cannot figure out how to make it politically viable. So, for now, I’m only talking about the need for an honest conversation within the left and targeted outreach in our discussions with friends and family. In my experience, many people feel uncomfortable with the holiday, and we should not be afraid to talk about the sources of that discomfort. The discussion about Thanksgiving can be a route into a conversation about the importance of a left analysis more generally.Links to past writing on the subject:
Robert Jensen can be reached at email@example.com and his articles can be found online athttp://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go tohttp://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html