50 Simple Ways to Get Off

Photograph: Cig Harvey
Photograph: Cig Harvey

YEARS AGO I WAS interviewed by a dogmatic pacifist (note to self: bad idea), who in his (grossly inaccurate) write-up said he thought I wanted all activists to think like assassins. That’s not true. What I want is for us to think like members of a serious resistance movement.

What does that look like? Well, to start, it doesn’t have to mean handling guns. Even when the IRA was at its strongest, only 2 percent of its members ever picked up weapons. The same is true for the Underground Railroad; Harriet Tubman and others carried guns, but Quakers and other pacifists who ran safe houses were also crucial to that work. What they all held in common was a commitment to their cause, and a willingness to work together in the resistance.

A serious resistance movement also means a commitment to winning, which means figuring out what “winning” means to you. For me, winning means living in a world with more wild salmon every year than the year before, more migratory songbirds, more amphibians, more large fish in the oceans, and for that matter oceans not being murdered. It means less dioxin in every mother’s breast milk. It means living in a world where there are fewer dams each year than the year before. More native forests. More wild wetlands. It means living in a world not being ravaged by the industrial economy. And I’ll do whatever it takes to get there (and if, by the way, you believe that “whatever it takes” is code language for violence, you’re revealing nothing more than your own belief that nonviolence is ineffective).

That’s fine, Derrick, but what do you want me to do?

Part of me wants to tell you to bring down the industrial infrastructure, the engine driving the destruction of the planet, converting so-called raw materials — read: living beings, biomes, and indeed the world — into products for sale. But there’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to suggest that, because I’m guessing you wouldn’t do it anyway. And besides, I don’t know you, and no one who doesn’t know you should ever tell you what to do (and if they do, you shouldn’t listen). In any case, ignoring what I have to say may not be such a bad idea, since what I really want is for people to think for themselves — not to bring down the industrial infrastructure because I tell them it’s killing the world, but rather for them to deeply attend to our current crises and come to their own conclusions about what we must or must not do, what we must unmake and what we must make anew.

But, Derrick, what do you want me to do right now?

Okay, here’s a list:

A lot of the indigenous people with whom I’ve worked have said to me that the first and most important thing any of us needs to do is decolonize our hearts and minds. Decolonization is the process of breaking your identity with and loyalty to this culture — industrial capitalism specifically, and more broadly civilization — and remembering your identification with and loyalty to the real physical world, including the land where you live. It means re-examining premises and stories this culture handed down to you. It means seeing the harm this culture does to other cultures, and to the planet. It means recognizing that we are living on stolen land. It means recognizing that the luxuries of this way of life do not come free, but rather are paid for by other humans, by nonhumans, by the whole world. It means recognizing that we do not live in a functioning democracy, but rather in a corporate plutocracy, a government by, for, and of corporations. Decolonization means recognizing that neither technological progress nor increased GNP is good for the planet. It means recognizing that this culture is not good for the planet. Decolonization means internalizing the implications of the fact that this culture is killing the planet. It means determining that we will stop this culture from doing that. It means determining that we will not fail.

And this is just the absolute beginning of decolonizing. It is internal work that doesn’t accomplish anything in the real world, but it makes all further steps more likely, more feasible, and in many ways more strictly technical.

Next, ask yourself what are the largest, most pressing problems you can help to solve using the gifts that are unique to you in all the universe. People sometimes ask why I write instead of blowing up dams, to which I reply that my only D in college was in quantitative analysis chemistry lab, meaning you don’t want me anywhere near explosives. Some people have said I should be an organizer instead of a writer. These people have never seen my work space; if I can’t keep track of my pens, how would I possibly keep track of anything more complex? Likewise, I’ve filed dozens of timber sale appeals, but it was a very laborious process for me; it took me twelve hours to do what others could do in two. And I write terrible press releases. I can, however, write books. Harness your gifts, and put them in the service of your landbase.

My third suggestion is to ask yourself: what do I get off on? One reason I don’t burn out as an activist is that I love what I’m doing. I was out one day with a wetlands specialist. We were trying to stop a developer from ruining a forest. The specialist dug into the soil, rubbed some between his fingers, and compared the color to a chart, which would help him determine if these were wetlands. I asked, “Do you get off on this?” He laughed and said digging in dirt was his second favorite thing to do after playing with his dogs. I laughed too and said I wouldn’t like to do that work. I, on the other hand, have condemned myself to a life of homework: I get off on trying to figure out, for example, the relationship between perceived entitlement, exploitation, and atrocity.

My next suggestion is to make protecting the land where you live — and by extension the rest of the natural world, since protecting the land where you live will be insufficient to protect anadromous fish, migratory songbirds, or anyone in a world being burned alive by global climate change — the most important thing in your life. That may sound drastic, but we’re talking about life on the planet here. There can be nothing more important than this.

So, Derrick, what exactly do you want us to do?

I want you to make the time to find what or whom you love — whether it’s salmon, sturgeon, a patch of forest, survivors of domestic violence, your own indigenous tradition, migratory songbirds, coral reefs, or Appalachian mountaintops — and I want you to dig in and defend your beloved with your life, and, if necessary, with your death. I want for your actions to positively contribute to the health and defense of the planet. I want for you to figure out how to make it so the world — the real, physical world — is a better place because you were born, and because you lived here.

All of this leads to the point, which is, put simply, to do something. Several years ago I was giving a talk to several hundred people about bringing down civilization. The audience was excited. The atmosphere was like a rock concert. I suddenly stopped and asked, “How many of you have ever filed a timber-sale appeal?” Four or five. “How many have worked on a rape crisis hotline?” Ten women. “How many have done indigenous support work?” Three or four. And so on. It’s all well and good to talk about the Great Glorious Revolution, but what are you doing right now?

The big dividing line is not and has never been between those who advocate more or less militant forms of resistance, or between mainstream and grassroots activists. The dividing line is between those who do something and those who do nothing.

Do something.

That’s what I want you to do. That’s what the anadromous fish and the Appalachian mountaintops want you to do too.

Derrick Jensen is the author of Thought to Exist in the Wild, Songs of the Dead, Endgame, Dreams, and other books. In 2008, he was named one of Utne Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” His Orion column is called “Upping the Stakes.”

Comments

  1. Wow! Thanks for putting this out so forcefully and clearly.

    This is a good short answer to “What do you mean, listen to the land?” It starts by listening to yourself, to what you like doing, what you feel is important, what you get off on. DO SOMETHING! Action will help guide you to more action.

    I think a lot of long-time activists would feel more confident in their work if they really saw themselves as part of a resistance movement. They could see, if they didn’t already, that what look like scattered efforts do build up to something. Long-term worriers might also find a way out of their paralyzing fear that nothing they do will matter.

    Decolonization is a mental shift that puts everything else in perspective and spurs us to action. The future exists only in what we do right now, and part of that is redefining for ourselves who and where we are.

    I haven’t read it, but some reviews I’ve read of Paul Hawken’s new book “Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming” say that he pooh-poohs, or at least ignores, both first-world and third-world groups who are taking illegal physical action. He’s solid on a lot of other things, but this is a big hole. Legal/illegal and nonviolent/violent are so often imaginary distinctions that we allow the state to impose on us, and we mistake their very different consequences for differences in morality or effectiveness.

  2. Being a carpenter as well as an activist, I know the value of a good foundation. The industrial/capitalistic economic model is built on a weak foundation and is collapsing on its inherent weakness. We can speed it up by not participating, by creating new models of sustainability and fighting further incursions of this flawed monster into the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land on which we stand. Thanks Derrick for yet another excellent piece.

  3. I am so delighted to see the next generation taking up the fight that we of the sixties generation have been waging for almost fifty years now!

    It was my generation that stopped a war, shut down the building of nuclear power plants in this country, and laid the groundwork for the contemporary environmental movement with groups like the Planet Drum Foundation who defined “bioregionalism” and Ernest Callenbach’s “Ecotopia.”

    My grandmother was an activist who helped organize support for the Aransas Wildlife Refuge which saved the Whopping Crane from extinction in the 30’s.

    We need to decolonize from the aberrant culture who left this good path and became corrupted by greed for power, but we need to embrace our inheritance from the people who cared for the earth – in all kinds of weather – and learn from them, what they did wrong, what they did right and what is still ours to do to save this beautiful blue pearl of a planet in the vastness of space.

  4. Beautifully written Derrick, as always.

    Thank you,

    Christine

  5. Decolonisation is the key issue that often fails to get much space in discussions, so thanks Derrick for the article. Our minds ARE colonised by the machine, and it is so hard to remove ourselves from it, since it has weaved its way into the core of our being.

    The mainstream enviromnental groups also adopt a colonial ideology of nature. The idea that we can “manage” nature, that we can protect nature through seperation and “reserves”, that there is a concept such as wilderness, are all colonial in their intent and practice.

    The mainstream environmental movement, with its ethos of utilitarianism and management, is just another part of the machine. It is another thing we need to surgically remove from our minds.

  6. Peter – I beg you to consider. If we surgically remove our minds from sustaining the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, the last few remaining endangered Whooping Cranes will not survive. This transition requires that we gracefully transition from where we are now to where we want to be with as little collateral damage as possible!

    I challenge you to consider that many, if not all, of the people who set up the refuges were aware of their limitations and the unsatisfactory nature of creating “refuges” for what should be freely thriving species.

    But in reality, we did what we could and we hope that the next generation will have the wisdom to do everything you can with all your heart. It’s not a matter of surgery, in my opinion. It’s a matter of staying awake, being aware of the pitfalls and going forward with courage and passion.

  7. Thank you for this article. My desk probably looks worse than yours. Sometimes I go to demonstrations other people organize, but what I do well is write songs, and I absolutely agree that the important thing for each of us to do is what we do well and love to do. I just this morning sang solar power songs with first and third graders who, when I asked where solar panels were besides in the song, said “On the roof!” because their school is solar, thanks in part to the organizers at Kyoto USA.

  8. Thanks for that, Derrick – we need as many people as possible setting things off; we all have our own specialities, and I have tried to encapsulate some of the different tasks and skills in a rather large and growing list of ways to Undermine The Industrial Machine, with no small inspiration from DJ himself:

    http://earth-blog.bravejournal.com/entry/42068

    Here are a few to whet your appetite:

    · Change the press releases of the company you work for to tell the truth about the product or service they are offering. If releases are sent out by post, it is a lot easier to be anonymous.

    · Similarly, alter promotional and advertising materials to show the environmental and social impact of the company sending them out. If you work in a printing or distribution role, this will be far safer.

    · Insert contrary materials, such as flyers exposing a company or organisation’s activities, into the pages of reports, magazines and brochures.

    · If you are party to confidential information that, if released, could damage the reputation of a company or public body, send it anonymously by post to one or more newspaper editors.

    · Remove commercial advertising (billboards, posters, displays) from your local area or, if that’s not possible, alter it to give it a more accurate meaning.

    · Switch off televisions or monitors in shops that are running adverts.

    To keep this list growing, I need help, so please write to me with your ideas. Thanks.

  9. Andrew says: “Legal/illegal and nonviolent/violent are so often imaginary distinctions that we allow the state to impose on us.”

    While legal/illegal is state-imposed, the distinction between violence and nonviolence is a moral one that we each have a responsibility to discern properly.

    Jensen, for all the depth of his perception, has yet failed to do this. But he is still young.

    Jensen says in this article: “and if, by the way, you believe that ‘whatever it takes’ is code language for violence, you’re revealing nothing more than your own belief that nonviolence is ineffective”.

    It’s not “code”, because he’s elsewhere been quite explicit in his denunciation of nonviolence (which he confuses with pacifism) as impotent and immoral.

    “Whatever it takes” could not be more transparent. It means, and Jensen has said as much, that the ends justify the means. If the ends are “good” (or perceived to be so), then any means that we believe (rightly or wrongly) will get us there must be justified.

    Jensen says: “It means determining that we will not fail.” To commit oneself to “sucess” requires that one be willing to use any means deemed necessary to achieve that end.

    But the problem comes when we define “success” too narrowly. If “success” means merely the dismantling of a destructive culture, then the means will inevitably degenerate.

    If “success”, however, means creating a life-affirming culture, then violent means will be antithetical to that end. Such a goal may require a greater level of patience and forebearance than Jensen would like. Sometimes “just do something” is not the best advice.

    As Bill Chisholm suggests, we can facilitate the collapse of industrial civilization by “not participating” (non-cooperation) and by “creating new models” – what we used to describe as creating a new world within the shell of the old.

    But patience, forebearance, and perseverance are qualities of mature men and women who have developed the long view of life. They know that sometimes, in fact, the best thing to do is to do nothing.

    Someday, perhaps, Jensen will come to understand that as well.

  10. Riversong,

    Does it normally work in debates to make things up wholecloth?

  11. Riversong,

    If someone were about to hurt and/or kill my five-year-old daughter, there is no question of what I would do: if I had the means and the ability, I would disable or kill that person immediately. And I would not consider it violence because I would be defending someone I love from harm.

    If you cannot love anyone enough to be willing to kill or die for them, if you cannot honor that in life which is larger than yourself, you have no business doing *any* activism whatsoever. No one will be able to trust you to keep solidarity with them. The first time you had to stand up for them you’d be cutting deals with the cops, if the cops just promised not to beat you up.

    Starhawk defines violence as “the imposition of power-over.” If I have to stick a gun in someone’s face to prevent them harming, killing, or dispossessing me and mine, the situation has already gone very wrong and nonviolence will not salvage it. Face it: there are ugly, small people in this world who will stop at nothing to dominate others. In case you missed the nightly news, they’ve been left unchecked far too long already. I fail to see how more of the same knuckling under to them is going to do anyone any good.

    The only reason people like you can wax eloquent about the virtues of not fighting back is because some other people are taking the boot on the neck for you, and still others are doing your fighting for you. There would have been no MLK without the black nationalist movement. There would have been no Gandhi without the militant Indian independence movement. There would be no Sierra Club if there weren’t an Earth First!. The powerful are only willing to negotiate with the moderate because they fear the ascendancy of the aggressive radicals. Fighting is the only thing they understand.

    We’ve had millenia–thousands of years–for them to prove otherwise. That is more than long enough.

  12. Predictably, the Jensen acolytes are counterattacking, and revealing their true colors.

  13. Riversong,

    Hmm, you usually deflect substantial questions in a lot wordier ways. You’re off your game. 😛

    I have to say, I was a bit surprised you responded to this article in this way. This article was practically tailor-made for people who assert that Derrick said things that he did not, which is what you’re doing.

    For instance, he did not denounce non-violence, and in fact has had a lot of pieces in which he discusses what makes some non-violent actions successful and others not. In fact, “Endgame” had huge sections of that. Or did you read “Endgame for Pacifists”? It seems that for every time he says “sometimes violence is okay”, he says “we need it all” fifty-eight times, and yet you continue to focus on the former.

    It really sounds a lot like you’re saying very similar things as Derrick but you’re getting hung up on his view that violence is sometimes acceptable, and you’re inflating it to be more a part of his writing than it is. I can’t remember if you’ve mentioned, but how much of Derrick’s works have you actually read?

    I personally do work in creating new models/cultures and helping people to find ways to not participate in our death culture, and most of the people in my group have found inspiration primarily from Derrick. We’re non-violent, not on principle but just because our work doesn’t require it. “Know them by their actions”? But we hold no illusions that this alone will save the world, that we’ll bring down civilization if we just get enough people to rewild with us, and we realize our work is just a part of the whole.

    If you’re capable, please address the questions some of us have asked you. I’m truly interested in the answers.

  14. Daniel,

    I’m not “off my game” because this is no game. I wasn’t going to dignify with a response your disingenuous question: “Does it normally work in debates to make things up wholecloth?”

    I think you know quite well that I’ve said nothing to mischaracterize Jensen – I attribute nothing to him that he hasn’t published (though he is clearly trying to sidestep some of his more controversial positions here on Orion).

    There is little purpose in responding to the perennial self-defense exception. We all know viscerally, if not intellectually, that self-defense is not violence. And I hope that we all know intellectually that “pre-emptive self-defense” is no different than the “pre-emptive warfare” that we’ve all condemned.

    I’ve read more than enough of his writings to understand where he’s coming from, and had a personal on-line encounter with him and his disciples that underscored his acceptance of not only physical violence but of the verbal violence that expresses itself in vulgar disrespect for those who think differently.

    Jensen’s writings make clear that he has not made the effort to study and understand either the power of non-violent direct action or its underlying philosophy, but chooses rather to caricature, demean and dismiss all forms of what he calls “pacifism”.

    What Jensen and probably most of his followers fail to appreciate is one of the fundamental laws of the universe (supported by quantum science): that we manifest what we imagine, and that whatever we fight we make stronger.

    Ironically, the Empire has yet to learn that lesson, even after failing to defeat rag-tag resistance movements in Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan. One would hope that those who oppose Empire would not fall into the same mistake.

    Jensen believes that “Our way of living – industrial civilization – is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.” That is true. But he then makes the untenable assertion that, since it’s “the only language they know”, we have no choice but to respond in kind. We do know another language, however, and we do have a choice. If we let the Empire establish the rules of the road, then we’ve already lost.

    It’s more than ironic that a man who wrote A Language Older Than Words, which “explains violence as a pathology that touches every aspect of our lives and indeed affects all aspects of life on Earth” would choose to perpetuate violence in any form. But we know that tortured souls who were, like Jensen, victims of abuse often unconsciously continue the cycle to the next generation and consciously find ways to rationalize it as justifiable.

    The cycle needs to stop with us, but that does not mean we must meekly accept our fate (as the cynics allege). It requires far more courage to face violence unarmed, and historically it’s been far more effective. The Force is with us, and it’s a more powerful force that cannot be stilled or suppressed by violence because it is fundamental and universal. It is, however, weakened within ourselves whenever we resort to lesser means.

  15. Thanks Derrick for this clarification of your views. I will share this article with friends of mine who are a little queasy about your thoughts on violence. It is unfortunate that some pacifist fundamentalists miss the wider meanings of your work in their obsessive focus on “moral purity” as they define it. Keep up the good work. Your writings have tremendous awakening power. People need to be shocked out of their hypnotic trance of complicity in this “civilization”.

  16. Acting as if sabotage is pre-emptive violence and not self defense is an anthropocentric (or even more narrow, civilized-centric) blindness to the fact that civilization is murdering countless humans and non-humans every day, that these attacks are going on RIGHT NOW. Trees and rivers can’t defend themselves, so those that love them need to, just like a mother defending a child.

  17. “The only reason people like you can wax eloquent about the virtues of not fighting back is because some other people are taking the boot on the neck for you, and still others are doing your fighting for you. There would have been no MLK without the black nationalist movement. There would have been no Gandhi without the militant Indian independence movement. There would be no Sierra Club if there weren’t an Earth First!. The powerful are only willing to negotiate with the moderate because they fear the ascendancy of the aggressive radicals. Fighting is the only thing they understand.”

    Wonderful statement, Dana. I have made this point time and time again, especially about Gandhi, who turned a blind eye at those who were prepared to sabotage Indian Railways – this being the lifeblood of the British Imperial machine in India.

    Riversong, your phrase “patience, forebearance, and perseverance” only holds water where you have set some course of action in progress – mere trust in some “other” to resolve things is as useful as prayer. I’m not prepared to wait for natural processes to kick back because there will be massive die-off in the interim, and even worse as the thresholds are breached: if that level of potentially preventable death is what playing the “long game” is about then excuse me if I pursue a rather shorter version.

  18. Mike K seems to have learned from Jensen how to mischaracterize and demean those who think differently (“pacifist fundamentalists”, “moral purity”).

    Jay shares Jensen’s sense of desperation and urgency (“RIGHT NOW”), which invariably leads to poor judgement and ill-considered actions, and has the arrogance and audacity to believe that the trees and rivers are his “children” and need his “defense”.

    Keith Farnish, too, prefers the short view and the quick fix, which is the modus operandi of those who have destroyed our world. And, on his website, he issues a disclaimer to his “100 Ways To Undermine The Industrial Machine” which denies his personal responsibility for anyone taking his advice.

    Similarly, Jensen’s writings are intended to move others to take bold actions which he, himself, refrains from doing – leaving himself some “plausible deniability”, much as the worst of our political leaders.

    We need the earth – the earth doesn’t need us. And, though Keith may not wish to accept it, prayer (focused positive intention) has been scientifically proven to have powerfully positive effects.

    What we believe, what we think, what we intend, and how we manifest that in action all matter profoundly. To consider “the next seven generations” is not merely to resist others who are undermining their future, but to also consider how our own choices and actions might have repercussions down that long road.

  19. “though Keith may not wish to accept it, prayer (focused positive intention) has been scientifically proven to have powerfully positive effects.”

    Where? References please – you did say “scientifically proven” so it must be in a reputable journal.

    Riversong, you may have the soil running through your old veins, or you may just be a troll – I haven’t quite decided yet. If you are the former then I would rather entrust my future to the careless youth who have always been the catalysts for revolution.

    (N.B. Read the “disclaimer” carefully. It keeps the site online yet asks no one to desist from anything – including myself)

  20. To RR: I am truly sorry if my comments displeased you. After you wrote recently that defensive force was an acceptable response, I would not put you in the category of rigid and extremist fundamentalists. As a matter of fact I admire your stated principals, and feel there should definitely be a place for many like yourself at the table of those of us who would basically alter our modern culture in ways that are more peaceful, loving and sustainable.
    Fact is, I am not a fan of Derrick’s proposed solutions to our world problems. I don’t think that various forms of sabotage, such as he envisions will in any way be adequate to overthrow the prevailing rulers. Those in power would only respond to such pin prick irritations with justifications for further diminishing our shrinking civil rights. That said, I have a lot of respect for what DJ is doing. I’ve read a lot of his stuff, and it has helped me wake up in many ways. DJ is a sensitive, caring person. In many ways his loving concern for all living things is consonant with the bodhisattva vow to save all beings from suffering. I will be in opposition to any one who characterizes and demeans him as a violent person. In all that I have read of his work he has never recommended or endorsed doing harm to another human being. We need him just as we need you, Robert, in this essential ultimate undertaking. Can’t we just get along?

  21. Riversong wrote: “While legal/illegal is state-imposed, the distinction between violence and nonviolence is a moral one that we each have a responsibility to discern properly.”

    No, it’s not ‘discern properly,’ since I am not content with your judgment. It’s ‘determine each for ourselves,’ something that Derrick Jensen makes clear in his writings, when he stresses it takes all, takes everyone’s contributions.

  22. I really enjoyed reading this. And thank you to Orion for publishing Derrick’s articles.

  23. Derrick Jensen, Folks! Want to save the mountaintops AND the wetland valleys below? Simply have ENFORCED the 1985 DEADLINE of the Clean Water Act’s preamble to have ELIMINATED such pollution, a QUARTER CENTURY AGO, instead TODAY!

  24. what a sermon for a sunday morning! Here is a quote, variously attributed to Goethe et al, that seems fitting:

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

  25. Fantastic… This article goes right to the point of the nuts and bolts of what to do.

    I especially like the part about examining our culture, colonizing ourselves. This is so akin to the Toltec life-long task of recapitulating… And the hardest thing to recapitulate is mother culture and the assumptions we have about our lives. Who did we inherit this from… but more clearly, what do you do when you have eliminated the mental and behavioral constructs that trap us into harming the world, awareness, each other and ourselves… Bliss?
    I think that bliss is not a passive accomplishment of a place, but rather an active state of being in relationship with everything around one. And when we arrive, we will know the place where we began.
    Thanks for the liberating comments which echo so much of my own passion to create art for awareness and beauty of this magical place we are at….

  26. Hmmm, haven’t civilized humans messed up enough with technology (the stuff for which we don’t even know consequences, and yet plow blithely ahead)? Let’s not dry up the oceans to save the former croplands devastated by the agricultural part of civilization, please! It isn’t about us, it isn’t about saving humanity, it’s about saving the planet, and if some humans survive … let’s hope they are Indigenous peoples, and know how to live sustainably, or let’s honor those who know and work toward ensuring human sustainability — without the cornucopian (Catton’s term) dreams of tech-salvation.

  27. Thank you for the excellent article; I won’t spend time reiterating its point since I can hardly do so better than the author. I shall limit myself, as is my habit, to disagreeing: Technological progress is not such a terrible thing, I think. While I have great respect to folks who want to “get back to the roots,” I really don’t think that they will, for example, give up fire, which is one of the most fundamental technologies humans have, used both by the civilized and the uncivilized — it powers everything from camps to automobiles, to the screen upon which you’re reading this article, (via power-plants, most of which are powered by the heat of fire).
    Now, before I am denounced as inadequately de-colonialized, I do believe that the uses to which Industrialization puts our technological tools, and the scales at which it uses them, can probably be characterized as evil; the focus, however, should be not on /no/ technology, but on /appropriate/ technology: technology when and as appropriate. Technology is just one of those things that have turned up on our planet, neither good or evil in itself; and I believe that our shared dream will be reached not when technology is abolished, but when it, us, and the rest of the world all learn how to get along once again.

  28. Dear Derrick,
    Thank you for your article.
    As a long-standing “greenie”, I had often been in despair and burnt-out. But by joining the resistence movement – at least in writing and emailing – I remain empowered. The failure in Copenhagen INSIDE the Bella Center, cannot obliterate the success OUTSIDE.
    Keep up the good work.
    Victor

  29. hi mark. the thing with systems of technology (autos) that differentiate them from tools (fire) is the fact that they require particular systems of social order in order to be. one cant have enough materials or labor to built technologies unless people are living in a certain way, civilized. so agriculture, sedentism, division of labor and a social hierarchy to keep it all going are all needed in order to produce the technologies that define so much of our world (not even saying anything about the mindset and worldview that allow for the widespread transformation of the living world into the machine).

    as long as we crave and depend on technologies we will be enslaved to the systems needed to create them. these are the very systems that destroy both the earth and the soul.

    what we need are tools. techniques and strategies that are replicable on micro scales using methods that reflect an undying love for the earth.

  30. Hi Wort. Thanks for your comment — but, while I completely agre with your final paragraph, I disagree with you quite strongly on two levels, one superficial and one more profound: Systems of technology, while indeed requiring a certain foundation to build, that foundation does not necessarily equal an entire industrial civilization: where does the border lie — fire, swords, tents, bicycles, autos? Arguably you can build an entire car with tools that are suitable for a nomadic life; it’ll just take a while, which is okay. The tools and system of technology would have to be adapted, of course, but that would not be impossible. This is related to your last paragraph.
    My second point of disagreement is that sedentism, division of labor, and even hierarchy are necessarily bad: while I myself am very strongly inclined towards the nomadic life, and psychologically more suited to it than to cubicle work or what-have-you, I believe that all three spaces — the nomadic, agricultural, and urban — are necessary for a truly prosperous humanity, and by extension a truly prosperous Earth (because an ecosystem is most prosperous when all its components are). The other requirement is that all three spaces coexist and keep each other in check, and the observant will notice that the urban space is the most compact, while the nomadic style is least, inversely proportional to how much they displace the rest of nature. But small cities, kept in check by regular barbarian invasions, are in my opinion well worth their contribution (principally through the practice of the arts and sciences) to the total beauty and complexity of our ecosphere.
    Thus, I argue, our troubles are due to the complete overpowering of other human spaces by a singularly unhealthy urban, civilized space, rather than by the very existence of healthy instances of that space.

  31. “barbarian invasions” don’t keep anything healthy. Building ideas on bases like that is not healthy.

  32. Mike, I’m afraid you’re wrong. I keep reading on these pages that we ought to have respect for and learn all we can from Nature. Well, let’s ask ourselves the question: what is Nature’s way to keep populations in check and ecosystems balanced? By using constraining factors, such as predators. So, if you don’t have mountain lions to eat some of the deer, soon enough there will be a deer population explosion and mass starvation, ending in a desert, just like our civilization that has almost completely overpowered the world’s barbarians (many of whom were/are those “indigenous populations” we have so much respect and admiration for).
    This is a well known principle of ecology, perhaps the best known: the relationship between predators and pray may not be pretty, but it is /absolutely essential/ for a healthy ecosystem. The balance between different species in an ecosystem is achieved by means precisely like barbarian invasions, whether you like it or not.

    Imagine what North America would have looked like, if the tribes of the Interior had succeeded in their attempts to use barbarian invasions to contain the Europeans.

    Not pretty, but essential.

  33. marc- i see technological acceptance to a degree as a symptom of removal. the further we have traveled down the road of symbolic thought, domestication and the civilization they have spawned, the more estranged we have become with the earth. for millions of years humans were content with fires and tents (tools) and the experience of being the raw wild earth, some still are. swords and bikes and cars and agriculture and urban society are all very late developments that uncannily coincide with the birth of wide-spread humyn and non-humyn exploitation.

    to me, perhaps the march of progress is not simply an outgrowth of the humyn desire to learn and wonder and explore and experience so much as it has been a vain attempt to fill the hole that we created in ourselves as we left the earth for the world of the symbolic, the civilized, the technological.

    to be fully embodied in and as the earth makes all of civilizations cherished accomplishments seem as poisonously empty as they truly are.

    hahaha! i am sure we are far more in agreement than not, mostly seem to be talking definitions and the such, so good on ya, and good on everyone putting thought into this! and i might add that all those looking to deepen their critique of civilization and its components should check out john zerzan, great stuff.

    rewild!

  34. Hello Marc. I only recently decided to take part in these discussions around Derrick Jensen’s articles. I had previously steered clear of posting on other blogs, noticing the prevalence of nasty personal attacks and other disrespectful behavior on those sites. However I have been impressed by the (mostly) thoughtful and considerate exchanges here on Orion. That said, please accept that in disagreeing with some of your ideas, I am not attacking you.
    Neither do I imply that I disagree with all your thoughts. Open sharing of ideas and feelings is crucially important in these times of planetary crisis.
    “That we ought to have respect for and learn all we can from Nature” I agree with. Leaving aside the deeply meaningful question of what we mean by Nature, which is an apparently simple term concealing our whole unspoken and often unconscious ideas of the whole meaning of existence; do we accept to be dominated by the simplistic notions of “Nature red in tooth and claw”, or Social Darwinism? Are Thomas Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Ayn Rand to be our guides into the future?
    In my view, what we need is to realize our capacity to grow beyond and transcend the limitations of the past, not to glorify some selected version of all that and be bound only to endlessly recapitulate it. Human beings have now not only technological capacities far beyond any previous earthly organisms, but spiritual potentials crying out for greater utilization. My guidebooks for this project include Riane Eisler, Smiley Blanton (author of “Love or Perish”) and Ken Wilber.
    I hope you can receive my ideas in the friendly and constructive spirit in which they are offered. My mind is not closed, and I am open to changing or amending my views in the light of greater wisdom.

  35. Marc, I have one further question. I am not sure what you mean by “barbarians”? Maybe if you could tell me who are the barbarians now in Afganistan it would help me understand this….

  36. OK, small point, but how privileged *must* one be to consider some hierarchy beneficial? Wow. Am I missing something, or is this an acceptance of the lesser status of female humans, of darker-skinned humans, just as a start? Larger point, same concept — we do not know the effects of the technology to which we cling. And yet many would have us plow ahead, or at least work to maintain what exists, no matter what. But there are consequences, and what we have done for the most part is pretend they don’t exist, or let others (not ironically, others lower on the hierarchy, say brown people) pay the price. We don’t build aluminum smelters in posh ‘hoods. Do we really need aluminum? Do we really need cars? Is the answer the same IF we have to factor in the real costs?

    Not sure your ‘barbarians’ point, but I do think that if Indigenous people had killed the invaders in North America, at least one continent would be far better off. The Indigenous were sustainable, were a part of the predator-prey model, yes.

    So why damage what we *know* works by lauding technology? We don’t know the effects in total, and what we do know gets hidden via environmental racism, from white privileged sight.

  37. “[…] a truly prosperous humanity, and by extension a truly prosperous Earth […].”

    Marc, I don’t think these things follow one another in any logical way, nor would our definitions be the same. A prosperous ‘humanity’ in my view is a sustainable number of humans on any given landbase, living within the predator-prey model (with specifically Indigenous models available). To the extent we can sustainably use technology, fine but I’m skeptical. Tools like fire? Sustainable people used ’em, so fine, they’re pretty well proven.

    That which normally passes as ‘human prosperity,’ including the health and well-being of a growing number of humans, is clearly in opposition to sustainability AND to the health of the planet. Does your definition of human prosperity differ?

    Unlike others, I really do intend to challenge, though not cruelly. There are so few female voices in these discussions! Gentleness between men, when hierarchy has been named acceptable, unnerves me, sparks me to shake up for clarity at least some of the gentlemanly discourse.

    wort: civilization’s “cherished accomplishments […] as poisonously empty as they truly are” — that is truly beautiful wording, imo. –diana

  38. Hey folks, I gotta say that never before has a comment of mine generated so much discussion, not to mention so thoughtful and respectful. I am extremely gratified, and I appreciate Mike’s statement of non-aggression.

    No, one by one:

    wort:
    Generally, I agree with you, in a way. You are correct in saying that the ubiquity of technology and (relative) removal from the State of Nature, as it has been called, generally go hand in hand in our experience. I think it’s more of a barrier than a compensation (you only need to visit someone with a TV to see that compensation is absent and the hole stands unfilled). Now, I agree (again) that this removal is not a good thing, in general. However, I must disagree with you, wort, when you say that “civilizations cherished accomplishments” are “empty and poisonous.” It’s a good sound-bite, but it’s just not true. Either you mean something else by cherished accomplishments than I do, which is possible, or you are simply not familiar with those accomplishments.

    At its greatest, civilization is capable of achieving great heights of the imagination, precisely because of its use of symbolic thinking and the terrible hardship it imposes on the soul. This is evident, especially in literature. Cervantes, Zweig, and everything in between could not have created their works without civilization; to a large degree its evils are their subject. But the way that they elevate all that is terrible and all that is wonderful about being human, to me cannot be replaced. Admittedly, I am not yet that close to being fully embodied in the Earth, although I certainly hope that I am on my way; I would be happy to give up the comforts and crutches of modern civilized life. I am in fact much happier being dirty and chopping firewood (or whatever) out in some forest than I am just about anywhere else, but if I had to give up books and the rest of the arts, that is where I would draw the line. And to completely dispose of the urban space would have to involve that.

    I shall reiterate:

    I absolutely insist that while urban, civilized existence has such an abundance of flaws and causes such a range of problems for our Earth, it is also responsible for some of our greatest achievements, such as Don Quixote, the Sistine Chapel Quantum Theory, and the Internet, for example, which are all in my mind extremely beautiful things that contribute vastly to the beauty of our world, which is my personal yardstick to ecological flourishing, due to reasons that are a bit complicated and intuitive at the same time). Now in the context of our current world order, the hierarchical, technological, urban space causes vastly more harm than good, especially since as its domination of the entire world is cemented its cultural contribution seem more shallow). That doesn’t mean that the above would be true under all circumstances. I can envision a world where the harm that the urban space causes is contained, while its benefits are abundant and available for all.

    An essential condition for that would be our barbarians. Now Mike put a big smile on my face with his question about who are the barbarians in Afghanistan, trying thereby to glean some insight about what definition I use for the term. I use the traditional definition for barbarian, not the figurative one: The Afghans are the barbarians. Not only that, but they are the direct figurative descendants of the most illustrious barbarians, the Germanic tribes who brought down the Western Roman Empire. I don’t use the word Barbarian to mean cruel and violent, because while barbarians like the Afghans are known for their simple, direct cruelty, which is probably better than the cruelty of the civilized which is sophisticated, advanced, lasts a lot longer, and seems to be more personal and less caring at the same time. I would personally prefer to be a barbarian myself, so long as I could visit the city from time to time to see a theater.
    I guess maybe I would make a very good barbarian, since I would probably not burn it down and rape the actresses afterwards (<= joke).

    Now Mike, to the other question: "Nature Red in Tooth and Claw." The way I learn from Nature is to see things in the context of systems. Hobbes and his buddies had a sort of understanding, true; but, as you say, their understanding is simplistic (and Machiavelli was writing satire). I think that their mistake was to think in overly individualistic ways, which, while being a component of the way these things work (one cannot deny that fierce, life-or-death competition is a part of Nature, and a vital one), but is merely a component. Social Darwinism I don't really want to comment on, since it managed to interpret just about every aspect of Evolution in a wrong-headed way.
    In short, I'm not an ecologist, but I am capable of receiving a nuanced inspiration from the way it works.

    And I agree with you also about transcending rather than recapitulating. However, the past is there, and will continue playing a role in the future. There are certainly things in it worth keeping. It seems to me also that transcendence cannot happen all in one go, and that the only way is to learn the right lessons and try to be a bit better every time around.

    Now: mommaterra:
    You may think I'm overprivileged, but I would appreciate not making such judgments; you don't know me.
    Let's just say that the reason I don't have much of an extended family has to do with some of the ideas you mentioned in your first paragraph.
    All I'm saying is that, as much as I dislike hierarchy and have had few benefits from it (although there have always been people worse off, which is, of course, one of the ways our system maintains control), I recognize that division of labor and even the evils of hierarchy /have a place./ Just like everything else. Diversity is good for an ecosystem, remember? Even bad things are good, in limited amounts.

    I have resisted asking this question, but here it is: aluminum, along with gold, copper, lithium, and other metals the production of which causes much suffering, is used extensively in the infrastructure of the Internet. Why do you use it, mommaterra? If you consider the costs of this infrastructure, do you need it? And if you don't, that makes using it anyway all the worse.

    My attitude is that I DO need it, because it's good to have such a wonderful way to exchange information, and that the cost are regrettable and should be minimized as far as possible, and that I think that those costs can be minimized to quite a large degree.
    Anyway, I have to go and help with Christmas or my wife's family will never forgive me.

    Cheers, looking forward you your replies, let's be friendly and not accuse each other of things, even in a rhetorical-question way!

    ~Marc

  39. Hi again, mommaterra. I am sorry that my reply, written before I saw your second post, was a bit aggressive. I was a bit offended at some of what you said the first time around.
    I can say that generally I agree with your definition of a prosperous humanity — that’s why I used the words a *truly* prosperous humanity, to differentiate my view from some others. Certainly a truly prosperous humanity would be much smaller in number and substantially different in practices and culture than our current one.
    What I am trying to do is apply the predator/prey model, as you call it, to not just human individuals, but to human societies. I think that *properly contained* by the mechanisms of predator/prey and ecology in general, technologically advanced cities have a place on our Earth, and can make a net contribution. So long as they don’t take up a lot of space, the majority of people live outside of them, and their ability to project power beyond their walls is limited, I think that the constructive aspects of civilization can outweigh their destructive aspects. You can say that about any organism on the planet — balance is the key, not the exclusivity of a specific mode of living that’s “better” or more “right.”

    As to the scarcity of female voices, I generally listen to what the voice says rather than to what register it says it in, maybe because I grew up in a family made up of very strong and smart women, who sort of taught me that respect doesn’t have to do with what’s between your legs, as my mother would say. Although, as my grandmother would say, it’s always pleasant to hear a feminine voice.

    Cheers!

  40. Marc, I never said you were overprivileged! I asked, simply, how privileged does one have to be to consider hierarchy a good thing? I can pretty much assure you that people who spend a lot of time on the bottom rungs get tired of the cleats and stilettos upon overburdened shoulders. So it would follow that an analysis yielding bennies would belong to the thought processes of the more-elite. I don’t know you. And yet, in that classic sense they teach in anti-oppression 101, those with less power must know about the more-elite to survive. Conversely the more-elite can afford ignorance and misunderstanding; their lives do not depend on knowledge of their presumed ‘lessers.’ Or, since you accept hierarchy as a basic good, I can guess you dwell where I can check yer soles. When and where my neck gets sore, please don’t expect a huge extension of ‘friendly.’ (Any offense is surely mutual, but from my perspective, not so great that I’d discontinue dialog.)

    As to what’s ‘good’ for an ecosystem, human thought diversity isn’t relevant. We’re talking plastic apples and mango trees. Otherwise we could … insist rape in limited amounts is a great thing? Or knife-slashing children in limited amounts is a net positive? Um, no. Real diversity and human thought diversity are entirely different, and it’s species diversity, difference in adaptability and in food sources and such, or real diversity, that are the good. I’m also suspicious of division of labor, especially that involving dichotomies.

    Neither of us *needs* the Internet, or computers of any stripe. We need air, warmth enough to maintain health, nourishing food, water, and connection with someone(s) or something(s) to survive. We do not need the ‘net. And still, for exchange of ideas, for networking with others, it’s an amazing tool. There is, of course, a huge cost. Like any other choice I make, I have an obligation to those whose sacrifices went into it. I eat meat: I am responsible for the continuation of the species off which I feed; I am on a computer, so I have the responsibility to end the depletion of ‘resources’ and the immiseration of those who assembled my machine. I don’t think the costs are “regrettable,” I think I have a responsibility to work against them.

    “What I am trying to do is apply the predator/prey model, as you call it, to not just human individuals, but to human societies.”

    What? Am lost. You used that phrasing (with different spelling), and I continued: “The Indigenous were sustainable, were a part of the predator-prey model ….” I meant far more than humans, period; I meant that-which-we-eat and that-by-which-we-are-eaten. Meat, trees, what silly people call ‘resources’ and apple trees (like our calcium, I think it is), bacteria, lightning. To live within that model, to live legitimately sustainably, we can’t take more than our blessed Earth can give; we can’t take more than our landbase offers. In this sense, cities are *never* sustainable, because they overshoot the landbase’s carrying capacity, and require the importation of ‘resources’ from the outside. Now, to me, if it’s not sustainable, it’s wrong. I have no desire to go chasing after options that aren’t sustainable.

    Interestingly enough, there is info that the linearity of the written language affects how we think, almost requires an over-appreciation of maleness. With the counter of continued deprogramming, I would prefer that books not leave. But, again, there’s that cost. And who-all is willing to pay it? I find it sad that you took my discussion on female ways of seeing and being, and reduced it all to genitalia. I assure you I don’t speak from my genitalia; I do speak from the rich tradition of femaleness, as varied (and sometimes self-unaware) as it can be. This is something quite different, I suspect, from that ‘pleasant … feminine voice‘ of which you write. So … can we try again? –diana

  41. “Red in tooth and claw” is not the only way to view nature. Try Good natured: The origins of right and wrong in humans and other animals by Frans de Waal. There’s a lot of cooperation out there. And in Always Coming Home, Ursula LeGuin has imagined a future society in which most people live in self-sufficient villages but can go to communication centers to contact other villagers to exchange news and ideas and draw on collections of information.

  42. I’ve never needed Jensen’s approval or support or even his awareness of what I am doing — and frankly, I could care less if any of you approve, support or are even aware of what I am doing.

    Especially you Riversong.

    But to everyone – I am most certainly not interested in your opinions, morality, justifications or notions of what is right, what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral.

    I have decided all of these things for my own self, I have no interest whatsoever in sharing these conclusions with anyone and if I did, I would have no interest in receiving your feedback or “stamp of approval”, or engaging in yet another stupid endless “debate” of my views, actions or beliefs.

    I have long engaged in warfare against the State and have long realized that everyone else is simply too ignorant, too entrenched, too vested or too afraid to stand side-by-side with me.

    Most people are slugs, basically lazy, only willing to hide behind their keyboards and “pretend” that they are making a difference when they have actually done absolutely nothing at all.

    And I mean nothing — absolutely nothing. Mere words typed on a computer screen changes nothing, letters to Senators and Congressman change nothing. EIS’s and petitions and endless “campaigns” and marching around holding signs changes nothing.

    You people need to get off your fat asses and get real with what you are dealing with.

    It is simply easier, more autonomous and far more productive to walk this path alone, I don’t require anything from anybody to believe and act as I do.

    Riversong, you think that engaging others on Jensen’s position is somehow productive. Perhaps it is (for you) and it seems to be your forte in “activism”, but most certainly not for me. I never even heard of Jensen before two years ago, have never read his books, only a few essays now online and find his position weak — he’s still trying to rally the troops to his side, rather then just do what needs to be done.

    That’s a lost cause people and a waste of time, breath, energy and effort. How much more could have been accomplished if we had stopped wasting our breath on these pointless stupid discussions and just did what needed to be done?

    There is next to nothing to be factually learned from reading another essay (or the comments). We all know what the problem is if we’ve graduated beyond our inbred ignorance of blissful connedsumption. What more could we possibly need now? What possible good could another essay or debate reasonably accomplish?

    You want a different world — then GO MAKE IT HAPPEN by whatever means you believe is necessary. Stop looking to others for the answers or the morality of taking action – realize that they don’t have any answers either. You are the answer to your own questions and always were.

    The reason this movement fails so miserably is because everyone fails to truly appreciate the “rules of engagement”. We are dealing with death merchants on a global scale and they care not one bit for your protests, opinions or morality.

    Most of you utterly fail to realize what this means and believe you are still bound by rules and regulations and acceptable responses to their activities. And you spend countless, precious hours and entire lives online pretending your “engaging” and making a difference when you’re not actually doing a damned thing at all. You’re just stupidly arguing amongst yourselves and everything you say is totally irrelevant.

    How can you be so utterly stupid? Your blindness and easy manipulation as a group is legendary. Go examine REAL activism in other countries to learn a clue about what it is going to take here. Learn from them what works — and what does not.

    Hint: they don’t have computers, forums, blogs, boards, funding or any special tax exempt status or even much of an organization. But what they do have is blood and guts and determination that they will do anything to stop the destruction of their homelands.

    Their our “teachers” if we can make such a claim at all, not a cause célèbre that simply repeatedly reminds us to “rexamine ourselves” again and again while the world goes on burning down around us.

    If you truly believe that you can decolonize your minds — then start decolonizing everything about you — your tactics, your lifestyle, your adherence to their rules, requirements and restrictions and start undergoing a revolutionary way of thinking how you will stop the destruction of this planet.

    Nothing less is going to stand even a remote chance of working.

  43. Reader, while I agree with your scathing comments on writing letters and signing petitions completely; you are either very foolish, or in denial about your lack of action – if you are really in “warfare against the state” then you really shouldn’t be posting anything about it. By posting something, and almost certainly revealing your IP address to a public forum, you have breached the firewall that all subversives have to respect. The decision which side of this firewall to exist is entirely personal, but no one can exist on both sides – it endangers both the actor themselves, and worse still, the lives of anyone working with the actor.

    Of course there are plenty of things that people on the “public side” can do – many are in the link I posted earlier – but once you start seriously threatening the engine of state or commerce you really should shut up about it. If I do anything then it will be me alone that knows who did it. I agree with Derrick that “we need it all” – and any intelligent person will understand that there are people who have decided to make the leap into the dark from which they can never emerge; their work is invaluable, but so is the work of the people who are guiding others to places they have not yet discovered – the people who you decry, but might only need a little jolt to start doing the only things you consider to be important.

  44. No, do nothing. The industrial complex thrives on activity. It churns activity like corn in a mill. If you do nothing (not buying stuff, not watching tv, not doing overtime) you remove the paste from the millstone and the wheels destroy themselves in a great roar of economic hunger – no help needed.

    Just a thought.

  45. Keith – you present a straw argument which has absolutely no relevance whatsoever. My awareness of my actions and their consequences is not the issue.

    Moreover, you CAN live on both sides, as Jensen himself (using an example pertinent to this post) demonstrates, as I have demonstrated (I am still here), as everyone in reality has demonstrated. Any activist of any caliber “lives both sides” out of necessity and reality.

    You have absolutely no idea at all what you are talking about.

    I suspect you are simply too afraid to engage the critical thought processes that lead you to action and their consequences to seriously consider what YOU might do. You are more comfortable behind the keyboard trying to wrangle a moral justification as appeasement for your own lack of actions.

    Do not stand in moral judgement of what others may do and whether or not they choose to post about it, it just makes you look like a coward.

    If it is a “little jolt” that you are looking for, then reread what I have written in both comments.

    There you have it — stop engaging in online stupid debates about authors and actually get with the program.

  46. Reader, you are more selfish and reckless than I first thought. If you do only one thing, then it’s this: please do not engage anyone else with any activist work you do – you sound like a dangerous person to know, and only you should be affected by any comeback from your actions.

    I too, have nothing more to say to you.

  47. Derrick, you have put your finger on why so many of us here in Maine have moved in from other parts of this country. “The way life should be” is our state’s slogan, and it means all life–not just human life.

  48. A late comment on this article (and discussion), anyways: if everybody just needs to do “what he/she can do best”, do we really believe that will change a thing? Derrick Jensen says he resorts to writing, because he can do that better than chemistry or organizing. Okay. Likewise, commentators resort to singing and artwork (comments 8 and 26), because this is what they can do best. I like that, because all this helps forming a community and raise awareness, which may lead to larger initiatives.
    But that also feels a little reserved, cautious – if not to say insincere. I hear calls for bold actions, but read of writing, singing, and artwork. All that’s fine with me as a prelude to real change – but it does not correspond to the demanded boldness.
    I’d like to compare that to Derrick Jensen’s article “Forget Shorter Showers”. I tend to say a shorter shower (and many other little things everybody can do) help our planet more tangible than a book, a song, or (other) artwork. And they are _as well_ means of forming communities and raising awareness!
    Couldn’t one derive a disconnect between the two articles?
    I’d be interested what other reader’s thoughts are on this.
    As a final example: I maintain a tiny website, which by itself will not help any salmon or mountaintop or patch of rainforest to remain. This is my personal “artwork” if you will. But what really makes (at least a small) difference are those low-regarded “feel-good gestures”, like consuming less or donating more for conservation organizations. These are no drastic measures either, but are what _I_ (and everybody) can do, and they are no less than writing for example, are they?

  49. Beautifully said about DOING something! My husband got a fortune cookie the other day that said something about If you just sit there you could get run over by a truck. . We are working on writing a book together . Mine said that if I keep fishing, eventualy I will catch fish in the most unlikely places . Thank you :)

  50. As a storyteller committed to weaving a new dreaming into the fabric of consciousness and as a guideline for personal action I wrote this poem.
    “Imagine”
    imagine….
    imagine that you have the power to change the world,
    begin by changing your world,
    collect your water and drink it free of government sponsored additives,
    grow fruit and veges with love and mulch,
    dig a hole and leave your waste in it,
    stay home, use less petrol and consume less goods,
    explore creative ways of employing your energy for self and others,
    sit quietly in the garden, forest, desert, ocean, and listen/communicate with the ‘invisible ‘realms,
    grow up!
    cease acting like a spoiled materialistic brat and become responsible to the earth,
    your home …my home… our home.
    Indeed!

  51. The fallacy in Derrick’s reasoning is that he thinks doing ‘something’, no matter what, is better than doing nothing. Wrong.
    Case in point: a few years ago there was a study done in Ontario about interventions done by social workers in crises situations,for the best of intentions. The conclusion of the study was that it would have been better if they had done nothing – they did more damage by intervention.
    The conclusion: don’t just do something, stand there. Sometimes we have to think long and hard before we act. Acting on the spur of the moment, with little or no forethought is what got us where we are.
    Example: Derrick suggests we get rid of more and more dams. I’m not fond of them either, but if you look at the poor people in countries where annual flooding wipes out crops and people, it gives you pauseregarding that idea.
    There is a saying I like which says “For every complex and difficult problem there is a solution, which is simple, direct, and….. wrong.
    So before you act, do a lot of research and then do some more…

  52. grizzley,

    Read this part of the article again:

    “In any case, ignoring what I have to say may not be such a bad idea, since what I really want is for people to think for themselves—not to bring down the industrial infrastructure because I tell them it’s killing the world, but rather for them to deeply attend to our current crises and come to their own conclusions about what we must or must not do, what we must unmake and what we must make anew.”

    What does that have to do with “doing something, no matter what”?

    In everything Derrick has written and everything I have heard him say in person, he encourages people to think about what makes the most sense for them in their position.

    When Derrick writes at the end, “All of this leads to the point, which is, put simply, to do something,” I take that not as “Run outside and do the first thing that comes into your head” but “Think of something that you can do and do it, don’t just read and talk and think about it all the time.” He’s saying pretty much everything that you’ve said in your post. Think of something to do, determine the consequences as best you can, and decide what course of action makes the most sense.

    Please don’t write about what you want Derrick to be saying so that you can argue against it. There’s way, way too much of that going around.

  53. Whatever..methinks thou dost protest too much. Can only presumed experts on ‘Derrick’ comment here without castigation? Puh-leease

  54. I don’t know grizzley; can people making poorly supported arguments only respond defensively when others point out that their objections have already been answered?

  55. grizzley,

    I address your point by directly quoting the article connected to this comment thread, and you say I protest too much? Puh-leeze yourself. I’d actually like to know what you think about “something vs nothing”. Please stop the “presumed experts” crap.

    These comments are for everyone. It’s up to the Orion moderators to decide if they want to remove a post.

    Daniel,

    Thank you for writing that so clearly. I would like to know what grizzley’s thinking about this, but I really am confused.

    Further up the list of comments, ysmad has a good point. When we say “this is what I do best” might we not be saying “this is what I’m comfortable with and what nobody I know is challenging me to think beyond”, and not necessarily “this is the absolute best way I can think of using all the different gifts and motivations and experience I have in defense and support of the planet I live on and the particular landbase I am a part of.” I already practice and am comfortable with buying most of my food from local producers, not driving much, and looking for work that in some way supports the living communities around me. This is all good, but no part of that puts me out of my comfort zone. What gifts and motivations do I have that are being ignored or suppressed by the way I think about my options for action? How might I match, on a level appropriate to my own abilities, the boldness, if I may, of people who are turning the planet into a wasteland to make a buck?

  56. “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

    Thoreau still works for me, as does the premise of your article. I have been fighting the good fight, and will never, ever, give up. Simplify down to that thing or things that “gets you off”. And then Do Something.
    Take control of something that moves you and help protect it, expand it, preserve it, grow it, nurture it, live it.
    I have noticed that in life, there are those that do and those that do nothing. Choose to do.
    Great article! Thanks for doing something

  57. The emphasis on decolonizing one’s psyche is a crucial point. I am glad to see Jensen addressing a lot of the misfired critiques that have come his way.
    Thoughts need to be dangerous, in that they challenge and provoke for positive change. However, his lines:

    “and I want you to dig in and defend your beloved with your life, and, if necessary, with your death. I want for your actions to positively contribute to the health and defense of the planet. I want for you to figure out how to make it so the world—the real, physical world—is a better place because you were born, and because you lived here.”

    sound far too reminiscent of how American soldiers have rationalized killing innocents in the middle east, all under the guise of ‘fighting for what you love, for the defense of your country…etc’. Calling people to fight to the death for what they believe in is the heart of fundamentalism. I understand what Jensen is saying, but he needs to be very very careful with those terms.

    Anyway. I’d die for a blue whale.

  58. I would love to do something; I’m more concerned about climate change than anything else. But I have no idea what to do about it except to read, study about it and run my mouth to friends and kin… nothing does any good!

  59. Whatever you do, don’t listen to the mainstream environmental groups – and I’m not just talking about WWF and Sierra Club; 350.org are culpable in this mess for telling people that “our political leaders” are the key to any solutions. The key is ourselves, and what we do to bring down the whole mess in as tidy a way as possible.

  60. There is SO much anyone can do and no time to waste. Stop buying, stop driving, take the bus, use your bike, (how many of us drive to workout?), downsize, turn off lights, think before you purchase, make your own, share with neighbors, plant a garden, write letters to the editor, do without, do with less, volunteer to rehab ecosystems, plant trees, volunteer in schools, teach children about nature, create collectives or cooperatives, share tools, make your own bread, invest in your community not wall street, insulate, buy used, STUDY PERMACULTURE and practice it. Do everything you can think of, whatever you can think of, whenever you can – find folks to support you, keep doing it, don’t give up, join protests and marches and talk to your city council members, vote, learn conflict mediation and non-violent communication, sponsor films, attend films, help out in every way you can. There are a million things to do every day and no excuse to get going.

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