Forget Shorter Showers


WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much — and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption — residential, by private car, and so on — is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per-capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.

So how, then, and especially with all the world at stake, have we come to accept these utterly insufficient responses? I think part of it is that we’re in a double bind. A double bind is where you’re given multiple options, but no matter what option you choose, you lose, and withdrawal is not an option. At this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive (and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology). So if we choose option one — if we avidly participate in the industrial economy — we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of “success” in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world — none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.

Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.

The second problem — and this is another big one — is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”

The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.

The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned — Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States — who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.

This article, along with other landmark Orion essays about transformative action, are collected in a new anthology, Change Everything Now. Order your copy here.

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.”


  1. Interesting angle, but I have to disagree with the overall message. Placing blame on industry in my opinion only removes the blame from the individual, and thus makes it less personal. Living simply may not change or save the world on it’s own, but it is a symbolic start to a larger movement. We as individuals are responsible for the industry which seems to be to blame. What is it that “industry” does? It creates the products and services that each individual consumes. So only by collectively saying no to these products and services are we able to truly change our destructive path. Let’s use golf courses as an example, perhaps they do use as much water as the rest of a municipality, but why? It isn’t the golf courses fault as implied, but those that play golf. The golf courses wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the demand. This analogy can be used just about everywhere and helps bring back the responisiblity to the consumer and not project it onto some foreign concept such as the government or corporations.

  2. This answered a lot of questions I had following the first “upping the stakes”. : ) There was a fine statement near the end of the comments on the first article in the series which piqued my interest to a similar degree,
    : -)
    “The Ancients lived simple, but complex lives. We need to back step and implement a lot more of their “uncivilized customs”. Now is the time.”

  3. Derrick Jensen’s position here is a fine example of why the so called progressives have made so little progress over the last 50 years. We hear the same message, over and over again about all the things that are wrong with the world. No matter that it is true, there is never any alternative other than stop doing what you do now. And then, what?

    For that, Jensen provides no answer. Neither did Nader. He might have made a real difference had he been able to tell us what his future looked like and how to get there. Nader did not do it and is now relegated to providing a few comments when the media needs someone to disagree. I doubt that Jensen will get that much.

    There is an alternative. The vision of that started the Green Party, one of ecological sustainability and an industry the practices sustainable permaculture on a massive scale, a vision of citizens who respond according to their needs, not their wants; a vision of a world at peace and not at war.

    Too many Greens are themselves caught in that old paradigm of protest. Remember, we do not remember Martin Luther King for say stop it, but for sharing his dream with all of us. I wonder if Jensen dreams. You would never know.

  4. I was going to make the same argument that Joel did, but since he said it so well, I have very little to add. Industry and agriculture are not solely to blame – they cater to the consumers. There are certainly better methods to produce products, for instance in sustainable agriculture vs. industrialized agriculture. However, we must realize that until we collectively decide to forego the $0.99 hamburger, things will not change. The other comment by Wes needs a response – Wes claims that Jensen offers no solution or alternative. That is simply not true. While I disagree with Jensen’s main thesis, I do agree that more political activism is needed to help change the system. This is the point that Wes somehow missed in his reading of the article.

  5. I think I have to agree with the overall message, but also argue that the 22% we could account for with our own actions is not negligible. But I think Jensen’s point that our individual actions make us complacent on the political and social level is valid…and important.

  6. I largely agree with Joel, but would place my emphasis on the human rather than the economic. For me, the most persuasive case for living simply is not to reduce the economic demand that fuels industry. Rather, it is the way that changing my own actions contributes to changing cultural values and norms. When I bring my own tupperware to a restaurant instead of taking a to-go box, I am not just reducing the demand for styrofoam by a minuscule amount. I am also helping shift our collective cultural norms towards a world where using resources to create a single use to-go box is no longer acceptable. In turn, this might eventually move us towards a world where creating any item for a single use – be it industrial, corporate, military, etc. – is not morally defensible. And it is only once we as a society come to regard single use production as unacceptable that large scale activism has any chance. Without simultaneous efforts to shift our underlying cultural attitudes, our activism has very little probability of succeeding and may even appear as hypocrisy.

  7. No claim here to have thoroughly read everything Jensen has written, but I will side with him that we do need much more activism and much more truth in the face of power, lies and pablum.

    Could it be his frustration with those who peacefully go about living their simple, low-impact lives, knowing that behavior can be contageous, is that there is no time to wait for that behavior to catch on in a large scale?

    We do need revolutionary change and we need it yesterday. And I suspect what really bothers Jensen (because it bothers me) is that the compromise/hope/diplomacy effort (growing a green economy, for example) may convince a lot of people that everything is going to be okay if they just shorten their showers, change the light bulbs and put up a wind turbine.

    Still, I think there is a place in this transition for all – a place for revolutionaries (and I count myself one) and a place for more diplomatic change agents.

    Dave Gardner
    Producing the documentary
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity

  8. Derrick, I think you have made some very important points about the clever way capitalism obscures political action by promoting smaller acts. Another example is the way the finance world is embracing microfinance ’cause it doesn’t challenge the political system (well, until it gets to a very large scale).

    Still, I think you have not included the importance of spiritual practice and individuals entering processes of political change through the doorway of individual action.

    I have seen this in the fair trade system. It is largely focused on consumption and, yet, it also helps people understand some of the system dynamics at play in trade. This makes it an easy way to begin the journey which sometimes leads to political action.

    I love the sharpness of your insight! Thanks for sharing.
    Jonathan Rosenthal

  9. Jensen’s piece contains so much truth it is certain to be rejected or derided by most. “Simple living” is fine, and may be somewhat beneficial, but, as Jensen says, it’s never going to be enough. Real, dramatic, systemic change is necessary if we are to have any chance of preserving the planet in anything close to the condition in which it now exists (to say nothing of the condition in which it existed 200 years ago).

    The personal may indeed by political–but that is not to say that the political is exhausted by the personal. There is a whole realm of political action of all kinds which is going to be necessary IN ADDITION TO whatever purely personal actions we can take. Redirecting consumer dollars toward allegedly “green” industries is simply insufficient. We’re going to have to do more–much more–than purchase a hybrid automobile and recycle some of our garbage. Major political and economic change is not optional.

  10. I agree completely with Derrick Jensen. As he must have expected, he has ruffled some feathers. Simplicity has been a way of life for me for many years, but I’ve never lost sight of the fact that our corporate/political (interchangeable words) system is the source of the problem. The scale of involvement necessary for real solutions is frightening to the timid.
    Who to trust? Most media are just branches of the corporate world. And making sense of the multitude of ideas (most of them half-baked or worse) on the internet is a labyrinth that few have time or intelligence to sort out.
    As for the comments about dreams, Mr. Jensen’s vision is stated clearly enough for me – the prize is the planet, and it can only be won by focusing clearly on what’s eating it. I thank him and the editors of Orion for sharing this dream.

  11. Having recently finished reading one of Derrick’s books, I wondered how long I would have to read Forget Shorter Showers until we got to Hitler. Wow …didn’t have to wait long!

  12. Well-written argument, but essentially a luddite one. Do people really think we’d be better off abandoning modern technology (“industrial society”)?

    If you look at what goes on in non-industrialized nations, it’s pretty easy to see that environmental degradation is not a function of technology, but of fundamental human survival needs. If your cooking technology requires firewood, you’ll collect wood until there’s none left.

    You don’t need a zinc mine to pollute a stream; untreated human waste will do just fine.

    Sure, maybe it’d be better if we as a human race had stopped expanding our population when we reached about two billion, but the fact is that we have over six billion people now, and the only reason we can feed everyone (not that there’s no hunger, but we do have the capacity to produce enough food for everyone) is because of modern technology – the same tech that this article says is destroying the world. Maybe it is, but it’s keeping us alive, and we can’t just get rid of it.

    Improving our technology and reducing our population are the only ways to achieve the goals this article is talking about; rejecting modern technology won’t do a thing except cause an immense amount of immediate and long-lasting human suffering.

  13. Great piece. You are absolutely right about the double-bind we place ourselves in when we let the powers that be convince us to approach the environmental crisis solely as consumers and not as agents of social change. I had been thinking some of these very same thoughts lately but hadn’t been able to articulate nearly so well. Many thanks.

    And to all those who read this and say “This guy’s a Luddite!”–do you actually think his main point is wrong? Putting aside all the fear that comes with lucid thinking on this crisis, can you really deny that industrial society is killing the earth, and that radically transforming society is the only hope for not killing the earth? This is a totally logical conclusion and the author only makes a few logical steps from there.

  14. Not long ago I had never heard of Derrick Jensen, read any of his books, or attempted to understand those who call themselves “anti-civ”.

    I have believed myself to be a practicing natural conservationist for decades.

    Recently I have been stirred by what can only be described as warning voices by scientists telling us things have grown a whole lot worse a whole lot faster than anyone had believed. So I began to read the thinking of those who were ahead of me on that curve of devising solutions.

    Derrick’s article here and many of the responses cause me to see not only the gulf that separates many “Earth-loving” people but also why we are so strongly divided.

    I have discovered that humans have been causing significant depletion/destruction for a lot longer than I had imagined and that the effects of the presence of our culture are much more significant than I had dreamed. These changes of my thinking are not the result of a “radicalization” because I have been reading the “wrong” stuff. The evidence is clearly documented.

    Those who are shocked and disturbed by what Derrick has written have not spent the time to consider all the facts, the options and the possible results of those options. Given the speed at which this destruction is happening (and I am not talking about merely a few degrees of temperature rise) and the certain consequences, people like Derrick are urging pragmatic, effective action.

    When they speak of the cost to humans of such action they balance this against the cost of continuing on the current path.

  15. Derrick Jensen’s critique of ‘personal change’ as a means to ecological transformation is provocative. And I like it. It reminds me of Satish Kumar’s criticism of today’s spiritualism: that instead of ‘my’ body, ‘my’ mind, and ‘my’ spirit, the focus should be on “soil, soul, and society” (from CBC’s ‘Tapestry’).

    In the West, the interests of capital seduce individuals into believing that they are thinking for themselves and can ‘be the change they want to see in the world’.

  16. Geektronica – the problem with the technological argument is that technology requires resources. Resources that are getting increasingly scarce. Industrial agriculture will be literally non existent by the end of this century due to oil becoming such a scarce resource. And their is no feasible alternative that can produce energy anything close to what we are consuming today.

    You say that by looking at non-industrialised nations we can see that technology is not a function of environmental degradation. Is an axe not a form of technology? Is a saw not a form of technology? Clearly it is much easier to clear cut a forest with a chainsaw as opposed to bare hands. Technology is everything, it infinitely increases our capacity to consume the resources around us. In an energy scarce future technology won’t save us. Learning to live with the land rather than trying to manipulate it to our wants and needs will however.

  17. On the subject of technology I think it’s important to understand the difference between what Lewis Mumford called “polytechnic” and “monotechnic” approaches. Derrick and Aric McBay wrote about this in “What We Leave Behind”. I’ll post the excerpt below.

    “The brilliant writer, thinker, and historian Lewis Mumford described differences between what he called ‘polytechnic’ and ‘monotechnic’ approaches. Polytechnic approaches involve using many different technologies to meet human needs. Monotechnic approaches, on the other hand, prioritize technology for the sake of technology, to the exclusion of other options, regardless of the impacts on human beings or the planet. Mumford’s favorite example of the monotechnic approach was the automobile, because automobile-based transportation systems thrive at great human and ecological cost, and grow at the expense of other modes of transport like walking or bicycling.

    “It would be fair to say that agriculture is the first example of a truly monotechnic approach; an approach that set a pattern for all of civilization’s future technologies. If that’s confusing, think about what agriculture is: you take a piece of land and destroy all visible plant and animal life on it; use plows to destroy the structures of the soil underneath; replace them all with one monocultural species; repeat. As Lierre Keith writes, ‘Agriculture is carnivorous: what it eats is ecosystems, and it swallows them whole.’”

    “Agriculture is monotechnic in the sense that it eliminates biological diversity, to be sure, but there’s much more to it. Indigenous societies are generally quite mobile, and can move to make use ot the many different foods available in different seasons in healthy ecosystems. The same goes for other material gathered or hunted, such as firewood, furs, or medicinal plants. Though early agricultural societies certainly gathered food initially, it doesn’t take long to deplete what is available around a village, which would have made those societies even more dependent on agriculture. Agriculture also eliminated many of the birth control methods that were intrinsic to hunter-gatherer life. That, along with other changes, like the ability to replace breast-feeding in young children with foods made from stored grains, led to a trend toward constant population growth that worsened local ecological destruction. Agriculture grew at the expense of technologies, skills and social structures used by indigenous peoples.” pg.341 WWLB

  18. It seems to me that the title of Derrick Jensen’s commentary says it all. “Forget Shorter Showers” doesn’t say, “Personal life change is not enough.” It says “FORGET personal change.” It says personal change doesn’t REALLY matter.

    Oh yes it does, Mr. Jensen, because taking a shorter shower means I am controlling one thing that I clearly can control not focusing on what I can’t control.

    Your “answer” still views the world mechanistically. Where is its spiritual component?

    Our present “industrial economy” can only exist because of who we, individually, and what we, as a society, are. As Anne Wilson Schaef so eloquently expressed it way back in 1987, society has become an addict. And, as all of us in recovery know, addiction is an ultimately deadly disease.

    Yes, political action was neccessary to overthrow Tsarist Russia, just as it was to overthrow its more modern rendition, the USSR. And it will be needed to overthrow Putin. The question is, “WHICH political action?”

    Is it the political action that is actually RE-action or is it the political action that supports and is a part of the ground swell flowing up from personal change?

    One of the ways that many of my friends assuage their consciences is to be active at the macro level. Instead of making a difference at the local level where they could make a difference (as is done in the transition movement), they focus on Washington and even higher. Fifteen people willing to commit their time, energy and mindfulness could take over and utterly change my town of 7,500 people. And that could serve as the fulcrum to change our county of almost 200,000.

    Instead, when not “participating” in national and international campaigns, many sit on their backsides OR provide the pop off valve for much energy that, if contained, would otherwise have resulted in change.

    The huge energy of the industrial economy’s shadow is available to change that economy. Personal change is the first step. LOCAL change is the second.

    How many of the self styled activists actually take an active part in the governance of their local communities?

  19. I appreciated the article as it refocused me to the real need to continue to work to effect change beyond our individual selves. While it remains a daunting task, real sustainability cannot be achieved through our own minor advances in conservation but requires a cultural and business shift away from greed.

  20. I don’t always agree with Derrick Jensen, but I have great respect for him because he takes on things others back away from (e.g. his other provocative essay “Beyond Hope). By making us think and engage with the uncomfortable, he carries the collective conversation further along.

    As ever, the way out of our societal malaise is not either/or, but both/and. That is, we need to act on the personal AND the collective, political levels. We need to work on ourselves AND on changing our structures institutions to be more life-giving.

    I hold that simple living is a deeply political act, downright subversive in our time, even if the household doing is not politically motivated. Simple living IS the vision of the kind of society we could move toward! Not to mention, those who have reduced needs and commitment likely have more time to engage at the civic level.

    Jensen’s writing hints at fomenting The Revolution, but in what I’ve read he always stops short of actually calling for it. What would he have us do? My belief is that our top two activist priorities for reform must be broad and rather unsexy: 1) revoke corporate personhood, and 2) institute instant runoff voting, to give voters more true choice without the spoiler effect.

    Thanks to Orion for all the excellent writers they publish.

  21. It is obvious from some of the later comments that I was not clear about my criticism of Jenkins. It is really from the fact that he tells us that he wants more activism and protest. I agree with that. However, he does not tell us what he would have in place of the current technological materialistic capitalism.

    Without a solution to that problem, he will never have more than a small number of people who agree. Mass movements need to be based on creating something new, not just on tearing down what exists.

  22. My response to Derrick’s article was, right on! We do have to move out of the “individual solution” and back to the “collective/social solution.” The problem is, however, very complex. We are stuck in an industrial global society with inhabitants that take all of the industrial infrastructure for granted. But, to say that industry is not to blame, that individuals are essentially responsible for the products of industry (re: Joel’s comments) is very naive.

    A history lesson is very much needed. The ordinary individual did not create the consumer. The industrial revolution did! Through a complex process that eroded people’s sense of themselves within community, their social animal nature was essentially destroyed. In order to survive, what was one of the most horrific changes in Western culture, the individual consumer was born. This weak legged individual found times very hard in England & the rest of Europe. But with all of the natural resources at their feet, the American individual soared to the greatest hedonistic heights. Even though many today would not admit to feeling hurt by the industrial revolution (IR), I have to say that the it was one of the bloodiest revolutions ever “fought.”

    To understand more clearly I would strong suggest reading:

    “The Condition of the Working Class in England” by Frederick Engels – this masterpiece describes in great detail what was really going on during the mid 19th century – the heyday of the IR.

    “Industry & Empire” by E. J. Hobsbawn for some enlightening history about the IR.

    “The Great Transformation: The Political & Economic Origins of Our Time” by Karl Polanyi for some very enlightening Western economic history (not at all boring economic literature).

    Read: “Constructing the Self, Constructing America” by Philip Cushman, in which he talks of how psychology & the advertising industry collude to create consumer hunger. He has also some VERY interesting articles on the politics of consumption & what he calls “the empty self.”

    What Joel is buying into is industry’s own dictum, that they only produce what consumers want. The notion of supply & demand is one of the biggest myths ever! But you do have to have a more than b&w vision to see this.

    If we stop buying gas guzzling cars industry will start producing non gas guzzling cars. One would think that the individual is voting with their dollars. BUT, the individual is still buying cars! And they will certainly produce fuel efficient behemoths for you to aspire to owning. Industry will continue to dictate how you should construct your lives.

    Individualism is consumerism! One cannot exist without the other.

    What Derrick Jensen is saying/alluding to is: we need to regroup as a species, rediscover our innate social animalness, & work TOGETHER to create more systemic change. One example he didn’t use was women getting the vote. Can you imagine one woman at a time, going against the male establishment (& religion) to change how women are perceived?

    The problem, as I see it, is that I don’t think people will come together and fight against industry & capitalism – a few maybe, but that will not be enough. Unfortunately, my prediction is that there will have to be a crisis huge enough to precipitate the change that is needed. One of the theories about why our ancestors switched from being gatherer/hunters to domesticating the land/animals was because of climatic changes (a mini ice age) – that food sources were not so readily available. So here we are, at another pivotal climatic moment, and we may have to make yet another monumental change – when food (or energy) sources are not so readliy available.

  23. Revoke corporate personhood. Absolutely! And there are some places, including towns in Maine, that have done it. To me, this is a most elegant, if extremely difficult, solution (one solution among others, not THE solution as so much needs to be done). And it is not new. Richard Grossman has been working on this for many years now. Other solutions include rebuilding our local, community economies by creating structures, enterprises, and projects that provide input, investment (of time, energy, and $) to businesses and others community members want to see succeed. Almost every night on the local news there’s an item about how small communities and even cities are being forced to lay off firefighters, police, social service workers, teachers, and others whose services and skills are still desperately needed but there’s no more $ to pay them. This is the perfect opportunity to bring in community currency. If everyone (or most) workers in a community or county were paid a percentage of their salary in community currency, if businesses providing needed goods and services would accept it for the same percentage of goods/services (which they could do because it would get paid back out to workers and other local suppliers), we could begin to solve the problems we face due to a lack of federal dollars. Towns did this in the Great Depression. Communities around the country and world are doing it today, though most aren’t on such a large scale as I’m proposing. It would work and I don’t understand why, whenever I bring this up people don’t get it. Some do, of course, but a project on the scale I’m proposing needs more than one or two “zealots” to get it off the ground. It needs broad-based community support and active community participation. There are many other types of projects and models that could be used in this manner if only more of us would begin thinking and acting outside of the proverbial box.

    I agree with the basic premise of Jensen’s article, that what we do as individuals isn’t going to change the world – until or unless it begins to impact large corporations and those who benefit from the current, unsustainable, destructive economy. This, to me, is the biggest disconnect in my life. And it contributes, I think, to inertia, and to denial. People want to believe that what we do not only matters but has the power to change. People also want to believe that we have plenty of time or that those who predict such a dire future, a future that is coming sooner than most believed possible even a short five years ago, are wrong. I’d love to think that climate change deniers are right, but I know they aren’t.

    There are individuals and there is the “system”. And there is a huge barrier between the two. The question is how can individuals destroy the barrier enough to transform the system? I used to believe that we do have such power as individuals. I no longer do. However that does not absolve me from acting responsibly with regard to how I live my life. What I know is that once we wake up and begin to act and change things in the places where we live then the barriers will begin to come down. But I don’t see that happening either. And I read about small communities or neighborhoods in larger cities that are beginning this process, even having some success, and I wonder, how could something like that happen where I live? And I doubt, right now anyway given the politics, the economics, the blinders, the preconceived notions of local people here, whether such things like Transition (in another article in this issue of Orion) would find enough supporters willing to take the time and energy needed to actually bring it to reality. I’m not even sure the majority of people here actually believe climate change is real or that humans have anything to do with it. I say this because of the responses I get whenever I write about climate change or the economy or politics or the rampant development – at least four new housing developments within less than 17 miles of my home. Despite the so-called recession, despite all the unsold, already-built homes, despite the vacant box stores, and so on. Who is going to build on these recently cleared acres? If there’s a housing glut why can’t the community say “no more”? The fact is, we don’t have that right. We can say “no” and we’re taken to court and forced to allow it. Private land, private capital, private profits are all that matter. This must change and it must not be considered anti-american to make this change. These new developments (with no homes yet) used to be woods and habitat for bear, deer, moose, birds, turkeys, and other creatures now rendered homeless. Where are they supposed to go? This is the country I live in and it’s being destroyed as I type these words. I have no power to stop it. My opinion doesn’t matter. And the animals have no voice.

    I’m not pessimistic (all of the time). I believe that great changes can happen in a short period of time if the will and the means are there. And if the will is strong enough we can force the means through. There are times when I believe only a violent revolution will do the trick, but in my heart I know that is not the solution. It is just frustration and anger speaking. In my heart I know the way to the revolution must be through love and compassion and an iron will. But for this to work we need masses of people to agree and to be willing to do more than take shorter showers and recycle. And disconnecting from the system isn’t easy when we are beholden to the system for the means to pay rent or mortgage, buy food and other necessities. Only those who don’t need to earn money or who have no debt can afford to separate themselves enough to take such a radical stand. I have little patience with those who don’t understand this and who don’t have compassion for people, myself included, in this situation. We need to find a way to care for each other, to support each other in more than thoughts, if we expect people with families to take such risks. On the other hand, if enough of us took the risks anyway (and I have no idea how many is “enough”) then I believe there would be safety in numbers.

  24. To Lorraine typing as I was typing. I totally agree with your comments about “consumers”. For years I have hated being referred to as a consumer when I’m really a person or a citizen or an individual. We were not born consumers. Consumers were created by industry. We were born human beings, a part of Earth, one of many species here. We were born with an innate connection to and dependence on the natural world and the ability to participate and communicate with and within this world. As consumers we reject this connection and become separate, and sad. Then we consume to assuage the sadness. It doesn’t work.

  25. I have been a fan of Derrick Jensen’s for a long time. In this article “Forget Shorter Showers” I took it as a rhetorical question and attention-getting device when he asked “…why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into…entirely personal “solutions”? What solution is ever “entirely” personal, and who among those who are taking shorter showers, growing organic gardens, limiting families and participating in Earth rituals limits their activities to the personal? In my experience these are the people who ARE voting, organizing, protesting – at least when they aren’t working full time and raising families and taking care of babies, children, the elderly, the disabled and all the other work done mostly by women.

    I think Jensen does answer the question himself when he says “I’m not saying we shouldn’t act simply,” and that he frames his question for the sake of emphasis. He’s a good journalist and writer. But I agree it’s not either/or. Personal and symbolic acts are not simply feel good gestures but meaningful forms of community formation and communication among ourselves and between us and other species. They have ripple effects and serve as role models. Most of all they generate the feelings and connections with nature that help motivate the brainstorming, networking, institution changing and forming that are the activism Jensen advocates. They reinforce our vision that a dead planet is not an option by helping us to notice that it IS a living planet in the first place.

    Interesting rhetorical device here aimed to catch our attention and focus our energy, but not, I think, a real dichotomy.

    I’d also like to take issue with the argument that “the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide” suggesting that any argument that ends this way can be reduced to the absurd. It is precisely suicide – or some version of accepting death in its time, that must stand against the technologization of our civilization – and perhaps lies at the heart of it. I think of the Hindus or Jains who in old age retire to the forest eating less and less until they die and compare that to the resources we pour into not only deflecting death but even old age. It’s all related.

  26. I’m not totally sure I could explain what solipsism is, but I think this article is an excellent vacuous example of it. I can’t believe that Orion published it!

  27. Excellent, thought-provoking iconoclastic article which the environmental “movement” needs more of. As a college professor, I often ask my students who are up in arms about the state of the world, “how many of you aim to go into politics, corporate work, or finance?” I am lucky if 1-2 raise their hands in a room of 50. We obviously cannot ignore personal choices and lifestyles but the real action on the climate change front is in policy– something we have yet to galvanize public action toward. Remember, the Civil Rights Era was as much about policy and legal action as it was marches and protests.

  28. I want to thank Derrick Jensen for writing another wise and honest column. Also, I’m pleased to see the serious engagement with Mr. Jensen’s ideas by the readership of Orion. I’d like to respond to a few of the earlier posters. Having read most of Jensen’s published work and being someone who largely shares his perspective on social, ecological, and political issues, I think I may be able to offer a useful counterpoint to a few of the criticisms.

    Joel (#1) and Chris (#4), your critiques seem to take as a given that we have a truly free-market economy in this society. Noam Chomsky and many others on the left have, I think, effectively debunked this idea. The largest heavy industry in America (also the largest polluter) is the weapons industry, and the military uses more oil than any other industry. Clearly, neither my consumption choices nor my vote plays a factor in these. The government funnels endless billions (ultimately, probably trillions) of dollars into military R&D (also NASA and other agencies), and then, oftentimes, they bring these technologies to the market (as microwaves, cell phones, personal computers, the internet, etc.) as a means of privatizing and concentrating that massive public investment, while externalizing (laying on the public, humans and non-humans) as many costs as possible. Not exactly Smithian capitalism. More like sheer plunder. Actually, Adam Smith warned explicitly against such abuses, and supported strong unions to prevent them. Moreover, as Jensen showed in his book Strangely Like War (on the timber industry, co-authored with George Draffan), paper mills continually churn out far more paper than the economy calls for. Likewise, the federally subsidized, biotech, pesticide laden, fossil fuel fertilized corn, soy, cotton, etc. is being produced at levels beyond what the market can bear. Hence all the crazy, energy intensive, unhealthy innovations for dumping it (HFCS, lecithin, TVP, corn oil, soy oil, inappropriate animal feed, and now, of course, biofuels). Monsanto didn’t invent Posilac (rBGH) to meet a public demand for slightly cheaper milk, loaded with puss, hormones, anti-biotics, etc, at the expense of sick and dying cattle and people (themselves). They did it simply because they knew their boys in Washington would approve it and that their propaganda would sell it to farmers, and that Monsanto would make a fortune. Major corporations are not out there trying to meet public needs. Major industries do not produce less (or destroy less) when demand falls off (which it does almost exclusively for economic reasons, very rarely for political reasons… even less so ecological ones). They turn to the government for bailouts, and they use their massive propaganda industry (PR) to manufacture new demand. Look, I, like Jensen, compost, recycle, drive very little, buy almost only ethically produced local foods, buy only used clothes, occasionally dumpster dive, pee outside, bring tupperware to restaurants, and do many other little, tiny things to reduce my impact. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Does it pose any threat whatsoever to those who are destroying the planet? No, and that is Jensen’s point. We need lifestyle changes in order to sleep at night and be able to look at ourselves in the mirror, but we also need to stop kidding ourselves that these changes will suffice to save the profoundly imperiled community of life on this planet. Moreover, to refuse to fight back as effectively as possible is to value my luxuries, my relative freedom, my so-called life over future generations, over the planet, over my own dignity. I’ll choose to resist.

    Wes (#3), you may be interested to know that Derrick is working on a book explicitly about dreams, and based on dreams. I know him, and he speaks of his dreams more than anyone I’ve met except indigenous people, Sufis, or Jungians. And, as Chris (#4) noted, he definitely offers a clear vision, whether or not you agree with it. He is saying to resist by all means necessary. People understood what that meant when Malcolm X said it.

    Amanda (#6), it is really good that you (like me) bring tupperware for your leftovers at restaurants. Hey, I’ve gotten my parents to (on rare occasion when they remember) do the same. Yet I taught for four years at a very liberal private school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, one of the most staunchly liberal neighborhoods in the country. Hell, the school building is named for Andrew Goodman, an alum who fought and died for civil rights. And yet I was appalled on my first day when I saw every single student, teacher, administrator, and staff member throwing away disposable utensils, plates, bowls, cups, napkins, and a lot of food, with every meal. I pretty much always eat what I buy (or forage), and I compost the rest. I never, ever use disposables. I brought in a set of dishes and utensils the next day. For the next four years, I established myself as, frankly, a widely liked and respected member of the community, one of a couple of leaders on ecological issues. After four years (and innumerable statements like, “Oh man, I’m going to start bringing my own stuff, too,” and “Gee, we really need to get the school to switch away from disposables”), the school has not budged an inch on waste (despite a little greenwashing) and all of two other faculty members have brought in and regularly use non-disposable stuff. A few others, including some students, brought in mugs and sometimes use them. And this is one of the most liberal communities you will find, where everyone talks about ecological issues daily. This is a rich community, where we could easily afford to change our behavior. This is a community where I was not strictly a peer to most, but in a clearly defined authority position, and I was widely liked, even loved by many, yet almost no one followed my lead on this one, tiny, easy issue. If you’re going to do the right thing in these tiny ways, do it because it’s the right thing to do. Not because you’re changing the people around you, because with very few and pretty much negligible exceptions, you’re not. And we have far, far, bigger levers to use in our fight against global ecocide. And we must use them, if we truly value life. By all means, compost too.

    Stephen (#11), fair enough. I’m just like Jensen, in this sense. In my history classes, I am constantly making parallels to Hitler and the Nazis. Also to slavery. I do so, as I suspect Jensen does, because these are two of the only historical atrocities with which we, as a society, have any degree of both familiarity and moral clarity. I’d love to change it up more, and I do with my students who have been in my classes for a while and have developed both familiarity and moral clarity about the Vietnam war, about the genocide of the indigenous Americans, about the genocide in East Timor, about the Crusades, about the Opium Wars, about the US sponsored horrors in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, etc. But I always start with the Nazis, because we all already know they’re bad. So it’s a useful reference point. And what happens if we apply the justice at Nuremberg to the Reagan administration? Or the Clinton administration? Or Obama? Or, of course, Monsanto, Rio Tinto, Weyerhauser, Shell, ExxonMobil, Raytheon, Halliburton, etc? Or, given the fate of Julius Streicher, to the willing propagandists of the corporate-imperial omnicide, propagandists widely read/seen/heard in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fox, CNN, The Economist, and so on?

    Geektronica (#12), I’ll address your post last.

    Harry (#18), I hear you, and I think you make a valid editorial critique, but I think it’s ultimately superficial. Jensen says over and over, including in this column, that we should make those tiny, eensy-weensy changes, and that he does so himself. He also says that we must rid ourselves of the delusion that doing so will suffice to stop the omnicide. So taken in context, I think it’s pretty clear that Jensen means “forget that things like taking shorter showers will lead to a sane and sustainable culture.” Also, Derrick is ALL ABOUT local action. Read his work. He’s done a ton of local organizing to stop deforesters, to stop “developers,” etc. He does not rule out engagement in the political process. He also says, very clearly and forcefully in his new book (What We Leave Behind, co-authored with Aric McBay) that these must be done in the context of a culture of resistance. So environmental activists who run for public office, or focus on permaculture, or focus on urban gardening, or focus on education (like me), or focus on writing books (like him), etc, must see not only each other as allies to be supported but also people doing the crucial front-line work of confronting and dismantling the systems and infrastructures through which the dominant culture oppresses and destroys all living beings. Be in politics, as the Sinn Fein leaders were in politics. Not as the current Democrats or even Greens are, who are clearly opposed to militant action against the destroyers (Democrats because they are, themselves, corporatist destroyers, and Greens because they’re stuck in the futile and self-defeating pathology of pacifism… and/or they’re also corporatists destroyers, just “green” corporatist destroyers). You want to run for office? I’ll vote for you… if I know you have the back of the resistance movement, including those who will do the most dangerous and important work.

    Flaneuse (#20), I don’t see him stopping short. I see him tailoring his message to his audience. If you have not read Endgame, I strongly suggest you (and everyone) do so. It will leave little question about Derrick’s commitment to revolution. BUT, it should also be clear that Derrick is not proposing some grand political program for us all to follow, like Lenin or even Bakunin. The revolution he supports is to dismantle empire and replace it with thousands of small, local cultures that are inextricable from their landbases. Which is to say, indigenous cultures. Which are, by virtue of their size, their technics, and their oneness with the broader community of life, highly democratic, egalitarian, and most importantly, sustainable.

    Now, back to Geektronica (#12). You write, “…but a Luddite one.” Yeah? So? OK, Derrick Jensen is a Luddite. And then some. Because the Luddites only opposed industrial technology. Jensen goes further, to the dawn of agriculture (as in, the dawn of ecocidal monocropping of annuals, not the dawn of putting seeds in the ground, which has always been done, including by non-humans). He is opposed to all civilized technology. Including metallurgy. Including the plow. But he is most opposed to industrial technology because it is so much more extreme and rapid in its destructiveness than pre-industrial civilized technology. And yes, he, and I, and many others “really think we’d be better off abandoning modern technology (‘industrial society’).” That’s the whole point. Industrial society, despite the myths and propaganda we’ve ben fed since birth, is based, on the most physically real level, on the converting of the living to the dead. Living forests into junk mail and toilet paper. Living rivers into hydro-electricity, canned salmon, and bottles of wine from irrigated vineyards. Living prairies into stockpiles of grain. Living mountains into beer cans (using hydro-electricity from murdered rivers), jewelry, and whole ecosystems laid waste by toxic tailings. And so forth. And this is in contrast to wild animals, including wild human cultures, who obviously also consume the lives and bodies of others (while honoring them), but enhance and protect the communities from which those individuals come. That is the crucial difference. In industrial society, salmon are a commodity, a resource. That is, when they’re not merely a political impediment to dam-building, waste dumping, or irrigation. And how does one treat a resource, a commodity? How does this compare to how an indigenous Klamath human, or Tolowa, or Salish, or Pomo, or Aleut, or Ainu, or Nikvh, or, on the Atlantic, Lenape, Abenaki, Innu, Inuit, Celt, etc, behaves in relation to the salmon, which s/he also eats, but sees as a living, unique, spiritual being, who must be honored and whose community must be honored, for their own sake and for the sake of the human and non-human communities that depend on them, have always depended on them, and will always depend on them? It’s the difference between, as Jensen sometimes says/writes, seeing a woman as a resource for sexual release and/or conquest (as so many men in this culture clearly do) versus seeing each individual woman as a unique, spiritual being with intrinsic value and an independent will and identity. It’s the difference between abuse and relationship. No surprise that the culture that sees land as a resource, that sees trees, salmon, rivers, mountains, indeed the whole Earth as resources, also treats women, children, foreigners, minorities, the laboring classes, and so forth as resources. It, civilization (in its most fully realized and pathological form, industrial civilization), is a culture based on objectification and exploitation. It rewards objectification and exploitation, and those who objectify and exploit most thoroughly, effectively, and “profitably” wind up as the elite (they’re usually born into the elite, anyhow). Not all human cultures are like this. Indeed, ONLY civilized cultures are like this. It is a pathology that is literally consuming the planet, and if it is not stopped, there will be very little, if anything, left of the community of life by the time it has collapsed and its impact has been fully absorbed.

    Further, the Abenaki lived where I now sit for thousands of years, and they did not deplete the forests, the cod (now locally extirpated), the passenger pigeons (fully extinct), the lobsters, the aquifers, the topsoil, and so on. They did not leave the land despoiled with waste and toxins. The only “waste” they produced was food for other beings. They took no more than the land could willingly and healthily give. For thousands of years. And they did not oppress women. And they did not invent money, or slavery. And they did not commit genocide against their human neighbors. And they did not expand beyond the land’s carrying capacity. Same goes for the Mohawks who lived for eons where I grew up. Same goes for the Lenape who lived for eons where I spent my 20’s. Same goes for the paleolithic predecessors of the Etruscans who lived for eons where I lived for a year in Italy. Same goes for the Tolowa who lived for eons where Jensen now lives. Same goes for the San in Namibia, living much like their ancestors from hundreds of thousands of years ago: sustainably, peacefully, profoundly, democratically. The qualities of civilization are not the qualities of the human. Indeed, they are starkly at odds with the qualities of the human, which is why life in civilized society produces so many discontents (as noted by Freud and Jung), so many schizophrenics (as noted by Joseph Campbell and Stanley Diamond), so many depressives, addicts, sociopaths, and so forth (as should be obvious to anyone). We are still wild beings, tamed into a highly imperfect submission, under which we rankle. But all that aside, civilization has already wiped out 90% of the large fish in the oceans, 95% of the original forests in this country, roughly a third of all the wildlife on Earth just since 1970 (not including the vastly more lost before 1970). There is now far more plastic than plankton in the oceans. Amphibians are dying off en masse, worldwide. The major agricultural regions are being thoroughly denuded of topsoil, which will leave them deserts, jut like the “Fertile Crescent,” the original cradle of agriculture. The whole planet is on a horrific, anthropogenic warming cycle that will surely take an extremely heavy toll and even threatens the continuation of life itself. This culture is omnicidal, and it will collapse by virtue of the fact that it destroys the basis for its own survival, along with everyone else’s. The question is whether or not much of the still surviving community of life will make it long enough to weather that collapse and begin restoring health to this planet, so we might all have a future.

    As for the current human population level, it is grossly, absurdly beyond carrying capacity, and that is a major product of the dominant culture (indigenous cultures maintained stable population levels). The population is coming down, sooner or later, more or less horrifically. Should we continue assaulting and damaging and destroying the foundations upon which life is built in order to forestall (and intensify) the eventual collapse for another day, or week, or year? It won’t be more than, at most, a couple decades. If it takes that long, how much worse will the collapse be? Will there be nine billion people? Will we have lost 50% of all remaining species? Will the Great Plains be the new Sahara? Will there be any vertebrates left on the oceans? Will there be any indigenous human cultures left? Will not only Greenland but Antacrtica meltdown in whole or in large part, raising sea levels by around 150 ft? Will all the methane in the permafrost and the oceanic clathrates release and spiral the planet toward irreversible warming and a Venus effect? Do you want to wait and see? I don’t. I want to fight like hell on the side of life, and bring down the death culture before it plays out to its own apocalyptic endgame (and one need only look at the civilized myths to see that it’s always known it was driving toward apocalypse). I hope you’ll fight on the side of life, too. I hope we all will, but I recognize that most people won’t. And we can’t wait until they will, or it will be too late for much of, even all of, the community of life on Earth.


  29. A very good article indeed, apart from this bit: “We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.” (admittedly a requote) — which I disagree with because, in fact, it contradicts Derrick’s own dictum that you *can* used the master’s tools to bring down the master’s house. Just because we are not individually the cause of the problem doesn’t mean we cannot, as individuals or collective groups, bring down the system in a variety of ways – what about the one person who might bring down a large financial computer system; or the small collective that might block various broadcasting hubs for a commercial radio network?

    There is not so much difference between these people, and those Derrick mentions in his last paragraph.

  30. Hey Jim Bier (#26), I can define solipsism for you. It is the extreme pathology of viewing everyone/everything outside of you as not truly real. The consequences are that no one else has a will, feelings, spirit and so forth, and that therefore there are no true moral implications to doing whatever one pleases with them or to them. Descartes’ parable of the “brain in a vat” is the classic example. And Descartes actually operated on these principles toward non-humans. Of course, the dominant culture operates in this fundamentally objectifying, abusive, destructive, insane way on every possible level. And Derrick Jensen says we should do all we can to stop the dominant culture from obliterating the community of life. He is against patriarchy, against the concept of “resources,” against denying others their own unique will (except in defense of others when an individual, notably a civilized human, is wreaking havoc). Jensen recognizes that all beings, not just humans, not just organic life forms, value their own existence, probably no less than we do. He literally listens to and speaks to non-humans, as have indigenous people and many poets throughout time. So no, you are dead wrong. Jensen is the absolute opposite (and worst nightmare) of solipsists.

  31. I have gone back and forth on this issue of what can I do, etc etc. especially with regard to water. Sometimes I am convinced that I should be saving water, because it is the right thing to do. Other times I want to NOT save it because then they can’t use it for development and therefore I am banking it for the fish. Seriously, in our area, they tell us to conserve water but there is no mechanism to know that I am leaving the water in the river. It just gets alloted out to the next subdivision because it is available. I appreciate Jensen’s comments on how we are now consumers instead of citizens and that has limited our options for action. So well put. Also, I too am sick of being blamed for a lack of water because I like a bath once in a while. Why am I being asked to change my little habits when it is just a drop in the bucket when industry isn’t asked to change at all when it can make such a difference? It is to keep us complacent. We need to change our industrial culture. I know, people will want some sort of concrete answer from anyone saying this, well, it’s not that easy. Every community has a different answer that only that community can figure out and hopefully it all leads to the same result.

  32. Good points about water. That’s why we need to focus more on securing water efficiency measures in our businesses, farms, and communities, as opposed to telling people to stop showering, plant cacti, etc.

    American Rivers released a report called “Hidden Reservoir” that lists 8 steps communities should take to save water (and money) — like updating development codes, metering all water users, and pricing water appropriately. Read about it here:

  33. Shout it, brother.

    Identification of the leading cause of problems is the critical thing.

    However, I wouldn’t say it’s all down to our evil corporate overlords.

    We are also a pretty demanding bunch.

    A car takes 1000+ gallons of water to build. That environmental cost is not listed among the features/drawbacks of owning that particular car. I would argue, however, that water was consumed by proxy by the owner who purchased the car. He demanded 1000+ gallons of water be used [wasted] in that way in exchange for the low price and efficiency of the end product.


  34. I’d like to add something from a faith perspective in support of what Jensen is arguing. This comes from Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. “The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God…That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being.”

  35. A number of comments above had appropriately indicated that the link between industrial use and consumer demand is complex. Golf players create a demand for golf courses, for example.

    In naming this complexity, they note that demand is the sum of individual choices which, if changed in some way, would affect the industry supplying the demand.

    I get hung up with another part of this linkage. Which, IMHO, weakens the individual-as-the-solution answer. That is advertising. Industry spends billions to stimulate demand for the most profitable products – which often means the products which are created on the greatest environmental subsidy (the amount of “free” environmental damage the builder takes advantage of.)

    And advertising is carefully designed to remove reason from the buying decision. Making the purchase an impulse or an image choice rather than a utility choice. This makes rational and value based buying difficult.

    So we’re back to industry. One solution is to base profit and price on the true cost of manufacture. Pollution controls, for example, moves some of the cost from the environment to the manufacture of the product.

    Let the consumer buy what he/she wants but also insist that the full price is paid. That would create a basis for simpler living to change the industrial system.

  36. I’ve appreciated many of the comments in this discussion – in some ways, more than the original article itself. Jensen’s cut-to-the-chase style does a great job of smacking down ambivalence, but invites a response that may be less than thoughtful. I came away wondering if universal lobotomies, vasectomies, or monkey-wrench-gang-style economic policies were the logical next step.

    Seems to me, as far as the environment is concerned, we’ve already jumped out of the plane. There’s no going back to a level of “sustainable” that will sustain seven billion and counting human beings and restore ecosystems to their pristine condition. No public action, no matter how radical, will make that happen.

    The question instead is whether or not we’ll pull the parachute in time to land softly. If that’s what we’re seeking, then by all means, let’s begin taking down the “dark satanic mills” – but let’s not pretend that restoration of the biosphere is within our power, whether as individuals, as nations, or as a species. Only time, evolution, and a cultural shift from “me” to “we” can accomplish that.

  37. @John
    “Your order was shipped!
    You bought:
    1x$2K Laptop computer
    – 500GB HD
    – 4GB RAM
    – 3hr battery (now with toxic chemicals!)
    – 2Lb chassis (now from mined iron ore!)
    – 200g waste water
    – never-biodegradable components

  38. Good God. Everyone in America should read Comment #28!

  39. Thank you Mark, for stating the most important part of the change that is necessary – the shifting from “me” to “we.”

    Also, evolution. Perhaps evolution is the real revolution! Since the industrial revolution Western culture has been in huge hurry to get somewhere fast. Here’s an excerpt from an unpublished article of mine:

    It’s as if there is a need to rush evolution into making changes, just as the creation of genetically modified foods have, and just as the Industrial Revolution did in 18th century England.

    In fact the shift that took place in the human psyche, as a result of the mechanization of production, was so dramatic that there is every reason to believe that the suffering we have been experiencing and trying to heal from, is nothing less that the human divorce from nature. Frederick Engels, in the middle of the 19th century, described the toll that the Industrial Revolution had on the lives of the English working person in his book, The Condition of the Working Class in England. It was nothing short of traumatic. Change during this time was swift, stressful, and wholly unnatural.

    Industrialism created a degraded environment and, for 75% of the population of England, a degraded human being. The making of a working-class, that toiled 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, for close to a century, was the un-doing of centuries of rural peasant life. Moving from a predominantly outdoor, rural, community based, and sustainable lifestyle that provided adequate food and shelter, to living in the crowded, unhealthy tenements of the cities and working in poorly lit factories would, undoubtedly, bequeath a sickness of mind, body, and spirit. E.J. Hobsbawm, professor emeritus of economic and social history at the University of London, unequivocally, states that the lives of the English working men were transformed, “. . . beyond recognition.” Indeed:
    . . . pre-industrial experience, tradition, wisdom and morality provided no adequate guide for the kind of behaviour which a capitalist economy required . . . His sheer material ignorance of the best way to live in a city, or eat industrial food (so very different from village food) might actually [have made] his poverty worse than it ‘need have been’.

    The cultural rebellion of the nineteen sixties certainly helped create a growing awareness that mechanization, the commanding cultural force of Western culture since the 18th century, created a new sense of self that does not exactly go with the flow of nature. Rather, the growing preference to manipulate, divert or alter interrupted the very essence of natural living, natural livelihood and the natural relationship that existed with the land. Siegfried Giedion – an historian writing in the 1940’s – saw this clearly when he stated that mechanization created “. . . catastrophes that threaten to destroy civilization and existence . . .” and that they are, “. . . outward signs that our organism has lost its balance.” Indeed, he goes on to say that, “[o]ur contact with the organic forces within us and outside of us has been interrupted . . .” We have ceased living in accordance to the natural rhythmic relationship that exists between humans and nature.

    England in the early 18th century was, according to Hobsbawm, still a clean and beautiful country. Artisans, journeymen, and peasants alike enjoyed a slow paced work life, which included family and community. Food was grown locally and the diet low in protein, and almost devoid of stimulants. Life was not easy but it was simple, healthy, and, for the most part, relaxed. The experience of community was not separate from work and joy was, undoubtedly, present in all aspects of work in pre-industrial peasant life.

    Changing the means of production, therefore, radically changed the lives of rural dwellers (then at least three quarters of the population) and our relationship to food, family, community and the natural world. English culture, as well as the entire Western world (and those that were affected by Westernization), saw the most profound human transformation since the advent of agriculture some 10,000 years ago.

    This cultural detour, which I describe as an unwholesome transformation, has taken us in the Western world, into a way of life that is no longer nourishing, no longer full of the wholeness of an alive and vibrant existence and unconnected to the natural rhythms and cycles of nature. It was obvious to Giedion that, “beginning with the 19th century, the power to see things in their totality [became] obscured.” Getting back on track, therefore, is no easy task when the exploits of this 400 year diversion has been so profitable to some, and the suffering of being enslaved so demoralizing for others.

    Lorraine Fish, Ph.D.

  40. Mr. Jensen,

    I agree with you 100% that we need active citizens, not just aware consumers. However, I also agree with the other side 100%, that individual action and mindset is equally important.

    I’m either being contradictory, or a paradox emerges. I agree with both sides completely. In reality, this is not an either-or thing. In fact, they can inform and temper and inspire each other. I will be a terrible activist if I am not motivated for right reasons and am not living the lifestyle I preach. Similarly, I will be changing nothing if I simply change myself and then pat myself on the back in front of the mirror while the outside world falls to ruin.

    Let’s transcend this petty debate. Your logic sounds too similar to the “you’re either with us or against us” of past years. You see, for many, a new enlightened consumer choice can be the first step on a path to activism. I can produce a whole flock of “black swans” to refute your whole argument. I’ve met dozens of people who never thought about making an active stand for environment, but started doing so only when they saw people around them buying green, joining CSAs, changing lightbulbs, hanging laundry outside to dry, and other things that reflect values. They might have been alienated by a raw activist type, but a green consumer was a bridge to a new way of thinking… and acting.

    Although you are a very intelligent person, don’t forget that most others go with the crowd. For you, thought precedes action. For them, it can be the other way around. What you see as a trendy and futile dead-end (such as bringing your own bags to grocery store) can actually be the first domino for someone. They ask themselves “why would this person inconvenience themselves?” and then … boom… they start extending that question to other areas.

    Keep up the good work, but don’t position this as a “sophie’s choice”. Please don’t use the same heavy handed divisionary logic of those “owls or jobs” people. We can do better than that. Be more visionary and less divisionary. If we are defined by what we are against, we will never become greater than that.

    We need not look further than American revolution. Many petty consumer acts regarding stamps, tea, and other boycotting and consumer-based activism was the tinder that lit the fire underneath citizen and soldier action.

    Let’s all try not to alienate any potential supporters of this cause. Since we’re defending something that doesn’t have a voice, we need as many voices, ballets and wallets that we can get.

  41. Jensen: “Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler?”

    Jensen’s tendency to reduce to the absurd the arguments he can’t understand only undermines whatever credibility he might have had. In historical fact, the only thing which effectively turned back the advance of fascism (WWII didn’t – it only shifted it to the Anglo-American Empire) was the nation-wide non-violent resistance of the Danes. But Jensen refuses to recognize the historical truth that violent revolutions/resistance/wars only serve to shift the locus of violence from one group to another and perpetuate, feed and encourage more violence.

    “Any option is a better option than a dead planet.” That’s the logic of desperation that imprisons creative imagination. It also over-rates humanity’s capacity to destroy the web-of-life.

    Jensen’s repeated refrain that “we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world” is precisely the double-bind that he pretends to transcend. The choice is not between supporting the violence of the status quo or using violence to “destroy” it. First, no amount of violence that we can muster could begin to compete with the violent potential of the system. In that sense, it’s the tactic of the foolish and naïve. Second, the only way out of a double-bind – or the horns of a rampaging dilemma – is to stop presenting ourselves as a target and to stop feeding the beast.

    The dichotomy between the individual and the societal, between individual action and social/political/collective action is a false one that the system creates. Every personal act that feeds the beast is a political act, and the most powerful political action is to refuse it sustenance. We refuse it sustenance when we choose to disengage from the system, and we make it possible for many to refuse when we create alternative life-enhancing systems.

    To step outside of the materialist paradigm that has engendered our global crises, is to rediscover the spiritual principle that the wolf who wins the fight is the one we feed. If we use violence, we feed the predatory wolf. If we put our energy into creating small-scale, grass-roots, re-localized, democratically-organized, sustainable human/non-human community – then we feed the playful, nurturing, pack-oriented wolf.

    David killed Goliath with his sling, and then grew up to become the predatory nation of Israel. If David had simply tended his own garden and let Goliath fall of his own weight, a different story would have emerged – and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  42. I agree with Bjorn Beer. Not an either/or, but a both/and….. and everything we can do makes us stronger and is part of removing the legitimacy and power of the power over.

  43. It’s true that shorter showers won’t save much water. Bathing in the river saves water. Bathing in the river, drinking from the river, cooking soup with river water. Cleaning pots with sand, eating every meal from the same bowl.

    The issue is not that personal action can’t be revolutionary, but that it isn’t, not yet. It’s not shocking enough. So you take a 1-minute military shower in your private home, so what? Who sees it? If everyone who today claims to be “living simply” went to the river every morning to bathe — well, now there’s a statement. And sure to get you arrested, in the best activist tradition.

  44. Robert Riversong (#43), if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re arguing a form of the “walk away” model. This beast is coming down, so just tend your garden and let it crash. You sound like an intelligent, well-informed, sensitive person, so I assume you have at least a fair grasp of the enormity of the devastation that has been and continues to be inflicted. I won’t assume you know any particular piece of info I’ve stumbled across, but I’ll assume you would, at least, not be surprised to hear that the total environment is now drenched in PCB, dioxin, and a host of other powerful toxins. Likewise that according to mainstream sources, 1% of all species are going extinct annually, and up to one third of all wildlife on Earth has been extirpated in the past few decades. Likewise that every year we lose a few more of the handful of remaining indigenous languages, and therefore, all or nearly all of their stories, myths, wisdom, spirituality, medicine, technology, knowledge of how to live sustainably, and so on. Likewise that the US and a few of its allies are irradiating the planet more or less permanently with millions and millions of pounds of depleted uranium munitions. And so on. Now, if you, and I, and the rest of the Orion readership, the rest of the people who care more about life on this planet than they do about the death culture, step aside and tend our gardens, perhaps some of us together in egalitarian permaculture communes (which, frankly, sounds like fun to me), writing poetry, playing drums and guitars, learning acupuncture and ayurvedic medicine, etc, what in the world are we going to do when we can’t breathe the air or drink the water? What are we going to do when we all develop tumors? What are we going to do when the dominant culture, in its final throes, sees our verdant lands (and/or the minerals, fuels, or water beneath them) and decides to take them and kill us, as it has done consistently throughout history? Or just kills us for having shown another way to live, as it has so often done from indigenous cultures to John Africa? Where, precisely, are we supposed to step away TO where we will not be subject to the realities of the dominant culture’s devastation of the planet? And when they come to plunder us, the last reserve of free, sane people, and destroy our land, what do we do? Beg them to take us on as slaves rather than kill us? Say, “I’m so very, very sorry” to our children and our non-human friends and neighbors as they, and we, are destroyed? Or would we fight back? I’ll let you decide for yourself. I’ll fight back, and sooner rather than later.

    I’ll fight back right now to protect those being raped, murdered, and destroyed right now. To step aside as industrial civilization, or capitalism, or patriarchy, or Leviathan, or Goliath, or whatever you want to call it commits further atrocities is A) utterly callous and a complete abdication of our responsibility to those we purport to love and B) just postponing the inevitable confrontation when Goliath catches up with us. And he will. Because the whole planet is dying, or, more accurately, being murdered.

    Your lifeboat community better be well armed. I hope it will also support those who will fight to defend others and precipitate the crash.

    Also, the notion that the Danish resistance was purely non-violent is ahistorical, it’s untrue. A few moments of research make that abundantly clear. The idea that the US picked up the mantle of fascism is, of course, true, and a truth lost on nearly all Americans. Actually, though, let’s look for a moment at the Norwegian resistance, which was considerably more fierce than the Danish resistance, from what I gather. The Norwegians (just a few of them, in fact) took out (with, ahem, force) the Nazi’s heavy water plant, a crucial piece of their nuclear program. If they had not done this, Hitler would likely have gotten the bomb. I am very, very happy that those resistance fighters took that action and succeeded. Hypotheticals are tricky, but I am pretty confident that things would have been worse if Hitler had gotten the bomb.

    Anyhow, the basic questions remain:
    1. Where will you walk away to?
    2. How do you explain this behavior to those being exploited, raped, abused, murdered right now?
    3. How will you avoid being, along with your lifeboat community, consumed by the death culture in its final throes?

    Oh, and here’s one more:
    4. When a caged tiger mauls a zookeeper, does she risk becoming a zookeeper? The community of life is already fighting back, as it must. What will it take for you to stand up and do whatever it takes to join the community of life and help bring down the death culture while there’s still anyone left to save?


  45. for those of you who are advocating “drastic action”, etc, what does that mean, exactly? chaining yourself to trees? Running for office? Is it actual action or just more “slacktivism”?

    Honestly, I’m open to suggestions. What gets people to listen? What is truly a thorn in side of dominant paradigm? And what actually produces more adherents and support than it detracts and dissuades? Are you thinking more civil disobedience? Do you have specific ideas that would do more good, or does it just give the dominant paradigm more cannon fodder? Will the crackdown be worse than the crack think you are causing?

  46. Bjorn

    Here’s the biggie: what Industrial Civilization — it’s rulers and it’s beneficiaries — fears most of all, is a connected population; connected with the real world rather than the synthetic world created for civilians, so they can continue making money for the machine. A connected person *is* an enemy of the system: first and foremost, they think as a liberated human being, rather than a machine part.

    The way to allow people to connect is to remove the Tools Of Disconnection that Industrial Civilization has created, specifically to keep us living the way “good consumers” should. I have documented these in A Matter Of Scale.

    There are many ways of destroying these (BTW, I don’t consider it possible to be violent against a machine), some of which I document in later chapters. And yes, the system will fight back, but perhaps not before it has been sabotaged.


  47. Jensen pretty much nails it.
    As did Karl Marx. Marx was an _anti-corporatist_, not an anti-capitalist. Marx saw soul-less, yet, ironically, _immortal_ corporations as the _real_ problem. Corporations, man-made legal-paper creations, “exist” in order to acquire endless amounts of capital and resources. Corporations merely hire humans to do the actual work of extracting and working the resources. The earth has been progressively destroyed, the commons have been cordoned off, and ordinary workers “live” in an ever-diminished, ravaged environment.
    Corporations need no air, water, food to “live.” They merely require human gullibility.
    Hence, CEO’s (AKA high-priced corporate valets/bodyguards) hire private armies, corrupt governments that–in turn–tax the rest of us to hire national armies to prevent armed insurrection against corporate apologists.
    Did the wonderful human beings who constitute our lovely Jeffersonian republic fall asleep in Econ 101 or History 101 when we hit the chapter on corporations?

  48. Everything that you lament is a human creation, but you expect humans en masse to tear down the things they have spent so long creating. We preserve the system because we LOVE the system. It’s that simple.

    Only when this way of living applies too much negative pressure on us as individuals will we do anything about it, and, at that time, political activism will be redundant.

    All is decided by the forces of equilibrium.

  49. “Transcendent generosity is a state of mind. If I wanted to walk around the world, I could not possibly find enough leather to cover the surface of the earth. But just covering the soles of my shoes with leather works even better. Likewise, I could not possibly transform all bad things outside in the world. But if I can transform this mind of mine, what need do I have to transform everything else?”–eighth-century Buddhist teacher Shantideva.

  50. Dumpster diving wouldn’t have stopped Hitler. But having given him a childhood full of love, encouragement and affection most likely could have. Nothing is more radical than the small and daily acts of Love.

  51. Right on. And I might add that the whole system of ‘volunteerism’ in this country is also a ‘feel good’ approach…thereby releasing the government of taking care of the people they’re supposed to be governing..

  52. hey derrick…love love love your writing, have for ten years….just look at this…everyone….just look at this…within a mere 30-some hours derrick’s thoughts have provoked such response….such dialogue…soooooo cool…one of my most favorite places your work has taken me is to whaleman extraordinaire Jim Nollman and his sweet Interspecies site…what’s not to love there….the logo alone is enough….but his thoughts expressed in his essay titled Why Wash Birds are profound….please everyone go there and read that piece………….thank you derrick…can’t even remember how I found my way to your work…so grateful i did

  53. davidscottlevi (#46) said: ”
    Robert Riversong (#43), if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re arguing a form of the “walk away” model. This beast is coming down, so just tend your garden and let it crash.”

    You’re completely misunderstanding me. But that could be because I was responding to elements of Jensen’s belief system which he carefully danced around in this latest essay. Specifically, his belief that the only effective response to systemic violence is violently tearing down the machine of violence. Stating it that clearly should be enough to demonstrate its inherent contradiction.

    I would never advocate mere escapism. What I not only propose but have lived for the 40 years of my adult life is a combination of non-violent but fierce confrontation, and building a new society within the shell of the old. I have publicly refused to pay taxes to the Empire for 30 years, have been jailed for non-violent resistance, and have spent much of that 40 years actively educating and organizing others for constructive social change.

    What you dismiss as “ahistorical” is, in fact, the hidden history of modern civilization. The downfall of most tyrants and of major empires has been either initiated or facilitated by predominantly non-violent movements, several of which have been undertaken after the failure of violent resistance.

    I have no problem with authentic self-defense (including of those we love), and I’ll admit to celebrating the occasional act of creative sabotage. But an offensive violent resistance, even with the intent to avoid human casualty (which is more hope than certainty) will not only elicit severe repression and state violence, but result in inculcating violence into our very souls and poisoning any positive future we hope to enjoy.

    We are witnessing the collapse of Western civilization and Empire. The most powerful weapon we have to facilitate that collapse is the withholding of our support. What “they” fear most is awake and aware people refusing to play by their rules – refusing to be a subject or a consumer or a parrot of propaganda.

    Yes, there’ll be much collateral damage as the Goliath falls. That cannot be avoided. But what is most important now is to build alternative structures and relationships that can sustain us after the Fall. Otherwise, we’ll be wandering aimlessly in a wasteland created, in part, by our focus on the problem rather than on the solution.

  54. Folks, he’s flat wrong, and I grow tired of hearing his unrelenting pessimism.

    Either we have enough time to change minds, and thus effectively change the culture of the entire planet; or it’s already far far too late and we’re all doomed.

    I believe that we do have enough time, and that individual, personal change is the ONLY possible method that will get us to the goal. All of recorded history backs me up. The books “Beyond Civilization”, (by Daniel Quinn) and “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches” (By Marvin Harris) address this point succintly.

    He can belittle it to his heart’s content, but if you follow his line of thinking you’ll end up with the same old, same old – one group holding out a ‘One Right Way’, and needing to conquer others to enact it.

    For a while now he’s advocated violent change in his writings and video interviews, as sure a method of failure as could exist. I’d take this article apart point by point, but will instead simply posit this:
    We change ourselves, in real and lasting ways. We serve as examples to others, and they are attracted to our more successful mode of being. In turn, they attract others with their actions. Eventually the tide turns, and the bad ways are abandoned. That’s it. The entire game plan, the only winning strategy that has ever worked or will ever.

    So with all due respect, Derrick Jenson can go stuff it. The problems he calls out are real enough, but they are merely symptoms, not the disease.


    PS: if you haven’t yet had a chance, reading Alam Weisman’s latest will convince you: “The World Without Us”. We have the time, though it sure does feel as if we don’t. It’s all relative.

  55. A historical fact understood even by Michael Wood, British BBC/PBS film-maker: All empires have eventually over-used resources and have succumbed thereby. The Fertile Crescent was, 4,000 yrs. (or so) a green verdant place, that supported vast populations who lived behind garden walls (hence, the “Garden of Eden” story) to protect against floods every year, in the good years.

    Now, its Iraq.

    The old prehistoric Manas people of the Andes also died as a result of over-use and insufficient stores. There is not, in history or geology/anthroplology, _one_ large (+2500 pop.) urban entity that has lasted beyond 250-300 years, before “taking for granted” ecosystems led them over the abyss of time. The tradition is too deeply seated in those of us descended from the early Aryan (“the noble ones”) (light-skinned pastoral folk from Russian steppes) invaders into the Punjab. The contentious nature of our kind was thus born. Consumptives never have gone on long. Later, a lord called Ashoka realized the forest holy-men were right: “I wish for all beings contentment, happiness, freedom from war, etc. It worked while he was alive to model it. His most memorable stele says: “The hardest thing to do is to get people to be _good_.”

    His sons killed him and his great grandson in a feud over who’d inherit the throne. Power doth corrupt, as the state of our un-sustainable ecosystem slowly unravells, shows all too well.

    Not much can be done, short of a Monkey Wrench Gang weilding supreme power. Golf courses and Corporate domination would be gone.


  56. Robert, I honor the wisdom you’ve garnered over your years. I am younger. We need not agree on all points. Clearly, we are, in the broad scheme of things, on the same side.

    If I misunderstood you, I apologize for that. Honestly, looking at what you wrote, I thought that my interpretation of what you said was hardly an interpretation at all… it was nearly verbatim. Either way, if you do not suggest the “walk away” model, that’s good.

    What I called “ahistorical” was the notion that the Danish resistance was non-violent. That is, I believe, clear from my post, and I have the facts on my side. There was considerable militancy in the Danish resistance, especially as the Nazi occupation dragged on. So it is not quite fair to say that I used the term “ahistorical” in reference to your notion that non-violence is what always brings down empires. Whether or not your assertion about non-violence is true, I had not argued that specific point.

    I am glad to hear that you have no problem with authentic self-defense (presumably with violence if necessary), of yourself or of those you love. I had not gotten that from your first post, but I suspect only a deeply insane person would not fight back if she or her friend or her child was being raped or battered. So let me ask you this. Do you stand by MEND, the Ogoni resistance movement that is fighting for the very survival of the Ogoni people, their own families, their own land, themselves? Note that a large, organized non-violent movement in the Niger Delta resulted in nothing but a massacre of the movement’s leaders, conducted by the Nigerian state with not a word from the international community. Since then, MEND has taken out 20% of Shell’s oil extracting capacity in the delta and opened the possibility that Shell may withdraw from Nigeria completely. MEND has given the Ogoni a chance, and done the same for their landbase. Do you stand by the Zapatistas, who rose up with arms (and have rarely used them) when the very existence of their indigenous Mayan communities was under dire threat? Do you think it is appropriate to use all means necessary (including, if necessary, violence) when you and your community are being invisibly assaulted with PCB, plutonium, mercury, or any other industrial toxin that may or may not be prevalent in your neighborhood, your food supply, your water, your air? If not, why would you act any differently when the attackers use poison than when they use a machine gun? Now, what if “developers” are wiping out the trees, the wetlands, the frogs, the songbirds, and much of the rest of the community of life in your neighborhood. And all legal means fail. Perhaps now a little “creative sabotage”? I could extend this line of questions considerably further, but here’s where it’s heading. The whole community of life is under dire, existential attack. It’s not abstract. It’s not just a looming threat, but an assault in progress, innumerable murders every moment, 200 species a day lost forever. Do you love the community of life? Do you see whom is oppressing and destroying whom? The war we are in is not even a war, because there is only one side fighting. Well, I think it’s high time (beyond high time) we fight back. It would not be offensive violence, it would be defensive counter-violence, but it better be fierce, smart, and effective.

    I’m all for building alternative structures. I help to do so, as a teacher, as a forager, as a poet, as a helper on organic farms, as an avid nutritionist and novice herbalist, and so forth. Yes, we need to be ready to support our communities and heal our landbases. If your calling is to devote yourself to building alternative structures, by all means, do it, and I’ve got your back. But I want to know if you will support those who will do the monkey-wrenching, those who will stop hard-core criminals from committing further atrocities, with violence if necessary. I want to know if you’ll support those who use physical actions to grind the economy to a halt.

    I’m sorry but I do not buy that the most powerful weapon I have is withholding my support. I have largely withheld my support for a long time, as have innumerable other aware people. Those in power don’t care. They have the doctrinal systems in place to ensure that the large majority of people will not withdraw their support. Just by being a teacher and using that leverage, I effect far more change than by simply withdrawing my support. I’m sorry to return to this, but saying that our most powerful tool is to withdraw our support is, in fact, the “walk away” model in a nutshell.

    BTW, here are a few examples of successful militant resistance movements:
    1. The underground railroad
    2. The IRA
    3. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army
    4. The Vandals and Visigoths against the Romans
    5. The Ostrogoths against the Byzantines
    6. The Viet Cong
    7. The Cuban Revolution
    8. FRETILIN (East Timor)
    9. The Zapatistas
    10. Quilombo dos Palmares

    If you choose to reject some of the above because the militants were not pure enough, I would simply encourage you to compare them to those they were fighting. Harriet Tubman carried a gun and was not afraid to use it. Would you have supported her? Or would there have been too much risk of “inculcating violence into our very souls and poisoning any positive future we hope to enjoy”? It’s not a rhetorical question. Would you have provided a safe house for the armed militants ferrying refugee slaves (stolen property) to the north?

    Finally, severe state repression and violence are a reality. Those in power will, of course, use at least as much violence as they feel they need to remain in power. So any movement that seriously threatens them will elicit severe repression and violence, whether it is a strictly a civil disobedience movement or whether it also has a militant component. It is not violence that begets violence from the powerful. It is threatening the basis for their power that begets violence. But forget that, because they’re plenty violent already, so violent they’re destroying the planet, so it’s absurd and counterproductive for me to speak of _us_ begetting _their_ violence. The real question is, are we willing to risk our very real necks by effectively countering the system? And if not, are we willing to support those who will?

    We need not choose between focusing on the problem and focusing on the solution. We can do both. If you want to focus on the solution, great, just please don’t hinder those focusing on the huge, ecocidal, genocidal problem. In fact, please help them in any way you can. But the very least is not turning them in. There is a madman in the house. By all means, learn how to heal the physical and psychic wounds of those he’s already harmed, but do not neglect to stop the madman.


  57. davidscottlevi (#58) says: “I am glad to hear that you have no problem with authentic self-defense (presumably with violence if necessary), of yourself or of those you love.”

    You presume far too much. Self-defense is not violence. Violence is whatever violates the integrity of another person (or one’s self). Defending against violence is not violence. Retaliation or preemptive response is violence against the other and against one’s own soul.

    “I suspect only a deeply insane person would not fight back if she or her friend or her child was being raped or battered.”

    Then you have not met the most sane of people. I’ve known several who have interrupted violence with a hug or a disarming word or a vulnerable smile. Gandhi, MLK, Caesar Chavez, Dorothy Day were of that kind.

    “I do not buy that the most powerful weapon I have is withholding my support. I have largely withheld my support for a long time, as have innumerable other aware people.”

    Have you? There are only three things the Empire requires of us: wage slavery and material consumption, our bodies for war, and our tax money to feed their machine. If you have not withheld at least two of those three, then you are an enabler not a resister.

    “saying that our most powerful tool is to withdraw our support is, in fact, the “walk away” model”

    Then you are saying that Gandhi “walked away” from British colonial oppression.

     Slobodan Milosevic was thrown out by a nonviolent movement.
     Philippines dictator Marcos similarly in 1986
     the East German, Hungarian, Czech, and Polish dictatorships in 1989
     The Shah of Iran had one of the ten most powerful armies in the world and a secret police whose ruthlessness was second to none. He was overthrown 1977-79, nonviolently.
     El Salvador in 1944, an armed uprising failed to overthrow dictator Hernandez Martinez, so the students initiated a nonviolent insurrection and threw Martinez out nonviolently
     The students in neighboring Guatemala were so impressed that they initiated a nonviolent insurrection against the “iron dictator of the Caribbean” – Jorge Ubico – and Ubico was thrown out, too.
     The Zapatistas of Chiapas have abandoned armed struggle as having failed.
     In the early 1980s the African National Congress realized that its armed struggle strategy was failing; it was woefully insufficient to defeat apartheid. So they plunged into nonviolent struggle: boycotts, strikes, demonstrations of all kinds. The result was the end of apartheid despite a very well-armed state with a terroristic police force.
     Kwame Nkrumah led a successful nonviolent campaign for Ghana’s independence in the ’50s.
     Kenneth Kaunda led another in Zambia in the ’60s.

    During the Nazi occupation of Denmark, the Danes engaged in a “diversity of tactics.” In the first phase their tactics ranged from collaboration to petitions to sabotage. The diversity didn’t work: some tactics worked against each other. The Danes moved on to another set of diverse tactics: sabotage, nonviolent demonstrations, and labor strikes. Again, the tactics undermined each other; each act of sabotage gave the Germans fresh excuse to come down hard on the workers and the demonstrators. What really worked in maintaining Danish integrity and undermining the Nazi war effort was the strategy which emerged: it included the underground press, major strikes (even at one point a general strike), nonviolent demonstrations, and smuggling the Jews out to a safe haven in Sweden. The strategy that emerged was internally consistent, and the tactics therefore supported each other instead of subtracting from each other.

    In a strange twist, there are times when violent forces actually need to be protected by nonviolent action. When the Black Panther Party wanted to have a national convention in Philadelphia, they had difficulty getting a venue. Quakers gave them the use of their largest Meetinghouse. Police chief Frank Rizzo saw this as an opportunity to swagger and threaten, and no one could be sure what the provocation might lead to. So Quakers circled the Meetinghouse and stood shoulder to shoulder to create a protective shield between the police and the Panthers. But eventually the Panthers, who primarily advocated armed self-defense, were brutally eliminated by the state.

    On a larger scale this was repeated in the Philippines during the 1986 overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Toward the end of the struggle a part of the army, led by General Ramos, went over to the people’s side. Marcos still controlled the larger part of the army, which he ordered to attack Ramos’ camp and subdue the rebellion. Catholic radio stations working with the people power movement sounded the alarm. Many thousands of Filipinos rushed to the site, intervened between the Marcos loyalists and the rebels, and nonviolently immobilized the loyalist troops, thereby saving the outgunned rebel soldiers.

    “The real question is, are we willing to risk our very real necks by effectively countering the system?”

    The real question is: Do we have the courage to risk our lives, or merely the ruthlessness to take the lives of others?

    “It would not be offensive violence, it would be defensive counter-violence…”

    The rationalization of every violent revolution.

    “There is a madman in the house.”

    And, until we realize that the madman “out there” is nothing more than the projection of our own inner demons, we will continue to tilt at windmills. When we tame and disarm those demons, then our true power emerges and there is nothing we cannot do.

  58. The article made only one point I disagree with, which is the idea that the powerful people who profit from the industrial economy might try to kill us if we take action. There’s no “might” about it. The only way to stop the destruction of the planet is to stop the industrial economy. If you do that, there’s no “try” about it either. They won’t try to kill you. They’ll just kill you. Moreover, the industrial economy is everywhere. You have to stop it in Brazil, in Tokyo, in Kansas, in Madagascar, EVERYWHERE. I admire you for talking sense into these shorter-shower dipshits but there’s a much, much harder problem, which is how do you affect worldwide political change when it’s guaranteed to get you killed if you have any success at all? Notice how police-state even the free-est “democracies” are becoming. Keep in mind that there are a lot of countries where it’s suicide just disagreeing with these powerful people in public. How many people have died for opposing the diamond trade in Africa? How many people have died over the oil trade in the Middle East? How are you going to change things in places like Honduras, Colombia, China, or Iran? The moral imperative is clear but the practical imperative is BAFFLING.

  59. This is a response to David’s post #58, #28, and the rest of them.

    Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts. I usually don’t follow discussion threads like this, but I find myself coming back to read your responses. They’re clear, concise and make a lot of sense to me.

    One thing I hear you saying is that the state does not have a monopoly on violence. And all your really asking is that we support those who realize this and choose to fight back. It seems simple to me. Yet some people will spend a tremendous amount of energy arguing with you and others who share a similar perspective. This has always baffled me. I’ve always wondered what there true motives are. And if push ever comes to shove what side will they choose to be on: Those in power or those fighting like hell for the diversity of life.

  60. I believe personal action is where it is all at. Starting a garden and buying some chickens is a revolutionary act. I like the idea that people are riding bikes, shopping at farmer’s markets, buying locally, buying unpasteurized goat milk (illegally) directly from some gal who happens to raise them, showering with a friend, and otherwise adopting a way of life that embraces more sustainable practices. There is so much going on under the radar and away from the glare of the media that resists, subverts, and (I hope) eventually replaces the industrial food paradigm, the world of Monsanto, corn derivatives, ADM, irradiated food, and terminator genes, and, generally, the system of industrial-consumer capitalism. Taken individually perhaps personal action does not amount to much, but when these small acts are repeated a hundred thousand times, or more, every day soon they begin to have a big impact. The paradigm is shifting right beneath our feet and we barely notice it, but it is happening. There is a long way to go but a lot of things are happening, a great barely noticed underground movement. Personally, I love it. Voltaire once said, “Tend your garden.” I will take this to heart.

    Another thought: why not limit your income. We make a mere $35,000 a year. That level of income fairly well eliminates you from participation in the consumer culture. You have no choice but to raise some of your own food, purchase second hand items when you really need them. By limiting your income you eliminate needless purchases and in Thoreau’s terms, travel at home, rather than taking expensive exotic vacations halfway around the world.

    Finally, I have little time for doom-and-gloom environmentalism. That said, I actually believe things are really bad, worse than environmentalists say they are, worse than even Derrick Jensen says they are. But Mr.Jensen is so deadly humorless, lighten up a little, crack a joke or two. If you allow yourself to get all worked up like Mr. Jensen does, you just pollute your body with excess cortisol and all sorts of other toxins (added to all the mercury. PCBs, plutonium particles et al that are already out there). Take Ed Abbey’s advice (remember him?), be a half-assed crusader, a part-time fanatic and leave time for laughter, making love, dancing in the streets, skinny dipping in a remote alpine lake deep in the wilderness (preferably with member of both sexes present), or enjoying a good stiff drink. Above all, resistance should be fun. I don’t want to be a part of any revolution where nobody dances.

  61. In response #62 Carl D. Esbjornson said: “But Mr.Jensen is so
    deadly humorless, lighten up a little, crack a joke or two.”

    How many Derrick Jensen talks or interviews have you listened to? Because everyone that I’ve listened to he is always cracking jokes and laughing.

    When it comes to his writing, a google search reveals this funny passage out of his book ENDGAME. I’ll post the link and passage below. – Romantic Nihilist.html

    “During the conversation in which my former agent told me that if I ever wanted to reach an audience, I’d have to tone down my work, she also told me that I was a nihilist.

    “I felt vaguely insulted. I didn’t know what a nihilist was, but I knew from her tone that it must be a bad thing. I pictured an angry teenager leaning against a building, wearing black slacks, turtleneck, and beret, scowling and chain-smoking.

    “But that’s not me, so I looked up nihilist in the dictionary.

    “The first definition—that life is meaningless and that there are no grounds for any moral truths—clearly doesn’t fit me. Nor is it true that I do not believe in truth, beauty, or love. The second definition—that the current social order is so destructive and irredeemable that it needs to be taken down to its core, and to have its core removed—fits me like a glove, I suppose the kind you’d put on to not leave fingerprints.

    “I’ve had a lot of conversations with Casey about nihilism, and about how the whole black turtleneck thing really doesn’t work for me. And how I rarely scowl. Emma Goldman is famously (and incorrectly) quoted as saying, ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.’ Well, I don’t like to dance, but if I can’t laugh, then you can start the revolution without me.

    “One day Casey said, ‘I’ve got you figured out.’

    “I raised my eyebrows.

    “‘You,’ he said, ‘are a romantic nihilist.’ And then he laughed.

    “So did I. I laughed and laughed. Yes, I thought, a revolution of romantic nihilists. I would be down for that. Count me in.” pg.363

  62. Curt, thanks, I really appreciate that!

    Robert, I am frustrated.

    1. I have asked you a number of simple questions, the most recent of which was the Harriet Tubman question, which could be answered with a simple yes or no. You have written long responses but have not even acknowledged any of my questions. That makes me think that either you’re not listening or you’re avoiding the questions.

    2. The Danes, again, used considerable militancy. Those who didn’t had a huge advantage that the Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs did not have. They were regarded by the Nazis as being “racially pure.” Same went for the Dutch and the Norweigans. The Czechs were not so lucky. And as for the Jews, Jensen has pointed out, rightly, time and again, that the Jews who rose up and fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Sobibor Uprising had a better chance of surviving than those who went quietly to the camps. Let me be clear. Are you really proposing that either a women being raped or a Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto should have used hugs and kind words against her assailant? I’m sorry, but abusers do not magically cease being abusers when their victims show them lovingkindness. The great tragedy of Christianity is that it was the great non-violent resistance movement against Rome, and it became the new basis for Roman power and the power of the kings of Rome’s successor states. Nothing is better for abusers, exploiters, and destroyers than for their victims to dogmatically refuse to fight back. That’s why Christianity was so thoroughly pushed by the Western elite from Constantine to Obama.

    3. Before you lump Dr. King in with Gandhi, let’s look at a striking difference. King said that “those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” Meanwhile, Gandhi, in 1946, scolded the few Jews who actually had fought back against the Nazis saying, “the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife…They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” I’m sorry, but that is insane, and deeply offensive. I could go on about the hypocrisies, misogyny, and self-righteousness of the self-proclaimed Mahatma, but let’s just stick with his statement about the resisters of the Holocaust. I honor King to the utmost. I honor Gandhi’s great accomplishments with considerably more reservations (as do a great many Indians, to put it mildly). It is well recognized in India, at least, that India’s independence movement benefitted greatly from the enormous violence of WWII. Also crucial was the militancy of the Sikhs.

    4. All that said about Gandhi, his boycott of British salt and his famed march to the sea with hordes of Indians who made their own sea salt is an inspiring and classic act of disobedience. That was possible because he had a mass movement. He had the backing of a culture of resistance. We do not have that, so our tiny, and largely unnoticed civil disobedience ploys remain isolated and ineffectual. It’s pretty simple: a boycott needs mass numbers. Rosa Parks needed the support of the black community of Montgomery. So another point I made which you conveniently ignored was the point about how civil disobedience requires, in order to be effective, a mass movement, and that having nothing close to a mass movement in the midst of such extreme horrors and such late-stage planetary death, we must use other strategies. History shows time and again, when civil disobedience works, it is based on mass numbers. Militancy often works without mass numbers.

    5. The examples you gave of “successful” non-violent movements were mostly far less successful than the ten examples I gave of militant ones. The Philippines remains a poor and abused colony, full of the sweatshops and plantations that the US started setting up shortly after invading in 1902. Eastern Europe was hardly liberated. Sure, Prague and Budapest are now flooded with tourists (many of the locals priced out). But has life gotten better in Bratislava? Many Germans who lived in East Germany are not convinced that their new system is better than the old, which at least seemed better at keeping them employed. Eastern Europe has been swallowed up by NATO and American fascism. The CIA now houses “black sites,” actual concentration camps, in Poland. Romania is still a mess, but better than under Ceauşescu, dspite the fact that the Romanian people killed Ceauşescu. The Iranian Revolution had major militant elements. Regardless, it succeeded at overthrowing a brutal US puppet but utterly failed at creating a better state. If anything, the theocracy is even worse, especially for women. Non-violence in Central America did nothing to stop the death squads. The militant FMNL and the FSLN, however, achieved a great deal, and are, today, holding the presidencies of both countries (El Salvador and Nicaragua). The Zapatistas remain armed. Being militant does not mean being bloodthirsty. Not at all. But the Zapatistas say and show that they are ready and able to use force if necessary. Anyhow, I am not trying to argue that civil disobedience is never effective… clearly it can be. You are trying to argue that militancy is never effective, which is demonstrably untrue. By the way, you also never responded to my questions about MEND or the Zapatistas.

    6. That the Quakers showed solidarity with not only the Black Panthers but, much earlier, with the Underground Railroad, only underscores my central point: that those who choose the path of non-violent resistance should support their fellow resisters who choose militancy. The Quakers get it. Do you?

    7. “And, until we realize that the madman “out there” is nothing more than the projection of our own inner demons, we will continue to tilt at windmills.” BS. Industrial civilization is not a projection of my own inner demons. It is a real culture, with real institutions, real propaganda, real fuel, real leaders. It has very real sweatshops, very real nukes, very real mine tailings, very real dams, very real fertilizer and pesticide runoff, very real dead zones in the oceans, very real CEOs, very real henchmen, very real victims, and very real choke points. The death culture is real, and to see it as a projection is out of touch with reality. I am not an indigenous person, but I have also long since liberated my heart and mind from identification with the death culture. I live in opposition to it. Industrial civilization is no more a projection of my inner demons than Bergen-Belsen was a projection of Anne Frank’s. It is a physically real and phenomenally destructive infrastructure of death, undergirded by a pathological worldview inculcated into its human parts. I am not one of those parts. I feel pity for those who still are, and I try to help them liberate themselves, but my primary focus is on protecting, defending, and showing solidarity with the victims. How you can say that industrial civilization is a “projection,” let alone a projection of my inner demons is totally baffling to me. It is a denial of physical reality, a denial of the reality of the victims’ suffering, and a massive assumption about me, someone you do not know. Liberating hearts and minds is crucial, but it is not enough. It is a necessary prelude to action. If the apparatus of destruction were a mere projection, then education and group therapy would do the trick (might be tougher to organize those sessions in the slums of Jakarta or Lagos). But it is not a projection. It runs on very real oil. It relies on a very real infrastructure of telecommunications. It uses very real natural gas for fertilizer. It imprisons very real and very abused animals in very real feedlots. It is spraying very real DU all over Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Industrial civilization is not Quixote’s windmill. The windmill was not harming Quixote until he charged it. The windmill was not harming anyone (unlike a modern turbine, it was too slow to kill birds). Your metaphor implies that the death culture is not essentially harmful, that it will only harm us if we attack it. If, on reflection, you no longer like the metaphor, I suggest that you take greater care in your choice of words.

    OK, some questions remain:
    1. Would you have supported the Underground Railroad, given that it was run by militants?
    2. Will you show solidarity with indigenous and non-indigenous militant resistance movements against the death culture?
    3. If not, will you betray them to the agents of the death culture?
    4. Do you agree with Gandhi that the few Jews who saved their lives by fighting back at the Warsaw Ghetto and Sobibor were wrong to have done so?
    5. Do you concede that different tactics are appropriate to different circumstances, such that the “Aryan” Danes could use civil disobedience at least somewhat effectively while the Czechs, Poles, Jews, Gypsies, etc. could not?
    6. Do you agree that it is actively harmful to hold off on acting until we have sufficient numbers for a meaningful non-violent resistance?


  63. I entirely agree with Derrick’s outlook here. Besides negating the efficacy of token day-to-day gestures, this column also points to a pet peeve of mine: the belief that one needs to change oneself, improve oneself, before taking on the world. We’ve not enough leisure for such New Age claptrap.

  64. davidscottlevi (#64) said: “I am frustrated…either you’re not listening or you’re avoiding the questions.”

    Clearly you’re frustrated, and caught in the net of all kinds of negative emotions which deeply color your perspective and your responses. Carl D. Esbjornson was right on about taking Ed Abbey’s advice: don’t take either the world or yourself so seriously. Corollary: if you do, you’ll just recreate the world you’re trying to eliminate.

    No, I won’t answer leading questions which are intended to pin me down into one of your two Manichean categories. As Curt mused: “I’ve always wondered what there (sic) true motives are. And if push ever comes to shove what side will they choose to be on: Those in power or those fighting like hell for the diversity of life.” Or as you ask: “will you betray them to the agents of the death culture?” Each of you seems to believe that there can be only allies or enemies, that if one will not condone violence one must betray those who do.

    You misunderstand the Quaker pacifist tradition (with which I’ve been closely allied for decades). They did not defend the Panthers’ right to violently resist, but only the right of the Panthers to be safe from violence. It takes far more courage to resist without arms, and non-violence differentiates between the actor and the action. Not only would I have similarly supported the Underground Railroad, but I built a way-station for the second Underground Railroad of the 1980’s for Central American refugees fleeing to Canada from Reagan’s terrorism.

    But, more fundamentally, you miss the entire lesson of movement history: that neither violence nor non-violence can make foundational changes in a culture unless they challenge and alter the paradigm which supports it rather than its mere material manifestations or power relationships. Your exclusive focus on the physical manifestations of our global dysfunction is a good place to start but a dangerous place to get stuck.

    Reagan and Bush were projections of the American psyche, just as Hitler was a projection of the German psyche. Our current projection is a “leader” who insists on pretending that the system which has given us so many apparent material rewards is reformable and redeemable. For you to insist that ” I am not one of those parts” only indicates that you have not taken an honest look within. Every one of us Americans, no matter how radical we think we are, is part of the problem. [Speaking of skirting the real questions, I notice you have not acknowledged which of the three enabling roles you continue to play.]

    I admire your sharp (though self-limited) perception, your conviction, your spunk. But you need to look more deeply into the well of grief to see the true source of our dysfunction. It is not “out there”. The only interesting question you’ve asked is: “Do you agree that it is actively harmful to hold off on acting until we have sufficient numbers for a meaningful non-violent resistance?”, though even that begs the question. It assumes that quantity is more important than quality – which is the calculus of our social dysfunction. And it begs the question about what constitutes effective action, with the ungrounded assumption that only hard physical action is “real”.

    For all Jensen’s self-proclaimed spirituality, his prescription for action denies and denigrates spiritual truth, as does yours. All material manifestation is nothing more than dense energy. Adding to the density does not make the world a lighter place. Whatever we fight, we feed. That’s a law of nature. It is only when we’re able to step outside of the narrowly-defined ring that our efforts have any chance of success.

    Those who are mired in the ugly material “reality” cannot see the dance of life that contains it. Transcending the quicksand does not mean leaving the battle – it means confronting it with more powerful weapons – weapons that those who know only swords cannot begin to understand.

  65. Jensen is so right when he says that personal actions must be coupled with other action— citizen action. We can’t just consume differently. We need to act on our birthright as citizens—global citizens—and not “buy into” the new idea that we are “consumers” which implies consumption, which is the problem. He is saying “forget shorter showers” as the end-all answer to the problems we are having, he’s not saying to forget them entirely. Go ahead and be inspired through personal action, sure, and let it lead to action that creates movements like the civil rights movement.

  66. The debate so far is best summarized as such: those who cut down the unwanted species, and those who try to plant seeds.

    Maybe, just maybe, you need both (if you’ve ever tried to “remove” an invasive species, you’ll understand this point). Some will try to take down “the system” with direct action maybe because they can or that’s their disposition, or perhaps their only tool is a knife. While others focus on planting the seeds of an alternative paradigm, because that’s their predisposition or they just have tons of seeds to share… or… maybe that’s all they have.

    While we might not see those seeds sprout right away, their presence is just as important as the absence of the unwanted plant.

    So, I’d encourage everyone to remember that both approaches are equally important, and are two separate tactics of a larger strategy.

    I’m very hesitant to criticize anyone for chopping the unwanted plant down (or trying to), just as I am very hesitant to criticize that idealistic person who plants their one seed. I’d only criticize the cutter or the seed planter if they think their approach in isolation would ever work.

    To those who focus only on cutting down the kudzu, keep up the good work. To those who focus on planting an alternative to kudzu, keep up the good work. Both of your contributions will not go unnoticed or unsung by those who survive this mess we’re in. Take heart that the paradigm that emerges over the next couple hundred years will likely thank you for its existence.

    Its taken us about 10,000 years to get to this point. The transition to something more “sustainable” will not be pretty no matter how much you or I do today. But then again, such has been our existence on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years. Poor, nasty, brutish and short. Why do you expect that not to be the case? Do you expect a painless and protected existence for yourself? Maybe you’re clinging to something that’s sinking anyway. Before we rush to “self” defense, we ought to really explore the “self” we are defending.

    So keep cutting down the kudzu, and keep planting seeds, because we don’t know what we’ll end up with. Some days we cut, some days we dance, some days we plant.

    If the kudzu cutters are only concerned with their own “self defense” etc then their effect will be no larger than that narrow concern. If, alternatively, they are genuinely doing so out of a wellspring of concern for fellow man and its future on this planet, they might just have an effect that outlasts them.

    If the seed planters think that their plant will grow without light and being starved of nutrients, well, I think Jensen hits the nail on the head on this point.

    You’re both right, and, to the few parties debating, get back to kudzu cutting and seed planting, (or dancing) because every minute is a beautiful, divine thing. However you spend it, spend it fully and with the passion of a person who knows their days are numbered.

  67. You can tell when a debate is going to end in stalemate when the average word length gets longer and longer, the references get more obscure and subjects start flying off at a tangent.

    I’m never impressed by attempts to blind people with vocubulary and obscurity: real mastery of a subject is only truly shown when you can explain something to a child, and they can then explain it back to you.


  68. I posted this response to someone who shared Jensen’s article with a local list:

    Isn’t it interesting that throughout all his polemics, Jensen NEVER even touched on the one OVERRIDING factor — the planet-killing weight of the human herd that continues to grow at a clearly unsustainable rate. Sure, we would do less damage — or viewed through the alternative lens that Jensen suggests, do more improvement — if we tempered some of the economic activity that has created contemporary civilization (he left it undefined exactly which activities to reduce or eliminate, exactly what “standard of living” we must all settle for, you might note, which rendered his whole line of argument pretty much just a “bitch” without a real point), but how much less imperiled would the planet be if there were only, say, 2 billion instead of 6.5 billion and counting “consumers” subject to the foibles of the human condition. And make no mistake that it is indeed the human condition that drives all of the ills which Jensen decries. We are products of our evolution, with an innate drive to enhance our position — or viewed at a “higher” level, the position of our genes — to satisfy our needs and ensure our survival. Sure, a part of this is the question of how much is “enough” to ensure survival (say, with “reasonable comfort”?) — Schumacher put his finger right on heart of the issue when he said that the tragedy of Western Man is that he has not been able to figure out the concept of “enough”.

    But still, at its root the problem is that there are just too many people demanding too many resources, that the weight of the human herd is crushing the ecosystem upon which it depends to support it, and at some point that ecosystem will “collapse” from this weight. We see signs of it everywhere we look today, and all the “projections” are that the herd will increase to over 9 billion by mid-century. I cannot believe that will happen, there will be the sort of breakdowns before we approach that level which will catastrophically REDUCE the population — what a friend of mine calls “the Adjustment”, as in the human population will be “adjusted” to the carrying capacity of the planet.

    But the whole subject of if and how we might blunt or avoid that seems to be just too much for anyone to address. Indeed, even if we posit that we can take a full generation to turn the population curve downward — and I doubt we have that much time — who is going to “play God” and say who can reproduce and how many times? And take whatever actions, no matter how draconian, to enforce it? It is indeed a conundrum. Part of the human condition.

    But if it makes you feel righteous to assert that “industrial economy” is the culprit, as if that is something that is divorced from the human condition, that it is a crime being perpetrated on the earth by “others”, a condition that “right thinking” would “cure”, go ahead, carry on with the delusion. But as long as there are people, there will be people trying to “get ahead”, and that individual drive will manifest itself as activities that do not well serve the long-term best interests of the ecology as a whole, of which we humans are only a part. The only way to hold the cumulative impact of all that in check to the point where it does not crush the world ecosystem is to hold in check the number of potential perpetrators of those actions — the human population. And — as always — that is the ONE action that is steadfastly ignored by all “prescriptions” such as that offered by Jensen.

  69. David Venhuizen (#71) claims that it is the “human condition” of self-interest which is the root of all our ills, such that any attempt at “right thinking” is delusional.

    The delusion is that modern humanity represents the highest evolution of our innate nature. Homo Sapiens, like all natural creatures, evolved as a social, cooperative being. In fact, biological evolution on earth is far more characterized by self-less cooperation than by the modern selfish competitive impulse.

    Thus a return to “right thinking” and right living – that is, the way we evolved to be in the world – would render all this talk about resisting the evil empire meaningless and unnecessary.

    But authentic human nature and the spiral of evolution are as misunderstood as is Gandhian non-violence.

    Gandhi was very clear that “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.”

    He understood, as some here do not, that non-violence is only for the courageous and selfless. For the rest, fighting back is preferable to cowardice.

  70. Keith, debates almost always end in stalemates, with both sides thoroughly calcified in their positions, which is why I almost always avoid them in my relationships and only chose to engage with one here for the sake of whomever is reading and may be swayed by the better case.

    Bjorn, I think it should be clear from each of my posts that I fully endorse metaphorical (and literal) seed planting as well as cutting down the noxious invasive. In fact, it should be clear from my postings that I devote my life to the former, while consciously supporting those who chose the latter (who are, as far as I’m concerned, sadly quite hypothetical). It should also be clear that Robert is denying a major, very possibly crucial, mode of resistance.

    And Robert, that brings us to the irony of your accusation that I am the one falling into Manichean duality (if that is, a priori, a bad thing… if believing in the difference between right and wrong makes me a Manichean, then I’m guilty as charged). I am not discounting your preferred tactics. You are refusing to express solidarity with those who use force against the oppressive system (or, if you prefer, against the extremely destructive physical manifestations of the oppressive system which is, in origin, a projection of cultural consciousness).

    You assume far too much to think that because I am arguing that abusive and destructive individuals and institutions must be confronted and stopped that I therefore fail to acknowledge the spiritual or psychic underpinnings of the abusive culture. That is an illogical conclusion, and an inaccurate one. When a woman is being raped (and something like 25% of American women are raped at some point in their lives), I think her first goal, and the first goal of anyone who might help her, must be to stop the rapist, and to do so by all means necessary. Should she go out of her way to kill him? I don’t know… I think many women I know would say yes, but I’ll just say I don’t know. I do know that she should not value his life more than her right to not be raped, and I know that anyone else who might save her should not value the rapist’s rights over hers. Once the rape is over, the process of healing can begin. If the rapist was stopped and not killed, perhaps he can be reformed. I hope he can. I see no need for vengeance. Personally, I deplore violence. That is the point. The wetikos, the abusers, those who hate life and value nothing but control over others are committing horrific violence, such that they are actually, unfathomable though this is, killing the world. I do not see how anything you are suggesting poses any threat to the wetikos, at least not unless there were a hundred million or more Robert Riversongs out there (and the world would be a far better place if there were, no doubt, even if I might find the conversations frustrating). But there aren’t a hundred million of you. Nowhere close. Those who have decolonized their hearts and minds are few indeed, and you continue to dodge the question about how we can strategize and support each other given A) the extreme direness of the situation (which is undeniable and physically real, no?) and B) our small and scattered numbers (also undeniable and physically real).

    One of the core pathologies of civilization is that the physical world is not primary. You are manifesting this pathology. I wish you wouldn’t, because the real world really needs you.

    About my supposed negativity, aside from my frustration with your avoidance of clear and fair questions, your apparent lack of solidarity with those fighting for the community life, I am experiencing a fantastic day. I was loathe to return to this draining discourse, but am doing so because I feel I have committed myself. Right now, it is 68 degrees in coastal Maine, sunny and beautiful for the first time this week, I just took a long barefoot walk through the sopping wet woods with my two dogs, and we romped on the granite boulders by the sea for a while, splashing in the water. I read a little philosophy, thought about a few germs for future poems, stared at the patterns in the water, felt the sun and wind on my chest and face. I watched little crabs doing little crab things, and gave deep thanks to this island, this sea, and this world. On the way home, I befriended a hitchhiker, who, it turns out, knows my girlfriend’s family (not surprising since she’s from this small community). This afternoon I’m going to my girlfriend’s art show. Maybe I’ll eat a lobster for dinner. Life is really, really good (vacation all the more so!). And my experience of my life is profoundly positive. Frustration and some measure of anger are healthy and normal responses to the experience of encountering a smart, sensitive activist who has somehow explained away physical reality. You deem only one question I have asked to be worth answering, which I find patronizing and unbefitting your continued engagement in this discussion, but then you did not even answer it! You seem to be unwilling to commit to anything, least of all the defense of those victimized by the dominant culture. I’m sorry, but in an indigenous or any healthy culture, that would not be considered adult behavior. How can I trust anyone who won’t commit to something as basic as defending the innocent? Who will not even commit to not defending the innocent, but just makes abstract claims about how if we use force in self-defense or mutual-defense we internalize a violent paradigm. No. When a mother grizzly charges a hunter to protect her cubs she does not risk becoming a hunter. When Tecumseh rallied the tribes to take a stand against the conquest of their continent, he did not risk becoming William Henry Harrison. He did not risk becoming a white, slave-owning, objectifying, exploitative “wetiko” (cannibal, in the Powhattan language, used by Jack D. Forbes to categorize the Western pathology).

    Oh, and if you really want to pin me down, I’ve already written on this comments page about my spending habits. In synopsis, I buy almost no new goods (this computer being a glaring exception). My clothes are all second-hand. My guitar is old. I often get things off the street (like my bike… don’t worry, it was being thrown away) and I sometimes dumpster dive. The food I eat is all organic and overwhelmingly local, from small, good farmers (and, in Maine, small fishermen). Any food I don’t buy directly from the farmers or fishermen, along with my few toiletries, come from a worker-owned, non-profit coop. I have not shopped at a corporate store in years (again, except for buying this computer from Mac). So that’s me as a consumer. As far as serving in the military, big shock here, I have not served in the military. As for paying taxes, I refused to earn enough to have to do so until I decided to become a high school teacher (at 26, four years ago). It wrenched my guts to have to pay taxes, but I decided it was worth it to be able to have such a powerful forum for reaching young people. And I do not regret that decision. I am now in the process of moving and happily taking a 40% pay cut. Less money for Uncle Sam. I think, though, that you overestimate the importance of tax receipts. The government obviously takes little heed of how much it takes in in relation to how much it spends. What is this year’s budget deficit? Nearly a trillion dollars, no? For what it’s worth, I’m glad you didn’t contribute $15,000 or whatever, but that’s a pretty small lever. I think we can safely estimate the impact as zero. Again, it would be a different story if millions of people did it. Like the rest of the strategies you endorse, they are ineffectual without mass numbers, and we do not have mass numbers. So, either we wait until we do (and countenance the further evisceration of the planet in the meantime… “sorry critically endangered species and indigenous cultures, but I can neither fight back nor support anyone, including you, who will”) or we develop strategies that can have an immediate impact (or at least support those who do).

    Whew. I want to get back to my nice day, now.


  71. Mostly for David #28…

    The article in Orion on the “Transition Inititive” this issue is a nice contrast to Jensen’s current “Forget Shorter Showers” piece. The most striking contrast is the way Jensen’s piece is once again filled with the energy of anger while Jay Griffiths’ is filled with the energy of compassion, as is the Transition Movement itself filled with the energy of compassion. I think Derrick would pooh-pooh most of the Transition Movement’s focus on tending to the psychological needs of those transitioning. I am not sure he would even care, since most of my reading of his work has led me to believe he only cares about those folk who are “already there, thinking just like him, anti-civ gaga all the way.”

    And why are there so many participating in this discussion, rather than the Transition piece by Griffiths? Simple. Jensen writes with a debate style, Griffiths does not…and we are all addicts of debate/war/conflict. We are all drama queens. It’s not his ideas. I don’t give him any credit for that. He hasn’t said anything new. It’s an old idea, to bring down the big boys by any means necessary. Specifically attacking the Simplicity Movement is not new, either. Usually it’s done with more analysis of class issues, is all. The Simplicity Movement is seen most often by radicals as a movement of the white wealthy middle classes.

    Jay Griffiths piece on Transition reminds me of Margaret Wheatley’s words in Shambhala Sun on “The Place Beyond Fear and Hope,” which I have shared before but seem so appropriate here. She wrote:

    “Many years ago, I took Merton seriously and abandoned all hope of ever saving the world. This was extremely heart-wrenching for me, more difficult than letting go of a love relationship. I felt I was betraying my causes, condemning the world to a terrible end. Some of my colleagues were critical, even frightened by my decision. How could I be so irresponsible? If we give up saving the world, what will happen? Still today, I have many beloved colleagues who refuse to resign as savior. They continue to force their failing spirits and tired bodies back into action one more time, wanting angry vehemence to give them vigor.

    I didn’t give up saving the world to protect my health. I gave it up to discover right action, what I’m supposed to be doing. Beyond hope and fear, freed from success or failure, I’m learning what right action feels like, its clarity and energy. I still get angry, enraged, and frustrated. But I no longer want my activities to be driven by these powerful, destructive emotions. I’ve learned to pause, come back to the present moment, and calm down. I take no actions until I can trust my interior state — until I become present in the moment and clarity emerges undimmed by hope and fear. Then I act, rightly, I hope.”

    She ended the piece with the same beauty embodied by the Transition Movement:

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

    Together. I don’t see Derrick saying that – not really. It’s more like he’s saying, “the like-minded, together – and the rest of you, get screwed.”

    David’s Post #28 embodied the kind of compassion that has always opened me to radical ideas. David’s words were very moving – and very helpful in bringing me back to being willing to hear Jensen – but through David’s caring words. Jensen seems to want to agitate, but is he really interested in anyone who isn’t already sold on him listening to him?

    It seemed that David cared about the readers, cared that we “got” it. There are many authors, like Derrick, who have so much right on stuff to say, but it’s only through others that I care to hear about it. Noam Chomsky is one, for instance. Not because he is angry so much as intellectually overwhelming. I’d rather read David Edwards’ book BURNING ALL ILLUSIONS about Noam’s “Manufacturing Consent,” than read “Manufacturing Consent” itself.

    If Derrick wrote more like David #28, I think he could reach far more people with his wisdom about the human situation. But he won’t. I’d like to feel like he’s writing to me to engage me with a sense of mutuality, rather than what often feels like an attempt to patronize, intimidate, dominate and rage at me for everything wrong about me. Is there anything right about anyone other than indigenous peoples? I’ve been an activist a long time. I’m burned out. I don’t need any more of that crap – and disrespect.

    I’d love to be able to pass along some of Jensen’s work to some of my family and friends but they wouldn’t read it, not when it’s so obviously not written for anyone but his “like-minded” folk, disrespecting those not like-minded as practically idiots. I’d pass along David #28’s words.

    I have been writing and thinking and acting on these things for years, just like Jensen. Even if I wasn’t, I think respecting a diversity of readers would go a long way towards people really listening for the truths in what Derrick is saying.

    And Derrick, hear this:

    If you would ever really attempt to listen to what others are trying to say, rather than cut them down when it’s not in agreement with you, that would be a breath of fresh air. But I am afraid you’ll never respond like David #28 did to those folks on here. You’d have chastised them and cut them down with biting remarks and intolerance and righteousness.

    So, thank you David. Thank you indeed.

  72. One avenue of political change that is very infrequently explored is the developing and implementing of new languages. Consider a language which has only one “word”, a signed gesture of the hands to show a circle — that sign would represent the planet. This would be somewhat like a language and a religion/statement of belief mixed together.

    The purpose of this language would not be to communicate ideas, rather to be easily adopted and understood.

  73. Robert Riversong (#72) missed the point. People are what people are, and always have been. We are not where we are because we devolved into “consumers”, rather that has been our innate nature all along. The “cooperation” of which he speaks has been limited and intermittent. And don’t forget that the people on Easter Island apparently cut down the last tree in their world even though they could clearly see it was the last tree. And yeah, they were “cooperating”.

    No amount of “right thinking” by a few of us is going to change the essense of the human condition. And that is exactly why drastic population reduction will be the only way we will really address the root cause of all the problems we are experiencing, that there are too many humans chasing too few resources, given that many (most?) people will always want all they can get. While the sort of “right thinking” that Robert seems to think will “save” the world is indeed exactly what needs to proliferate throughout the human race in order to put us on a path to population reduction — and reducing the impacts on the ecology of each person there is — recognize that this “right thinking” is not in accord with the human condition, and so is not likely to dominate the human population.

    Sorry if that seems way too negative to bear, but think back over the entire history of civilization, tell me what you see, and then tell me why it is that you think masses of people will suddenly rise to a “higher level of evolution”.

    Because they understand the dire consequences of not doing so? Yeah, maybe after a hellish journey through the tribulations that are likely to result in “the Adjustment”, it will be seared into the human consciousness that the sort of lack of discipline that has led us to this point is the path to hell. But every religious/philosophical tradition already tells us that, and look where we are. We’ve got climate change deny-ers who do so because it will impact negatively on their short-term bottom line. THAT is the human condition.

  74. davidscottlevi,

    Perhaps you’re not as irredeemable as you came across. You’re doing most of what I’ve always advocated, short of active non-cooperation which you dismiss as a numbers racket. Quantity rather than quality. Remember the 100th monkey phenomenon? Individual intention has as powerful an effect on the world as that proverbial butterfly whose delicately flapping wings initiates a typhoon half-way across the globe.

    You chastise “You are refusing to express solidarity with those who use force against the oppressive system.” But you’re not asking for solidarity with a cause (which I’ve always voiced) but acceptance of tactical violence in service to the cause.

    You state “When a woman is being raped, I think her first goal, and the first goal of anyone who might help her, must be to stop the rapist, and to do so by all means necessary.” That’s perfectly consistent with my previous advocacy of legitimate self-defense. Gandhi, who you continue to misunderstand and quote out of context, specifically used rape as the prime example of the legitimacy of a coercive response (did you read my post #72?).

    Both Gandhi and I have always acknowledged the need for violent resistance amongst those who don’t have either the vision or the courage to resist otherwise. The famous American Quaker, John Wolman, said in response to Royal Governor William Penn’s discomfort with wearing the ceremonial sword: “Wear it until thou canst.”

    You claim: “One of the core pathologies of civilization is that the physical world is not primary.” Quite the contrary: perhaps the core pathology of this modern world is Scientific Materialism combined with Ayn Rand’s self-centered Objectivism. Nothing that can’t be quantified matters, and altruism is a dead end. World-denying fundamental religion is the shadow of that paradigm.

    You bemoan: “How can I trust anyone who won’t commit to something as basic as defending the innocent?” But what you mean is defending in the only way you can imagine – with violence. I have stood between a domestic abuser and his female victim – both strangers to me in the street – with nothing but my open arms. It disarmed the violence without harming the violator.

    I have been arrested for blocking the celebration of the first Trident nuclear submarine, and have voluntarily gone without food or water for up to 10 days as an act of non-cooperation with the prison/injustice system. I have stood between women’s clinic patrons and the “pro-life” demonstrators who tried to assault them.

    The problem is you apparently trust no one who does not defend with violence. I trust no one who does, for there is no reason to believe they won’t turn it on me someday.

    You believe that the internalization of our own violence is merely an abstraction and you use the violent resistance of Native Americans as a counter-example. I have interacted with the militant American Indian Movement (AIM) and found them to be anger-filled and violent, having incorporated the very violence which they fight. It’s not an abstraction – it’s a law of nature.

    You speak of the “violence” of the mother bear, but they will almost invariably stop their charge before attacking (I know, I’ve been between mother and cub more than once). The goal of all natural creatures is self-defense without violence.

    But perhaps the root of your inability to understand the power of non-violence is in your belief that “the abusers [are] those who hate life and value nothing but control over others.” If you believe this, then nothing short of execution would be legitimate. But the sad truth is that almost all violent criminals are victims of an unloving family constellation. They do not hate life, they hate themselves because they believe themselves to be unlovable. When I was last in jail, a wise Correctional Officer broke up a fight (by simply bear-hugging the bigger of the two) and then said to me, “you know, what most of these kids really need is a hug.” He was right. And that’s the foundation of non-violence. You can either destroy the “other” with violence, or transform the other with compassion. The latter is far more difficult and challenging. It is not for the meek.

    The former eliminates the perpetrator but not the problem, since you have now embodied their violence. The latter transforms the problem. Consistency of ends and means is so obvious that most people miss it.

  75. David Venhuizen says: “think back over the entire history of civilization, tell me what you see, and then tell me why it is that you think masses of people will suddenly rise to a “higher level of evolution”.

    That’s the reason that you cannot see the truth about the human condition: because you consider the history of “civilization” to be the history of humanity. Read Ishmael. What we think of as civilization is an aberrant offshoot of human evolution.

    I’m not talking about a “higher level of evolution”, but rather a “lower” one – the one that served humanity for hundreds of thousands of years pre-history.

    Broaden your vision and you will understand. Read EarthDance by Elisabet Sahtouris

  76. Robert Riversong, there is no point in “arguing” this, as you have your position, but I would ask how you see the evolutionary history of mankind, prior to the development of the technological prowess that allows us to threaten the planetary ecology, as a “proof” that humankind has become somehow “aberrated” by those developments, that what you style as the degrading effects of civilization are not simply more “evolved” expressions of the innate nature that was there all the time. That idea that we have “fallen” from a state of grace seems to be a religious tenet — perhaps saying “Read Ishmael” is a tipoff to this whole thing being viewed by you through a religious lens. I trust you understand that religion is also a human invention and that more people have been killed and tortured in the name of religion than anything else. Yeah, it’s a “charming” thing to hope that man is innately “good”, that we have simply “fallen” and we just need “redemption” from the dehumanizing effects of “civilization”, and then our nature will radically change. But my advice is, don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

  77. David Venhuizen, that’s Ishmael by Daniel Quinn – nothing religious about it. It was chosen in 1992 from among 2500 entries by the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship as the most important work of visionary fiction.

    “Ishmael is a half ton silverback gorilla. He is a student of ecology, life, freedom, and the human condition. He is also a teacher. He teaches that which all humans need to learn — must learn — if our species, and the rest of life on Earth as we know it, is to survive.”

    He will teach you all you need to know about the evolution of human culture.

  78. May I suggest, instead of Ishmael, that one read anything by Thomas Berry (who recently died), or Brian Swimme. Together they wrote “The Universe Story”. Their work, together or separately, is a wonderful blend of spirit and science, and both look at evolution, not as simply the evolution of the human species, rather the evolution of the Whole – the Earth, the Universe, Consciousness. Humans being a part (a magnificent part according to Berry, and admitedly there are days when I disagree with this) but a part, connected, active participants. As I read the back and forth I don’t see disagreement as much as different aspects, different ways of being and doing things, both of which are relevant and important. And again, perhaps this is because we have had a wonderful, sunny day here in where I live in Maine, a rare event this summer and much needed. The garden is growing, though slowly, there are baby tomatoes forming, and tiny head of broccoli beginning to appear. The bees are back, and the dragonflies and it’s good to be alive.

  79. This Derrick Jensen guy is at least realistic about the aims of the environmental movement. None of the little stuff is really going to make any significant difference. The writings of Nordhaus and Schellenberg are also very realistic on all this, but at least they advocate technological solutions rather than “great leap backwards” stuff and hints at genocide.

    Note THIS sentence:

    “……we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead…..”

    You wait and see what the next hell-on-earth totalitarianism involves, in a generation or two. Don’t think the Gemans in the 1930’s were somehow less civilised and intelligent than we are. Unchecked lies have consequences.

    It is a tragedy in the making, that the underlying assumptions behind all this, that the earth is running out of resources and that humankind is in some way “destroying” the environment, is all LIES, and hardly anybody realises that. Authors of honest commentary on the environment and resources, like Bjorn Lomborg and Patrick Moore and Julian Simon and Indur Goklany and George Reisman, get ignored by our media, partly because sensation sells, and partly because most journos are up to the eyeballs in the anti-capitalist mentality and do not bother to honestly investigate environmental issues.

  80. Again a stellar discussion, and despite a couple of people getting testy once in a while, extremely useful. For if we don’t wrestle with these questions, try them out on one another, communicate, we will just get lost in the new tower of Babel, this wired world.

    I have this to say:
    I appreciate the wisdom shown by some of these posts.

    I am instinctively a believer in non-violence, but because I am also a student of the history of clashing cultures, I recognize the usefulness of a good shot.

    The Danes have earned my deep respect for their accomplishments during the Second World War. The fact that they did manage to smuggle the large majority (exact numbers escape me) of the Jewish people in their country to safety speaks profoundly about how different their approach was than that of the resistance of other places.

    But that the Jews of Warsaw fought was also profound. They managed to inspire resistance movements across Europe, for, “If They could…” there was no longer any excuse. That the resulting resistance managed to quicken the demise of the Nazi regime is undeniable; that this was so was paid in a very steep cost in civilian blood, many of the bullets coming from the side of the resistance in revenge soaked barbarity.

    The loss of humanity in times of conflict is the only truly predictable thing about war. That it turns us into perpetrators of evil and barbarity is what is meant when one warns of the corrupting influence of violence.

    Every generation forgets this. All young, and especially young males, get suckered into the idea of the noble, violent death. And then they are all forced to march again, for one side or the other. And they die. Violence is only seductive to those who haven’t experienced it.

    So yes, there are lines.

    And by the way, all the analysis of the reactions of the “system” presented here seems to me to be accurate. As the title of the new film with Daniel Day Lewis says, “There Will Be Blood.”

    Despite arguments to the contrary, the Transition movement, the foragers, the industrial scavengers, the adapters and those who are planting gardens are the ones I want near to me. I mean, if we are really done. I have no intention of trying to eat my AK-47. I want the people close by who can figure out how to saddle a horse, make shoes for marching out of old tires, forage for new uses for old cars, whatever.

    I do not intend on gathering around me folks who’s first response to being hungry is, “Storm the barricades!” Pirates all, eventually.

    I loved the analogy with the invasive plants. It is true that the human time scale – one life – is pitiably short to effect real change. That is why we must realize that there really is time, be a little humble about our contributions, and work away anyways, both by weeding and planting.

    The most hopeful action that I have been a part of was the restoration of a small creek on the coast of BC, brought up from the culverts to the surface. 30 high school kids planted the banks with wood tree plugs and bundles of branches, and with the help of other beings, created a home for 160 pairs of spawning salmon and inummerable other creatures. It also had the effect of soaking up some of that teenage energy and hormone soaked machismo.

    I would suggest that everyone bend their backs to the work of healing the land, and talk revolution over a beer at the end of a long day. Tends to moderate positions somewhat…

    As for the last post: I have no intention of paying any heed to the specious arguments and 1980’s “Don’t worry, be happy!” line of the Nordhaus’s either. The earth is a system that we pretend we can operate in opposition to, rather than be a part of. This shall be our undoing, no matter when.

    Thanks to all.

  81. Cerulean, thanks, I really appreciate that. And please do feel free to share. In fact, if you want to be in touch, you can look me up at

    For what it’s worth, I know some people are put off by Jensen’s firmness. I’m sorry to hear that you have been put off by him, though I gather that you also have derived a lot from his work, either directly or indirectly, so that is great. Several people who are very close to me are powerfully turned off by his style, while several other close friends/family love his style. Obviously, the message is what’s most important. I value his firmness, though not always when I see it alienating people. I think he is very much in a warrior mindset, and I mean that in the best possible, Jungian archetypal way (if that makes sense). Moreover, he is an elder warrior–not that he’s so old, but rather in the sense that he’s got enough experience on this score that he can generally anticipate someone’s position from the first sentence or so, knows precisely where the holes in the argument lie, and doesn’t beat around the bush but just exposes them. He always seems to hit the nail on the head, but sometimes people get turned off. In a patriarchal society, I think it can be tricky for a man in the resistance to be assertive and firm without risking looking like the dominant paradigm.

    BTW, I think you’re right that Jensen is writing for radicals. He is not really trying to radicalize liberals (leave that to Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, Daniel Quinn, or any number of other authors). He is trying to shift radicals from what he sees as a self-defeating and ineffectual mode of operating to one much more focused on getting results, based entirely on how dire the ecological catastrophe is. He’s probably not likely to win over those who aren’t already secretly dying to be won over, but he’s central to the redefinition of the radical environmentalist movement.

    Anyhow, thank you for your kind words.

    Oh, and I will definitely check out “Transition Initiative.” Probably tomorrow. I’m just too beat right now. Thanks for the heads up!



  82. Robert, perhaps I will find the energy to respond to your latest, but in case I don’t, I do want to say this:

    Thank you all the activist work you have done. You have done vastly more than most, more than I have. Thank you especially for helping the refugees of Reagan’s genocide in Central America. I do not want my criticisms of your analysis to in any way impinge upon my deep respect for your brave and important work.



  83. Living simply. Hmmm. Is it even legal? Are you allowed to graze at will for food? Or does the land “belong” to someone? Or is it “public” land? If public, can you take what you need to eat or does a game warden stop you? Can you keep a goat for milk and chickens for eggs? You need water — can you divert what you need from a local river or lake? Can you drill a well on land you supposedly own? Can you compost your black water and recycle/reuse your grey water, or are you required to “hook up” or put in a septic tank? As for buying used stuff, doesn’t that enble the seller of the used item to buy a new one instead of making do with the one they have? Is that really an improvement over just buying a new one yourself? But I digress.

    The issue I wrestle with is how, in my lifetime (I’m 55) we’ve come to the point that you cannot get your own food and water and deal responsibly with your own waste ( not to mention providing shelter of your choice) without jumping thru major hoops and still not be able to do it your simple sustainable way.

    If you do not think this is the case, go get a goat or some chickens tomorrow. Or, if animals scare you, put an outhouse in your yard tomorrow. Or, scariest of all, tell your guests at your next dinner party that their salad was grown with humanure. I can guarantee if you do any of these things, your life will not be boring for some weeks to come.

    I’m pretty sure I read about these ideas in Derrick’s writings. However, recently I’ve had opportunity to try each of these things in an area so remote all you can see of civilization is one cell phone tower off in the distance and planes flying overhead. Yet code enforcement showed up on our doorstep within a week of our arrival casting his eyes about while listing the things you could and could not do. Uneffingbelievable!

  84. I agree with Derrick Jensen’s point that we as individuals are not causing the crisis, and that our individual changes in our personal lives cannot possibly solve the crisis. But political systems and industrial systems are made up of us indivuduals, they are not staffed by evil aliens or robots. If I believe strongly that turning off my lights at home and composting my garbage at home is important, why would I shed those beliefs when I walk into my office building at 8am, where I work as part of an industry that is contributing in a major way to the crisis? I don’t turn off that part of my heart and brain that tells me that change needs to be made. I carry over those beliefs when I walk into meeting rooms where people like me discuss how we can reduce energy consumption, waste, and emmissions that our industry is responsible for. So we talk about creating hybrids, alternative power sources, remanufacturing instead of manufacturing. We surely have a long way to go, but working as individuals collectively, I believe we can make an impact.

  85. This is an excellent article. Thank you so much for posting it. I will be sharing it with my network!

    About being one person doing a few things: Remember that “it” really DOES “start at home.” If people–average people, everyday people, not like you or me–start thinking about what they do in their own day to day lives, they may eventually expand that and make the leap to their block, their neighborhood, their town, their state, and so on. When you are someone who is unaware, you start small, and there is always hope that you will learn and build upon what you have learned. For that reason, I do not discount the little things that each of us does, but I use those things as a gateway to talk to and attempt to educate people about the bigger problems and the bigger solutions.

  86. I totally agree with this article of Derrick’s.

    Just as, for example, the countless indigenous communities have had (and some still do) to fight off the civilized invaders in order to protect their landbases and people and lifeways, these same forces of destruction have to be fought off today perhaps more than ever.

    And I think that in order to do that, “We need it all”, to steel one of Derrick’s lines: healing of ourselves and of our landbases, education, direct action, building sane and viable cultures and communities for ourselves, and so on.

  87. I think Jensen is right to say that different avenues of action need to be explored…

    I have heard about the film “food incorporated” for a bit now, and was glad to read Orion’s “shrimp aquaculture” article as well… Today I found a clip from the film discussing how a bill to allow contaminated meat plants to shut down continues to not pass.
    The bill is based on the death of a young boy from meat contamination.

    That is a very publically visible issue, contaminated meat. The issue of “the human method of living as a whole” and its large scale stagnation is not a very publically visible issue. Attempts to advance the issue of new lifestyles for humans are going to be more effective if they are unexpected.

    He worries that the current push to make personal changes will limit the number of more immediate and unexpected attempts to diversify the cultural arena*.

    * Please ask me if you aren’t sure what i am getting at here. I am not referring to “Earth liberation” types of things, because those are largely going to happen whether there are blooms of large-scale “personal responsibility” reminders in media or not.

  88. Robert Riversong’s suggestion (#80) seems to be that we “just” need to follow the “right advice”. Well you can read anything you want, but if it doesn’t comport with reality …

    Reality is that we are animals, we are the products of our evolution as animals, and while we have evolved an intellect that allows us to control our “animal instincts”, it is not at all clear that as a species, or as societies created by that species, we will apply that intellect consistently and reliably enough to recognize that our cumulative actions, driven largely by those “animal instincts”, have to be policed so as to blunt the actions that will destroy those societies, and maybe even that species. When it comes to “big things” like not nuking the planet, it appears we do have the good sense to step back from the brink (so far). But when it comes to what are each of us individually or the whole group of us collectively willing to give up for the long-term good of the whole, well the jury is still out on that.

    But it does not look good, don’t you agree? Riversong seems to write that off to the corrupting influence of civilization, and seems to think that if we “just” go back to that animal nature, we would be magically transformed into an ecologically benign force. I don’t see that as comporting with reality. Not unless we also collectively reject the technological abilities we have developed AND cut our population to a level that can be supported by a pre-technological society.

    Jensen is wrong that our individual actions don’t really count. Any and all change starts within each of us. As others have noted, the collective action of the whole is the sum of the individual actions of each of us. But Jensen is right that individual actions of only those that do appear at this point to be “right thinking” have not yet been effective in blunting the gathering problems that may lead to “the Adjustment”. Still, he is wrong to lay that all off to “others”, to the bad people who run economies, corporations, governments and the like. Because really those actions are motivated by what those taking them perceive, in large part, are what will benefit them. So, for example, if we collectively would say “NO!” to GMO foods, they would go away, because they wouldn’t sell. Same with coal-derived electricity, or any other activity that one deems detrimental to the long-term survival of this society and this species. If we all reject it, it will disappear from the marketplace, of both goods and ideas.

    But, stuck in the human condition, so very few of us seem ready to make those choices. And many who do make what are deemed “right” choices feel “used”, because too few are making those “right” choices, thus our own “sacrifices” are not producing the systemic changes that are needed. Which I expect is where “Forget Shorter Showers” comes from, at its root.

  89. To David Venhuizen, in reference to your assertion that the market will respond to a popular demand for non-destructiveness, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on my argument why that will not happen, which I wrote out in my first post on this discussion (#28), particularly in my response to Joel and Chris and, further down, in my longer response to Geektronica. Among the key ideas are that our economy is mostly a command economy, by no means a free market one, and that the uniquely civilized behavior of objectification and exploitation (which underlies the definition of other beings as “resources,” “commodities,” “weeds,” “pests,” and so on) makes the abuse and destruction of others both moral and profitable (by the standards of the culture). In my response to Geektronica, I also lay out my sense of the profound differences between the nature of humans as animals and the qualities of civilization as a cultural form, which also seems germane to the ideas you’ve raised.



  90. Re the question/issue posed by davidscottlevi (#92), yes there are many, uh, perversions of the market that create a disconnection between the cumulative individual desires of the buyers and actions of the sellers. Your example of military consumption is a good case in point. But in the larger picture, the existence of a consumer of that nature is also the result of the cumulative choices that all of we individuals have made. If we collectively decide that putting so much of our productive capacity into “protecting” us is indeed working counter to that aim in the long term, then the nature and extent of that activity “should” change.

    I am not suggesting that injecting “right thinking” through the marketplace is the end-all or do-all, but it definitely plays a role. How much of a role it may actually play will indeed depend to a great degree on how much and how extensively the perversions of the connection between the supply desired by the buyers and the products offered by the sellers become. In a totalitarian society, for example, the will of the citizens regarding expenditures by the public sector at least are meaningless. So then we get into the very nature of a “right thinking” society.

    As to commentary on the specifics of what you’ve raised, while I find this discussion very interesting, I need to stop writing here now and go attend to my profession, which is “saving” our water resources management system. It’s a choice I am making to go attend to that rather than continue to pontificate here on the merit of all these ideas, ideals, concepts and principles. Hopefully, that choice is “right thinking” and will have an impact on the overall problems in that sphere. Just one very small example that it is indeed up to each of us to make a difference, and it is only the cumulative impact of such decisions that just might “save” this civilization. Or at least make “the Adjustment” a softer landing than it might otherwise be. I have children. I owe it to them, ya know? :-)

  91. My thanks to Orion for putting Jensen’s article online. I found it provocative (as others obviously have) and am actually surprised at the volume of favorable comments. I admire and respect Jensen’s work, and I think he asks some of the hard questions that those of us who tend to get complacent (with our recycling and high-mileage cars and short showers) often forget about. At my age (60ish) my activist days are behind me; but I remember those days with fondness and a measure of pride because of connections with smart, good, people who really cared about the future and were willing to sacrifice (although they didn’t think of it that way) higher pay and “better lifestyles” to accomplish good things. That work goes on, but in many ways it’s harder to do now precisely because folks think they’re doing their bit if they put out the blue trash can instead of the green one.

    I don’t always agree with everything Jensen writes, but Endgame is an eye-opener and I’m glad I read it.

  92. Owlfarmer, your activist days are *so* not behind you; I know of people in their 80s who are still railing against the system, and often because of their age they can get away with a lot more. That’s a big reason I started up Green Seniors, just to show that age doesn’t matter.

    Here’s one example from the website; I think you might like it…

    Take that anger and put it to good use.


  93. Just one more thing davidscottlevi (#92), the gist of one of your arguments in #28 is that the consuming public is dumb, cannot figure out what is good for them, so they passively buy and consume milk from cows saturated with Posilac (I know all about this, my brother is an “industrial” dairy farmer). Yes, people are dumb, and not very good at figuring out what is good for them and for the herd as a whole, long term. That is the essence of the human condition. I rest my case.

  94. I don’t quite understand why Derrick Jensens’ words don’t resonate better with posters here. If we get bluntly down to sustainablility, what part of capitalism complies? Honestly, what part of global trade could factor in all those irksome externalities, and come out ahead? What part of technology-as-it-exists (not including pretend fixes and fabrications that will never exist) is sustainable? Beyond peak oil, what about the finite amount of iridium for solar PV, and other finite, mined and manufacture-processed substances?

    The problem is that our civilization is based on a lie, that Nature is here for our exploitation, and costs can be passed along to those about whom we’ve decided not to care. Animals driven to extinction, our great-grandchildren, dying rivers, depleted aquifers, dead zones in the ocean full of plastic refuse that no one thought to consider, and nuclear waste, are all kept out of sight and thought. But closing one’s eyes does not change thereality of what stands before them. The corollary lie is that we will save ourselves with Something New! somehow, simply because of our superior brainpower.

    Only civilization’s incredibly arrogant framing allows human frailty and empire-sized abuses to be assessed ‘superior.’

    Civilization is not sustainable. The only known sustainable level of humanity was tribal–was hunter-gather tribal. I’m not saying it was perfect, but it is the only situation that we know of where humans could sustain themselves without damage to the rest of Nature.

    How long will civilized humans cling to pet technologies, resisting the knowledge that tribal societies, hunter-gatherers, worked less, had more leisure, were healthier with longer and stronger bones and better dentition (before agriculture took hold), and were happier than people in isolating and numbing western culture, especially? Cancer is at epidemic levels, as our rights are eroded, even as we cling to our precious ‘freedoms.’ But we aren’t free, we’re sick and lonely and controlled within civilization. No, it’s clearly not about shorter showers.

  95. True, mommaterra.

    Yet if are to be clever technologists, then we ought to be clever about how we use our technologies. Whether or not we have the humility and good sense to be more cooperative and to recognize this is another thing.

    It might not be solely about shorter showers, but how do you suggest we start?

    I do believe that we are facing a huge draw down of world population levels. We will probably do this with warfare, but famine and disease shall surely play their parts.

    However, I would rather be close to people who are trying to figure out how to survive, rather than those who would simply throw up their hands and say, “Too late!”

    I suspect that that is not you, or anyone on this list, or Jensen.

    But what are people to do when faced with the information that we are, well, screwed? It is definitely in our interest to confront the true nature of the challenge, but then we owe it to everyone involved to face it, and then act.

  96. Oh give me a break! Civilization is THE problem? We “need” to return to a tribal hunter-gatherer society? There is nothing “out there” that is the problem. The problem IS the human condition. With the level of technological prowess that we’ve developed, we could now be living in an absolute paradise of a world — IF we had stopped population growth at, say, somewhere around 2 billion. IF we had understood that our energy and water systems had to be sustainable. IF we had understood that extractive industries are not sustainable. IF we had understood that the ecosystem does not have an unlimited capacity to absorb whatever sort of crude we choose to create.

    And on and on. But we didn’t. We pursued “progress” without a thought for the full impact of all that on the planetary ecology, the base on which all of our lives depend. The problem is not something we have created. The problem is US.

    We are in a race between the human condition being the undoing of this civilization, or our “better angels” winning out and putting into place the societal norms that will move us away from the brink of being the planet-killer.

    The climate change thing is a good case in point. Progress at the G8, they’ve agreed on an aspirational direction. Hope-killing reality at the G8, they could not come up with even a kernal of a plan for how to get there. Which side of humankind will win out — the side that understands it is imperative to act for the common, long-term good, or the side that says, on no I can’t stand the pain of it, I must pretend that it doesn’t really NEED to be done?

    The problem is US. Not the things we’ve created. Like civilization.

  97. Keith, I appreciate the links–but my activist days are behind me for other reasons than age. I teach full-time in a proprietary college which allows me little time for “extracurricular” activities other than my students, my blogs, and cardiac rehab. I will probably never be able to retire, but I’m not at all angry (well, perhaps a bit, living as I do in politically recalcitrant north Texas), but I am tired. I do my small things enthusiastically, and I preach to the choir (my students are generally quite worried about the world they’re inheriting), but I’m off the picket line and the petition-gathering squad for good.

  98. David, which ‘us?’ Are indigenous people the problem? Or are ‘they’ not ‘us,’ in which case I’m quite confused, since I am ‘them,’ too. No, humans were sustainable before civilization. Blasting all humans is unfair; it’s only the civilized that are the issue.

    But in the end, so long as we see it as a people issue, we’re lost. Because we are not only not the *most important* (zenith) beings on the planet, we’re also not the *only* beings here. One among the animals, one of Nature, is the only way for a person to see herself.

    KD Brown, I’m starting by working to help my small burg function and feel as a community. Neighborhood gardens, local foods, farmers’ markets, community groups, and forums for people to speak out are in the works here, and I am a part of them all. When it comes crashing down, if we don’t see each other as important, if we are isolated even on our own blocks, then violence will ensue. But if we have food growing, and the knowledge to preserve it, we have a shot at getting through, at getting back to what’s sustainable, what’s real.

    And, of course, I talk a lot about Jensen’s books like the two volumes of Endgame. This is an amazing time to be alive, to be working toward a sustainable human existence (working backward toward hunter-gatherer viability). 200 species a day are being driven to extinction, probably more, so I don’t see the change as a negative (although it may certainly mean personal pain). There’s too much being lost, and too much potential to not be moved to help create that change.

  99. To me civilization is one, only one culture. One that is based on the ideology that a person, or group is superior to all else, and thus are entitled to dispose of all those below them in their hierarchal system as they please. In my view, this is a psychopathology.

    So this insanivilization is perfectly suited for psychopaths. It is designed for them to thrive in it, as they are the designers and the rulers of it. The more greedy you are the more you are rewarded in this culture. And some of those below you even admire you for your “achievements” and so on and so on. You know the story.

    Egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies were certainly not perfect, but in my opinion, they were truly humane, and people knew how to relate with each other, human and other-than-human. Plus, psychopaths couldn’t thrive and do much damage, as they couldn’t get into a position of authority and power over hundreds, thousands and millions as is the case in this psychopathic culture.

    I like Derrick’s definition of the dismantlement of civilization:

    “At its core, bringing down civilization entails depriving the rich of their ability to steal from the poor, and depriving the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet.”

    I don’t think that using only direct action will suffice, but applying all types of actions, such as educating people, healing and rehumanizing, or if you prefer, de-domesticating ourselves, and restoring and rewilding our landbases, applying efficient direct action, and so on should do the job.

    Like him and many others, I think we need a culture of resistance.

  100. mommaterra (#101), I trust you will agree that any resolution of the situation in which planetary society now finds itself must start with what IS at present. To do otherwise, to simply posit that we can “just” do a restart and magically organize society in some other way, is just pontificating for the sake of pontificating, right? So, please tell me how you are going to organize 6.5 billion people — especially those packed into cities, who come from many tribes — into a tribal hunter-gatherer society. Oh, we might indeed organize into tribal hunter-gatherer societies AFTER “the Adjustment”, but isn’t the point of “fixing” things to AVOID “the Adjustment”? Or are you one of those who just can’t wait for it all to go down and “cleanse” the world of that evil thing called “civilization”? Uh, on the other side, people will still be people. What makes you think only the “benign” will survive and only the “enlightened” will be in charge of putting things back together? Aren’t you just engaging in wishful thinking to posit that if we “just” went back to a tribal hunter-gatherer society, everything would be great?

    You are, of course, free to think and do as you will (subject to your ability to muster the wherewithall to do it, of course), but perhaps it would be good to turn your efforts toward fixing the world that IS rather than dreaming of one that never was. I’m sure you recall the famous line about life for our ancestors — it was short, hard and brutish. You may yearn for that, but please understand that most of the 6.5 billion of your fellow humans do not. They just want the world that IS to “work”.

  101. This is mostly in response to the conversation between mommaterra and David Venhuizen–and I agree largely with mommaterra’s recognition that civilization (i.e. cultures based on urban living, from “civis,” the Latin word for “city”) is the problem. I don’t think that either she or Derrick Jensen are implying that we can simply start afresh, pitching out the old and building something new on a tabula rasa. Any solutions have to be grounded in what we’re already dealing with. But there’s nothing wrong with looking back at what has been done right in the past (i.e. what hasn’t disintegrated under its own complexity as most “civilizations” have), and about the only models we have are indigenous hunter-gatherer societies.

    One of the most egregious disservices technological civilization has done its inhabitants is to foster dependence on highly complex, resource-guzzling technologies. Tools that simply extend our bodies (like plows and scythes) don’t require constant “upgrading.” Hell, modern “civilized” human beings can’t even imagine living without a light bulb. So imagining other possibilities (the stuff of speculative fiction) isn’t automatically Luddism. Personally, I think Ned Ludd got a bad rap, but if we are to imagine a better, more sustainable future, we have to look for alternatives. We have to learn from past mistakes, and we have to be able to think of other possibilities than the way we live now. All manner of natural or human-caused disasters could occur, but that doesn’t mean that the only response is to tumble back into some kind of pre-civilized dark age, having forgotten everything we ever knew.

    Low-impact, small-scale cultures have a lot to teach us about how to live without all the gadgets. But instead of allowing them to prosper at their own pace, we think it our duty to drag them into the techno-future, causing to want stuff they don’t need. Progress is the god and advertising is the high priest.

    We’re not necessarily romanticizing other, simpler ways of living if we study them carefully in an effort to understand what they did right and how we might find more sustainable ways of surviving the present. We do have to live in the now, but we don’t have to stop imagining something better (whatever form that “better” is to take).

  102. David Venhuizen #103,
    I think that people like me, and mommaterra, and many others ‘are’ starting with what IS at present. It seems to me that we just go about it in a very different way than you.

    People such as me for example, think that ‘organizing’ 6.5, (or perhaps even 6.7 billion) people is precisely one of the problems. Personally, any individual or group who’d want to organize me and my family, and my band, and my tribe, can go to hell. Litterally.

    In my view, this is stupid, infantilizing, and perfect for wannabe abusers, power seekers, well, ‘psychopaths’.

    People do what the hell they want to do, unless they’re forced to. I don’t want to force people. BUT I ‘will’ defend to the death my life and the life of those I love.

    If by ‘adjustment’ you mean massive human die offs, well, in my view, it ‘is’ inevitable. I doubt that even with the best of intentions and actions we’ll have time. All seems to indicate that civilization is destroying the very basis of its existence too fast to avoid a population collapse. I hope I’m wrong, because things might get pretty ugly. AND I ‘also’ expect beautiful things to happen.

    I think that “hard and brutish” describe civilization very well, and its history is proof. And as for “short”, do you mean shorter people because of the stupid civilized diet? Ha! sorry, couldn’t help that one! But seriously, I’m not so sure that life for the un-civilized, or sane people if you prefer, was really shorter. But even then, I’ll take even just a month, uhm, maybe two, over life in this insane civilization.

    Oh, and we’re ‘already’ doing what needs to be done, we aren’t just talking or writing as you seem to believe. It’s just not publicized. And I doubt that you’ll see this on mainstream media, other than to bash, and ridicule it. Anyone who feels like it, just does it. They find people they have affinities with, they learn what they need to, and so on.

  103. “Personally, any individual or group who’d want to organize me and my family, and my band, and my tribe, can go to hell. Litterally. … I ‘will’ defend to the death my life and the life of those I love.”

    Ready to go to war to serve your own interests. Hopelessly stuck in the human condition. I rest my case.

  104. So now it gets personal. The human condition asserts itself. As always.

    Figure it out. There is no perfect state of grace. We will either muddle through without suffering a crash, or we will crash and the survivors will be left to pick up the pieces and see what sort of civilization they can build. It’s a choice that we — all of us, stuck here together in the human condition — will make. The sum of our individual choices will be our collective choice. That’s all I’m saying — that Jensen is “wrong” in that regard. That our individual choices matter. Just like the individual choice of #107 to indulge the human condition and “go negative” dimished him/her. And lowered the collective level of this discussion.

  105. Great article but inflammatory. All problems, but no solutions.We tire of this kid of writing.Best to read the ending first to see if its the same old stuff, If we see solutions,then we can read the whole article.

  106. Unfortunately, Raymond Tovo’s attitude about reading points to part of the problem. If we just look for the sound bite, or give in to increasingly short attention spans (bequeathed to us, in part, by advertising), we miss the thoughtfulness that goes into the discussion–the essaying into a question, the seeing and thinking about possible solutions.

    There aren’t any quick fixes. We know that. Which is why Jensen has written two books and innumerable articles about all this. Those of us whose work is primarily writing about what needs to be done (and offering solutions when they appear possible), are ill served by speed-reading and shortcuts. Of course it’s “tiring” to read about what’s wrong; but unless we talk it through, nothing will ever happen–unless its the thoughtless knee-jerk responses that keep showing up in the popular press, or the shallow “ten things you can do to save the earth” approaches that keep showing up in most magazines to show how “green” they are.

  107. OF COURSE NO ONE would think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler. No sane or borderline intelligent person would ever consider that. Why? Because it is SO dumb.

    However, individuals teaching their children to not discriminate based on race or creed definitely has an impact.

    Of course the big picture is a big problem and of course political action is necessary but, in a democracy, political actions are driven by individuals. Individual actions are spurred by individual choices and morals and lifestyles. Political movements are often started in the home, where seemingly inconsequential decisions and convictions lead to personal responsibility and action. That starts with knowledge. The hope is that an individual’s knowledge and personal conviction will lead to a shared moral responsibility that even big industry can’t refuse.

    For example:
    Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers?
    Probably not, but it may force some people to consider the following:
    What the hell is an aquifer?

    My main problem with this article is that I wholeheartedly DISagree! What better way to shake and dissemble the industrial world then to live simply and thereby, removing the value of “products.” Many people who live simply ALSO rehabilitate streams, get rid of noxious invasives, remove dams and are disrupting a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system. The two are not mutually exclusive but they are often mutually dependent.

    Finally, what good is voting if we can’t change the individual’s vote?

    Oh, and Tsarist Russia was changed by a group of individuals who decided to live simply, to go back to simpler times and try to learn from the “peasants.” Serghei Volonsky is an individual’s name that I will not readily forget.

  108. Misko (#102), let’s just lighten up a little and include sociopaths in

    general. Now we’re talking about maybe 6% of the human population.

    How do we stop them/ breed them out? Maybe we never will. They’re

    more likely to breed us out. But I agree, yes they are the source of the

    problem, and their mode of operation is in the corporate, political and

    religious media.
    We’ll just have to engage them mano a mano. No fun and very

    disheartening day to day. But as an old friend of mine, Zorba the Greek,

    said, “Life is trouble; only death is not. To be alive is to go out and look

    for trouble”.
    I hope we can all learn to focus clearly on the “enemy”, and one day, any

    one, or many of us, will be able to strike like a Samurai who focuses his

    life on that one moment.
    Or else we can just keep bashing away, moment by moment…
    Works for me.
    And let’s save water at the same time. Mars is ugly.
    For the others, no I don’t buy that we’re talking about industry, or civilization – two things we wouldn’t want to lose. My off-the-cuff definition of civilization would be the part of human evolution that sprung out of genetic development into a life of its own. It’s where everything we “know” resides. We need more than hunter-gatherer culture at this point. Let’s try to hold onto those things while we deal with the problems at hand (socio-political reorganization on a grand scale).

  109. I don’t think any of those of us who fundamentally agree with Jensen–or even Jensen himself, for that matter–are suggesting that we not do anything! I still take short showers,recycle everything I can, grow some of my own food, organically, buy fair-trade coffee, drive like a little old lady in order to save fuel, and try to foster sustainability in general.

    But it’s not enough, when the movers and shakers (and polluters and wasters) are primarily the big corporations and agribusinesses of this country and others. The value of conversations like these (the polite ones, that is) is that they stir up the juices a bit and get people to thinking. I, for one, am grateful to Jensen for pointing a few things out in the article that I wasn’t aware of. Isn’t this why we read publications like this in the first place? To help determine how to make choices that do have impact (large or small)?

  110. David:

    It is either unconscionable or ignorant for you to suggest that because Misko would make the statement about “defending to the death his life and loved ones,” that this statement suggests something about human nature or the human condition.

    You must be simple or simply not thinking to imply that Misko’s ‘nature’, along with all the rest of us, has not been enculturated to see and respond to the world, the environment, and others in specifically civilized ways. And let us not forget that a cornerstone of civilized behavior is war and conflict; standing armies only are found with the development of early city-states. Coupled with our extreme focus on the rights of the individual in our ‘civilized democracy’ it is no surprise that Misko spoke in such a manner. It is consistent with our civilized socialization and training over millienia, particularly in the last two centuries in America — defend our personal rights, even unto the death of the apparent enemy.

    So, maybe you should reflect a bit more circumspectly on generalizing about human nature or the human condition. It really it terribly American, unthinking and defensive on your part to do otherwise.

    In solidarity,

    sandy krolick

  111. Industry certainly does play an enormous role in the current ecological crisis’. We should look to industrial solutions at the manufacturing stage. When it comes to water shortage, there are a number of directions to go: which materials we buy – can actually (in aggregate) affect which materials are carried by the retailer. For instance, cotton uses more water than almost any crop. So maybe choosing a different fabric would help?

    Alternatively, within the clothing industry (full disclosure – where I work) exist several technology companies who are focused on solving environmental problems related to the industry. One company I read about in the Economist was called Xeros was recently written about in the Economist. See the article here: (

    Their washers actually use tiny beads to clean fabric with no water at all. The there’s AirDye:
    Their eco-friendly dye process is called AirDye uses no water in the dyeing process.

  112. I also appreciate the angle. Yet it seems to me that our personal acts define what human beings are, now and in the future.

    So thank you for making the point that the common working class citizen contribution is not enough to fix things. Yet it doesn’t seem to me to remove the personal change at all. For example, the meat industry thing, consumption drives it.

    It seems to me that as long as consumers buy it, someone is going to sell it. So changing want still seems a practical approach.

    Thank you,

  113. Excellent points, though I thought you dismiss the impact of personal action. They can be the sparks that grow into a progressive movement large enough to be noticed and lead to corporate and government action.

    I think you missed one other major point. Even if your government was able to achieve a state of significant change and curb industry, you have many other countries that are killing the planet. At the rate China is adding coal-burning plants, they alone will output as much CO2 as the entire world today within a couple of decades. How do you battle that. Treaties and global agreements always rely on a buy-in and honor system that is absent in governments.

  114. In response to ijostl’s #115 comment “It seems to me that as long as consumers buy it, someone is going to sell it. So changing want still seems a practical approach.”

    Given how we have behaved since World War II I’d say it’s more like if producers produce it we will buy it. In other words, production drives consumption.

  115. Production + propaganda drive consumption. We are virtually groomed to have internal deficits that can be ‘made up for’ with purchases, with coerced addictions or repetitive behaviors that mimic addictions, or with self- and other-loathing.

    Civilization works diligently to disempower, to psychologically maim the individual. I suspect this is why we have such entrenched racism, misogyny, and even the rather hostile debate on meat eating, most recently arising from Jensen’s compatriot author, Lierre Keith, and her book, ‘The Vegetarian Myth.’ It also seems to underpin my longest-term activism, against fat oppression.

  116. Having just returned to the US (Minnesota) after five plus years in Guatemala, I find that little has changed. There are no more empty shops in the mall than before I left here, the super markets are busy, and the rush hour traffic is as bad as ever. If one ignored the print and electronic media “news sources,” life would appear unchanged. Should The Earth continue its evolutionary cleansing cycle, then so be it. Should humanity persue its self-destruction, better yet for the planet.
    As for me, I am on this planet called The Earth, but not of this place. Pasa lo que pasa.

  117. I read the piece and tried to read all 119 comments (and counting). But I don’t want to spend the time.

    Because it struck me that we are wasting time arguing with each other in an either/or fashion. One point of view versus another.

    What’s wrong with the word AND?

    Take shorter showers. AND campaign.

  118. Raises interesting points, and it is true that the Dem/GOP booboisie wants you to stink rather than vote libertarian. But it is also true that ALL major changes have ALWAYS come from the platforms of small parties. So if you miss racial eugenics and seek coercive environmental purity, vote Green. For change laced with freedom, you might try voting libertarian.

  119. (Sorry for bad english – it is not my native language.)

    Destroying the civilization means that
    1) 90% of world population must die.
    2) There will be no modern medicine anymore. Most people will die in their forties.
    3) Most children will die in infancy.
    4) Women will be degraded to the role of a breeding machine. They will born as many children as they can and start as early as possible.
    5) Human culture will be destroyed. Literacy will be lost within several generation at most.
    6) There is no such thing as freethinking in survavalist communities.

    Do you understand this? Do you really support murdering billions of people?

  120. Grift:

    There are too many humans, otherwise we wouldn’t be in a mass extinction. The policy of feeding the poor so that they produce more poor to starve may make you feel better, but it creates more suffering. The population of the 7 countries with the most starving people will grow to 1.1 BILLION. So the G8 gives them more food?

    The main reason people live longer is hygiene, not medecine. Look it up.

    Human culture existed long before capitalism. It will continue. Learn some history!

    China is a successful totalitarian capitalist state. So was Nazi Germany. Fascism was defined as corporatism by Mussolini. Guess what…Freedom does NOT emerge from capitalism any more than it does from Feudalism, or Slavery. Why? Capitalism, Feudalism and Slavery are about OWNING things or people, not about freedom. Don’t mix apples and oranges.

    But hey, you clearly believe humans can live independent of their ecosystem. They’re the only animal that can do this? Because??? Destroying our own nest (the planet earth) is extremely stupid and will lead to our extinction.

  121. I just think that if there was a way to turn people’s heads so it would probably have been more successful. I don’t believe that more political or whatever activism will change much. Those who want to listen will listen and those who don’t will ignore it.

    I believe that individuals doing their part counts and I will continue doing mine, but I’m not about to go and try to change the minds of those who don’t want to hear it.

  122. In *most* (though not all) indigenous cultures, women were more likely to be full participants than we are in civilized society. So the ‘breeding machine’ threat doesn’t make sense.

    There’s an interesting book that suggests that written language made us linear, more apt to worship masculinty (I’m misstating, but that’s sort of it). It’s called “The Goddess and the Alphabet” I think. So we destroy the written word — that would be sad, but if the book is anywhere near accurate, then storytelling around the hearth or campfire is a better alternative, anyway.

    Yes, in dire circumstances people tend to resort to hierarchy and other bad behavior. It seems to ease over time, and where women can take the lead, it should be shorter (conditioning toward cooperation, not genetics, in my view).

    If it takes massive human die-off to get humans to a sustainable level, then it is what it is. The planet’s survival matters far more than mine. Without a planet, no being survives.

  123. @123

    Author of article and some of commenters want to destroy not capitalism but the technological civilization itself. Technological civilization predates capitalism and feudalism. It existed during all written history since at least Sumer.

    Human culture is a byproduct of the technological civilisation. Storytelling, writing, remembering history are technologies, they were invented. Tribes of hunters-gatherers don’t have means to save this technologies. They will be illiterate within several generations.

    Freedoms emerge from technology advances. Hunter-gatherer don’t have freedom to select career. Hunter-gatherer don’t have freedom to travel. Hunter-gatherer don’t have freedom to chose his community. Hunter-gatherer don’t have freedom to think.

  124. If hunter-gatherers didn’t have freedom to think, it’s doubtful that we’d have gotten past that stage. They were the ones who invented the foundations of technological civilization, via story-telling, small-tool production, and (eventually) the gardening that led to settled agriculture.

    If we can’t choose better ways of living, we are indeed doomed. But the fact that we now have the historical consciousness that can help us understand what’s gone wrong in the past is exactly what might save us in the future. Choose better ways to live: lower impact on the earth, less consumptive technologies, less invasive/destructive ways of living, wiser energy use, medicine that doesn’t just enable the rich to survive and the poor to perish. Women did have some choices before men decided that they “planted the seed” and the woman only nourished it into being. Before that, it’s much more likely that they had fewer children because they spaced them via breast-feeding and menstrual taboos.

    The scenario Grift envisions is not the only possible way things might turn out; we are not necessarily doomed to forget what we know, as long as we choose to learn from our own histories–whether they’re oral or written. “Civilization” is much too complex an idea to deify.

    There are cultures alive and well on this planet that do not subscribe wholesale to the consumptive technologies we in the West embrace. The Amish are one, but even if they exist only at the indulgence of surrounding techno-capitalism, they show us that we don’t have to have all the latest gadgets in order to survive.

    Doomsday scenarios seem to indicate more of a lack of imagination than an inevitable consequence of rejecting the worship of technology for its own sake.

  125. @mommaterra

    If healthy woman has sexual life without birth control then she is going to have one pregnancy per year at least. When she’s 30 she probably gave birth 15-20 times. Does it seem normal to you?

    Why don’t you live such life already? Why wait? You can easily find some pretty isolated place in taiga and live there as hunter-gatherer right now. Without technologies, without human culture, without medicine and birth control. It would be nice experiment which could show us the survival rate and social dynamics of such neo-tribes. Why don’t you do it?

  126. @owlfarmer

    You can choose to learn from our histories but your children can choose to forget it because our histories aren’t relevant to their survival.

    How do you imagine transition between modern society and hunter-gatherer tribes? How do you plan to kill abundant billions of people? How do you plan select who should to die? How do you plan to get rid of corpses? How do you plan to destroy cities? How do you plan to destroy knowledge?

  127. Grift doesn’t know much about indigenous cultures or he would know that they do practice “birth control” although it probably isn’t called that.

  128. @Karen Hess

    Do you understand that your tribes will consist of remnants of modern society not of idillic indigenous people? Can you imagine small group of modern men, women and children which tries to survive without food, shelter and medicine?

  129. Jensen’s opening comparisons are insulting. Imagine if every daily action you made was scrutinized for not working to end the the uncomfortably contemporary and prevalent trafficking of women. This simplistically hyperbolic logic implies that recycling, biking, and eating locally are not merely unimportant, but detrimental to any hope of saving our now dying world. Jensen’s criticism that those who think their personal changes will affect massive social change are prevented from engaging in Jensen’s *true* political revolution is trite. This is nothing more than repetitive posturing that the ‘more radical than though’ crowd regularly uses to denounce people while rhetorically masking it as call to action for their “real” (yet always ambiguous) capital ‘C’ Change.

    Note how, in the middle of his diatribe, he switches to the first person to clarify how he never confuses his personal lifestyle choices with a ‘powerful political act.’ Kudos to Mr. Jenson for being so aware, but I must ask who are these others that he is writing about and talking to? In my experience, most reasonable people (and most Orion readers) realize that minor lifestyle changes can be at most personally meaningful, while being rather insignificant globally. Most of them even recognize that the stakes are too high and the time is too short for Dr. Bronner’s soap to clean up our mess. But, much like Jensen, people struggle to know how to tackle the juggernaut that is ravenous consumption-capitalism. Being that “all the world is at stake” with no hope for an easy solution, Jensen should have spent most of the Orion’s real estate detailing his grand plan, rather than denouncing the innocuous habitudes of transcendental do-gooders.

  130. Grift,

    Only insane civilized rulers helped by some of their civilized followers have killed massive numbers of people like you mention.

    NO ONE that I collaborate with, and NO ONE that I know of who thinks and feels like I do neither suggests, nor is determined, nor plans such monstrousity that you seem intent on projecting onto us. Again, only your seemingly beloved culture of civilization has ever done, and still does such horrific actions.

    Sane, egalitarian and sustainable communities were and are composed of friendly, collaborative, compassionate, and deep and free thinking people who did and still do have many efficient ways of perpetuating culture.

    To my knowledge, some individuals, and perhaps even small groups ‘are’
    in the bush, in isolated places. And, some traditional peoples (very few remaining though, thanks to civilization) ‘are’ continuing their ancient sane and sustainable culture.

    One of the reasons some people, such as me for instance, do not go and live in isolated places (though I did) in the way we want to is because no matter where we’ll go, civilization, in one form or another will sooner or later come and destroy our landbases and communities, steal our children, women, men, and rape children, women, men and our landbases. Surely you know that this is what civilization has ‘always’ done with the natural world and indigenous and/or sane cultures and communities.

    And, ‘again’, we are ‘not’ waiting, we’re ALREADY building our friendships, our social organizations, our ways of providing food, shelter, and so on and so on. But we’ve mentioned this already in other posts. And, why don’t you educate yourself on indigenous cultures before stating insulting declarations.

  131. grift, I am addressing your comment that all women do not know how to prevent pregnancy and letting you know that many do (yes even modern women). Also nursing prevents pregnancy for some time, even years, so even with no birth control at all, children are spaced out over more than a year apart. I assume that in a destroyed civilization everyone will be nursing.

  132. @Karen Hess

    Problem is not that women don’t know how to prevent pregnancy. Even if they do, they are not going to have a chance to practice any form of birth control in your scenario. Individual freedom is a modern concept. It does not work without modern society. Certainly not in a survivalist tribe.

    Your fantasy is too peaceful to be realistic. Living without technological civilization will be painful, violent, sad and mindless.

  133. Grift, I’m afraid your view of birthrates in pre-technological cultures ignores many of the cultural and biological conditions of hunting and gathering economies–such as low body fat that postpones menarch, two-year minimum breastfeeding, taboos against intercourse with nursing mothers, spiritual beliefs, and the fact that most of the gathering is done by women (limiting both their sex lives and the number of times per year they actually ovulate).

    I’m not sure how you got from my noting that there are things we can learn from societies like that to imagining that I think we should go out and start picking berries for a living, and kill off billions of people.

    Your children might be free to forget history, but mine aren’t–and I’d venture to say that most of the parents responding to this article are making sure that their offspring remain cognizant of the past while they’re planning for their future.

    Read the posts more carefully, Grift. Because nobody is suggesting that we abandon technology and go live in huts. I’m certainly not romanticizing indigenous cultures; but I am suggesting that we reign in our romance with technology, at least to the point that we question the necessity of adopting every Next Big Thing that comes down the pike.

    The point, I think, of Jensen’s article is that we have to pressure the people who are really responsible for large-scale degradation of natural resources, not just think we can save the world with small gestures. We have models for how people have lived sustainably in the past (and some that are doing so now), and though I’m not suggesting that it’s even possible to “return” to a state we haven’t been in for millennia, we can look to pre-industrial civilizations for ways of practicing agriculture and using resources that don’t involve using them up willy nilly in the name of “progress.”

  134. @Grift

    It is not your poor use of English that is disturbing; rather, it is your wanton ignorance and self righteousness that is wholly unacceptable, nay, pathetic!!

    While I do not necessarily subscribe to the wholesale deconstruction of civilization because I believe we have gone too far down this path to wholly recover; at least I understand how the direction of human social-political development in civilization has led to a destruction of a more primal core of humanity within us.

    I will assume from your confession about not knowing English well that you were not born in America, and therefore that you came from a nation/countr/culture whose technology and cultural history is not as ‘developed’ as Amerika. So now here you are, in the land of the free and the home of the brave; welcome, Grift. I am pleased you have found your paradise here. Many of us from North America have had the opportunity to grow up here and experience the ‘benefits’ of this apex of civilization since birth. So please don’t lecture us on the meaning of freedom, and what it means to have the ‘freedom’ to choose what house to buy, what woman to marry, what work to do. This concept of’freedom’ you praise is defined by the very culture we are calling in to question.

    There are so many presuppositions in your lectures here that you have never once called into question; perhaps because they were the foundation stones of your dreams for life in Amerika. Well, you need to get beyond that stage, beyond your unconscious assumptions, and try to understand what it is that is bothering all of us.

    While I also recognize the limits of literacy in recovering our core, I would suggest you do some reading to better assist you in your education.

  135. Birth control was already handled here well, so I’ll move on:

    I don’t jump into h-g life because no one can in the US right now. The waterways are terribly polluted and the game that once existed is not there. I don’t need to go to Taiga; this is my landbase, this is what needs care.

    That’s the landbase side of the issue. The community-building side Misko answered quite nicely!

  136. Oh, Grift, freedoms are not a ‘civilized’ concept. This is yet another lie we are told to keep us clinging to the power structure that enslaves us all. If you don’t read the Endgame volumes, then at least start with Ishmael. Or read Lierre Keith:
    early non-native Americans had to invent laws to keep their own citizenry from running off to become adopted Indians, because the tribal life was far less brutish, violent, and mindless.

    I am, personally, unenamored of technology. Huts, or even earth-bermed or underground homes would be fine. Technology has gotten too dangerous, even as it’s allowed to propagandize itself to our coerced insecurities. Technology is proceeding unfettered with things the consequences of which we haven’t a clue, and yet we bandwagon obediently.

    Do we dare think beyond acceptance of technology? Can we actually question the validity of agriculture as a sustainable endeavor?

    I’m willing to say that I’d prefer a world without nanotechnology, without GMOs and gene splicing or the destruction of ancient strains of seeds and their amazing diversity, and I’m hardly devoid of human-centricity (anthropcentricity). Agriculture left humans with shorter bones and bad teeth, and susceptible to an array of new diseases, the aptly-named diseases of civilization. I’m willing to say that civilization *is* the issue, whereas indigenous tribal populations have lived sustainably for tens of thousands of years. And I’m willing to work tirelessly to get us backward into that sort of sustainability, where I have capabilities to do so.

    We can build community, we can begin to grow our own foods using indigenous knowledge of our area, and include city chickens or other necessary meat, and we can learn how to coexist with other life on our landbase(s). Without agriculture as it exists, the waterways will eventually return to life, and a further downshift will be possible, I suspect.

    Beyond personal solutions, each of these are hardly a full step farther. But we can dismantle civilization, each of us in whatever paths we have courage enough to follow (there are plenty of legal things, without venturing into the actionable, although they tend to bleed time and money from their participants), as we proceed with the personal and the communal solutions. The first two only work if they accompany the third.

  137. grift, I don’t know what you are talking about when you are talking about “my scenario”. I am merely talking about birth control. YOU are talking about all these scenarios.

  138. Wes, I was going to suggest that Grift and others had been reading too much Cormac McCarthy. I grew up on Nevil Shute and Pat Frank (among many others), so McCarthy’s book doesn’t scare me much.

    Instead, try William Morris (News From Nowhere) or Ursula LeGuin (Always Coming Home) instead.

    Again, however, I don’t think any of us are arguing for a “tribal future”–just better economic models that tell us something different.

  139. Great article. A real modern day Thomas Paine on common sense water issues. I am always shocked at how little people know of industry in the US and how it works. The majority of people I meet who protest and complain about water use are limited to discussing personal use ; showers, lawns, etc. If you have any knowledge if industry it becomes quickly apparent that water usage there so far outweighs your personal use that your marching and advocating a simple lifestyle is a waste of your personal time and off the mark. I have concluded that these people, albeit nice people, are solely interested in being part of a group of like thinkers. Being against consumerism has become a brand in and of itself and is an integral part of consumerism itself. Try disagreeing with one of these true believers and you will quickly find it is a union of sorts wherein they love mother earth more than you do so they must be a better person than you are; right?

  140. Wes (#142), I may look for “The Road,” but at first glance it looks like yet another tale where women have neatly been gotten out of the way so that real people (men) can act out their brand of reality. And I prefer mine either unbranded or at least more egalitarian.

    And what if women survived, too? Women with those pesky conditioned responses like levelness and care for others …. It’s not like we haven’t absorbed linear thought, hierarchy and dichotomy, but we still have a tradition of care, and of the level circle.

    No, it seems that humans are most sustainable in tribal groups, and within the bounds of Nature. Not in civilization where, in order to survive, things must be brought in, taken as needed, from the outside. And not as lone individuals, or perhaps paired and alone together against all others. I would think we could figure that out, post-apocalypse, and I’m not one inclined to give my species too much credit.

    Who knows, really? The main thing is that the Earth survive. All else is inconsequential, since without our planet, we don’t exist at all, life ceases to exist at all. And what right do humans have, does civilization have, to cause the extinction of those 200+ species a day? What right to kill the rivers and the oceans? What right to rename the forests where other beings make their homes as ‘resources’ for civ’s use and consideration only?

  141. @Robert Wales PhD

    I think your point is well taken Robert. The point you are reinforcing is one that was made by Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, where he argues that the ‘system’ works in such a way as to take any ‘countercultural’ activity and incorporate it into the system itself, thereby taking away its voice, and turning it into a system reinforcing asset. Take rap music, for example; now it is mainstream, both in America and Russia!!

  142. Sandy, there is another concept called social clustering about which a lot has been written. It covers the mentalities that range from gated communities to ghettos and is normally placed in psychological terms. Living in Berkeley I see so much of this behavior it is astounding and, yet, of course, I agree with much of what is said albeit misguided, Seems like corporate strategy is not only to blame the individual but to have the individual blame themselves. Sometimes it all sounds so very christian in a way; the sin is ours? Odd that we as a collective should think in such a way.

  143. @Robert

    And because we have been so sinful and wasteful, we must recycle all of our waste (one new industry), use electric hybrids (another new industry); use solar energy (another new industry), etc. And the system itself remains intact, and in fact builds upon itself through this institution of guilt.

    I am more than appreciative of the neo-primitivist sentiment; and I do believe that while ‘much has been gained’, perhaps something more fundamental has been lost. But, I fear that recovering it is impossible on a national-political level.

  144. @sandy krolick

    I don’t live in America.

  145. After following the recent exchanges about a tribal future I want to throw this out there. Tribalism does not equal hunting and gathering. A tribe is simply a social organization that humans have survived in for atleast a couple hundred thousand years. Tribalism is a gift of natural selection that has proven to be an evolutionary stable strategy for humans. In other words, it works well. Hunting and gathering is a lifestyle, or a way to make a living. You don’t have to live in a tribe to be a hunter gatherer nor do you have to be a hunter gatherer to live in tribe.

  146. The drums beat as the war paint is smeared once again here. Jensen sets up the target and so many are willing to take aim and shoot along with him. Others here shoot back at Jensen and his pack. War is on… over a simple personal act, an act attacked for its irrelevancy. The person who would take a shorter shower is berated before even being understood…

    People defend the shower, people shoot down the shower…Is there ever any way to check war at the door?

    I bet the next target will be those who people call “artists” – those who would create paper mache puppet as agents of change? Those who write poetry? What else will be attacked? Is that the method of change? Attack?

    The pain of knowing I am filling the landfills one tiny speck, the pain of wasting water goes unacknowledged here. Does anyone think that some of us feel this and this is why we do what we do? What are your strategies to live with awareness and not be devastated by the distress over the massive slaughter of the planet? Attacking other’s strategies?

    There are those of us who are “senstive” – do you not want us around? Are you going to call us names, bully us, beat us up, kill us for being “wimps?” I don’t want to be a part of your revolution, if I can’t be sensitive…and then who will dance for you and write your poems and paint for you, you smug tyrants, no better than the rest…?

    A short shower or a recycled can becomes an act of reverance reclaimed, after being taught to defile this miraculous land and place. It is not an act of ignorance or a substitute for a larger scope of action. I, and others like me, know that ending “civilization” or whatever one may call the system of slaughter, the culture of takers, etc. is occuring… and are eager to do all we can to participate in the ongoing marvelous collapse alongside all creation – and co-create an impossibly exquisite vision of what might be born out of that at the same time. What will be born out of collapse?

    During that short shower, there is a pause, a moment of sort of a prayer for the earth, a prayer for the self, an attempt at connecting with a source of strength, a source of renewal, regeneration, healing, or whatever one my need to keep going. It’s intentional. It’s being aware. It’s simple. It’s not moral. It’s just trying to not let the takers take your soul, make you forget what it’s like to love and give and gush with beauty. It’s being beauty. It’s being the earth, being in solidarity with all earth.

    What is born from the ashes of collapse will be born from the habits we engage now, won’t they? How are we to co-create something new and beautiful out of truth and love if we don’t feed ourselves from the well of reverence for the earth – and the well of mirth, truth and love and many wells we want to drink from in the future? No humor, no dance, no song, no poetry, no play? This goes beyond being the change you want to see. It keeps some of us alive.

    Jensen’s piece has made me want to commit to playing hopscotch with my friends, maybe hide-and-seek, maybe play with crayons on a big piece of mural paper together…hopscotch for the earth. Yeah. Cause I want to remember that all is not anger. Without it, I will forget what I am working to create, to forge from the slaughter. And those are the “like-minded” folks I want to be with during collapse – the ones who want to play, the ones who want to be kind, the ones who do not attack me for trying to figure out how to rid myself of my internalized “civilized” defilement, but who will be by my side with juicy ideas of collapsing and recreating together.

    Like a Zapatista friend once told me, take all the space you can get to stay sane – whatever works, that’s what the earth needs. Laugh if it keeps you going. Take a short shower. Be playful. Get your joy on. Do your thing, but do it. And don’t let others low expectations of what’s in the change toolbox coopt you. Don’t let people talk to you like you are stupid for being creative about what might be a miracle for change. And play…play as if the earth depended on it. If anyone tells you that to play while the whole earth is being slaughered is anything but short of a miracle, offer them a game of hopscotch. I am not letting folks stuck in anger limit my “means necessary.” And while you play and notice that it is attracting folks away from their wars and their slaughtering, invite them into your new funhouse where joy is about taken down the old Ken and Barbie Camper Set and replacing it with the Judy Bari and Brian Swimme Revolutionary Universe Puppet Theater.

    “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” – Martin Luther King

  147. Second that.

    I want to recognize all allies, allies in our struggle to be allies of the Earth. Enough sniping, already, and yes, try to allow others to live as they believe they must. Seek allies, stepping around those who are not with you, without firing a shot… Or so I am thinking now.

    Further to my rant earlier, there is an excellent book that confronts the immorality of conflict, contrasts modern and traditional cultures, and absolutely refuses to draw hard, black and white lines around the question of right action in conflict. It is “Three Day Road” by Joseph Boyden, a masterpiece.


  148. @Grift

    Well, now! That explains everything!! You only wish you could!! Feel free to tell us about yourself so we can understand where you are coming from!

  149. @krolick

    I never said I had figured much out about how to rid myself of what I have internalized from U.S. Empire – and the defilement of my being that’s occurred thanks to the oppressive brainwashing/domestication process of “civilization.” “Civilization” is repellent to me. It hurts. I battle it inside myself constantly. It creeps in wherever I go…or write. I snap at the world with it. It confuses all matters. Everything I love is tangled in its webs, especially my own psyche. It’s what draws me back to Jensen despite my strong aversion to his “style” that I am constantly depicting as alienating in its anger – especially to many folks I would like to read his words.

    He’s dedicated to lookin at “civilization’s” insidiousness. I feel we all need to be doing that. But its not easy to be crawling around examining the its gore all the time.

    As for me, all I can ask is that you attempt to hear the truth in what I am saying – and not focus so much on how I am saying it. I could ask myself to do the same with Jensen. Maybe that’s what your “touche” is all about?

    I do try to listen to the truth of what he’s saying. I do. I feel like I am battling with myself when I battle him. I want to find my way to compassion on this – and with myself. It seems so important to accepting a part of myself – my own angry and ranting self…my pit-bull-trained-to-fight self.

    Perhaps when I was on a discussion list of his in the past and he was completely intolerant of my expression of anger, I felt he was being hypocritical. Maybe I have a beef with him and need to check myself. I don’t know.

    Who wouldn’t have issues with anger if they were paying attention? Like me, I think he has a profoundly felt need for his words to reach and inspire action and love for the earth. He deeply deeply cares. I would say he is in deep pain about what is happening to the earth. I would say that he is attempting to be a wounded healer, much like us all. I appreciate any of us for trying. I need to appreciate him and more of the folks discussing on here for that. Instead I get angry cause I want to hear something new, something to heal me, something that will send me soaring to new heights of inspired action and agency.

    “Touche” certainly doesn’t offer much in the way of understanding your response to what I wrote – of course except that you think I am being what I myself am berating…which of course I am, though I am conflicted about it, as you can see.

    Robert Aitken wrote a book,
    The Dragon Who Never Sleeps – interesting verses:

    “When people show anger and malice
    I vow with all beings
    to listen for the truth in the message,
    ignoring the way it is said.”

    I got a ways to go on that, obviously. Still battling…

    Here’s another Aitken Verse that:

    “When I’m worried about my attachments
    I vow with all beings
    to remember interdependence:
    if I weren’t attached, I’d be dead.”

    And that leads me to another:

    “When I stroll around in the city
    I vow with all beings
    to notice how lichen and grasses
    never give up in despair.”

    I get defensive around Derrick cause I live in and love a city – I have serious attachment issues to my place – the epitome of horror of all horrors according to Derrick. Where does he want us all to do – go buy up land outside the cities, destroying more landbases?

    I am attracted to the Transition Movement ’cause it’s attempting to provide some far-reaching ideas about transforming cities (and other places human’s live.) But I still go back to Derrick cause he’s usually holding zero tolerance on stuff. In some ways, that appeals to me, too. Maybe I am more attached than Derrick to my family and city and humans. I am too attached to it all. I have a hard time letting go of anything. It’s why I look for inclusive visions while I am attracted to ones like Derricks. It’s why the slaughter feels so very very personal – and drives a rage in me similar to Derrick’s.

    But many of us on the far edges of the ecology movements are so burned out and in need of renewal. We are all trying so hard, trying our best. And we hear very little encouragement.

    It’s not Derrick’s fault I don’t have my own personal support network at the moment cheering me own. I need to stop expecting him to be that for those of us who are with him on this stuff. It just really hurts when he’s knocking those of us who are really kindred spirits – that’s what it feels like. Here in my city, the only thing that really got people to pay attention were “Voluntary Simplicity” discussion courses…and “Deep Ecology” discussion courses. They weren’t ready to leap to Endgame. But many were after the courses.

    I didn’t grow up with much positive said about my “activism.” Still don’t hear much in that way – after years. It’d be a real pleasure to hear something good about what we are doing for a change. All I ever hear is that there are more environmental groups now than ever – and more problems than ever before. More on this in another message. He’s not the only one trying or who cares.

    And inflaming rage is so tiring. It will always be with me – and us. But we can rescue ourselves, can’t we? Can we heal from it’s ravages? I am not sure. Most often I feel like a pit bull trained with the severe brutality of witnessing one horror after another of Empire to fight. I am tired of fighting. Have you ever seen a pit bull fight? I have. And the policy here is to kill pit bulls that are brought in to the Humane Society. Most never get the special attention they need to heal from the trauma of what they have been through. The metaphor only works so far but it feels right. I want to heal from this. I think we all need healing from it. I don’t think we need to keep getting in the ring.

    Maybe I need a long shower.

  150. In response to some of the misogynistic remarks going on here, I would like to add the timeless words of Dolores LaChapelle.

    Here are quotes from Dolores LaChapelle from WILD EARTH journal. The article it’s from is called “Wild Human, Wild Earth” and was published in the
    Spring of 1991. The abstract of the article is this:

    “Indigenous wild human cultures throughout the world shared three aspects of life: rituals, population control, and respect for the non-human. These three
    factors mutually reinforced one another, and kept…tribes in balance with their wild environment. “Rituals” here refers not to the shallow rituals practiced today by some “woo-woo” and new age groups, but to the ongoing living of our connections with the non-human. This paper will show that humans are still very much products of their environment, and that these three aspects of life are essential to uncovering the wild human inside all of us and restoring the wild

    Quotes from the article:

    “There’s a saying that you can’t dig a new hole by going deeper in the old hole. During the past 20 years there has been more beautiful writing, more research
    and more planning on matters of the environment than all the years before put together. The results: every aspect of the environment, including wildlife, is worse off than before. It’s time to recognize we can’t stop the destruction of the environment, the destruction of wild life, by these “rational” means. Gregory Bateson, one of the seminal thinkers of this century, said it well: “The rational part of the mind alone is necessarily pathogenic.” That means deadly –
    not only to human life but to all life. He continued: “Its virulence springs specifically from the circumstances that life depends upon interlocking circuits
    of contingency.” The rational purposive brain “can see only such short arcs of such circuits as human purpose may direct.”

    She goes on in her article:

    “The nature of the rational hemisphere [the “left brain”] is to take things apart to see how they work. But it cannot put anything together again. That’s
    what the other hemisphere and the older brains do. The emotions we humans value most – altruism and empathy – do not come from the neo-cortex but from the deeper, the so-called animal or limbic, level of the brain. We inherited these
    emotions from our animal ancestors, and when we operate within this brain we share thinking with the animals. This is done by means of dreams, rituals,
    dancing, drumming – anything that prevents the rational hemisphere from running the show. So the way out of the present disaster is not by more research or planning but by using the methods our wild human ancestors used for millenia.”

    and she continues:

    “The three aspects of life shared by indigenous wild human culture – ritual, population control, and respect for the non-human – continually intertwined and
    influenced on another. Practicing ritual is living our connections with the non-human…..”


    “The most important ritual is what Gary Snyder calls ‘the sacramental
    energy-exchange, evolutionary mutual-sharing aspect of life…which takes place
    by that sharing of energies, passing it back and forth, which is done by literally eating each other.’ Here is an example of energy sharing on the personal level: our body, eaten by the worms, feeds the trees, which, in turn, feeds other generations of humans.”


    “Since human beings evolved in wild nature, our essential human nature was formed in what we now call wilderness. Civilization did not begin until after
    the onset of agriculture 10,000 years ago. No one has explained the effects of this “civilization” on the human body as well as Dr. A.T.W. Simeons,who set up
    hospitals in India and founded the famous Salvatore Mundi hospital in Rome. He wrote MAN’S PRESUMPTUOUS BRAIN to explain what he had learned from his life’s
    work dealing with the roots of disease. He wrote: “Civilization is an artifact and not a biological phenomenon. The ONLY physiological result it has had in
    man is the emergence of psychosomatic disorders. It has produced no new organs and no new functions….He is the only living creature that has brought its
    natural evolution to an end; man has ceased to adjust his body to his environment; he now adjusts his environment to his body.”

    “Pathology comes from being denied …basic needs by…civilization….We feel
    best…on the edge of trees, where we can look out over a broad place but are relatively protected. Paul Shepard…explains:

    “An affinity for shade, trees, the nebulous glimmering of the forest interior, the tracery of branches against homogenous surfaces, climbing, the dizzy childlike joy of looking down from a height, looking through windows and into
    holes, hiding, the mystery of the obscure, are all parts of the woodsy past. Restfulness to the eyes and temperment, remain part of the forest’s contribution
    to the human personality.”

    “….Its the conflict between the tendency to hibernate and the impossibility of doing so which makes autumn and winter a disastrous time for millions of us
    around the world.”

    “Total attention to every aspect of life is what made the wild human – total attention but never ‘total control’….The attention was to find out what nature needed from them in order for nature to continue its ‘give-away’ to them.”

    I hope anyone still participating in this discussion can see the relevance of LaChapelle’s thinking to what seems this male-dominated discussion.

  151. Well,they are not mutually exclusive and one is not a substitute for the other. The more we can provide for ourselves the better off we will be. He does raise the obvious truth which is that the basic corporate structure that we now live under is an end game in itself and that as long as we allow it to conduct business as usual, that usual business will destroy not just us and itself but the entire planet. If consumer ‘demand’ is really the driver, how does deliberate, corporately advertised, federally endorsed, manipulation of consumer ‘expectation’ fit into the equation? Is everyone entitled to eat meat three times a day? Is everyone entitled to drive an electric car that is powered by blowing the tops off of mountains? Is everyone entitled to throw 200sf of Saran Wrap into a landfill every month or week? Shorter or not, is everyone entitled to a hot shower that is warmed by the brutal rapes, deaths and terrorizing of thousands or hundreds of thousands in the Niger Delta by Chevron and Shell? Well, if you watch any amount of corporately controlled, advertisement driven media, you might think it is ‘The American Way Of Life’ which we have the right to DEFEND.

    If we really want to achieve change in addition to all the ‘positive thinking’ we need to seriously commit to a revolution which will may be violent, bloody and ugly. The small comfort lies in the realization that what is happening now is already mega violent, bloody and ugly – it’s just not covered much by the corporate media, easily avoided by most and carried out by ‘patriotic’ young men and women in uniform committing international war crimes on orders from people who will never be held accountable, namely the highest ranks of our Corpratocracy. I mean how can the robotic bombing of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan compete with the sudden death of Michael Jackson? Or, for that matter, with the stresses and strains families are dealing with in this economic catastrophe caused by the same you know who’s?

    This system is not going to get fixed – it needs to be replaced. No one, it seems, wants to go about the very dangerous business of doing that. For example, we know this email is getting scanned by more eyes than just the people on this list serve. So, not only am I a code red domestic threat with a history of animal rights activism, liberally tossing around words like ‘organic’, biodynamic, social justice, wondering out loud why Market Place, American Public Radio, is sponsored by Monsanto…, I, along with Derrick Jensen and others, are suggesting that the only real answer to the dangers we face as a global community is to unplug from the big fat lie and bring down the corporate power structure and the governments and media outlets they control, including our own. Bill Moyers did a great piece on this this week: Or, you know, we could just go off and homestead with a rifle and a garden and hope for the best.

    There is also a very beautiful movie; Let it load completely before watching. It’s gotten almost 3.5M views between the 2 main sites – a rather remarkable piece.

  152. Awesome article Derrick. It is such a breath of fresh air to get out of the guilt-driven carbon footprint myopia that is actually more “convenient” for people, creating an erasure of genuine political involvement.

    I am a teacher for a huge multi-national corporation. We conserve paper because my boss has reframed the argument from reality,the pressure from headquarters to save money, to the amount of trees teachers kill in our school. We are told to be reducing our carbon footprint because it is useful for the future of our world. The degree of manipulation involved is astounding. Our final product is knowledge.Period. There is often no paper in our office. This is when teachers get further humped and buy their own. This seems to be accepted. Astonishing. I refuse to buy my own and am perfectly okay with three trees being cut down each year for my students to learn about social justice/history/why they should give a shit.

  153. As consumers we have incredible power. If enough people change their behaviors in the same way, major change can result. What about taking electricity holidays once a month for example.
    Green outs.

  154. Creating a new language (a very simple one) that would be spoken by persons in any country whose belief system is in opposition to standing by the industries.

    really, the planet itself is an industry that doesn’t specifically tailor its goods to one species.

  155. I would like to support only the first, oldest, most omnipotent company/industry.

    “Where will you get your “goods” if you leave the human world?” Well, there are a lot of products offered on the surface of the planet , some of which are fairly unknown.

  156. I couldn’t agree more that love, beauty, art… are required food groups for the proper health and maintenance of body and soul. “Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.” I also do not see how civil disobedience precludes a creative, playful life. These are extremely polarizing assumptions. Such strong reactions are normal given the times we are and will be living through, comparables of scale and totality are hard to find and there is much about our future that is unknown. It is naturally uncomfortable to not have some sense of control, although even during ‘normal’ times that is not a reliable assertion. The strongest argument for individuals to consciously reduce our use and abuse of natural resources is simply the reality that there are fewer and fewer of them available and we are going to have figure out practical methods of living on less anyway. This comes naturally with a little and then growing awareness, I find. The challenge during difficult times is to keep your attention fixed on the solution at least as much as the problem, if possible, more so.

    I also agree that it can be quite exhausting and alienating. My solution was to pull back from most other issues and focus like a laser beam on farms and food. Farms are beautiful and regenerative and good food is delicious, fun and basic to our health and survival. Yes, small farms and organic are under all out attack by this administration, agribiz and big pharma. Obama’s appointments have been nothing shy of Fellini-esque. So, that is somewhat draining but there is a balance in that most of the work is extremely life affirming. That’s a my adaptation.

    In the Berkshires there exists the tremendous opportunity for the community to work together, true co-operation between peoples is a revolutionary act in and of itself. There is a world wide effort to prepare for the coming times through Transition Towns, the growing Permaculture movement and the concept of ‘controlled descent’. If we truly understand where we are in this cycle we can make preparations for the future. There are weary, Gnostic angels among us doing very good work. I believe DJ is one of those, Mary Beth Merritt another. I don’t find DJ so angry as much as frustrated, heartbroken, painfully insightful, articulate and courageous. There is a long history of killing the messenger. If you believe, as I do, that we consciously choose to incarnate into the family of origin and the times we will be living in as an act of love, then we have an opportunity to participate in whatever right actions the times require, to show up for what’s here now. That, of course, has many different manifestations and yes, there will be dancing and poetry at the revolution.

    Holding the Corpratocracy accountable, stripping them of their personhood and political power – may never happen. Although, I believe, that if you are called to, we have no choice but to speak truth power, stand up for ourselves, all god’s creatures and our only planet. The probability of a corporate epiphany strikes me as slim to none. RJ Reynolds is ‘working’ with the FDA to regulate themselves. The insurance companies are quite happy with the current ‘compromised’ health care bill. Big oil, coal and nuclear are absolutely delighted with the ‘groundbreaking’ energy bill. AIPAC is writing US position papers on the genocide in Gaza that US Senators and Congresspeople are signing off on (OOPS! Forgot to take it off the AIPAC letterhead before circulating!) If they are so happy, you know we just got composted. The task is certainly daunting and would require very heavy lifting and massive, sustained civil disobedience but the alternative does not offer much of a choice and, yes, that IS inconvenient. Ask the Polar Bears or the Kung what they think of the false dichotomy of taking shorter showers versus stopping the rapacious Corpratocracy from continuing to plunder the Commons. We need both.

    Happy Bastille Day!
    (Ironic – don’t you think?)
    And, oh, by the way, I’m a woman. So was Rosa Parks, whose deliberate act of civil disobedience sparked the massive, sometimes violent riots that we now view as noble and heroic and refer to as the civil rights struggle.

  157. I mostly agree with Jensen, but would add that at this point in time, personal change is necessary as well as a broader political and social change. So, we can work on both levels: the personal and the social. The personal by teaching our children, family and community to live simply, with our own example, and socially by getting involved in broader long-term organizing strategies, be it, voting, fair trade, anti-militarism, etc. One important aspect is to be always conscious of our personal and political options and actions.

  158. I conserve water because I love water and want to use it well. I do not drive because I do not want to participate in that economy, I use very little electricity, etc…I am an artist, I sacrifice so-called comforts for a clear conscience in the face of deprived Others, so I may paint comfortably

  159. Kathleen, would you not paint comfortably using water?

  160. @Gianni

    I appreciate every word. Some poetic prose that’s been healing my burnout lately:

    “..we find ourselves in a moment of this crucial activity of deepening our love for one another, our compassion for one another, not just for humans, but…all of the different species..we’re seeing the moment when life is folding back on itself in human consciousness. It’s folding back on itself and awakening to its meaning, its magnificence, and its attempting to bring forth…a species that embodies love.” – Brian Swimme, from an interview with Chip August.

  161. Oh, Cerulean, take that shower and ponder the following:

    It does sound like you have issues with Jensen, or you’re missing a bit. Because he is one of the most concise and cohesive weavers of political theory that I have ever read. So you were a Jensivore, eh? Do consider reading more of his work, and see if you can read past sensitive areas to the understanding he does provide.

    There is no issue with loving one’s landbase, but it’s undeniable that cities are not sustainable. They require procuring ‘resources’ from outside their limits, and if those can’t be gotten through trade, then violence is the next step. If you are truly sensitive, can you really defend that unnecessary violence?

    I’m working class; I have artistic talent — I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have some sort of gift, actually. Being both of those, though, means that I understand the need to touch the ground, to participate in daily life, too. I know too many ethereals (I live among college professors) who patronize those of us who can wield a hammer, use a wrench. I understand deeply that I can’t claim artistry to the point of pawning daily chores on others. Do you understand this, too?

    There is no problem with voluntary short showers or even with acts of regeneration. Just don’t think they do anything for the world. They are self-full acts, and they’re fine, but in no way revolutionary. Put it this way — does it (any act of yours or mine) help stop the 200+ species a day currently driven to extinction? If not, it’s not enough.

    So take that shower — and then do something that is provably effective toward saving this beloved planet, and all its species. That’s all that we Jensivores are trying to do … make a difference, while keeping clear on what’s personal (and likely insignificant) and what’s honorable and effective change-making.

  162. Sorry for the duplicate (actually rewrite). The first got lost. Again, apologies!!!

  163. Interesting article, but I do not agree with what is being suggested here.

    There have been revolution in past that have started with common man (i.e. individuals) and they have made changes in the world. Many of Mahatma Gandhi’s revolution started off with individuals quitting one behavior or the other, and it worked.

    Even in this capitalistic economy, consumer sentiment creates booms and busts. And this is because consumer is at the center of all the economic activity. Consumers have tools to organize in groups, and create changes that would not have been possible before. So the argument that individual (i.e. consumers) cannot do much to bring changes is not correct.

    Another observation I have on this article is that it assumes that changes need to happen overnight (or really fast for that matter). But “Old habits die hard”. Hence it will take a long time for the changes in individual behavior to take place and make a visible change in the world.

    I think we should all take small steps in saving energy and conserving our environment. These small steps will show us a paths for saving energy further and reducing our carbon footprint further. But first we should start walking on the path, believing that we can change the world.

  164. I generally like Derrik Jensens’ pieces, but this smacks of anarchy to me. Each person doing their best to reduce their carbon footprint is still worthwhile in my book, and although I agree with him that there needs to be a much bigger effort undertaken–encompassing governments and big business–applauding the small victories makes undertaking the big jobs more palatable.

  165. @mommaterra

    Of course I don’t defend the violent nature of cities. That’s why I am drawn to the Transition Movement – read the article in Orion.

    Elitist terms like “artist” or “talented” are dangerous shortcut words I use very rarely. Everyone is creative, given the support to cherish that. We need creative expression front and center. Play is essential to ending misery – for all. I grew up working class and am now what most would call middle class.

    I would consider myself to be very arrogant to think that I know what’s revolutionary and what’s not, or to suggest I know the outcome of certain acts. I have no real knowledge of what will have an effect on stopping the 200+ species a day going extinct. It’s all a guess at what might work best. Its way more complex than most like to give credit for.

    That shorter shower might be the catalyst for a tsunami of action on the part of a person, actions that might serve to stop the extinctions. With the shorter shower, that person may get past living like life is disposable or earth a waste land, may connect with the love of the earth, may not perish in disappearing perservance, may take the “revolution” seriously instead of letting a nihilist burst of pain paralyze, may see “civilization” in that shower head and rip it from the wall.

    Rudolf Bahro wrote: “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.”

    Could those who are insecure be those not attached to outcomes?

    I am writing a book about what led me to not only become an activist, but what I found to helped sustain me as one. Mostly it was that I didn’t fear being insecure. It was all I knew.

    My parents left me alone to fend for myself when I was terrified as a tot. My brother was beat. Other kids beat. My parents drank. Others drank and abused. Then I came across Kathe Kollwitz in high school when we were taught to make woodcuts. She carved woodcuts into the flesh of trees about suffering and revolution. I wanted to be like her. I began to question, like she did, history and the elites. I began to unravel the lies about many things I’d been taught about U.S. Empire.

    What if I’d never wanted to learn to make a woodcut? What if the shorter shower leads a person to read about others who practiced simplicity – and that led them to Derrick? It’s happened more than once in the discussion courses I put on about Voluntary Simplicity.

    Whoever wants to suggest that they know what leads from one thing to another – and that the personal doesn’t lead to revolution is not being honest with themselves. What led you here? Have you followed your trail back?

    What finally led me to care about the earth was my looking at the whole of suffering, attempting to look for the origins of suffering in order, I thought, to end it. It was intellectual at first.

    I surmised that imperialism, militarism, sexism, racism, ageism, etc. all led back to the first time a human learned to despise his/her wild flesh – and tame it. It didn’t matter if it happened 10,000 years ago or earlier or later. I felt the truth in my own ravaged body.

    I knew that the personal act of ridding myself of my self-loathing was not just about being “self-full” but revolutionary because it led me home, it led me to love, it led me to the wild, it led me to taste freedom and empowerment, it led me to pleasure, it led me to flesh, it led me to fall in love with the earth. Falling in love with the earth led me to love myself, too. Our suffering was intertwined very intimately. I could feel it. The original suffering began in the earth’s suffering at the hands of humans but it led to all other suffering of human upon human.

    Falling in love with the earth is the revolution – it led me to a burgeoning desire to disrupt the earth’s demise that never lets up. It pushed me to act – on my own behalf and on the earth’s behalf. It never leaves me, this hunger to stop the slaughter. I never stop trying to get out of my own way to let “me” happen, to let the “earth” happen.

    Without that root of that desire, that love, I’d have no desire to participate in “revolution,” I’d have no sustenance, I’d have more death. They go hand in hand. I don’t think you can have one without the other. So it’s all part of the revolution – the personal acts and the “earthonal” acts.

    The revolution is happening…and no one can define it or stop it, as much as they might like to try. For me, it’s fed by the earth subversive whispers and potent screams. But as far as the interpretation of those go, well…

    Can we just celebrate that we are listening and responding, rather than argue over what we hear? Or do some of us need to be right so badly that you would deafen all the ears of the earth but our own?

  166. Falling in love with the Earth is the revolution. Amen.

  167. “Living simply may not change or save the world on it’s own, but it is a symbolic start to a larger movement.” I believe is true, but the point of the article is that you can’t stop there in order to affect true change. Industry and corporations have one goal in mind and that is to make a profit, not to enrich the lives of people. Government caters to them, not the citizens. Collectively we can affect change if it is focused on the right target. Demanding that government, industry and corporations change there destructive policies is the most effective way of saving the environment.

  168. Two nights ago, I was invited to join a talking circle at a neighbor’s house. This circle even had candle’s and a talking stick to be passed back and forth…a real flash from the past. After living in community for almost 40 year’s and sitting on a stewardship project over 6,000 acres in a very remote part of northern Mn., I was a little out of practice. You see, we stepped back and gave up most thing’s two lifetime’s ago and really have little time for introspective analysis…unfortunately…but it was a nice break from putting up wood and weedin’ the garden. My only comment at this point in the conservation is that small is beautiful and baby step’s makes a difference. We’ve removed the choices year’s ago and have really lived on our own little island on spaceship earth.

    We did come up with a idea three year’s ago which did garner support from over 25,000 fellow baby stepper’s from around the world. We borrowed the orange slow moving vehicle symbol found on the back of buggies and tractor’s…and greened it. The triangle is beautiful with our Pine County Pine Tree in the center and the simple word’s…DRIVE EASY>>>CONSERVE on the edges. Wow, we think that we are helping to change the world a little right from the north woods. O.K. knock us down, we’ve all been there before, but the message is individual responsibility and conservation. It’s non-political in a sense depending on how you want to unwrap it. And oh yeah, in the early ’70’s after building our dome out of recycled wood we designed a efficient two person solar bathtub. Have a great night and i’ve really enjoyed reading everbody’s comment’s on this subject. One of our group was smart enough to put together a pretty good we site in order to share our idea with you all. Have a look a or

  169. Personal habits are a major contributor but it’s true that direct action by dedicated groups is what actually changes things – and saves the planet!
    Control – or lack of it – by the military industrial complex posing as creative corporations is indeed the real problem – and individuals working together and apart are the solution.
    and save a river today!
    Turn on. Tune in. Opt out! Let’s create new systems and let the old ones wither on the vine.

  170. Derrick’s article is right on, but short on solutions. Here’s one: Fix the incentives.

    Why is pollution taxed at almost 0%, while hard mental and physical work is taxed at 10-40%. It’s time we fixed this system. We are living in the 21st century, but stuck with 19th century laws and an even more outdated tax system.

    If this thought intrigues you email me at ed.castano “at” gmail dot com . I’m launching social media venture to get us going in this direction.

  171. A book that echoes similar thoughts but much more thoroughly is Break Through. Below is a review from Amazon. It’s a must read:

    Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility

    By William Chaloupka
    This is an important book. Certainly, for anyone concerned about environmental politics, including the politics of climate change, it is a must-read. Nordhaus and Shellenberger, long time environmental activists, challenge most of the precepts of green politics in the U.S., including its claim to draw authority from its position as “Nature’s voice,” its over-reliance on science as a motivator for politics, and its habitually dismal message. Following their publication of the essay, “The Death of Environmentalism,” in 2004, their arguments caused considerable controversy among environmentalists. This book, an extension and refinement of the original essay, is sure to cause more controversy.

    The argument here is wide-ranging, drawing on historical case studies, philosophy, public opinion studies, and more. It is hard to imagine that anyone will agree with every angle of the book’s approach. But the central insight, as I take it, deserves to be taken seriously by every environmentalist. It is an explicitly political insight: the years of defeats and frustrations suffered by environmentalism cannot simply be brushed aside as a consequence of the power held by the movement’s adversaries. Environmentalists need to freshly examine the movement’s assumptions and habits – habits of both thought and action. Despite the recurrence of the phrase “death of environmentalism” in the subtitle, this book is not another of the long string of conservative attacks. It arises from sincere and serious contemplation by two articulate and committed activists (who, I should note in the spirit of full disclosure, are friends of mine).

    The book’s also a lively read, with dramatic stories and engaging puzzles. It’s the sort of book you will want to debate with friends and family. It seems possible to me that the book is that rare event, a world-changer whose influence will be cited for decades.

  172. @castano

    Brian Tokar wrote a book in 1997 called “Earth For Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash”

    I would say that a review of that book below provides a balance to the book you advocate. If we pretend we are the problem because of “our” choices, instead of seeing “our” choices as coopted and deeply brainwashed choices, and therefore controlled, by corporate mass culture, I fear our delusions will indeed do us in – and our focus be skewed as to where our work lies. Jensen is very right on in many ways. Again, it’s just the way he says it that bothers me.

    In his essay, Jensen asserts that “[c]onsumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance.”

    That is very very true. But he is not saying we did this to ourselves. He is saying it is something we have learned and can unlearn. So, the focus needs to be on the creators of mass culture and the capitalist mindset – the U.S. Elites of Empire.

    Jensen further states that “simple living as a political act is suicide.” Yes, it is…as long as we are doing it as a substitute – and it’s the only thing we are doing. Simplicity is beautiful just as being the change you want to see is…but not when it is all we do. The elites coopted the Simplicity Movement for their own agenda, skewing it, distorting it, churning it out as the path to salvation…and its seeming ease appealed to many, leading many by the nose down the path to omnicide. It’s much harder to tackle and witness the truth.

    Here are bits from a review of “Earth For Sale” by Neve Gordon, to further elucidate how it’s a mass culture phenomenon (corporate demanded/created), not “pop” culture phenomenon (one demanded/created by the people). Tokar also really gets at the most incidious part of all of it – corporate cooptation of the environmental movements themselves:


    “While preparing an undergraduate course on environmental politics, I came across this book. Tokar is one of those all-too-rare academic activists who has been on the forefront of environmental struggles since the 1970s. Perhaps due to his hands-on experience, he lucidly blends empirical knowledge with astute analysis and a unique sensitivity to political processes.

    While focusing on environmental issues, Earth for Sale addresses what I believe to be the most troubling social and political developments in our time. Indeed, it is an essential read not only for those who are concerned with the earth’s degradation, but for anyone who is interested in social justice.

    At the outset, Tokar identifies three closely related phenomena that have created the current backlash against environmentalism: “the absorption of the mainstream environmental movement by the political status quo, the emergence of corporate environmentalism and the proliferation of `ecological’ products in the marketplace.”

    Tokar provides numerous examples where mainstream environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund, Audubon Society and Environmental Defense Fund have caved in to the anti-environmental demands of big corporations and government officials. We read that corporations like Du Pont, Mobile, Amoco, Exxon, Monsanto, British Petroleum and so on have become major donors to environmental groups, while the Wilderness Society and others have held stock in Dow Chemical, General Motors, Westinghouse and other big businesses. This leads, Tokar claims, to the absurd situation where organizations committed to combating pollution have become financially dependent on the stock value of major polluters.

    Tokar not only exposes numerous instances where both mainstream environmental groups and the government have bowed to corporate masters but explains the processes, interests and reasoning that have led them to grovel. His major criticism is that these organizations have appropriated the corporate language and value system and are striving to make room for an environmental agenda within this framework.

    At one point he quotes National Wildlife Federation President Jay Hair, saying: “Our arguments must translate into profits, earnings, productivity and economic incentives for industry.”

    He contests the prevalent claim that economic development can coincide with environmental concerns. This view is referred to as “corporate environmentalism,” and is defined by one of its advocates as an attempt to engineer industrial infrastructures that are ecologically sound, “so that the scale of industrial activity can continue to increase without resulting in a negative impact on the quality of life.” Pollution, accordingly, should be controlled largely through the use of “smart” market mechanisms.

    Against this position, Tokar persuasively argues that the present economic system is oriented toward maximizing profits, not quality. “When companies can already reduce production costs by laying off workers, contracting out large portions of the production process or moving entire factories overseas, the uncertain promise of lowering expenses by improving energy efficiency holds considerably less appeal,” he says.

    It is therefore not surprising that while “corporate profits skyrocketed between 1990 and 1995, investment in new plants and equipment by Fortune magazine’s 500 largest firms fell by 40 percent.” Part of this trend has to do with the fact that corporations concentrate on short-term profits in the stock market, while the prevention of ecological hazards necessitates long-term strategies.

    While the capitalist market is incapable of “providing adequate protection for natural ecosystems or communities affected by environmental pollution,” governmental regulations have failed to correct the problem. The major difficulty is corporate power to influence the politicians who determine the regulations. That many “regulatory programs simply codify the terms by which corporations are granted permits to pollute” is an indication of corporate control.

    On a deeper, perhaps more philosophical level, criticizes the subordination of all values to the standards of the marketplace. He quotes Al Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, where the vice president describes environmental degradation as “bottlenecks presently inhibiting the health functioning of the global economy.” Thus, the global economy — not justice – has become the point of reference. Tokar cogently maintains that once the marketplace is aggrandized, everything and everyone becomes an instrument to be used. This, he suggests, is modernity’s curse.

    The fight to save the earth is lost the moment a group adopts an instrumental relation to the world, Tokar claims, arguing that several mainstream environmental organizations have fallen prey to this form of thinking. Simultaneously, he contends that an instrumental relation to the world is at the root of all instances of social injustice, not only environmental destruction…

    The reader also learns that unlike environmental hazards that affect everyone equally — such as the depletion of the ozone — most localized hazards plague society disproportionately. It is at the intersection of class, race and sex that people are hurt most. For example, the dense concentration of oil refineries, chemical plants and plastics factories in the Mississippi Delta region of Louisiana contributes to the highest breast cancer rate in the United States; and race is the single most important factor associated with the siting of toxic facilities. The interconnectedness of environment with other social justice issues leads Tokar to argue that history will judge greens by whether they stand with the world’s poor…

    Underlying a series of concrete suggestions — found primarily in the book’s last two chapters — is the view that we need to relegate the economy, making it subservient to higher values. “A society,” he says, “that extols greed, acquisitiveness and the unlimited accumulation of personal wealth simply cannot be expected to honor the integrity of life on earth…
    We need to stop relating to the world and the people in it as a means that can be used but rather as an end in itself. To accomplish this goal Tokar suggests that our understanding of democracy has to change, from a procedural democracy where one merely votes every two years, to a participatory one where citizens are active members in their community.”

    – end of excerpts from the review…


    You wrote:

    “Do consider reading more of his [Derrick’s] work, and see if you can read past sensitive areas to the understanding he does provide.”

    I took you up on your suggestion and just ordered Derrick’s “What We Leave Behind” through interlibrary loan.

    To whoever was dismayed by, heaven forbid, “anarchy” in our midst…

    I forgot who it was who made a remark about Derrick’s work sounding like anarchy – or maybe someones comments. I just laughed so hard. I certainly hope it sounds like that. It is.

    And to further “anarchy” in the discussion, since someone else on here referred to Murray Bookchin, I thought I’d bring this post together by informing everyone of a most excellent article – “Social Ecology: Resistance and Reconstruction” (very much of which is about how Bookchin’s work is still very relevant today) written by Brian Tokar for the Institute of Anarchist Studies. Check it out at:

  173. Barbara McDonald:

    How is this anarchy when all he is doing is pointing out factual truths? I think you need to go back and read Emma Goldman and understand the roots of the term ‘anarchy’. It is not as you say Barbara. Are individual rights anarchy? Are you an anarchist because you feel reducing your carbon footprint is important to you?

  174. Actually, not take down but replace those systems with one better. To achieve that, activists need a far deeper understanding of the current system than revealed by the incessant use of the word “capitalism”. A deep understanding then lets would-be reformers articulate a vision of world working right for everyone, using language that resonates with a critical mass. Following those two steps leads to geonomics, to a shift of taxes and subsidies so that we end privilege and end up sharing the worth of Earth. Replacing counterproductive taxes with “land dues” and addictive subsidies with “rent shares” is what will harmonize human prowess with natural constraints.

  175. Someone just recommended this book called “Bag Green Guilt and Relieve EcoAnxiety” by Jen Pleasants to me. It’s a pep talk for green consumption – not being overwhelmed by it.

    I did a little research, and found it being adverstised at what looks like a disgusting green consumption website:

    (Don’t people know that just like coupons, this stuff just makes you actually consume more?!) I seem to, hmmmmm, not be able to figure out who the sponsors are. I wonder why? Duh…and UGGGGGGHHHHH!

    Okay, I take all my ranting about Derrick ranting back, ha, ha. (I am such a hypocrite – never said I wasn’t.) We need a place to be angry, don’t we, about all this cooptation going on!? It’s so awful. I hate it! Rant and rave, rock and roll.

    But what makes me so so sad is that my family knows I am a radical eco-activist. They like to show support, even though they might not be ready to make it their life work alongside me yet – especially given the mess it seems to have made of me.

    (I can’t understand how we don’t all stop everything we are doing and do just that, though – make thinking and acting on all this all we do. There’s a case for living simply – always was mine…so I could live on very little and have less need for money and more time to work on this. It’s an emergency to me. Always has felt that way. I digress.)

    My teen nephew gets such a kick out of wearing his “eco” shirts around me. The latest was “Ecoexist.” He likes showing me he cares. My teen niece likes to buy reusable mugs and show them to me and show me she cares. My sis will call and tell me she’s finally recycling. They all do care. It breaks my heart. I feel such love for them and that they care – and at the same time, the sense of futility behind it all. It hurts to see all this care manipulated.

    It’s like people are jumping onto the green consumption bandwagon everywhere. It doesn’t really threaten anything. That’s why my family will support it and never quite support a real threat to the American Dream, a real discussion about the nature of U.S. Elites and Empire and their goal of world domination, pillage and plunder. Derrick is so right but my family would never get his article. They feel so good about where they think they have arrived. Unmasking the lies of it would pull the rug out from under them. They shut down when I do that.

    If we could just make the next bandwagon to jump upon ending corporate power. People are challenging corporate power all over the country in little spots, little ways (and world). Is there going to be a way the corporations could coopt that? Being anti-corporate? I like Adbusters but sometimes I think it’s all a game to them, a clever game, not really a threat to the pace of civilization’s slaughter either. The Bolivians really impress me with their movement. But I am an uncomfortable middle class U. S. citizen without a grassroots movement.

    I am so confused. I don’t know how to be with all this. It’s such overload. Maybe my mental capacity has shrunk. (Yeah, I know, the result of civilization and U.S. Empire.) I don’t seem to be able to sift my years of activism and radical education into any coherent direction for action.

    I am not leaving the city. I won’t to help tear it up and create something new with it – wide open corridors of land left alone…food grown here, not transported in…etc.

    Today I spent all day on catching up on U.S. genocidal aggression in Afghanistan. I have a passion for exposing U.S. foreign policy for what it is. But maybe I have some sort of secondary post-traumatic stress thing going on, but I don’t feel like I can think well about any of this anymore. Maybe it’s why I hope that my one little act of kindness does something to affect the whole.

    That’s a scary thought. But I still would like to believe little acts of kindness are part of a great wind stirring and building toward change. If I am kind to someone, and they run into a flyer about Jensen speaking, maybe they will attend…and maybe they will come up with some splendid creative action idea in response to being totally turned on by what he says?

    I am so imagination dead on actions at the moment. I am not 60 and retired, but I feel like retiring and I am only in my forties. I know I sound like I am whining, making excuses – and I am. I wholeheartedly agree with Jensen but feel totally impotent – maybe that’s why I get so angry at him. Reading him is like getting my impotency mirrored back at me.

    I think I want to be forgiven for it, for being impotent. So I justify all my other behaviors – everything from spending hours watching the bird’s migrate this spring as my need to connect with the earth to spending all day today gathering news and resources on actions for Afghanistan as serving to unravel imperialism. But really, I am sitting here typing this for all of you knowing full well I am just passing time ineffectively. What’s would be effective hasn’t come to me yet. This has been the longest stretch in my life when I have not felt connected to something “right.” I tried to start a Transition Group here but a bunch of Ron Paulites came out to help. They didn’t care about the earth, just surviving. I stopped helping organize it. I was so deflated.

    I feel like I have failed somehow to figure out how to stay inspired and responsive. I write cause it seems all I can do. But, like Jensen, it doesn’t completely set right with me if it’s all I am doing. And for now, it is.

    Someone once told me that we don’t all make it. Sometimes burnout is so severe, we have got to let go. I don’t want that to be true. But sometimes it feels like it. I get so upset still over any little bit of bad news – I almost go ballistic.

    I will write my graphic novel about being an activist. It won’t tear down Empire. It will tell of the people and events that got me where I am today. And maybe being bereft is not a bad ending. Maybe it’s just the truth. Maybe…
    It won’t be a best-seller, but I am not planning on that – just to self-publish.

    At the very least, I need to stop stalking discussions like this with all my issues, looking for forgiveness, justifying myself and whatnot. Okay, lambast me, please.

  176. OK, since no one here even bothered to show up for econ 101 (not even to sleep through it), I’m going to point out one very simple fact. Oil refining is a business. What does a business need? What stops a business? If you drop the demand for pet rocks, then retailers will stop stocking their shelves with pet rocks. If people stop buying hula hoops then retailers will stop stocking them. If you stop using hydrocarbon based products, then the oil companies will stop refining oil. Are you people really that dense? Is critical thinking outlawed in schools? Why aren’t any of you people even trying to think about what causes the “evil oil companies” to try to kill off all life on the planet? How can you study cause and effect when you only pay attention the effect?

    If there’s no money in oil refining, then the oil companies will move on to something else that’s profitable.

  177. The guy who scoffs at his family caring about the environment is a bit egotistical. Writing a graphic novel, reusing a mug—everyone has their action that doesn’t solve everything right away but is part of the progress. Can’t you see that some more people are starting to get it? When they use those mugs and all the rest, that is the sound of someone waking up. Maybe they aren’t as far along the path as you are but you could be genuinely appreciative that they are interested in welfare of the planet and support further progress, not in an condescending way but in a loving heartfelt way. Unless you maybe don’t like that your family is “co-opting” what you thought was your thing. If that is the case, maybe you need to think about what that means when you want to be the only one who cares for our collective ecosystem.

  178. @greg

    but it won’t stop the companies… they will simply produce what is profitable… and the whole system goes on.

    but yes; it would kill oil production!

  179. @Greg

    Of course; that is if the Chinese, Russians, Indians, Iranians, Koreans also agree to stop demanding oil products… but, fat chance… they all want a piece of the American Pie. See what big tobacco is doing in Russia, for example!!

  180. I totally get where Cerulean is coming from. I feel that way so often myself. I, too, was a very active activist for a number of years. As opposed to what is now an inactive activist. Trying to figure out what the next step is, keeping up as much as I can, writing what I can (I publish a newsletter, Gaian Voices). To get a certain perspecive out there. a perspective that includes Earth as a particpant in this dance we call life. That it’s not just us doing stuff here on the surface. But right now it’s so hard to know what might be “effective”, and I’m in my late 50s, I know what I consider “too much” about what’s going on, about the condition of the Earth, and “realistic” time frames and how little time we have, logically, to make any substantive changes. You know. Logically none of it makes sense. If you’re just looking at things from a distanced place it looks for all the world as if this planet is inhabited by crazy people. And yet it goes on. I think we’re reaching a climax moment, a point, and I have no ideal how long this “point” or “moment” will last – days, weeks, years? – where a conscious decision needs to be made. There needs to be some kind of mass awareness and commitment. That’s what I want. That’s what I think we actually need. How to get there? I haven’t a clue anymore. I thought I did. I do have a sense of ideas, models, whatever that could work, together, to bring about this kind of change. But they’re small, and community-based and to embrace them would require a willingness to take substantial risks, an ability to hold a vision and work toward it, and a belief in “magic” for lack of a better word. That somehow the impossible can happen. That no matter how bad it looks, there’s still the possibility of . . . a future. Of a living Earth, of beauty and wildness surviving.

    My kids (grown) get this more and more as they get older. When they were younger and in high school, they tolerated my commitments, put up with endless meetings and so on. But they didn’t get it for themselves. They’re starting to. One of my sons is really getting into gardening, and my youngest, a photographer gets it,too. He sees the changes every time he comes home to visit. More stores, more restaurants, more ugly hotels, all chains. The development, even in the current economy, is relentless here (in the White Mountain region, the Saco River bioregion, if you will). I understand the sadness, the pain of knowing people you love, people you even brought into the world, are going to experience, shall we say, uncomfortable changes, unless . . . So yeah, I get it. I’m there with you.

  181. @Karen Hess

    I don’t “scoff” at my family for caring. I love them for caring. I love so much it’s painful. I love them so much, I think about my niece and nephews futures all the time. They are so innocent and beautiful. So is my sis.

    But I am not innocent or ignorant. That’s why I chastise myself for feeling so impotent, so bereft, so full of excuses.

    Just cause I feel the mug, the recycling and all the personal acts like shorter showers Derrick talks about is part of what now seems to be futile acts, if not outright cooptation by corporations to get folks to “green” consume, doesn’t mean I am scoffing at them. I just feel sad about it…and angry…like I do about all the slaughtering of the planet, whether it be a species of frog, or the imagination and mental power of a human being.

    If you read what I wrote, I am enraged at the corporations for keeping folks ignorant, including my family. I had to do a lot of work to attempt to combat my own ignorance (still do – I think I grow dumber every day sometimes). Most of my education was sheer luck – the way my “waking up” came about. I had the time – that helped, too. Most folks alive today didn’t and don’t. Choices to have children don’t just impact population. It impacts whether or not you have time to educate yourself. Jobs interfere. So does poverty and sexism and racism adn many other isms.

    But sometimes you don’t need education, you just need an emergency in your face. If you are lreal ucky, you chose to do something about an “ism” besides blame yourself. Most blame themselves – it’s the capitalist mindset.

    Sometimes poverty, race and a toxic incinerator sited for your backyard suddenly come together as deep insight into the nature of what is really going on. But even in the case where I organized with folks on that very thing, the lack of healthcare access, the lack of food, shelter, childcare, etc. prevented a lot of people from coming to the meetings about that wake-up call. But some did. Some learned about the Stockwell report and learned that most pollution, whether land, air or water-based is dumped on poor neighborhoods or poor countries. – on purpose of course.

    And people often get very reactionary when woke up that way. I don’t wish that on people. Sometimes it leads to amazing movements for change. I’d like to see us change faster, prepare for collapse faster, before more and more severe disasters strike. I’d like a beautiful collapse. But so far, it’s ugly and getting uglier as corporations are doing all they can to slow it down and eek out every last drop of blood from it.

    The corporations are greenwashing and telling people in the U.S. it’s okay to consume, as long as it’s green – to make themselves look good and keep us shopping. Their covert message is that it’s okay to recycle, it threatens no corporate agenda.

    My family sees no need to challenge the system as I do. I have had years to see that we need to do this. They haven’t had that luxury.

    I certainly don’t feel better than them or farther down some path. I feel luckier in some ways. I don’t blame myself for a lot of stuff they do. But my sister is one of the most compassionate people I know and so is my mother – way more level-headed than I am. My sister thinks the way she does cause of her encounters with life. I think the way I do because of mine. There is no path. If there is, I’d veer off. I have had the good fortune to be encouraged to question. Someone told me I was smart as a little girl. When an alternative version of history came my way, I shy away in fear at it’s undermining everything I’d been taught. I got eager.

    I personally can’t feel good about my mug or recycling anymore. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like it’s stopping the rape of my neighbors or the land. But yet, I have no other ideas – and no energy to act when I do. Maybe I have given up. I might even harbor secret feelings that all is futile. But part of me – maybe my hands – seem to refuse to give up. I am still writing on here. I am still looking for ways to light a fire under my arse.

    And please – you really didn’t read what I wrote if you thought my issue was that I thought my family might be coopting my “thing.” This is everybody’s “thing,” whether they are conscious of it or not. How could I want to keep the work of serving humans in “falling in love with the earth” to myself? It will entail some pain. I do sometimes want to spare people that – but I would be doing them a disservice. Its also what moves us to act.

    @susan meeker-lowry

    I really appreciated your “amen,” if you are still reading.

  182. @Susan Meeker Lowry

    I love you – you made my day. I needed your words so bad. I am going to check out your Gaian Voices. BTW, I have loved all your contributions here – and miss them when I don’t see them.

  183. Profuse apologies for all the typos in my comments. I reread some of what I wrote, and I can see how they might be tedious – and lead to misunderstandings.

  184. I just read that Daewoo has negotiated to ‘develop’ 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) of land on Madagascar – equivalent to almost half of the country’s arable land(!) – so they can grow corn and palm oil to send back to Korea. Meanwhile the people of Madagascar go hungry. This is the market in practice. This is the bullying power of corporations.

    Corporations have power, and they use that power to establish systems (political, economic and social) that serve their interests, and that don’t serve people. They advertise extensively to encourage/convince people to buy stuff. The advertising keeps us in an adolescent stage of life. Advertising is a virus, much more dangerous than swine flu.

    Greg will understand that oligopolies manipulate and distort the price mechanism. It is not about econ 101, it is about power and how it is used in the world today. Our choices are constrained by the systems that have been put in place over many years. It doesn’t matter if we stop buying things (including oil) – there is money and power robbing people of their livelihoods (as the Daewoo example indicates).

    Derrick is right when he says that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power, which is what many activists now do (and they get well paid for doing so). They give the current system legitimacy, when there is a real need to challenge the corporate hegemony, redefine democracy, and establish real participatory systems of governance. This is the hard work of change.

  185. So if Daewoo doesn’t “develop that land”, what will happen to it? Some of it will still be used to sustain a handfull of people, the rest will go unused. Don’t blame Daewoo or any company for making a deal that will allow them to sell goods back home. Thats what any business is supposed to do, sell goods. They should make the best deal they can for themselves. The gov’t of Madagascar can’t feed it’s own people or develop any semblance of an economy, so this make sense for them. Daewoo (partially korean gov’t owned) and the local gov’t both get what they want. The local populace gets booted, but the rest of the country will benefit long term.

  186. Cerulean, all I am saying is that there was a time when you thought using a mug was a good idea. Let others progress from that idea to the next too. Like you, they are progressing with their life education. Try not to have expectations. We aren’t going to be able to stop this, we can just do the best we can. In our town, lots of moms are banding together to stop an asphalt plant from being built. Everyone can’t always go to every meeting, but enough go to every meeting to make a difference. These women are learning about the system, about our politicians and about what is fair and what isn’t, some for the first time, others for the millionth time. Our kids are learning too. The freeway is still there and asphalt from another nearby plant will be used to repave it. But that is the next project! First, we work on this one! It is neverending, of course. Again, we can just do the best we can in each given moment and not be hung up on all the other things we haven’t done and can’t do, otherwise we end up, well, feeling futile and without energy. We are meant to live life to the fullest and with the rest of life in mind. We can’t always do that in this culture and we definitely lose track of it sometimes. But we can always do the best we can and should feel good about it. It will give us energy to keep going. Keep using your mug, make it a symbol for the next thing you do.

  187. I admit I’m unfamiliar with what’s going on in Daewoo, except for what’s written here. However, the idea that land going “unused” is somehow wasted is an idea that we really need to put in the past. Land, the Earth, whoever is living on it (including, perhaps especially, nonhumans) has an intrinsic value for itself, as it is. The idea that land, unused, is wasted is a concept Europeans brought here to this continent and used as part of what we now recognize as the genocide of the Native peoples here. Peoples who did not have the idea that land unused by humans was land wasted. “That’s what any business is supposed to do, sell goods”. Again, as if business, in and of itself, is the be-all-end-all. It is not. Business should be about relationships, and major is the relationship with place, which includes people, and land and nonhumans, the air, water . . . all of it. We need to really examine all of our preconceived ideas about money, land, business, value in the context of what we now know. I have to think, re: Daewoo, that if the land is arable and can be developed to grow stuff, why not grow food for the people who live there? I know, it’s simplistic and doesn’t fit into the current capitalist paradigm, but doesn’t that make more sense than turning it into a monoculture, exporting for $ and using that to import food? Just a thought.

    Cerulean, thank you. I, too, love your posts and have from the moment I read the first one. I follow the threads I participate in but don’t always write something because of time constraints. Right now, for example, I should be out in the garden picking mint and calendula blossoms and whatever else is ready so that I can make oils to turn into salves this fall. And I will, as soon as I finish this. My website ( hasn’t been updated in a long time but a friend will soon be totally redesigning it and making it more interactive with a blogg and other of my writings, past and current. Gaian Voices is a print publication in its seventh year and the back issues are in the process of being put into an e-book that can be accessed online. Also I’m in the process of updating my last book, now out of print (Invested in the Common Good), also to make it available for less than the print version, on line. If you want, you can contact me at

  188. Oh, Cerulean, I don’t want to lambaste you. You’re already blue! You wrote: “I wholeheartedly agree with Jensen but feel totally impotent – maybe that’s why I get so angry at him. Reading him is like getting my impotency mirrored back at me.” And I would agree–if it was true! But you’re not impotent; you simply havent’t found the way to sustain the fire. All activists burn out and settle in to heal, and that’s necessary to activism. But we can’t let the fire go out completely, or nothing changes. The change we love so much, and the passion that drives it, only goes quiet in the healing times.

    I hope you find your sustenance in passion. This is a tremendous time to be alive and capable, and you are both. Geez, you have actual fans here. Draw from that support, and then do what your heart tells (or the trees or their squirrels tell) you to do. It takes us all, but it takes us honest and not looking for personal solutions or ways to maintain that on which we have become dependent. Go for it. Betcha can fly. No, actually betcha can soar! –diana/ much older — and energized by this all

  189. But on the udder hand..

    I think our correspondent misses a fairly glaring difference between the historic social ills he names, and the militant responses he would endorse. More succinctly, if this is truly a war to reverse the ravages wrought by rampant global consumerism (and I agree that it is) who ELSE holds the power other than the consumer? The corporations Jensen rails against? Well, yes they do, in the same sense that all individuals have the power to snuff out their own lives, but will only do so if derranged. A corporation is not going to deliberately open its own (figurative) veins and bleed to death in front of you because you don’t like it, and a contract hit won’t work either (sorry, Earth First!ers) If you want it to go away, you have to eliminate its reason for existing. That would be all of those who hand it money to take back what it sells.

    You want to rip a page from the civil rights manual? Fine. Remember the Montgomery bus boycott?

    Look, you can flippantly dismiss those who recycle their gum wrappers, or save soap scraps, but in the end it is about the same things that M.L.King marched for: Basic human dignity. If I’m living my life intentionally, I may have no illusions that I’m doing some greater good at all, and I don’t. What I do have is the slight consolation that when the final accounting is had of this mess, those who knew me might just be able to say (if there are any still left to say) that I refused as much as possible to participate.

  190. Wow. This is wonderful. As one who lives simply for the personal benefits rather than any possible political benefits, I could not agree more strongly. You have helped me put into words (and very concise words, at that) something I have been feeling for some time.


  191. I read Jensen’s article at a particularly auspicious time in my life–while attempting to live without a car in a Midwestern city where mass transit is a joke. Yes, I pompously regarded this “dramatic” change as nothing short of a political act. I think what Jensen is trying to point out is the sometimes-absurd ways in which a conscientious individual gets caught up in these rather minor measures to save the earth. I once found myself in traffic trying to decide if it was better to drive farther to support a local coffeehouse or save fuel and patronize a much closer Starbucks. I mean, really.

  192. @Malka

    Why not walk simply because it is good for you to reconnect with your body and with the space around you? It does not have to be a political act; it is just a primal act, the act of walking!!!

  193. Sandy: I don’t know what kind of neighborhood you live in, but in much of suburbia walking anywhere can be a challenge and a danger. No pedestrian crosswalks or light switches at intersections. No sidewalks. In short, suburbia was designed for automobile traffic–not pedestrians. Consequently, there is very little to recommend it as a way to “reconnect my body with the space around me.” Read “The Geography of Nowhere” by James Howard Kunstler for an in-depth analysis of this issue.

  194. Many of us are – leaving behind wastelands.

    Gary Snyder, writer, conservationist, was asked what we could do to “save the environment.” He said, “Stay put.”

    If it is as bad as we all suspect, then that is very good advice. But a rebuilding might be in order… Good luck with that one…

  195. I grew up on a farm where suburbia converged. Walking the same path frequently meant creating a trail, which made it safer. Suburban lots tend to be larger, meaning they can almost be mini-farms, growing food for the inhabitants of the homes upon them. Most had lots larger than the fenced plot our farmhouse was on, and yet, at times we had chickens and vegetables and fruits and flowers all in the same smallish yard. This may have been more along the lines of Sandy Krolick’s ‘reconnect’ than mere walking, perhaps?

  196. Dancing around fires did not do much to promote the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s but my mother coming to her senses and telling us to stop saying”nigger”when we sang “eenie meenie minie mo” laid the groundwork for empathy. The change of consciousness starts one heart at a time. Likewise, mowing your lawn without power (one hour of lawnmowing equals a car trip of 350 miles), hanging laundry outside (dryers use huge amount of energy)and buying local(improve your health, the farmers’income and reduce transport emissions and expenses)lays the basis for a consciousness that can drive political action.
    I challenge Jensen’s assumption that, psychologially, individual action subsitutes for political action. As my friends and I have gained more ideas for living sustainably,we want to share them and have forged groups such as The Natural Step,and SEAREI. My husband writes Congressmen several times a week(he used to work for LCV)urging political action on environmental issues.
    In addition, I am not buying all the percentages presented in the article. According to UNH’s Carbon Challenge program, half of all greenhouse gases come from household energy use. One study reports that keeping car tires at recommended pressure would save as much oil as there is in the Artic.
    Rather than argue stats, however, I would like to emphasis that it is a case of both/and. Orienting yourself in your own backyard does not exclude promoting your point of view. The canvas of your life can sustain the political passion.

  197. Hooray for Derrick Jensen! Industry pollutes our world but does not “serve” its customers.

    The water bottling industry has created a demand through advertising for drinking water that they take from municipal supplies(for almost nothing)and sell back to us in plastic bottles. Their aim is to take over the world’s water supplies for Power and Profit. They have already started in Africa, India and South America (see the movie, “Flow”).

    Gas drilling is destroying our environment and our water, using a polluting drilling method called “fracking”. They can use as much as 8 million gallons of water per well, and add over 250 toxic chemicals to the water. This drilling has ruined water supplies from Wyoming to Texas, arguably caused rare cancers, and is destroying the city of Ft. Worth, TX where the mayor has approved drilling within the city.

    These are only 2 threats to our drinking water.

    We need to realize that living better and buying better light bulbs will not address these issues. Those who are plundering our world must be stopped.

    Where is the spirit of America that won us our freedom? We need that spirit now!

    Carolyn Zolas
    New York State
    Sierra Club Watershed Committee

  198. Thanks for the comment on water. I live in Fryeburg,ME, a small town on the NH border in the Saco River watershed. My town has lost a several years’ fight with Nestle (under their Poland Spring label) over water extraction (mining) and a pumping station (which the town tried to stop on the grounds that the 50+ tanker trucks coming and going 24/7 violated the rural/residential zoning. First we won, then we lost, then we won, and finally the state supreme court found in favor of Nestle, saying the the zoning (part of a state-mandated long-term plan) was for guidance only and was not legally binding. A couple of years ago a state-wide effort to “tax” large scale water extraction, about .5 cent a gallon if I remember correctly, failed due mostly to people’s knee-jerk reaction to the idea of a “tax”, and Nestle claimed that if passed they wouldn’t be able to afford doing business in the state. Right now they get the water basically free. The water is pure as it comes from the aquifer so they don’t have to do anything to it except bottle it. I can’t imagine that .5 cents a gallon would substantially impact Nestle’s profits. But what money wants money will eventually get. Nestle claims that their millions of gallons of water extraction per year won’t hurt the aquifer or the local ecology. But no one really knows. The past couple of years have been way wetter than “normal”, but what happens during dry years? There are local people who have already seen negative changes in small lakes and ponds. Nestle says they haven’t been caused by their water mining. Yeah. Right. Just to say that water mining is happening here in the US too, and we have little power to stop it. And when we try we run out of money way before the Nestle’s of the world.

  199. As a politician, Al Gore knew that
    bringing individuals to the point of changing their own behavior strengthens their determination to demand action from policymakers. Entrepreneurial businesses see profit in catering to people’s changing preferences. Their success belies claims by entrenched corporate interests that we can’t afford to change. As these economic truths sink in, factoring in the real costs of corporate activity, voters ask their representatives why we subsidize short term profit for others at our own expense–economic, health, etc.
    That’s the only way government policy is changed, by voters’ educated self-interest. Example:
    The House Rules Committee held a hearing this week on antibiotic overuse in US food animals. The most enlightening testimony came from the CEOs of 2 restaurant chains (Chipotle for one) who said they had changed practice to serve non-antibiotic, humanely-raised meat and locally produced organic food, visiting the producers and requiring written certification from suppliers. Their business is up with hundreds of restaurants nationally, and the biggest problem is locating enough meat supply–perticularly pork–to service all their restaurants!
    This applies to organic vs non-organically produced milk as well. All dairy farmers are having difficulty now, but organic producers, small and large, can get a higher price, are doing better and can’t fill demand for their product.
    As people understand the real costs, like antibiotic resistance to public health–think MRSA, they demand better practices.
    Learning about our own drinking water sources, costs, major users, potential shortages, etc., can only help voters demand better policies and protection, hopefully soon enough.

  200. Julie — I think your key line is the final one: “hopefully soon enough.”

    I’m all for factoring in those pesky externalities, but if *cities* aren’t sustainable, then government clearly isn’t! One of the things I’ve begun to realize deeply (yeah, it’s a process) is that if something requires large groups of people moving in unison to accomplish … especially *incremental* change … then it’s going to be too little, too late.

    I love Chipotle for what they’re doing, but even as the Chipotles of the country step forward, the Walmartization (huge lobbying effort$, squeezing out competition, and growing to immensity) of organics, and the subsequent weakening of regulations, are threatening to rumble right over the little guys like Chipotle. Getting bigger, though, is a/the problem, not a solution!

    I applaud what you do, and I hope you can understand why I won’t be working with you and like-minded others; my heart just isn’t in educating and legislating for change that, foremost, affects humans. Conversely, I hope you can come to applaud my different activism, one that places the needs of the landbase first. I just don’t believe there can be a kinder, gentler capitalism that works, let alone sustainably even in the short term.

    I’m too aware that it’s *illegal* to test for mad-cow disease (but not so to propagandize that ground beef is completely safe and the ‘scare’ is past, with no testing to substantiate such claims). I’m too aware that GM seed corporations sue when their own products contaminate neighboring fields growing ancient strains of grains — sue for patent infringement, and win!

    And I’m too aware as a diabetic that the one thing that would ameliorate much diabetes is staying away from grains, from carbohydrates well beyond just sugar. No, the the pill-pushing is too lucrative, and the carbs bring such profits (why on Earth does the US subsidize HFCS?) … that health is clearly not the issue. Sickness is so much more beneficial to capitalism!

    I don’t want others’ educated self-interest. I want community and connection, and most of all, humans realizing that we are merely one kind of animal, one kind of being, among many, upon this planet that we all need to survive.

  201. I have been enjoying this discussion immensely, particularly the comments of Robert Riversong, davidscottlevi and Grift (yes Grift, despite the scathing reception he got for expressing his opinions).

    But after more than 200 comments, I have yet to see anything that conveys my perspective on the subject, so here goes (Derrick, I hope you happen to read this):

    1)humans are organisms, one species out of millions, not special, not sacred, and definitely not superior.
    2)Individuals don’t matter – it is the collective actions of a species that define its impact on the planet. Individually, we can worry about what is happening and even try to do something about it, but collectively we are working much harder at consuming the planet and altering it beyond recognition. That’s who we are and what we are about, and no actions by a sensitized minority are going to change our collective identity.
    3)Species come and go, that’s the way the planet works and how we got where we are today.
    4)Technology is a natural development of the human species – cars are natural, nuclear bombs are natural, and capitalist greed is natural.
    5)Humans lack the smarts to put their ingenuity to good use. Instead of applying human ingenuity for the purpose of creating a sustainable human and non-human world, we are inventing ever more deadly things that will guarantee a future filled with pain and suffering. In short, we are very busy blowing a remarkable opportunity to benefit ourselves and the planet for the long-term.
    6)But it’s OK that this is happening. The way of the world is that species come and go, and that applies to us as well. We currently enjoy an unprecedented (and growing) dominance over the planet. But thanks to human overpopulation and a nearly pathogenic hunger to replace natural systems with human systems (cities, agriculture, chemistry, politics, transportation networks, information networks, etc, etc) our dominance will undoubtedly end. This ending will be catastrophic, but not final. A few thousands, possibly millions will survive, and re-experience a hunter-gatherer lifestyle our ancestors knew well. In the far future, humans will either mutate significantly to adapt to the planet that we are now creating (with poisons of all kinds in the soil, air, and water), or we will blink out and a new lifeform will take over (my money’s on the insects, especially the social insects like ants).
    7)Humans cannot “save the planet”, because we (collectively) cannot evolve past our mammalian and short-sighted orientation to the world. We can talk, endlessly, about what we should do, but we can’t become the change any more than a pig can start flying because it wants to. Actions truly speak louder than words, and even as I type this I am as much a part of the deadly system by using this computer as any businessman building spreadsheets or corrupt politician answering email.
    8)Humans also can’t “save the planet” because the planet doesn’t need saving. The planet will do just fine without our help. Yes, we are causing tremendous extinctions, but the work of E.O. Wilson and many others has shown that mass extinctions have happened several times before, and each time it has led to a significant increase in speciation. It’s unfortunate that, unlike previous mass extinctions, this time it’s happening internally through the collective stupidity of an actual living species, but that too may be normal for all we know. The fact is that people can’t and won’t destroy all life before the world shakes us off like a bad dream. Life is everywhere – there are hundreds if not thousands of organisms on my (and your) eyelids right now, and there are thousands if not millions of species of bacteria in a single spoon of soil. Even if we manage to set the planet way back to a pre-oxygenated atmosphere before we are put back in our place, there are countless anaerobic organisms ready to multiply and speciate (like the critters living happily in the gas we pump in our cars every day).
    9)Most people concerned with “saving the planet” are really focused on saving humanity’s dominion over it. But our downfall is inevitable, and the harder we work to avoid it the more intense the fall will be when it comes. It’s all about balance. As humanity continues to overpopulate, not only will it become increasingly difficult for us to feed everyone (let alone provide running water, refrigerators, and computers), but the sheer mass of our flesh will become increasingly attractive habitat for viruses, fungi and bacteria. As we grow in numbers, so grows the threat of sweeping pandemics, again this is simply natural. It’s the basis of population dynamics, that so many organisms must contend with, e.g : increase a resource (for example a bumper acorn crop from an unusually wet summer). Critters that rely on this resource (like chipmunks) will benefit, resulting in a commensurate surge in population. Critters that eat this critter (like hawks, snakes, owls, etc, etc) will also benefit, eating more of the first critter until its numbers go back down to something approaching the earlier number of individuals. The same is true for us – the bigger we get, the more available we become for the things that eat us. But since we have annihilated most of the big critters that used to eat us, it will be the little ones (viruses, fungi, and bacteria) that will eat us up. The more we try to push this off (through antibiotics, anti-fungals, “germ-killing” soaps, etc.) the more we assist in the development of organisms that we will not be able to stop. And that’s OK, because that’s the way the planet works.
    10)It is not “giving up” to allow human civilization to collapse, it is an act of wisdom and love for the larger planet we live in. In End Game, Derrick Jensen makes a similar argument, the main difference is that he thinks humanity’s fall needs to happen as soon as possible to save as many species as possible. He articulately urges all of us to get off our butts and bring on the collapse NOW. But that’s where I differ – I think it’s silly to squander our brief lives with intense and constant anger because the end will come soon enough. I also think that the least I can do as an individual alive today, before the collapse that will be devastating to human and non-human systems alike (through climate change, floods, hurricanes, invasive species explosions, increased disease, and rabid hunting of all living things until humans start to really die off), is appreciate and enjoy my existence and all of its privileges. Given a choice, I would prefer the collapse of civilization to happen after I’m dead, and in truth, I suspect most of you would as well.

  202. @gluscap

    In addition to your self contradictory position on natural v human systems (see items 4 & 5); you also seem to be somewhat confused and incoherent in your general view of the problem and an appropriate response to it. I also see a strong dose of self-righteousness and anthropocentrism in your decision to live out your life, with all of the privileges afforded by your humanity.

  203. Gluscap, I’ve heard others say similar things. That since humans are “natural” that anything we do or create (nukes, cars, etc.) is also, therefore natural. I agree that we are just one species among many but we don’t act like it. We act as though we are the only species, certainly the only one that matters. I also agree that we cannot “save” the Earth, and that when most people talk about such what they’re really saying is “save the Earth as we have come to know it”. An Earth fit for humans and the lifestyle we have created.

    But I do not agree that it has to be this way, that there is no way we can change, and that because there appear to be so few of us who have been “sensitized” that our efforts are doomed. Certainly Earth will recover if we fail as many species. There’s a movie called “Life After People” that looks at how things would recover. It’s hopeful in that even though people are gone, other species eventually take over, evolution continues, the planet can become beautiful again.

    But what you obviously don’t believe is that there may be a purpose to humans being here, and that evolution may be more than just something that happens to physical cells. I believe that human consciousness is unique, just as bear consciousness and wolf consciousness and mountain consciousness are unique. For example, anyone who has spent time among old growth trees knows on some level that the consciousness of those ancient beings is different, more mature for lack of a better word, than that of a 30 year old maple. There are trees and there are trees. Not better or less than, it’s just the way it is.

    Human consciousness has a uniqueness as well and it seems to me that there must be a purpose in this otherwise it would not be so. We preceive differently. Our brains have evolved so that we can make choices, for good or bad, that impact more than just ourselves. At the risk of sounding human-centric, I don’t think other species yet have that ability. And with that ability comes a certain responsibility that we have not, or at least that the majority of us have not, owned up to or realized. We don’t think about it that way and it’s time that we did. As I have suggested in past posts, read Thomas Berry. Read Brian Swimme. I believe that the universe, the cosmos is made up of consciousness, created by consciousness, that matter evolves from consciousness. Therefore consciousness can change and transform matter in ways most of us humans don’t understand yet.

    On the one hand it seems that you’re saying that we’re just animals and animals come and go and so may we. It’s just the way things are. That’s true as far as it goes. But, face it, no other animal is like us. This does not make us special in the sense of being better than, but it does make us special in the sense of us having more responsibility. If humans evolved along with all other species, as we obviously did, then we can continue to evolve and mature beyond where we currently are. This requires wisdom, spirit-growth, a true evolution of consciousness that we can participate in. It isn’t something that just happens. We can use our will and determination and spirits and love and compassion to help it along. That, I believe, is why we’re here, why we have evolved to the point that we have. Of course we can just throw our hands up and say, well there are too many unevolved people, there’s no hope, most of us are stuck in a 12 year old mentality, so I’m just going to enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts, that’s just the way it is. Or we can make a different choice. There’s no guarantee but there is possibility.

    Yes, I too had hoped that the massive changes I knew would come would happen after this body has passed on. But the changes are happening faster than anyone thought. So here we are. As we’ve all heard so often in so many different places, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Are we up to the task? That’s the question.

  204. sandy:
    In the 14 comments you have made since your arrival on July 11 I have learned that:
    David is “ignorant”, “simple or simply not thinking” and “should reflect a bit more circumspectly on generalizing about human nature or the human condition”; Grift is “wantonly ignorant and self righteous”, he needs to “get beyond his unconscious assumptions”
    and “do some reading to better assist him in his education”, and now; I am “somewhat confused and incoherent” with a “strong dose of self-righteousness and anthropocentrism”.

    Your need to insult those of us whose opinions you don’t like adds nothing to the conversation. In fact, other than a few cryptic remarks about “neo-primitivist sentiment”, that “the cornerstone of civilized behavior is war and conflict”, and that “the direction of human social-political development in civilization has led to a destruction of a more primal core of humanity within us”, there is nothing in any of your comments that reveal your “general view of the problem” or “an appropriate response to it”. Rather than judging me, could you take a moment to present your views on the subject, and/or compare and contrast your opinions with mine?

  205. @gluscap

    Well now, why don’t you try responding to my valid criticism, rather than getting defensive!! I believe, Susan Meeker-Lowry also pointed it out.

  206. (Recently; I was charged with being a back bencher, and just throwing spit balls at others. Well, it don’t agree; but I felt inspired, so I have decided to offer some opinion on Derrick Jensen’s contention here).

    I believe Derrick Jensen’s principal charge is correct and profoundly important. Through the culture of consumerism we have become slaves of modern industry, which is the controlling authority and must be addressed if real change is to be realized. We have become slaves as their workforce, and as their buyers.

    There are basically two things that consumer culture does to its participants.

    First, it demands that we are ‘free to choose’ and that it is only in response to our choices that industry produces and offers the products it has to sell; so, if we trim and change our habits or choices, industry will soon follow. In other words, it makes us the target… and says we are the cause of the current crisis.

    Second, consumerism it is a culture of commodification; it turns every thing, every decision, every act into a commodity.

    Even our counter-cultural acts of rebellion and resistance to the dominant culture, become commodities to produce and exploit… to buy and sell in the marketplace.

    As Jensen points out, even the new ‘green’ industries are simply a mechanical response of the dominant culture to absorb counter-cultural influences and thereby disembowel their potential impact. This allows industry, commodification and consumerism to continue unabated. I might also point out that this is what happened to much of the hippie movement back in the 70’s, where peace, love and living naturally became a slogan for the branding of new products and services. It happened as well with the black rappers in the 90’s, creating yet another set of commodities so that young kids could look cool, but still remain part of the dominant culture.

    Our liberal democracy and its consumer culture have a tendency to absorb all minority positions, all revolutionary sentiments, all assaults on its integrity, into itself. And this is how it continues to control and dominate and domesticate its citizens, just as we have domesticated our animals, plants and the planet.

    I am afraid Derrick Jensen is correct. The only real way out of this quagmire is complete and total rejection of the system itself. Obviously, that carries with it its own risks; but those who are truly free at heart have nothing to lose but your home, your car, your blackberry, and (god forbid) your internet connection!

  207. I have to agree with those who see no progress in Jensen’s thoughts.

    I’d like to add this…

    All “environmentalism” is pure materialism – complete with the consumer-centric sense of possession/ownership (perhaps ever so slightly more benignly ‘stewardship’ ha ha ha… still error in biblical proportions).

    Here’s an idea (not mine) tune into the principles that allowed life to flourish here in the first place and ask:

    Are they threatened by the “industrial economy” (or any material action)?

    Are they threatened by the birth/death of ‘unique’ human consciousness (or any political/religious ‘belief’?

    Clearly not.

    Now consider that you are an expression of these principles and therefore, at your core, you are not threatened either.

    Now have a cup of tea, a lie down.

    Finally get on with living a wonderful, compassionate, loving life. Do whatever it takes.

  208. I don’t believe that ANYONE has ever asserted that “dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday . . .” However, if more individuals had refused to participate in Hitler’s schemes, he would have been stopped; and what if Frederick Douglass had claimed that one freed slave could never make an impact on the larger system of slavery?

    Each problem warrants its own solution, and individuals play their part in myriad ways. Thus, while dumpster diving would not have been a sensible way to end the Holocaust, it seems a very logical way to slow streams of overproduction and overconsumption, use resources effectively, redirect waste from the landfill, and change cultural norms and values. Composting would have been a terrible way to try to end slavery, but it’s a great way to replenish the degraded soil, and subvert a system that uses resources inefficiently in food delivery.

    It’s funny that Jensen should mention boycotting as a tool used by citizens to create political impact. If dumpster diving and growing food allow people to aviod purchasing vegetables from halfway across the country, is that not a form of boycott? In a sense, these people are taking back their citizenship by refusing to participate as mere consumers. No one ever said this was enough in and of itself, but it seems a pretty sensible place to start.

    Furthermore, ending slavery did not stop the inequality and violence that accompanied it, just as the Civil Rights Act or giving women the right to vote did not create social equality. Those things had to be (and continue to be) changed through Black Power movements and Feminism — in other words through culture, one composed of and affected by individuals. Policy can only control to a certain degree. I’m not arguing against political change or denying the importance of an active citizenship — these things are essential. Yet the power of culture cannot be overlooked.

    And is Jensen honestly waxing nostalgic for the political forces behind ending slavery and stopping Hitler? Perhaps we should be happy that we don’t have to start a war (be it civil or worldwide) to solve these problems — we merely need to change our own behavior and eventually that of the society at large will follow.

  209. Susan, thanks for your response. No, I really don’t believe that humans have a purpose other than the purpose that all organisms share, namely to live, consume, reproduce, and be consumed. Similarly, I don’t believe that there is a God (or Gods), and I don’t believe in “destiny”. Nor can I subscribe to the idea that matter evolves from consciousness. Nothing in my life to date supports any of these concepts, but should this ever change (via empirical information that disproves and defies the more boring laws of nature) I will gladly admit that I was wrong.

    I also don’t see humanity as being responsible for what’s happening, any more than I could “blame” a wolf for eating a deer (even if it was the last one on earth). Our nature is to invent, create, innovate and complicate. All organisms create waste – human waste just happens to be more toxic and less bio-degradable than that of other animals.

    I should also like to point out that your use of the word “evolve” suggests something directional and accumulative. But the scientific community has clearly shown this not be the case. Evolution is a response to stimuli, not a self-directed or deliberate act. And there is no apex or end to evolution. It is an endless dance of adaptation to external conditions. As such, humans can’t “evolve” into organisms that voluntarily consume less and care more for other species and the planet. What we can do (over a long, multi-generational period of time) is learn how to live with less resources (less “choice”) and less ability to disturb or destroy our surroundings. Which is how the world works. In essence, I honestly view humans as animals, no more and no less. We love to think, but we do not learn and we have not changed since our migration away from the ape family. I’m sure you feel otherwise, but do you have any evidence that you can share? How has humanity “improved” in the past 1 million years? It seems to me that in many ways we are still monkeys, far less advanced than our inflated egos and intellects would have us believe.

    Finally, I am not suggesting that we “throw up our hands” and just “enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts”. I am saying that if we objectively and dispassionately look at who we are and what we (collectively) have done and continue to do to the world, the truth that emerges is that humanity is too hungry and too clever to deserve a never-ending and unfettered ride on the planet, and that it is both appropriate and necessary for us to lose our monopoly over everything. I love myself and I love my fellow humans, but too much of anything becomes a bad thing. There are too many of us, and we are too “creative”. We are not satisfied with the world, and refuse to live harmoniously on it. This cannot last, and nor should it. And none of this scares or saddens me anymore. After worrying and working hard for 20 years to try to change people and save the world’s biological diversity, I am now free of this responsibility (as well as the accompanying pain and guilt) because I realized that civilization is about to collapse, and when it goes so will the myriad problems that I felt compelled to solve. Humanity’s short-sighted nature guarantees our undoing as the rulers of the world, and that makes me feel better about being a member of this dangerous breed. I wish it were otherwise, but I really don’t think people are “up to the task” of saving themselves and the world as we currently know it. And I’m at peace with that.

  210. Gluscap, I just wrote about four lengthy paragraphs in response to your recent post and unfortunately somehow copied the “image” wrong in the box and the whole thing was lost. I don’t have time to do it again. Suffice it to say, I do disagree with you, based on my personal experiences with death, near death, and my sister’s recovery from a severe brain injury that doctors believed would leave her a “vegetable”, if she lived. I suggest, again, that you take the time to read Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, particularly their joint effort The Universe Story. Brian has a PhD in mathematical cosmology, in other words, he’s a scientist. This book touches on everything I wrote last time re: evolution, spirit, matter, and so on. Re: the wolf eating the last of a species. Wolves are wolves. People are people. Wolves aren’t meant to know that the animal they are eating is the last of anything. People, on the other hand, do. We find out such things, go out of our way to learn such things, and therefore we have the responsibilities that go along with such knowledge. Yes, we are animals. Just one species among many here, sharing the Earth. Thomas Berry used to say, what is needed is to recreate the human at the species level. Rather than think of ourselves as so special and above everything else, we must come to know ourselves as part of Earth, a participant. Just because many or most people in the so-called developed world fit your description of humans doesn’t mean that’s the way it is or should be. Finally, I was raised to see meaning and purpose and even destiny in my life. I am grateful to have had a wonderful, loving grandmother who taught me that love, that’s Love with a capital L, not romantic love, is the most powerful force in the universe. And nothing I have experienced in my life, even the bad things, has changed my conviction that this is the truth. Now let’s see if I can get that image right this time.

  211. @Susan Meeker-Lowry

    I think in certain critical respects you are right about the cosmos and matter being a function or creation of consciousness.

    Think about a rainbow, if you will. What is a rainbow, but water droplets in the air, sunshine and the human eye. Would there be a rainbow without a person seeing it? Of course not, all three elements are necessary. And it is not merely a personal delusion because many of us can see and agree on the presence of the rainbow. But is the rainbow really there, independent of our vision and identification of it?

    Now, if you talk about ‘matter’.. the basic ‘building blocks’ of our world; it is obvious that matter does not ‘exist’ without the physicist’s tools and hypotheses… in this sense ‘matter’ evolves from consciousness. (And for anyone to say, well I kick the rock and therefore it exists; this empirical assertion presupposes a host of unspoken assumptions.) That is not to say that something (the un-named) does not exist before the insights of modern physics; but, even if you go back in time to Medieval Europe, Presocratic Greece, or even further yet to the Pleistocene era BC (Before Civilization), the consciousness of those earlier times gave birth to a different set of realities than our modern consciousness does… again, consciousness gives birth to a world, to things, and eventually to matter and then energy.

    And, of course, we can never know what the world was really like for creatures inhabiting this planet before the appearance of even our earliest ancestors, and any attempt to do so by paleo-botanists,paleontologists, astronomers, and archeologists only tells us what they would now describe in our terms, in terms of our consciousness, as to the nature of conditions back then.

  212. The argument that individual acts lack meaning and impact is deeply flawed, and I would say is actually subversive.
    Without individual change of action, springing from change of awareness and attitude, there can be no societal change. Changing one’s light bulbs and taking shorter showers have meaning individually and in the aggregate. It is a political act if it is part of an integrated change of attitude and action in the world. If the change of light bulbs and taking of shorter showers is all one does, sort of like “buying the album to help Bangladesh” in the 70s, and does not carry over into broader actions in the way of life, then it is really no change at all. But as part of a broader change then it does exert pressure on the corporate world and the political world… I guess I am repeating myself… But more importantly each individual who turns away from the corporate paradigm will do things like reduce energy usage, and reduce waste generation, and growing food, etc., all actions which will have an effect in the aggregate, and will lead to demands for change at the broader level of political action.

    Discouraging the small-scale individual actions, because this is really what the message of the article is doing, despite the disclaimers, is a bizarre message if one is trying to effect societal change. Action must begin somewhere, and ultimately it will end up where it starts: locally. Something like 40% of fruits and vegetables consumed by the public during WWII were grown in backyard gardens. That is a very significant fact, and those gardens were nurtured by individuals who asserted their power over their own lives and grew at least a portion of their own food. If they had believed the kind of argument presented in the article they never would have started. Also, they did it because they believed (correctly, I would say) that they were doing so as an act of supporting a societal goal, not because it was something they wanted to do as some kind of solipsistic self-gratification.

    The worst thing about this article is that while it is very specific about the uselessness of individual conservation actions as political acts, it is completely vague about the actions that would have meaning, according to their criteria. This is offered to us:
    “The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned […] who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them.”

    Well, just what does that mean? Are we to dynamite power stations or coal mines? Are we to engage in industrial sabotage? Are you suggesting that it was the resistance that brought down Nazi Germany? This borders on pure fantasy. It was massive state armies, primarily of the Soviet Union and the United States that destroyed Nazi Germany. Small scale acts of sabotage against the Corporate-Industrial-Military State will be like so many (or few) mosquito bites, providing an excuse and opportunity for repression. Resistance, to be effective now, will need to have a broad base, beginning with things like shorter showers (I heat my water with wood, anyway), but not stopping there.

    The reality is that Industrial civilization is going to destroy itself without our sabotage, anyway. The more individuals who learn a little self-sufficiency, and community-sufficiency, the better off we will all be when the fecal matter hits the ventilation device.

  213. I don’t understand something. If there is no person to watch a rainbow, then the rainbow doesn’t exist? I’m trying to see how a rainbow would need a human eye to exist. If a tree falls in the woods, is there a sound? Are you kidding? The prism exists no matter who is there to see it…

  214. What happened to the comment on the comment page (that I got in my e-mail earlier today)? Whoever wrote it was right, Orion should do something, or warn us anyway, that any mistakes typing the “image below” will result in a complete loss of everything we’ve written. Anyway . . .

    Sandy, of course the rainbow exists whether a human being sees it or not. A rainbow is a physical manifestation and is there regardless. We don’t create the world by seeing it. That’s not what I mean be consciousness. Yes, we have consciousness, but there’s also a greater consciousness within which we/ours, and everyone/everything elses exists. When I say I believe matter evolves from consciousness I don’t mean that our consciousness about it creates it. That would put humans in the role of rather dangerous magicians, right? Anyway, obviously matter exists with or without the physicist’s tools. Re: going back in time and “the consciousness of those times” giving birth to a different set of realities. True, but that doesn’t mean that, say, the Acropolis if it was whole rather than a ruin, wouldn’t be the same today as it was. It’s a building after all. And I have to ask, were the realities in ancient times actually different? Or do they seem different because our world view, our paradigm if you will, was different? The mystics did a pretty good job of interpreting the world as they knew/experienced it. Today our physics is interpreting the same world using a different language, but the basic reality, the basic understandings, are the same. I do believe, however, that ancient humans, before so-called civilization if you will, had different abilities. Not because of anything so different in the world itself but because their perceptions were different. Some of this may be due to brain differences, but most, I think, was due to an ability to use and trust intuitions, to participate with/communicate with other species, to pick up on universal energies and use them for healing and more. I think we humans still have these innate abilities but we don’t develop them, in fact they are denigrated and totally disbelieved to the point where people who speak of these abilities are considered freaks or crazy or even institutionalized.

    Re: creation: I think it’s first consciousness, then energy, then matter.

    BlueMoonChimneys, re: activists who have lived through hard times. I think of people like Dave Dellinger, a CO even during WWII, one of the Chicago Eight, who introduced Ghandi’s principles of nonviolence into the struggles against the Vietnam War. I had the priviledge of working with Dave in the final years of his life. I think of Caesar Chavez. And some of the courageous, strong Native people whose struggles are leading to better lives on the reservation: Wilma Mankiller, Winona LaDuke, Mike Meyers, John Mohawk. Of course not everyone is going to do BIG things like these folks. But it’s the energy, the awareness they bring to their work that makes it more than changing lightbulbs or even boycotting. Re: boycotts. If a boycott is to be effective it needs to be on a large scale and the target (like the Nestle’s boycott) needs to be aware it’s going on and that you are actively participating. Which means you need to do more than not buy something. You have to let the target know what your actions are. One never knows, really, the results of any action we take. We just have to do what we feel called to do, put it out there, keep doing it, and trust that somehow it’s making a difference. We don’t have to actively participate in blowing up industrial infrastructure to have an impact. But we do need to do something, and if it’s the little things, then make them count by letting people/corporations/politicians, whomever know that you’re doing them. Of course no one really cares if you take a shorter shower unless you have country plumbing. The shorter show is just a metaphor anyway. The point is do something and share your stories as widely as you can. The stories we tell can change the world. (Another T.Berry and B. Swimme insight).

  215. Great job in pointing out flaws in the capitalist system. While you’re rather late to the party, I will nevertheless offer the consolation prize of the smartest treehugger in the room. Your next assignment is to use your soapbox to broadcast encouraging and productive ways for 6.7 billion world citizens to channel their compassion (via capitalism or some Utopian pipedream, your choice), rather than cranking out defeatist rhetoric. If you need help, I’ll be in the corner with the people contributing to solutions, not problems. And…go.

  216. False dichotomy: Neither personal nor political action will save the planet.

    One thing I have done in the past, but refuse to do anymore, is write my congressman or senator or the president for ANYTHING. I have become convinced that they don’t give a shit about anything I want, including the saving the planet. Furthermore I think the political movements who organize environmental petitions and official permit
    protests also don’t really give a shit about the planet because petitions and peaceful protests dont change politicians who are paid off by corporations to ignore petitioners and protesters.

    In my opinion the only political action that the politicians will respond to is violent political action. But that’s a suicidal act and people aren’t desperate enough to do that yet. Even then, they’ll maybe do it over personal deprivation issues, but not to save the earth.

    So it won’t be any political action that saves the planet. However there is something coming that will get more drastic results. This century the earth will see an involuntary human reduction of emissions ie the world economy falling off a cliff causing a 4/5 global human die- off: fewer people, lower emissions, less resource depletion.

    So if you don’t like what’s being done to the planet, just wait a decade or two. It will stop, but unfortunately not the way you imagined it would.

  217. Finally. Hiphip Hurrayyy! This is a great piece; a really really great piece of writing and thought. Thank you Orion for publishing this.

    To me this piece not about corporations vs. the individual or the state vs. the individual or cosmos and matter and consciousness – to me at least, it is about the individual’s potential to provoke greater or real change – and it is in this sense that switching to energy efficient light bulbs wont do the job.

    Hey – don’t we all agree that Climate Change is the greatest threat facing us so surely we all also understand why that ‘switch’ to energy efficient light bulbs won’t do.

    Are you going to tell your child one day asking what happened that nothing happened that you tried everything by changing …. a light bulbs??????

    So I suppose this article is about how much more we are willing to do to truly solve the problem.

    What is needs are not metaphysical discussions about whether this article is about individual ‘vs’ …
    but “We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.”

  218. You cannot find the following piece of writing by Paul Cienfuegos anywhere anymore so he gave me permission to type it up and share it with whomever I like. He’s a friend of mine who has worked long and hard to dismantle corporate power. I feel Paul’s words expand on what Derrick might have offered as a “solution,” if there is to be one. As I said, I have permission to share this. I think the richness of what it adds to this dialogue will be obvious and appreciated. I know Derrick has criticized Joanna Macy and others who use the term, “great turning” to refer to what some of us wish to see happen, but it really is about dismantling “civilization” so I don’t really understand Derrick’s objections to the term. What follows are all Paul’s words.

    “Dismantling Corporate Rule: The Next Step in ‘The Great Turning’”
    By Paul Cienfuegos

    “I see in the near future a crisis that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country…Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” – Abraham Lincoln

    Almost every ecological and social disruption our world currently faces stems ultimately from corporate rule. In the face of overwhelming corporate power that elects governments which protect corporate interests, we citizens have become profoundly alienated from our own democratic processes. In our hearts and minds, most of us have abandoned the idea of taking our nation back from the corporations. Our hopelessness runs deep and wide.

    Instead, we envision “alternatives,” and try to convince ourselves that it is OK to start over and create new institutions that will serve us. In essence, by conceding that the corporations have won, we have abandoned our responsibilities as citizens.

    If we perceived democracy as a verb instead of a noun, would we act any differently? If we understood that corporations are our creations, would we continue merely to resist the endless harms they cause, one at a time? If we remembered that we are all Mother Earth protecting herself, and that our authority comes to us with 15 billion years of experience, would we be more ready to take that plunge together into the darkness to reclaim our world?

    The American people are a patriotic bunch, yet few actually know much about our nation’s revolutionary history. I grew up believing that the American revolution was about throwing off the British Monarchy. This is correct, but it was the colonists’ forced subservience to the British Crown corporations, already global in reach, that was at the heart of the rebellion.

    The original 13 colonies were either managed by or were themselves British corporations. The nation’s founders were quite clear that the corporations’ proper role was to serve the needs of society. For this reason, it had to be made a legally (and culturally) subordinate entity of the people. To accomplish this, these British corporations were constitutionalized and became states. State legislatures were given the task of writing a unique “charter” for each new corporation that was created. The charter was its defining document. It could be revoked, and the corporation dissolved, if the corporation acted beyond its authority. Until the mid-1800s, this system worked remarkably well.

    How our nations got into its current ecological and social predicament is, to a substantial degree, the story of how Corporations overwhelmed the power and authority of “We the People.” Corporations have become powerful not simply by amassing great wealth, but because a series of federal court decisions in the late 1800s gave them extraordinary new privileges. One of the most significant judicial decisions, “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad” (1886), gave corporations the right of “personhood” under the 14th amendment, which was originally intended to protect the rights of freed slaves. It would be a long time before similar personhood rights were guaranteed to women, African Americans, men without property, and others.

    Corporations now manipulate every aspect of our democratic process (i.e., lobbying, campaign financing, and political advertising) and control most of our society’s key investment and production decisions. Most people assume that corporations have this much power because they are so wealthy. In fact, this power originates from corporate “personhood,” which guarantees corporations free speech rights and private property protection.

    After 19 years of grassroots community organizing, it became clear to me that corporate rule is at the root of most society’s ills. Two years ago, I co-founded Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC) on the north coast of California to bring this disturbing history to local citizens. Our work is primarily inspired by Richard Grossman, co-director of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD). We have maintained a study group for more than a year. We have also taken national leadership in reframing the USDA’s redefining of organic food as a symptom of corporate rule. Most recently, we have successfully qualified what we believe to be the first ballot measure in American history that challenges corporate rule in our community.

    POCLAD and DUHC are among the first stirrings of a remarkable social movement rising up to reclaim our democratic authority over our corporate creations. Our work encompasses both the second and third stages of what Joanna Macy refers to as “The Great Turning” of our world.

    Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the millions of Americans who work tirelessly to protect our world – within a narrow, single-issue framework and in relative isolation – challenging one corporate harm at a time: one timber harvest plan, one endangered species, one toxic spill, one plant closure, one health insurance travesty, one threat to our food supply, one stolen election.

    • The Deep Ecology movement would recognize that it is impossible to create a culture that views itself as an integral part of the natural world without first challenging the right of corporations to distort scientific findings and then project these distortions through the media, which they own.

    • The Simple Living movement would recognize that people’s struggles to free themselves from their addictions to overconsumption and to the demands of today’s highly competitive world of work are rooted in a corporate culture that offers citizens very little control over their own lives. Withdrawing all corporate privileges would restore citizen authority over what gets produced, how it gets advertised and how our money is invested.

    • The Bioregional movement would recognize that achieving the goal of watershed and bioregion-based governance and culture first requires that citizens remove the corporations from all educational and governmental decision-making processes.

    • The Organic Farming movement would recognize that achieving the goal of a safe food supply for all requires that corporations no longer be allowed to participate in decisions about food production and distribution.

    • The vast numbers of corporate employees would recognize that it is impossible for employees to have an real say in what corporations do (what they produce, how profits are distributed, whether the production process poisons the community, etc.) without first challenging corporations’ free speech and private property protections.

    If we stop battling one corporate harm to society at a time, and instead align our many varied visions around a set of common first steps – all of which involve challenging the privileges that corporations now claim – our work will have more depth and power. It will be more effective, and its effects will endure. The world is in crisis. Time is short. It is time for all of us to join together and complete “The Great Turning.”

  219. Thank you, Cerulean, for sharing this. I know Paul and have worked with Richard Grossman in the past. The work POCLAD is, in my opinion, what absolutely needs to be done. Corporations can be dismantled by taking their personhood away. There are towns working on this, some that have already done so within the confines of their municipalities. Two in Maine. This is important information and I encourage people to check out POCLAD’s website.

  220. Derrick Jensen happily proves the point that geoagriculture is responsible for our water waste.

    And not human technology. In fact, it is a failure to use human technology that is the problem, because geoagriculture is one of the last places where the basics haven’t changed very much (since the advent of industrial fertalizer 100 years ago).

    Jensen writes, “dying because the water is being stolen.”

    No, they’re dying because the water is being allowed to evaporate away into the atmosphere.

  221. If simple life really meant to change everything for the better, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malcon X,the thousands of heroes that fought apartheid, should have done just that and told to their followers to do the same. As it stands right now we have a confluence of serious disasters coming to a head and people dare to criticise Derrick for saying we need more activism?
    Oh I see, more Eckhart Tolles and other new age gurus that take your money and gives you nothing back besides of the dellusion that “you are the problem”. You made a contract to be poor in this encarnation, you made a contract to have this or that illness, you made a contract with your abusive parents, partners, etc, to go through this suffering… All load of crap. The culture is one that encourages violence and apathy/passivity. The culture is schizophrenic and some of the answer’s to the article bears some lack of creative thinking and depth.
    Derrick’s books are gems that provide a wake up call. Walking in water, I read in one sitting.
    Individuals don’t consume in a vaccum. It is not as if one gets up in the morning and decide to: I am going to consume today.”
    Joel needs to look some of the documentaries at I recommend to watch Century of the Self (1,2,3,4,) and Operation Hollywood, just to understand the role of propaganda. Read some of the books mentioned in the documentaries will give some breath to understanding how people became consumers.

    Joe needs to know what he is talking about in a holistic way before going off writing.

    I also would like to mention that the understanding the geopolitics of the financial conundrum we are going through right now, would give Joel a better grasp of the why we need to become more active in opposing the actions taken by politicians and other people in position of authority. For starters how about global, market oracle, Dr. Michael Hudson, Henry K. Liu, Catherine Austin Fitts. and one’s life experience helps to put together an idea how the economics is pushing the mess in a direction that is detrimental to the planet, other species and future generations.
    At 65 and have lived without TV my whole life and very little radio (only classic music), reading (in 5 idioms) and visiting has helped me a lot to understand what is going on. I was amazed how much I learned from reading Derrick Jensen. How many facts I had never heard before. He brought so much into perspective.
    Therefore I

  222. I speak as one of the many thousands who want to make a real difference not just cosmetic. This is a great article, but leaves me with one obvious question…where do we go from here??

  223. let’s talk idiocy. this author’s a pinhead!

    he and many of his ilk would like to subtract the personal from the aggregate and point a self-righteous finger at “industry.”

    how the h3ll does he think he GETS all of the things he uses? Where’d his shower head come from? How’d the clean water he uses to wash his crusty bum get clean?

    I’ll nutshell for him one of the major problems americans have: we like to live as we please, divorced from all consequences that lifestyle has.

    time to grow up, pal.


  224. “Where do we go from here?” Are you serious??? There are a million answers to this! Jensen is merely saying don’t mistake personal action for political action. Go ahead and be personal but don’t stop there thinking you are done because it doesn’t substitute for political action. Figure out what you need to do in your area politically and do it too. He can’t tell you what to do, that is something YOU need to figure out.

  225. @ Harris Pohl

    Not much radio? Well…

    “A commune is formed every time people, freed from their individual straitjackets, decide to rely on themselves and put their strength against the reality. Every wildcat strike is a commune, every house occupied collectively is a commune; the action committees of 1968 were communes, as were the runaway slave villages in the United States, or even Radio Alice in Bologna 1977.” – from The Coming Insurrection, Invisible Committee 2007

    This quote opens an article written by Ron Sakolsky on “Insurrectionary Radio” in his new backpocket compendium called SWIFT WINDS (

    He goes on to say, “The above epigram was written in the aftermath of the fiery Paris uprising of November 2005 that was sparked by the electrocution deaths of two immigrant youth fleeing the wrath of cops. What is remarkable to me about his statement is its ability to expand the idea of insurrectionary commune beyond its geographical origins. With this deeper understanding of what constitutes a commune, we are no longer limited to talking about resistance in the generalized historical language of the Paris Commune of 1870. We can now understand each element of the Paris Commune as itself being an insurrectionary commune. A commune in this sense is not necessarily a mapped physical location, but a place of contestation that can be off the map and outside the state’s power to define social space. In Europe, a large number of occupied spaces are themselves social centers, like the ones that constituted the interconnected web of resistance underpinning the Greek insurrection of 2008. Many of these social centers include, or are affiliated with, pirate radio stations.”

    And so he begins just one article in this new collection of his that each time I open, I find inspiration in. It’s full of poetry and rants, manifestos and ideas, dreams and demands, actions and art. Ron has a long history of blending in his cauldron all the magic of those who work to end misery.

    I would daresay that is all of us discussing here. I’ve seen nothing “New Age” here. The New Age is busy driving their SUV’s and blaming the victims. The credo of the “New Age” is “You create your own reality.” You are right in that they use this to tell the raped it’s their fault they were raped – and the victims of genocide that they brought it on themselves. They don’t care about the earth, only so much as they can dominate it (and all flesh) to serve their purpose of reaching some nebulous “higher spiritual plane.”

    Does that really sound like anyone here?
    Does that sound like the Simplicity movement?
    Does that sound like most of the folks here who seem to care about their personal responses as well as their collective?

    The real problem with the “Simple Living Movement” is that they don’t often recognize, to quote Paul Cienfuegos again, “that people’s struggles to free themselves from their addictions to overconsumption and to the demands of today’s highly competitive world of work are rooted in a corporate culture that offers citizens very little control over their own lives. Withdrawing all corporate privileges would restore citizen authority over what gets produced, how it gets advertised and how our money is invested.”

    @ zapcat

    Derrick’s words are easily alienating but if you listen for the truth behind what he is saying, you will hear him clearly saying that he cares about it all (personal and collective acts) – but it’s time to clearly define the target from which we will reap the most impact from our actions – now! He’s wants us to get the urgency of the situation – and set our priorities accordingly. If you have to chose between taking the time to make home-made yogurt versus buy it and go after industry, he’s saying go after industry, that’s all.

    @ Stephanie Roth:

    Regarding Jensen’s last words in the article:

    “We can follow the role of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.”

    As a woman, if I don’t navigate systems of oppressive power, I’m a dead woman. I don’t know that I do it with integrity. I do try. I would rewrite that last statement this way:

    We can follow the example of those who remembered the role of an activist is not to get trapped in the games of oppressive power, but rather to confront and take down those systems – with as much integrity as possible.

  226. I agree with Wes Rolley. Jensen is full of fine rhetoric about resistance but little by way of active monkey wrenching and absolutely no concrete vision of the future to which we are supposed to aspire. Lots of radical sounding finger pointing. Is there room for all 6-9 billion on the post-civilisation earth? I’m not saying that even Green visions of sustainability are coherent. Limits to growth may turn out to be and unpleasant and terminal condition. Humanity’s tenure on the earth may end up being shorter than we would hope for. Were the dinosaurs a success? Who is to judge?

  227. I read the article, “Forget Shorter Showers, Why personal change does not equal political change”, which is included below this morning and thought about it several times during the day. If you have not read it yet, you might want to read or skim it (it is lengthy) before you read on here.

    I appreciate the clarity of the data on the uses of resources. It is important that we stay aware of current conditions, as a basis for how we live our life. What really stuck with me is the seeming need for acknowledgement of the big picture, and also some of the comments that indicate intentional misdirection and victimhood. For me the latter is part of the old game of “it must be someone’s fault, and it better be someone else’s” – an “us or them” mentality. I prefer to see it as “they are us”, as this gives me more hope that we can connect and make changes in the system.

    In relation to personal solutions / systemic change dichotomy, for me it is not an “either/or”, but rather an “and”. As Gandhi said “Everything we do may seem inconsequential. Do it anyway.” I do think it matters what we do personally on a daily and moment to moment basis. Doing things like having a bucket in my shower for water catchment and recycling water reminds me everyday that it is important to protect and steward our precious resources. The other important part of the personal solution equation is our inner work to transform helplessness and submission into creativity and the capacity to influence our world.

    I recalled this article today as I met with fellow grassroots lobbyists. I’ve been a partner in since the early 90’s, an organization whose mission is to create the political will to end the worst aspects of poverty. It has been called one of the most effective lobbying organizations in Washington, DC. For example, we were able to get $50M added to this year’s Senate Appropriations Bill for one of our projects – even in this flat year when only 3 areas had increases!

    Our “tactics” are NOT resistance. Our tactics are based on a partnership model, coordination, clear information and values, and clear action requests, and support. We build relationships of mutual support and mutual interest. We ask for what we want and give politicians the support they need to vote in favor of what serves the wellbeing of all. For example, right now our state Senator is in favor of a public health policy which we are supporting. Since we have a relationship with his office we have been told his office is receiving 2:1 calls against a public health policy. He needs to hear support from his constituents. We are networking to let people know the issues and how to have a voice. This will support him in voting his heart. I feel excited thinking of what we have done and I am motivated to pursue actions. Yes we can!!

  228. There are acts we can make, together, that make an enormous difference. Greening our lawn care and our home energy use, for example. There are many that don’t, like shorter showers. Do we all know the difference? Can we measure the significance of an individual action? Only collectively.

  229. Hey Steve,

    Difference is, “we” are going through the dinosaur end times, now… One of Jensen’s points is that we don’t have the luxury of theorizing about the dinosaurs, discussing whether or not the same will – eventually – happen to us. It is happening.

    And Deborah,

    Thanks for one of the most succinct posts yet – exactly. Only collectively.

  230. In the last year and a half, our family has been “lobbying”, organizing and pushing for our friend JC (MS patient), warehoused in Vancouver Canada in one of this institutions used to keep them alive and vegetating while the illness takes over the body and deteriorates his ability to actively participate in his own care.
    I because of an injure a year ago, I got some time to get a little bit more involved; after I witnessed that the university educated members of the family were getting the run around by the administration of the Warehouse.
    I went to the first weekly meeting and I told the administrator to put in a excel sheet all the complain and dates they were emailed and the date of the resolution. One thing that stroke me, was that in 1 year and half the administration never read his email nor resolved the problems, nor tried to address any of his concenrs.
    In May I went to 2 meetings. In June 4 meetings and July 2 meetings. We were able to attain significant changes to his food (more fresh fruits; he hasn’t eat any berries of peaches in more than 3 years), got him to drink 3.5% milk and yogurt (instead of o% or 1%). Got him juices and a more palatable and nutritious meals. We created a protocol for the institution to deal with his laundry. We got his doctor fired after the doctor sent him to the VGH to be committed because he didn’t agree with the doctors’ opinion. The doctor lied and said he was suicidal. Upon arriving and spending more than 10 hours in the emergency we were able to prove he was not mentally incapacited.
    From May till today morning we went everyday early morning and evening to the warehouse or care facility.
    Now on top of this we have families, work, children, grandchildren, support some elders that have no family and need company, etc. Can anyone tell me what time we have to listen to radio?
    The little time I have aI read Derrick Jensen, Wendell Berry(from Kentucky), and my pet peeve finances and economics. 10 years ago when I told my kids about the financial crisis that is now happening, they laughed. Well no one is laughing anymore.
    We have community, we have a garden and grow our own food and the chickens were giving us eggs, until a wild animal ate them., because the door was not properly closed.. We had bees for a long time.We took them back to the farm. We make our own toohpaste: also soap.
    Oh I take long showers. I sit in the bathtub and read.
    Sorry about that.

  231. What I keep seeing is that there’s commentary that continues the dialogue of “we’re not enough.” That no matter how much change we make as individuals, it’s not enough. And I think that’s not only crap, but destructive to the larger mission of actually creating positive change.

    I know of no activists who are not emotionally attached to either the movement or the cause and I see that as a strength. That passion drives and feeds us (and can also burn us out substantially). But the rhetoric of it’s not enough pushes people away from action and into apathy or fear.

    I have a foot in at least two worlds: activism and business (as well as being a parent). And what I find is that many people are willing to make personal change and that with information some of those are willing to do more. Activists get inspired by the talk of what’s wrong – they feel justified and righteous. (I’m not sure that’s a strength, it creates drive, but not connection and rarely solidarity.)

    But many people don’t feel supported by “that’s not enough.” They feel alienated. And even as a long time activist I’ve become one of them. I do a helluva lot and I’m tired of any hint of being inadequate. I’ve left movements and causes where that’s the theme because it’s not supporting people in taking care of themselves and each other and it’s certainly not creating happiness.

    Yes, more needs to be done. But as far as I can tell, one of the big things that needs doing is people coming together to support each other in change rather than tear each other down. And also people supporting each other in taking good care of themselves so that movements can be sustainable. If they’re not, they fail.

    I’d like to stop our work from failing now.

    At what point is the left going to stop eating is young?

  232. Hey KD Brown and Mr Jensen

    I only mention the dinosaurs because Jensen and other primitivists always combine value judgements with objective interpretations of human evolutionary ecology and anthropology. Yes humanity may be headed for extinction but then all species go that way eventually. We are not in a position to say whether that is a good or a bad thing, even for the planet as a whole I don’t think. Who knows what the wheel of evolution may come up with in our (messy) wake. Extinction events are not unusual. That doesn’t mean that collectively and as individuals and families we should not try and maximise our tenure and stick around for as long as possible. We are pre-disposed by evolution to do just that.

    More generally, although emotionally and aesthetically I have doubts about the promethean thrust of civilisation and I definitely have my bring on the apocalpyse moments (ever since I read Day of the Tryffids), I don’t think you can extrapolate from this and say that civilisation is unnatural and a departure from nature. Language evolved. Once you have language and a social species, it is likely to be ecologically expansionist…quite possibly to the point of destroying the foundations for its own suvirval. There are many precedents in nature (blue-green algae and the oxygenation of the Earth’s atmosphere come to mind – an episode of global ‘pollution’ and ecological catastrophe at least equal to what humanity is doing now).

    The distinction between wildness and domestication/civilisation, doesn’t really make sense from an evolutionary biological perspective (see for instance Budiansky’s The COvenant of the Wild). Language evolved over millions of years and at each stage, the human capacity to divert energy and biomass to fund its own demographic and territorial expansion, increased. At what point did we stop being natural? Similarly once you have language and an expanding social stock of knowledge about ecological processes, then hunting and gathering become gradually and subtly, processes of ecological manipulation (rather than simple expressions of an evolved ecological niche). To paraphrase Foucault, ‘knowledge is ecological power’ – and I am afraid a defining and unavoidable characteristic of humans is that from the moment of birth we are dipped into an inter-generational, communal knowledge base that contracts in some areas (e.g. loss of indigenous knowledge about plant medicine) but on the whole has expanded continuously for all of human and perhaps hominid history.

    Australian anthropologists refer to aboriginal hunter-gatherers as ‘fire stick farmers’ – precisely because the use of fire amounts to a manipulation of landscape ecology indistinguishable from farming. The forests of the amazon turn out to be the result of a complex tapestry of human intervention over thousands of years. Their biodiversity is a social and cultural diversity.

    The problem is that you can’t take a snap shot of one of these early phases of human development and say, ‘ here is a way of life that was/is sustainable and natural’. This is what Zerzan and Heinberg and others do….It is a variant of the ‘noble savage’ (see for instance Shepherd Kreche’s ‘The Ecological Indian’) Why can’t you take such a snap shot? Why can’t you hold up some amazonian horticulturalists and say ‘look here…this works…these guys are sustainable!’? Why? Because once humans are in the business of manipulating nature in any way at all, two things happen.

    1) The social stock of knowledge increases over time – ie knowledge held in common and accessible to all members of the community. People get better at exploiting ecolgical oppportunities in a way that, for instance, lions do not get better at hunting antelope.

    2) More surplus extracted translates into demographic expansion. Throughout human history territorial and demographic expansion have been steady and constant. This process predates agriculture by millions of years. Once there were dozens of hominid species none of which could use fire. Once one group learned how to use fire (between 500,000 and 2 million years ago), their neighbours were faced with a choice – adopt this new technology (and ecological regime) or die out. The non-fire using humans that walked the earth have been extinct for tens of millennia. Where does that fit into the primitivist critique of civilisation? The same thing is true of agriculture. Once one group does it, there is a real pressure on neighbours to follow suit because agriculture allows greater productivity (albeit often disastrous and unsustainable) and hence population growth. Even though they were often badly fed and suffered terrible diseases, early agriculturalists always won out over hunter gathering neighbours because they had larger populations. ANd in fact the more ecologically disastrous the agriculture, the faster the ratchet of civilisation….because if agriculture fails in one place the population moves on and expands into new areas. This dynamic between hunter-gathers and farmers has been playing out for ten thousand years and is in its final phases … BUT the dynamic is OLDER THAN AGRICULTURE. And it centres on teh social stock of knowledge that allows an expanding range of opportunities to exploit nature.
    Basically language means that our ecological niche is not fixed nor stable ! This makes us different from any species on the planet. And no amount of evolutionary psychology can get around that point.

    Just because civilisation may not last, and may be the proximate cause for a global eco-castrophe, doesn’t make it unnatural. ANd whether or not you like it or not is utterly irrelevant. We all made decisions and have free will, but ‘civilisation’ is the unintended outcome of millions of human choices, all made pretty blindly over thousands of years.

    I am very preoccupied with peak oil, and I think it possible and even probable that the end of fossil fuel age might spell a long period of re-localisation and demographic implosion. I very much doubt though whether it will allow humanity to find some long term sustainable balanced/harmonious relation to global ecology. The greatest miusunderstanding of most greens, and in fact most people per se (because it comes from an ingrained propensity for religiousity) is the idea that there must be answers, and there must be a fair, humane, sustainable form of society, that ‘solutions’ are possible…. But just because we can imagine such a utopian state of affairs doesn’t make it possible or likely. It may simply be a curse that for a species that evolved sentience and language, a horrible side effect is that we can bear witness to suffering or ecological disruption – without being able to do anything about it. Just because we can imagine death, doesn’t mean we can live for ever.

    Yes there are limits to growth. Yes civilisation is undermining its own foundations. Yes language and culture have been associated with ecological disruption and possible catastrophe. But there is no absolute distinction between hunter-gathering and farming. The primitivist critique of Heinberg, Zerzan and especially JEnsen and others… is wildly incoherent. Short of evolving back into an animal without language, human nature, language and ecological disruption go together …and there is nothing that we can do about it….no way to jump of the escalator…..

    In short, civilisation may well be buggered. It may have a short shelf life. And from the perspective of some improbably long lived alien ecologist or historian, human civilisation may turn out to be something which flickered brightly for a cosmic millisecond before snuffing itself out…..But there is nothing for humans to go back to! If that is what happens, then so be it. Whether we are then judged to be more or less successful than the dinosaurs would be a matter for debate…But who would debate or judge the issue? I think viewed like this, we come back to more pragmatic questions…Are there ways that collectively we might increase the chances of our species staying around for longer? If civilisation is on the skids, are there ways of safeguarding the future of my family/children?

    So yes I am preparing for a long emergency. But unlike Jensen I don’t harbour any misconception that I am on the side of nature or the angels. Neither God nor Gaia take sides.

  233. Steve Quilley, thank you for posting. that was beautiful!
    It doesn’t matter what we do to “save” the planet, someone will find another catastrophe in the making to point to so that folks will scream & yell about what we are or aren’t doing to correct the situation. Killing off the corporations will only create another form of “abuse” or put another group in power. Then we’ll have a new set of problems…

  234. Hi Greg, Yes that is certainly the most pessimistic way of putting it. On the other hand if language and culture make humanity innately ecologically disruptive, it also drives us to be hopeful to try and alter our individual and collective condition. This is partly the tragedy. We are biologically driven to be hopeful and seek paradise (permanent solutions and a state of harmony) in a world that is dynamic, impermanent and chaotic. It could easily make you sad or mad thinking about it. On the other hand, since we are driven to be hopeful and have the ability to reflect on our behaviour and collective arrangements, it is surely an expression of our humanity to try and slow down the pace of anthropogenic change (and even to try to reduce it to zero or reverse it)… maximise the diversity and far-from equilibrium, dynamic stability of our beautiful biosphere, and in short to create a more sustainable and reflexive form of economy and society. But we should just be clear about who or what sanctions this. It is not ‘nature’ nor God. BOth can do without us. We do it for ourselves. And we should also be honest about the ramifications of our ideas. The primitivist critique of civilisation must involve the death of billions of individuals. So I think the only logical and (internally) ethical/consistent position is to try and save civilisation (make it work whilst easing down population and consumption through peaceful means), whilst being prepared to embrace a post-apocalyptical future if it comes. I just worry when people implicitly welcome and wish an apocalpytical collapse upon us – without being honest about what this involves. Does that make any sense?

  235. Hi,
    Steve Quilley, in one of your messages you ask: “at what point did we stop being natural?”. But to me that’s not the right question to ask. I’d rather ask: at what point did we stop being sane?

    I don’t intend on abandonning my capacity to use language, nor my capacity to “manipulate my environment”. I’m an animal and animals do that. I think it’s more a matter of manipulating my environment in a sane and thus sustainable way. And humans ‘can’ do this, and for long stretches too.

    I see this civilized way of “thinking” and acting as a very sick one. And this is only where I may agree with your thought that civilization is natural: it’s natural in so far as diseases are “natural”.

  236. Hi Misko, But that says it all does it not? Even if you liken civilisation to a disease, its naturalness means it is very problematic to think about abolishing it? Would you eliminate mosquitoes or malaria entirely? Where would you stop? Moderating perhaps? It is not that I am committed to civilisation and ‘progress’. Far from it. It is just that I can’t see any evidence in our archaeological history that human societies are capable of standing still. The long period when we were hunter-gatherers was not a period of stasis…It was a period of continuous territorial, technological and cognitive expansion – albeit pretty slow to start with. Where do we get off? Before fire? with fire? with hand axes? with bows? with fire stick farming? with a little horticulture onthe side? with alot of horticulture on the side? It is not as if our Palaeolithic ancestors didn’t know how to farm or were unaware of the connection between seeds and plants. Eventually cirmstances /demographic pressure….whatever…would drive us back in the direction of civilisation. COlin Tudge’s little book on bandits and farmers is brilliant on this

  237. @Briana

    I am so with you on everything you said. The “we’re not enough” is an incidious message. I know it’s worn me out. The validation I read in your words of my experience is critical for me.

    I agree also that I don’t know any, as you put it, “activists who are not emotionally attached to either the movement or the cause and I see that as a strength. That passion drives and feeds us (and can also burn us out substantially). But the rhetoric of it’s not enough pushes people away from action and into apathy or fear.”

    That is so so so true. Thank you for saying that. The rhetoric is a total turnoff.

    You also said: “I do a helluva lot and I’m tired of any hint of being inadequate. I’ve left movements and causes where that’s the theme because it’s not supporting people in taking care of themselves and each other …” Yes, oh, yes…you are so right on again.

    We activists don’t tend the psyche of the movement. That’s what is so fabulous about the Transition Initiative Movement. It recognizes us as feeling beings. It tends to that as essential to the movement – tending the heart and soul, so to speak. Have you read that article in this same issue of Orion?

    You said: “Yes, more needs to be done. But as far as I can tell, one of the big things that needs doing is people coming together to support each other in change rather than tear each other down.”

    Yes…I am thinking again of starting an activist support group for myself. There’s a great book out there – used, caused it’s out of pring – called “Insight and Action: How to Discover and Support a Life of integrity and Commitment to Change.” Try and find it. I led a course on sustainable activism using another book that works just as well, if not better perhaps called “In the Tiger’s Mouth: An Empowerment Guide for Social Action” (Acting Effectively, Enjoying It & Keeping At It) by Katrina Shields.

    You said: “And also people supporting each other in taking good care of themselves so that movements can be sustainable. If they’re not, they fail.”

    Yes, we won’t be any good to the movements if we are overwhelmed, traumatized and/or dead, now will we? I know I am not much good at the moment, not having tended my own burnout well. After thinking about what you have said, I realize that I have been blaming myself for this but am rethinking that. I need to realize I am internalizing the “not enough” that I hear from every corner of activism. Perhaps that’s my real beef with Jensen. I always feel yelled at by him somehow. I am tired of being yelled at.

    And I especially love this:

    “At what point is the left going to stop eating is young?”

    My answer is yours – when we stop “eating ourselves.” It’s as if we many of us feel like wolves caught in traps and are chewing off our legs to get free, isn’t it? That’s the “we’re not enough” message/trap. It is that stark for me. And thinking about this in response to your words has been empowering. As long as we listen to the “not enough” and internalize it, we will keep chewing at our supposedly “trapped leg.”

    I will no longer let that message trap me – and I will certainly stop trying to chew my leg off if I do let it trap me for a second. I will remember, “there is no spoon trap” – okay, I’m a Matrix fan…”there is no spoon.” Just had to throw in a bito humor.

  238. I meant at the end of my last post:

    “There is no trap”

    a take off of the Matrix line:

    “There is no spoon”

    Also, I meant “out of print” not “out of pring”…

  239. Thank you, Steve Quilley, for the sober biologist’s point of view, especially post 247. And I’m with you on the need to at least “slow down the pace” of this destruction (249). Related to that, I appreciate Cerulean’s wide-reaching views, but especially her saving the good wine til late in the party – post 233, where she gives us Paul Cienfuegos’ ideas about dismantling the corporate body. Many of us would like to have a better idea on how to go about that in our locality – I’m in the Philadelphia area (big fish to fry here).
    Everything makes a difference, but the big things make more difference. And I think that was Jensen’s point in the first place, however many toes he may have stepped on with his way of explaining it.

  240. Yes… “Help the biosphere, but don’t overdo it!!” seems to be an implicit message in campaigns for individual conservation. I think Jensen is seeing that overall these kinds of campaigns will keep… people who don’t think about lifestyle changes on a daily basis like we do… from realizing how much is possible.
    For example, it certainly isn’t possible to “overdo” it when helping the biosphere. A life committed to wandering North America and watering/tending to plants and trees would be one solution. If I were to do that, I would say it directly conforms to my belief system. The biosphere is always hiring, with priceless pay, but the biosphere doesn’t know our languages so it can’t print help wanted ads. That sort of a cultural shift wouldn’t be for everyone — even just ten people in North America leaving their homes to do this would have an impact on larger segments of culture. Not “monkey wrenching”, but possibly similar. And legal too. The personal sacrifice would melt away due to knowing that your boss is bigger than the Moon.

  241. Hi Steve Quilley (#251),
    In my view, civilization, this “disease”, is a hierarchal system that is based on the ideology of superiority of a person, or group over all else believed to be inferior. And these elite believe that they are entitled to dispose of everyone and “everything” as they please.

    So, decivilizing the mind, or in other words, abolishing civilization from one’s mind, or healing from the disease is, to me, one of the main things to do.

    I think that it’s up to each person, and each community, to find what is sustainable for them and for all those who share their landbase, human and nonhuman.

    For instance, ideally, I’d hunt, gather and fish for a living. But I doubt I’ll ever be able to do that, because of the poor health of our ecosystems, and also because there are way too many people on the earth, thanks to insanivilization.

    So some of us are already in the process of transitioning into a sustainable way of living by rewilding, or rehumanizing ourselves, and also by gradually implementing ways of providing for our basic needs in sustainable and thus, ‘sane’ ways that are helping to restore our landbases. And some do this thru the re-establishment or perpetuation of their traditional indigenous culture, while some invent new/old ways of living. Of course, the principles of permaculture, forest gardening, and so on can be helpful also in this transition I think.

    And I think it’s possible to live in such sane and sustainable ways for a very long time.

    These people don’t represent a high percentage of the whole population, but I doubt that the whole human population will start living sustainably again though, so, because of the collapsing ecosystems, the erosion and desertification of arable lands, the eventual (or actual, I’m not sure) peak oil, and peak fossil fuels in general, climate change, pollution, overpopulation, and so on, there will be a collapse of human population also.

    All this healing and transitioning towards truly sane and sustainable ways of living is great, but that doesn’t stop the civilized from continuing their omnicidal ways.And they won’t hesitate to steal what they want from our landbases and from our people once we get something good and sane going, so I think people must be prepared for all this too.

  242. @Ed T

    Paul Cienfuegos started a group in California that’s the best place I know for finding out all you need to get started doing the work of dismantling corporate power in your area – Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (

    Paul doesn’t work much with them anymore but they are more active than ever and can give you tons of info (links, articles and more) on the other folks across the country and what they are doing to dismantle corporate power. Folks are approaching it from many different angles.

    Democracy Unlimited also sponsors workshops to train folks in this work. Again, all this info is on their website:

    Enjoy the wine…

  243. Forget shortershowers and have a revolution instead: The answer as to whether revolution is more effective than evolution/reformation is probably – historically – not clear. A parallel example is whether we should support under-privileged people in the western world or in Honduras by small individual efforts or plead for a revolution?
    Was the bloody an long-lasting Russian revolution in 1917 a success? If not, was it because ultimately the people did not change?
    I think so.

    The Problem: Revolutions have no lasting effect if the people’s mind is not in agreement with the objective, if you do not the develop a general understanding amongst people to accept the wished-for principles – in this case simpler living and ‘taking shorter showers’. Revolutions feed on a new understanding and an acceptance of issues. Those who start revolutions were idealist, who developed systems of different values. So even if we wanted a revolution, we would still need to breed those people, and in this case we breed them best by promoting an acceptance of simpler living . By this argument, it is essential that we all agree that simpler living is essential. Whether we then still need a revolution or not – we will see.
    Those who do not think that we need a simpler life cannot breed revolutionaries
    Reduced consumption is very relevant, particularly on a local level: The cars are now smaller, energy consumption could be decreased – we might not need a new power plant (coal or otherwise) if we reduced it further.
    Also consider that water supplies in many smaller areas are at their limit, air and water pollution has decreased where it was confronted – so technology and simpler living will continue to be critical.
    Economics: For various reasons, with time, we all become poorer, and simpler living will to make life more affordable.

    I think revolution is not ‘the other option’ as the article suggested – it is the last option.
    So people really have to change. Some Christian parable could be helpful. It is just too hard.


  244. Derrick Jensen is dead wrong, as is Al Gore regarding the real issues behind anthropogenic climate forcing and climate change.

    Agriculture generally and agricultural irrigation specifically are the primary causes of anthropogenic warming of the Earth’s climate system.

    We can do far more to save the Arctic and mitigate anthropogenic climate influences by minimizing our agricultural footprints by eating lower on the food chain than could possibly be achieved by reducing our carbon footprints.

    Water vapor is the principal GHG regulating the Earth’s climate system and evapotranspiration rates are increased by our industrialized agricultural use and especially the irrigation of ever expanding areas of the planet’s surface.

    For more on this do an internet search for:

    DON’T Do Something To Save The Planet


  245. Ah, yes… Navy style. Wet, turn off, soap up, turn the water back on, rinse. About 3 min. if you add it all up…

    And this has been a fascinating conversation. But the crux of it seems to be that we start at home, but not stop there, following it up with further layers of awareness and action…


  246. I find all Jensen’s critisms valid and tend to agree that our system is such a mess that it can no longer be fixed from inside, and tghat it would need to be taken down — but then he drops the ball. Tearing down, as hard as it is, is a lot easier than building up. With what viable sustainable alternative system are we to replace what we have today?

    I have yet to see any real or proposed system that would be immune from the wealthy and powerful finding ways to manipulate it to their advantage and take us right back where we were before.

    Call me a cynic….

  247. Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.
    Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things [consumer goods].
    “Growth Rate” – “Economy Rate” – “GDP”
    These are figures of “Ecocide”.
    These are figures of “crimes against Nature”.
    These are figures of “destruction of Ecosystems”.
    These are figures of “Insanity, Abnormality and Criminality”.
    Chief Seattle of the Indian Tribe had warned the destroyers of ecosystems way back in 1854 :
    “Only after the last tree has been cut down,
    Only after the last river has been poisoned,
    Only after the last fish has been caught,
    Only then will you realize that you cannot eat money.”
    Industrial Society has been spreading blatant lies over the years.
    “Green Industry”, “Green Technology”, “Ethical Consumerism”, “Sustainable Development”.
    These are contradictory terms � these are oxymorons.
    Industrialization can never be green � it is impossible.
    You cannot save a person after you have killed him.
    You cannot save ecosystems after you have killed them for making consumer goods.
    When we make consumer goods we kill Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land – directly or indirectly.
    Industrial Society destroys ecosystems – all Industrial Societies destroy ecosystems.
    It hardly matters whether it is “Capitalist Industrial Society” – “Communist Industrial Society” – or “Socialist Industrial Society”.
    Industrial Society destroys ecosystems at every stage of its functioning – when consumer goods are produced – when consumer goods are used – when consumer goods are discarded/ recycled.
    Raw material for industry is obtained by cutting up Forests. It is extracted by mining/ digging up the earth. It comes by destroying/ killing Trees, Animals and Land.
    Industries/ Factories use Water. The water that comes out of Factories is contaminated with hundreds of toxic chemicals. What to speak of Rivers – entire Oceans have been polluted. Industry kills Water.
    Industries/ Factories burn millions of tonnes of fuel – and when raw material is melted/ heated up, hundreds of toxic chemicals are released into the atmosphere. Industry kills Air.
    Industrial Society has covered millions of square miles of land with cement and concrete. Industry kills Land.
    When consumer goods are discarded/ thrown away in landfills it again leads to destruction of ecosystems.
    When consumer goods are recycled, hundreds of toxic chemicals are released into air, water and land.
    Consumer goods are sold/ marketed through a network of millions of kilometers of rail / road network and shipping routes which causes destruction of all ecosystems that come in the way.
    We have limited resources/ ecosystems on earth which is just 40,000 km in circumference.
    If we destroy ecosystems for fewer things [food, clothing, shelter] the ecosystems will last longer.
    If we destroy ecosystems for more things [consumer goods] the ecosystems will finish much sooner.
    The fewer things we make the more sustainable we are.
    This is common sense – plain common sense – which the so called smart, intelligent, advanced, civilized and developed Industrial Society does not possess.
    The collapse has already happened for millions of other species � most of them have been decimated.
    Very soon it will be the turn of man to go.
    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

  248. Jenson’s article doesn’t say to me that we need to retreat to the dark ages. What I read is a call to action. I don’t read a statement against the simple living actions but rather a statement that they are not enough. I don’t see a condemnation of limiting ourselves but rather an accurate statement that personal, individual change is not political activism and therefore not effective on a large scale.
    When the last President Bush came to convocation at my campus a couple of years ago, there were those who organized and protested outside and others who felt that their not standing when he entered the room were equal actions. They were not. A boycott is in great part successful because of the public knowledge that it is occurring and the numbers involved in the action. Of course there were others who did nothing at all, which is the same as complicity with status quo.
    I hear Jenson saying that we should not confound individual action with group action in neither name nor effect. Anyone who thinks that Dr. King’s greatest impact was that he “gave us a dream” fails to comprehend the historical context in which the speech was given. It was 1963, in front of a massive gathering of people, who arrived at the Washington Mall between Lincoln’s Memorial and the Congress because of a call to action. It was a huge demonstration whose specific dates and locations where consciously planned for symbolic and practical effect. The year was symbolic as it was 100 years since Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The speech was ironic in that the dream was not that of Dr. King’s but that it was the dream of African-Americans who 100 years after the end of slavery were still oppressed by institutionalized racism. Read Dr. King’s other words in other texts. Dr. King was very well aware of the effect and import of activism. Dr. King was shot for his activism not for his dream.
    Social/political activism is not passé. Activism has a variety of expressions: demonstrations, direct action, petitioning, campaigning, pressuring representatives, organized boycotts and so and more but all are involvement in a group action.
    If we look to environmental heroes and we can see that they are activists: Wangari Maathai – Noble Prize for the Greenbelt Movement or Chico Mendes – killed for his activism. Or take a look at a not very radical source, Time Magazine’s list:,29569,1663317,00.html
    and we can see that all are involved beyond the shower.

    Jensen’s article is a call to political action and he defines it. I agree that certainly we need to envision a better way of relating within our Earth community but without engagement beyond the personal and individual, as Jensen call for, there will not be change large enough to reverse our destructive course.

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
    – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  249. This is my second post. The first was a rebuttal emphasizing that our personal contributions matter very much and particularly important in defining what we, human beings, ARE.

    After reading some of the comments I have come to realize that so many here are correct, that it is not enough and perhaps active peaceful protest is very necessary.

    Many thanks to all the diligent commentators that took the time to put thought into this thread.

  250. The choice is… not just our own,
    but at the same time, it is our own
    self who could choose to leave the
    world of buildings and roads.

    The choice, that might be simple,
    is made difficult simply because that choice is very rarely

    The choice is made difficult because
    a decision to leave the world of
    buildings and roads is considered
    the decision of a sociopath.

    Yet, most people who today would make that choice aren’t of the sociopathic bent. Instead, they are perhaps willing to suffer the “great difficulties” of nature instead of suffering only the difficulties of man’s domain.

  251. I came to the conclusion about 30 years ago, that the only way for humans to not destroy the earth, would be to all live as natives, in tents, or small wooden huts, or using whatever immediate resources for building that exist in your area. I knew I did not want to live in a tent, as the winters here reach a low of -40F. Thus, I live divided, part of me attempting to be frugal with resources, and the other part wanting a nice car, nice restaurants, new clothes (more comfortable), smooth streets, big hospitals, and no filth (lots of detergents and glues). That is, I want the industrial complex as I do not want the industrial complex. It has been clear for years, that the savings in energy use by the average caring person, only helps reserve more resources for big industry and government (including the military, who need lots of oil). We are not yet courageous enough to free ourselves from this slavery to the metallurgists, the money men, and the manufacturers and advertisers. We communicate through this electronic device, a very resource-wasting industry! Where to begin before a set of nuclear accidents destroys the planet and everything on it?! The old adage was that when humans destroyed themselves, plants would take over the world. Well, nuclear energy has finished that possibility, nothing will live or be able to grow. We are, for now, lemmings, going to our deaths, blind by choice.

  252. I have to take issue with people who freak out about living in a tent. Really we can’t compare a developed indigenous culture to living in a tent (or “hut”) these people were comfortable and the land provided for them. If it was cold, likely they were migratory and went somewhere warmer. There are a million traditional ways that people lived well in times when people lived sustainably. It in no way compares to our culture, especially the part about our homes. People used to live in community, not in their own isolated castles like we do now. There was no need for house after house of plumbing and lights and rooms and all that. It was communal because it was easier and better not because they couldn’t figure out how to do it “our way”. And, judging from what remnants are left of indigenous cultures, which need to be actually studied more by people who worry about the hardship of sustainable living, the living was much more comfortable and enjoyable than ours with its traffic and noise and long work weeks and junk food and all the other things that plague this culture.

  253. We can’t go back, only forward. Going back to living in tents is not an alternative and may in fact do more damage to the local environment. Dances With Wolves is a hollywood creation, not reality.
    Someone mentioned MLK as having a dream. That dream is a rhetorical masterpiece. Someone needs to come along with a positive future dream of green sustainability. If the oil economy ever collapses, we may have little alternative then to be less wasteful. Better to meet that challenge positively instead of waiting for the castastrophy to arrive.

  254. 9 years ago I tried to get Derrick to start writing things like this, he said I was making him cry! EF! and ELF have said this for 11 years, its true. If you want to get to where Derrick will be in 8 years read Coming Insurrection and then you will KNOW that all activism is evil – Derrick knows this and knows thjat only arms can make a difference. Arms backed by free thinking, aware communes out to anarchize… you fools. HAts off to Orion for bits of truth…

  255. I recently watched the film “Zeitgeist: addendum” and found it very thought provoking. I basically says that the whole problem lies in the fact that we live in a monetary system. And this system needs there to be poverty and scarcity in order to perpetuate itself. So we need to change the whole system to get to the core issue.

    I recommend this film to everyone who cares about the planet. There were some things I didn’t like in it, but it shows a point of view we should all at least consider.

    Interesting article! I still believe that personal actions are important in many ways though. But they’re not nearly enough.

  256. This type of thinking, if it can be called such, is all or nothing. There is nothing monolithic about the industrial economy. It has a certain character which is always changing. And there are no monolithic sollutions. Unfortuately journalists make a living off of saying” your monolithic soulution sucks and you are stupid, because I have a column and I can call you such and such”. Comparing the environmental crisis to Nazi Germany is also an empty analogy. It is a sort of free association that is typical of postmodernist writing. Perhaps articles like these should be put into the category of literature, rather than reasoned discourse. Sorry , I just don’t get it.

  257. Yes , upon a closer reading, Mr. Jensen makes a good point re: we can benefit as well as harm the environment. His article on the whole seems focused on the individual , in spite of his efforts to transcend that basis. In doing so he misses the big picture, the observation of the treands and potential openings for strategic action. If we are to view the struggle for the earth as a battle, we need strategy in the place of polemics.

  258. His defense of simple living is admirable. Being an activist for the earth is more than a lifestyle choice, and we should live simply simply for the pleasure of doing so. But there is a connection between the individual and the collective, and he fails to make this explicit, or even to recognize it. And if the individual is not the significant site for social action, then why not look at the collective as part of our responsibility: Rather than refusing the karma of corporate industry , and forcing the blame onto their hands, lets begin by realizing that regardless of who the polluters are, the collective is responsible. WE all do this together. The shift from individual bases for social thought is the truly radical one, and to do so we must stop blaming others. Not blaming others is not blaming oneself. Its not Black and White like that. Though we face a difficult and painful situation, placing blame is no part of the sollution.Right?

  259. Well written and thought through. Your comment about being dead will be exactly how good ole mother earth will stop this mess we as humans have come to create. God forgive us all!

  260. I was thinking about all the recycling I’ve ever done in my life in comparison to all the waste I’ve wasted, and, even as an avid recycler, I think more needs to be done on a social/economic/political level. I think that every little bit counts, and I think that personal respect is important, but in the end our political policy will dictate what becomes of the environment and world in which we live.

  261. I like this article’s attempt to encourage people to be polically active, because surely it is not enough just to check out of society and hope peace and common sense will prevail. But I take major issue with you trying to convince people that their actions do not have an effect on the environment. Your numbers seem intriguing at best, and they do little to disclose the power of personal action inspring larger changes. Unless people can see that simplification is a real and actually quite freeing option, there will be little incentive from those in charge (ie, those with money, like you) to put pressure on their government systems to make top-down changes, or to vote with their money. Yes we are consumers, and unless you have decided to manufacture or source all of your materials directly from the producer (which is a viable and a great option that enables one to vote against large, wasteful and remotely located industry and for local, sustainable manuafacturing)then you are voting for a wounded system with your money and wasteful actions.
    I my mind it isn’t about shorter shower times, its about setting up neighbourhood rain-water collection
    systems to provide household water, then connecting the graywater systems to the garden in the backyard. So then you not only have control and responsibility over the source of your water, but you also have cut out the indusrial farmer to a large extent. Think about it. And remember, one inspires change by offering new frameworks from which to see the world, and providing viable alternatives. Certainly one does not inspire change by suggesting a throw up the hands approach and pointing fingers at the abstract “them” who controls industry. Wake up buddy, we control industry with our dollars.

    “The second problem—and this is another big one—is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself.”

  262. The impact of sustainable individuals is not that large in statistics and numbers. But the mental part of it- knowing that there is a way to live that defies the IGS myth- is necessary for political action to take place.

  263. OK, so this from a stay a home mom, Prius+minivan owning, former Republican. With a lawn. Some of us obviously have farther to go before we’re ready to vote with our bodies. Although, in a way, I do: I started commuting by bicycle, at least some of the time, two years ago, which in a city, means you take your life in your hands every time you go out.

    I live in a neighborhood where hardly anyone even thinks about the epic changes barreling upon us, what I think of as the Real Changes. To step from my life into the kind of activism that Jensen advocates, seems like it would be about as effective as … taking shorter showers. But it is people like me who need to get into this conversation. One of the commenters used the word, “timid,” and when it comes to environmental activism. That’s how I would describe myself, friends and family.

    I know about activism. I chair local option levy campaigns, volunteer for nonprofits that feed the homeless, at the local juvenile lockdown facility, for the public library, sponsor orchestras for kids. I’ve lobbied congressmen and legislators. I choose things that I have a sense I can make a difference in. From my perspective, moving the political and corporate structure in a healthier direction seems about as plausible as moving the earth.

    But. Change comes incrementally at first, like what happens after you plant an acorn. There is no tree the next day, certainly not a forest. But the important thing is that the acorn gets planted. Once a tree gets going, it goes gangbusters. Some of us are farmers, some of us are politicians. Some of us just take up air.

    I’m on the border of being one of the latter, but small investments in change are starting to snowball. After I switched political parties, my husband did too. I started buying organic food many years ago, and then switched to local (usually paying 3 times the price than I would for imported food). I watched farmers’ markets grow from skimpy pickings to trendy and bountiful Places to Be. I brought string bags to the grocery store. Five years ago, the clerks sighed. Now they say thank you. We moved into town, and started a small vegetable garden. This is all shorter shower stuff, but these are the seeds, and they have to be sown. When I bicycle down the street, helmet askew, salt and pepper hair escaping and bike basket clanking (think Miss Gulch), the SUV drivers notice. I know they do. It’s not activism in the sense that Jensen hopes for. It’s not enough. But it’s a start. I’m watching for chinks in the political and corporate machinery, and in the thinking of my friends and family — the kind of chinks that allowed Obama to be elected (moderate though he is). There aren’t many yet. But I’m hoping there will be. Soon.

  264. Julia,

    You’re my newest hero and such an example of why this author is off-base! Articulate, too!

  265. While Derrick makes some very good points – provocative, challenging, thought-provoking – one sentence in particular jumps out at me – it tries to simplify the debate, but is “simply” not true:

    “Personal change does not equal social change”. People around the world are proving this wrong – people high up like Ray Anderson of Interface Carpets, as well as countless, faceless souls who are working on personal transformation leading to healthier workplaces, happier families, more appropriate education, disease-free bodies, etc. All this translates to social change – it’s just not immediate, dramatic or even news-worthy. But it can be revolutionary.

    That said, of course we need political action, and we need to continue to encourage it in our younger generations – that means teaching critical thinking, awareness, debate, and confidence, and modeling it for them. Even this connects to some of the “simpler” stuff, though, because how easy is it to be critical when you’re sucked in to want the latest and greatest gadget to come out of an Apple store? How can we take lawyers, politicians, businesspeople seriously in their pledges to reduce energy or “green” their operations when they still fly around the world to attend conferences (or beach resorts), own six vehicles and three homes, or generally think themselves exempt from the “less is more” ethic that we’re hoping will, in fact, save the planet?

    Obviously I’m biting off more than I can chew. It’s not just businesspeople and politicians, but celebrities, royalty, and anyone with a decent paycheque that seems to think it’s their right to buy, buy, buy. There are so many models for simple living, and yet it is so hard to work towards that, in the face of so much greed, consumption and manufacturing excess. The groups, communities, and yes, even individuals who are able to choose less, live peacefully (with the occasional outburst) and connect with others over shared values are doing good work, hard work, and they may very well be the start of a bigger movement. Much easier to rant at a few marches, write a few letters, and feel like you’ve done your part. It’s a lifelong commitment.

    My point, I guess, is that it takes both approaches – outer activism and inner growth – to truly make change, in fits and starts, and gradually over time. One without the other will not be effective…and we must be willing to live with a little discomfort while at the same time seeking out more harmonious ways of living (permaculture, non-violent communication, creative pursuits, joining a political party, writing letters, asking for local food and products at your favourite stores, spending more time with your kids, or any kids, frequenting farmers markets, looking into cohousing, buying used, supporting recycled books, clothes, cars, saying”no” to new things for a while…the list of things to do could go one and on, just use your imagination!) . We must also start where we are, be willing to make compromises and forgive ourselves. It’s not just about carbon footprint but also about cooperation and peacemaking.

    Thanks, anyway, to Derrick for prompting another excellent discussion: something we need much more of, for sure!

  266. Thank you for setting up the debate in the right frame of mind.
    At last a Voice that is worth listening to. Thank You!
    I’ve been watching this crisis and what’s being done about it and I am horrified: our Hope for CHANGE has been turned into JUSTIFICATION of the OLD WAYS — mostly.
    The Banks are fewer than ever and more powerful than ever. The Bankers are dictating to the White House what regulations need to be done and who will do them. We might as well ask criminals to preside to their own judgements!
    CAPITAL has hijacked DEMOCRACY. We have been turned into not much more than SLAVES of CAPITAL. That is a hard thing to admit but such is the NEW REALITY. Lets WAKE UP!

  267. I stopped reading when it got radical. I think the reason it has gone personal is because it is difficult for individual people to accomplish anything massive alone. I always hear “what can I do to fix it?” If the world is littered with problems and no solutions, where would that leave us? If an individual can do one small personal thing to become part of a greater solution, then don’t bash them for it. There is no room for selfishness when the world population is growing far too quickly.

  268. I agree that personal action is the place to start. It is useful practically, and it is needed to move consciousness forward. However I believe that we, as a nation, have reached a point where we need CHANGE in our POLITICO-FINANCIAL SYSTEM. There is no point watching our current president — as well as some of our old presidents like Carter and Clinton — do their best to make this world a better world, if their actions are undermined or even overtaken by a MONEY ELITE who holds much of the WORLD POWER in their hand. This ELITE uses OUR money for their own interest and at our own expense. This is what the current crisis is showing us clearly. That needs to CHANGE.

  269. I agree with earlier commenters who suggested that the problem is there is no alternative, positive vision being provided. This article, like Nordhaus & Shellenger’s _Breakthrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility_, sets up an important challenge –- the current, popular strategies for change are insufficient in the face of the enormous converging crises we face — but it doesn’t quite rise to that challeng. I have struggled to communicate and share this challenge with my students, because it’s crucial.

    I’m reminded of a favorite Bucky Fuller quote: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

    I’m not a fighter. I know there are fights worth fighting, but I also know that I’m not effective in competetive situations. I want to work with others who are building new models. What is the vision, and where are our allies gathering?

  270. A recent comment asked where builders of new models are gathering–one huge gathering place is the Bioneers conference in San Rafael and in satellite conferences all over the world in October. Please check it out. So inspiring and incredible positive vision yet extremely realistic. has the info.

  271. I would like to amend Mr. Jensen’s sentence here: “when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the OBLIGATION to alter or abolish it.”
    I think too often as North Americans we think only of ourselves or of ourselves first. We are hiding under the deluge of self-help books, trying to make “personal changes”, trying to “make the world a better place” by not watering our lawn. We need to step up and take some responsibility for things that are bigger than us (as well as our individual choices) – our governments and our businesses. Many of us have lost sight of our role in the big picture, and this article is a helpful reminder that we must be a part of a bigger change. As one of the first comments in this section said (summarized), “We need to dream”. I would add: then we need to apply those dreams.

  272. I wish to thank the author to enlighten me about the hidden trap of believing in small individual actions to make the planet a better place. I got his point well, and the author convinced me that the real change could take place only when we reform the basic systems and values of capitalism and large corporations. The corporate system as we know it in the United States act as if they are ‘psychopaths,” when we examine their behaviors. Corporations have enormous power beyond the individuals running the corporations. We need to realize the flaw in the system itself. I recommend to you all, readers, to see the award-winning documentary, The Corporation. Take care, everyone. Akira Odani

  273. I agree with a lot of the comments here, and I believe that we need both: the alternative movement of personal actions AND a political change of the system. We need an equivalent of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps when enough people are living an alternative life style, the Capitalist System will implode all of its own? Then we could have a shot a real DEMOCRACY.

  274. I personally believe the connection between personal change and political change is (like most things) vastly more complicated than Jensen would like us to believe.

    In short, what political change will come (at least on this front) in a democracy without a strong base of people who have already made a personal change in the same direction? I could talk about this for a long time but I think that sentence suffices.

  275. The arguments will continue, I suppose. That much appears certain.

    While experts are disagreeing, the climate is destabilizing. Because “time to act” for sustainable living standards seems to be in even shorter supply than Earth’s dwindling resources and degrading ecosystem services, perhaps now is the moment to move beyond talk and become more action-oriented.

    It appears to me that the family of humanity could soon confront some unimaginably horrendous sort of colossal and complicated human-forced tragedy. A species like Homo sapiens simply cannot live well much longer by willfully denying human limits and Earth’s limitations because our planetary home is finite and frangible, and the human species is an integral part of the biophysical world we inhabit. Because the Earth is round and has distinctly recognizable boundaries, the gigantic current scale and fully anticipated global growth rate of human overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities could become patently unsustainable in our time on a planet with size, composition and ecology of Earth.

    Most problematic of all is the realization that much of the human activity on Earth we see today that is intended to mitigate deleterious impacts on Earth’s body and its environs from human actions are actually making bad matters worse….and doing so fast.

    Perhaps an alternative will be found to the astonishingly unrealistic, woefully misguided and widely shared belief of many too many experts among us that the human family can outgrow the human-induced global threats to human wellbeing and environmental health that are being precipitated by the huge scale and growth of unbridled production, unchecked consumption and unregulated propagation. Holding fast to the idea that human beings can outgrow growth-driven global threats, ones directly derived from our global overgrowth activities, could lead the children down a “primrose path” to some kind of worldwide catastrophe, the likes of which only Ozymandias has seen.

    Perhaps not just talking about the global human-driven predicament, but actually engaging reasonably, sensibly and humanely in making necessary behavioral changes away from unsustainable living standards and toward sustainability, are in the offing.

  276. This article is interesting, but it makes a false dichotomy of individual consumers and corporations/politicians. Who runs these corporations? Individuals. Who makes political decisions? Individuals. Who influences the decisions of corporations and politicians? Many individuals acting similarly, pushing for similar reforms both through active protest and policy-making, and through their large, collective trends. As ideas and convictions are incorporated by more and more individuals, a critical mass is reached – this collective consciousness then begins to change things on a larger scale, both through collective actions (decreasing CO2 emissions by 22% if we all followed Al Gore’s advice is NOT insignificant, in any way), and through collective mindset. Just look at how it’s now very popular to be “green” – businesses know that they will likely do better business if they work in environmentally conscious ways, simply because lots of individuals out there now expect this. To tell people to roll over and stop making changes in their lives because it doesn’t matter – that’s poisonous and just plain wrong. It’s really just an excuse for apathy and laziness.

  277. Yesterday I showed the movie “Monumental: David Brower’s Fight for Wild America” to my Environmental Ethics class as an example of virtue ethics as well as history of some aspects of the environmental movement. As I watched the movie it occurred to me that Brower was acting as an individual all right, but doing so with the backing of thousands of members of the Sierra Club. His successful lobbying of Congress and the Dept. of the Interior, to stop the building of dams in the Grand Canyon made far more difference than all the care he ever took leaving nothing but footprints during a lifetime of rock climbing, hiking and trekking in the wild.

    The devastation wrought by humans on the planet has been accomplished at the hands of institutions and energy orders of magnitude greater than that of individuals. It isn’t individuals who have become a geological force so much as huge back hoes that can change the course of rivers or explosives that can blow the top off a mountain or gigantic saws that can decimate a 2000 year old sequoia or redwood. This machinery costs money that only large organizations can marshall — corporations, governments, armies.

    Isn’t this what Derrick Jensen is talking about?

  278. Activism, yes! but keep up the shorter showers!
    Personal change may not equal political change, but it certainly complements it. The best way to influence others to take an activist role is to lead by example.
    If we are activists but do not bother to conserve energy and water, recycle etc, then we are either hypocrites or believe that the rules should not apply to all (i.e. “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” to paraphrase Orwell)
    Derrick Jensen is correct to say personal change is ineffective at causing the changes necessary in how our society lives. But we need a mass movement of activists to achieve real change. So we must convince as many as possible to be activists and take action. So how do we do it? By being activists ourselves, and by showing, by taking an active role and by changing our personal choices of what we consume to live, that we do not have to play the roles capitalism and its schools, advertising and tweedledum and tweedledee political parties assign to us- to be obedient consumers, to be successful in accumulating material possessions at any cost, to follow the political agendas set by Murdoch and his media cronies.
    We need to think globally and act locally.
    The media say alternative energy is not a viable alternative. By using it we demonstrate that it is.
    They say the Western way of life is what the whole world should aspire to. We can reject Western consumerism and live by fulfilling our needs rather than the wants promoted by advertising. We have to jump off their bandwagon. For example, the Third World doesn’t need a thousand brands and models of cars that all run on fossil fuels. They need cheap reliable non-polluting personal and public transportation. Rainwater tanks and filters. Water recycling systems. Non-patented seeds that don’t need herbicides and chemical fertilizers to grow. Energy efficient homes, with free energy to run them.
    So do we.
    By modeling what we can of a simple lifestyle that can be shared with all the peoples of the world, we convince others our model is practical and workable. And when they take it up, we can point to industry and say “well if we can do it, why the devil can’t they? Why are they above the rules necessary so all can survive sustainably?”

    Jensen makes four points to claim simple living as a political act is ineffective at causing the changes necessary. I argue that it’s worth doing along with activism
    1.He says it is predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their land base, and consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. If we live as capitalism indoctrinates us to, in our throwaway society, we do inevitably harm our land base. So let’s live as sustainably as we can within capitalism, reducing harm, and in that way help the Earth, and do our political battles too.
    2.He says it assigns blame to individuals (presumably as opposed to blaming capitalism). It’s not assigning blame so much as taking a bit of personal responsibility. We are products of capitalism. Let’s actively change our mindset and our world. If it only reduces carbon emissions by 22% (his figures) by getting every individual to make the simple personal changes suggested in An Inconvenient Truth, hey, that’s a great start! As long as we keep hammering industry to do it too, we’re on a winning tactic.
    3.He says making personal changes accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. News flash- we are consumers. Let’s make choices about what we consume that help the Earth a bit more than the choices we are presently making.
    4.He says the endpoint logic of personal change as a solution is suicide- to remove our personal burden on the Earth’s resources. Suicide fixes nothing. It merely removes someone who is capable of forcing change if they take an activist role. I’d rather lead by example.

    Let’s not substitute personal change for activism. Let’s do both.

  279. Well said. We need to continue acting. We can see that even with Obama as president we do not get the CHANGE we need because there are too many people who are fighting against it, or who are confused about it. A critical mass of people truly free from the old capitalist system is needed before anything can really change. We need to put forward new values. The goal of industry and finance should be the WELL BEING OF THE PEOPLE and not profit for the share holders, as the current law is now professing. Without a change of values we will never get real change. So yes, lets continue acting according to these new set of values until enough people rally behind them. Then the old system will fall of its own.

  280. Funny, why does he not mention an unsustainable population?

  281. Nice advice, Jensen, but I don’t recall the last time that I saw you putting your ass on the line, engaging in direct action, or going to jail for the cause. Talk is cheap. You also seem to provide a false dichotomy, this is not an either/or proposition. Personal behavior, coupled with determined, risk-taking, political action, happens all over the world, except in the U.S. Because we are all (including Jensen) the beneficiaries of other people’s misery.

  282. Jensen is wrong to suggest individual action is insignificant. The capitalistic economy wasn’t shoved down our throats by demanding powers. We chose it and do so everyday! If you look around the world, there are very few groups of people who have chosen to forgo the comforts that industrialization brings. Call it the human soft spot. The real dilemma is not that we need to get rid of the supposed imposed capitalism, but that we could never forsee what would come of it. Where we are now is figuring out how to work with it to transform it into something life giving rather than stealing, lest we end up with no life and planet at all as Jensen says. A lot of people will say, Forget Activism, after years of experience. Jensen has co-opted the lyrics of Dead Prez, “I say we all rush the pentagon, grab guns, and control the intercom.” Then what? I’d rather start with my neighbors! There’s a Zen saying, “filling the well with snow”. It means good luck! Act not in fear of death, but with resolution to support life. “What goes around comes around”!

  283. Reading a little Rollo May and this seems to fit:

    “What is necessary for “resolutions’ is a new consciousness in whichh the depth and meaning of personal relationship will occupy a central place. Such an embracing consciouness is always required in an age of radical transition. Lacking external guides, We shift our morality inward; there is a new demandupon the individual of personal responsibility. We are required to discover on a deeper level what it means to be human.”

    Of course Rollo May is talking about personal relationships,but like almost everyone agrees, our values have to be wedded to the personal anyways, there is no way around it, and that means personal responsibility. And as many believe the best course is personal responsibility for ourselves as well as others. No small feat. Of course we always have external guides, but not really when it is in a sense new territory for everyone.

    Just some thoughts.

    I thank Mr. Jensen for making such wonderful points, and from what I have read by him, I am sure he sees the other sides of this. It seems this is such a huge part that is often left out that he decided to put some balannce into the conversation.


  284. Give Your Stuff Away Day is on Saturday, May 15, 2010.

    Do you think this event might be worthy of a small mention in your fine publication?

    The goal of Give Your Stuff Away Day is to provide a fast, easy, and fun way to get rid of things we don’t need – things that still have value to others, but not to us.

    On Give Your Stuff Away Day, people will bring to their curbs bicycles, sports equipment, household items, tools, building materials, furniture, books, clothing, shoes, and other valuables – for others to take for free.

    Give Your Stuff Away Day will be fun and social, like Halloween. It will reduce clutter, provide items for others, and shrink bulging landfills. It might also stimulate the economy a tiny bit.

    Can you help by publishing a brief piece on my efforts to make Give Your Stuff Away Day a world-wide event?

    Thank you.

  285. Very nice quote, Ryan. I am not sure if it’s a typo or not, but to me it would sound better with the word ‘revolutions’ instead of ‘resolutions': “What is necessary for ‘revolutions’ is a new consciousness in whichh the depth and meaning of personal relationship will occupy a central place. Such an embracing consciouness is always required in an age of radical transition. Lacking external guides, we shift our morality inward; there is a new demand upon the individual of personal responsibility. We are required to discover on a deeper level what it means to be human.”

  286. no typo, I wrote a bunch of stuff and it was erased, would be worthwhile finding the original root latin for revolution as the meaning has become obscured throughout the ages. I no loger have the boo so I can’t re-visit the original context.


  287. Doing a quick search I found a good beginning definition may be to “roll again”. That sounds better than what I usually equate revolution with. This implies to start over, renewal, a sense of freshness. A new set of eyes maybe. Now this really starts to fit with the above quote. Thanks Noelle!

    Much love,

  288. Yes Ryan, I think you are onto something. We need to “roll over” back to the original values of our constitution. In time, “Profit for Profit” has been substituted to “Profit for the Good of the People.” We can trace back when and where this has happened, and investigate what good and/or bad this has brought to us as a nation.

    Today’s institutionalized Profit for Profit has recently lead us to a succession of deeper and deeper crisis. It’s only logical to think that a more devastatrice crisis is on its way unless we, the people, succeed in enforcing some FUNDAMENTAL SYSTEMIC CHANGES.
    Let’s hope that this will happen before – and not after – the next crisis!

  289. Thanks for more comments Noelle.

    I think it’s worth keeping in mind that there has to be profit for profits’ sake in our current society. Especially in our current financial climate we have to look at how hard it must be for a company to make concessions, in particular environmental concessions when it may hurt there profit. My point being, anyone attempting to communicate with large and small business should keep this in mind so as to even have a running chance at success.

    Of course profit should extend out to care for the whole world and ALL the beings within. But as a beginning I think it would be naïve to begrudgingly say “this is what is needed so you must listen to me now, damn it” kind of attitude. Not that this also doesn’t have its place in communicating from time to time. Hopefully more of this is happening.

    This is a broad subject, obviously, that’s half the reason Orion magazine is still in business in the first place. Many angles to be talked about and all of them have something to say with some angles being much more important than others.

    I would go back to what Rollo May said about consciousness as I think it’s a biggie, I would say the most important of all aspects is a big heart mind; not the extremes of naivete and over intellectualization, but that place where all the horizontal and vertical growth occurs:

    “What is necessary for “resolutions’ is a new consciousness in which the depth and meaning of personal relationship will occupy a central place. Such an embracing consciousness is always required in an age of radical transition. Lacking external guides, we shift our morality inward; there is a new demand upon the individual of personal responsibility. We are required to discover on a deeper level what it means to be human.”

    Well maybe corporations can discover on a deeper level what is meant to be a corporation in the 21st century. And I would extend personal relationship in the above quote to personal relationship with those in corporations (you could also insert any word here). This would require much groundwork (in what form I don’t know) and may sound naïve but if we can’t have a true relationship, if we can’t communicate using the same words, then what chance do we really have? What chance do all parties have?


  290. Your point is well taken, Ryan. Yes communication is fundamental. And I am afraid I failed to communicate my thoughts properly. When I said “profit for profit” I was referring to the biggest financial investment banks who are only interested in making profit by ‘gambling’ with the people’s money without any concern or benefit for the people – or I should rather say without any consideration for the suffering they have brought and are still bringing to the people. Industry and Commerce Banks are suffering in this crisis too (read the Bill concerning the Financial Reforms they are proposing to Congress in comparison to Geithner’s Bill). The only winners are the Investment Banks who have taken a ‘de facto’ hold of the power in this country, even though we are still trying to deny it. How far down will we have to go before our eyes open?

  291. yes, interesting, but askew. the whole reason the whole exists is because of the part. the parts make the whole. so taking a shorter shower may not make more food show up in africa, but not shopping at the mall will make the corporations dwindle. we power the corps. they seem powerful, and they are, IF we fuel them by purchasing their goods and services. think gas is expensive? quit buying it, watch the price go down. but once it goes down and you start buying it again, it will go back up. think there’s too much traffic and people? stop having kids then. but if we stop doing that, eventually we’ll die out. i think that is where we are heading anyhow- because we really are not living sustainably. this is such a tangled web we’ve woven, there really is no way to sort it out with simple solutions. we are too diverse in our many languages, beliefs, cultures.

  292. this is my take: so culture is is the problem[culture=structure=system]- and the name of this problem is the culture of industry[which is associated with large scale industry] – this is the number one enemy.

    so the next question should be how to dismantle this culture of large-scale industry? given our[us=consumer=common people of the world] to response to this problem? knowing that little-personal act of responsibilities are insufficient…mass renouncement of industrial culture? i’m confuse and unclear as to how to response. can someone enlighten me please.

  293. Lets look at this from the stand point that we are all in this together. We, the people, have become accustomed to this culture of abundance. We need to wake up to the fact that free capitalism can also brings chaos — as in 29 and as in last year. So, not only do we need to choose a SUSTAINABLE lifestyle, we also need to insure that our financial system is SUSTAINABLE. We, the “shiple,” need to wake up to the fact that the Power has been stolen by Big Money, and demand that the government take the Power back from the “Banksters”. For a start, it needs to enforce regulations that will prevent the Feds and Wall-Street to perpetuate fraudulent, decivious, usurary practices at the expense of the tax-payer.

  294. (1) I can only act from the top down however, we together can act from the bottom up. (2) Not I but, only we can objectify morality.

  295. The author has provided us with an excellent analysis of the problem. In general I agree with his premise that our personal consumption is marginal compared to that of the industrial and corporate world. I disagree that we, in our personal lives, should stop our process of reducing and reusing. When we participate in the initiative to reduce our waste and consumption we make an ethical commitment to the idea that our planet needs us to be conscientious of our waste production. It also connects us with the very process we are asking industry and corporations to undertake viz., reduce your footprint. The connection between our personal lives and our choices there must link to the choices of our industries and corporations.

  296. The family of humanity is presented with a colossal problem, second in magnitude only to climate change as a threat to human wellbeing and environmental health. Currently, corporate entities are perversely regarded under law as having individual rights like those that citizens of a country possess. A patina of corporate ‘citizenship’ masks many kinds of illegitimate, immoral and fraudulent activities that are promulgated by arrogant, dishonest and greedy individuals within huge international financial and production enterprises. These corporate entities are so gigantic that no nation-state on Earth can any longer reasonably and sensibly contain them.

    Which major corporation, multinational conglomerate or industry “owns” your country’s governance mechanisms…democratic principles and practices notwithstanding?

  297. I’m very glad to see this point of view in print (if a few months late). These “individual actions” are the PRIVILEGE of those who have nothing to loose and are actually quite comfortable with the destructive system we have. Activism for them is a leisure activity. How many people are really willing to spend the extra time and effort to organize hundreds of people and devote themselves to years of hard work? Not many in the first world – who are ultimately benefit the current system which is so devastating to so many in the developing world.

    Collective action is the only way major social change has ever occurred, but it is far more difficult- and risky- than individual action. The new “green consumption” model of “activism” is not solving the life-or-death issues of environmental destruction or the exploitation of human labor. All it does is make people FEEL BETTER about themselves while accomplishing nothing.

  298. The daily actions taken by thoughtful people to lessen their demands on natural resources are dismissed far too recklessly in this article. The sorts of actions he rails against are political statements as much as they are practical ways to live more sustainably. Tomorrow when millions of people bike to work (for example) they will be partaking in a visible and healthy political act that won’t put money into the coffers of the industries and governments that Mr. Jensen somewhat fairly rails attacks. The cavalier attitude he takes will be effective in generating some controversy readership, but will be counterproductive in working towards a more sustainable society.

  299. if tomorrow all of us [including those in the developing countries] stop consuming the modern ways[ie industrial products and its derivatives] then addressing climate change and environmentalism has some use.

    wit regards to climate change the fundamental problem remains whether rich industrial countries inhabitants are willing to change their wasteful lifesytle in every ways. i think the answer is still a resounding NO so forget it…Derrick Jensen points is valid.

  300. In regard to “whether rich industrial countries inhabitants are willing to change their wasteful lifesytle in every ways”: The bad news is still a resounding NO (and “tan” you might be right about that). The “good” news is that they may not have any choice soon, if we keep going down the slop from one bad crisis to another.

  301. I prefer to live simply and starve government and industry of my money, which is their lifeblood. A proportion of that waste and destruction is in service of my consumption. Reduce my consumption and I reduce my share of their waste.

  302. The dichotomy that I find in these discussions is a false one. The article never states that personal, invidivual actions should be stopped,nor that they lacked import or impact. The article’s challenge is that they are not enough.
    I keep reading a sort of finger pointing and defense of either the macro or the micro politics. Neither is sufficient to accomplish the goals of positive change that puts us in tune with Earth. The flaw in the each is the belief that the other action is somehow wrong. Both are necessary and neither is sufficient.
    Believing that we can somehow separate ourselves into subgroups is as false as any other attempt to separate us from the very real fact that we are of Earth. Earth is our primary referent – not nations, not governments, not ethnicity, not race, nor any of groupings we have used to define ourselves. Our true definition is that we are of Earth, earthlings if you will, and that we have manifested these other categories and institutions from our own minds.
    To believe that our personal action is sufficient and divorce ourselves from our connections and responsibilities for the governors we have, the businesses that we have, all of the major institutions we have is just as off reality and incomplete as to believe that the consumption changes we make at home are independent of a larger context and have no impact. It is not either short showers (representing individual actions) OR marches (representing group actions;) is it:
    Shower up, suit up, and show up for the march and along the way realize that Earth is the primary context.

  303. Well said Brad. The question now is: How do we get people to “Shower up, suit up, and show up for the march and along the way realize that Earth is the primary context”, and how do we do that sufficiently “in mass” so that we actually create real change?

  304. More questions:

    What did “state of the world” reporters know about the unsustainability of greed-driven overconsumerism?

    When did they know it?

    Why have they waited until 2010 to take stock and speak the truth that many too many of them have known for a long while?

    Our colossal failure to speak truth to power is allowing the most greedy among us to ruin Earth’s environment and deplete its resources.

  305. Like Noelle I too agree with Brad contextual approach. Back to Noelle’s question of “in mass” [so that we actually create real change?] – the possible answers are either by default ie self-implosion due to physical resource depletion and second is to participate in REVOLUTION [from personal to socieatal level]whichever level more appropriate to ypur current situation.

  306. What I meant is that: real political change can only occur when enough people have commited themselves to an alternative lifestyle.

  307. Let us get one thing clear, first off. It isn’t the planet our unchecked activity will destroy, it is ourselves.

    When we say our actions “attack the planet”, as a rough description, that may be so. However, the effect of such an “attack” will inevitably redound upon us, and even if our efforts prove to effect an extinction event as bad as that of the Permo-Triassic Boundary Event (with 90% of then-existing species removed), the life of Gaia will go on, and after a handful of millions of years, the complexity we can see around us now will have returned, though we won’t.

    Our middle-aged planet has at least a billion years of strong life left until the heat of the sun makes things on earth too hot for life here. Our efforts, as bad as they are, are “nothing like the sun.”

    There is an argument that can be made–recognizing the truth above–for NOT trying to prop the system up, or make “fixes”, but to let catastrophe unfold sooner, rather than later–catastrophe which would bring the current socio-economic system crashing down, rather than letting it go on and on and on, draining every remaining resource pool, and clogging every ecological sink. (Of course, such an event could only come as a natural consequence of our action–a series of natural disasters.)

    As a person aware for a long time that climate change and resource depletion was coming–far, far longer than it has been fashionable to talk about–I’ve also been somewhat skeptical of keeping the ol’ status-quo going.

    Letting consequences happen sooner rather than later argues for the possibility that humans might be around afterward.

  308. Contrary to Derrick’s assertion, we are NOT killing the planet. Sure, we’re screwing ourselves and (most of) the rest of the species on the planet over, but…in geologic terms, things will balance. However, we are of course (and naturally) concerned about US, which we must admit…and ah, yes, sorry soi disant, just saw you got to that before me. Excellent post.

  309. Aaaawh, so glad this culture is not killing the planet, or the biosphere as I prefer to call it when talking about the ecosystems all over the planet. That makes me feel ‘so’ much better…Yeah, now I see what you mean. I don’t mean to insult anyone here by saying this, but does it also mean that it is okay for abusers to rape children, women, and men because they won’t die, and even if a few die, well, there are plenty of them who are born every minute, so the abusers won’t kill the species? The abusers won’t necessarily kill all of them, and you know how tough humans are, so, where’s the problem?…

  310. While I agree that you and I as discreet individuals are unlikely to stop harmful industrial practices, corporate greed, wars and so on…I too, disagree with the overall message of the article. It is interesting to note that some of the worst offending institutions point the finger back at us–blaming individual consumption, “we are only providing what the consumer demands”. A newer and better institution, system or policy, constructed under the same worldview is not going to fix what institutions have done-we know this from long experience. Who created those systems that are to blame? Until we take to heart what science has proven–that all beings and things are interconnected in ways too complex to fully quantify, we will continue to look outside of ourselves and create bandaid solutions to our crises. Is there really any separation between man and nature? Clearly, the bifurcated paradigm, this “us against them” and “give up this to get that” mentality serves to perpetuate harmful industry. I believe a change in individual human consciousness is what is urgently needed to transform our actions/institutions. Our varied wisdom traditions have been telling us this for millennia…and it is happening now. Quietly,invisibly, one person at a time, waking up.

  311. Damn!
    I’m writing an article entitled “The Sustainable Human: the other half of the equation.” Having read Jensen’s piece, I have to rethink my main premise that has to do with our having become a consumption society (as against previously a production society)—and the two main characteristics of this sustainable human who is able to stand on her own two feet rather draw excessively from the environment.
    Monty on Feb 10, 2010

  312. I know I’m coming into this discussion very late and I haven’t read but a fraction of the comments so if this has already been said, my apologies. But I find little encouragement in Mr Jensen’s conclusion: that we can
    “follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States.” Nazi Germany was not brought down by those doubtlessly brave activists. They were all murdered by the regime they opposed. The Nazis were defeated by a superior war machine, fuelled by massive industry. As for Tsarist Russia, its brave activists were buried by the Bolsheviks. And antebellum USA? Well, it was another war that ended slavery as such.

  313. I agree with Murray Reiss’ comment that it took much more than protest to bring down Nazi Germany.

    However, it is a disservice to history and to the service of French and Polish and other resistance movements to ignore their crucial contribution. Even if you can’t point to any one battle, their contribution sped up Allied victory. It made invasion of Normandy all the easier. Also, a diverse movement of underground newspapers, active and indirect action was in place as the Allies landed in France. Within a short span of a few months, the resistance was able to form actual military units that played a key role in a swift end to the Third Reich. The outcome of WWII was much more than the rote calculation of who made more wigits and tanks and bombs.

    Sure, “massive industry” of US played key role. But millions of small acts (including those that led to the unlocking of the Enigma code) deserve some consideration.

    So, were these acts of resistance a “sufficient” condition, of and by themselves? Probably not. But were they a “necessary” condition of victory? I believe so. Cracking Enigma and making Nazi high command believe Allied invasion was taking place elsewhere was a crucial deception.

    Reiss says all of these brave activists were “all murdered by the regime they opposed.” Not entirely true. Many survived to tell their tales of resistance. We should focus on their courage instead of seeing the history of the world as who can build a better bomb, and more of them. I believe that history has shown quite the opposite. Despite all of Rome’s technological prowess……

  314. If you make one return to correct, it would be good to retain what was written.The image I evidently didn’t copy correctly was ambiguous regarding the space between the word and the numeral.

  315. Please recall the wonderful quotation by Joseph Campbell,

    “When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”

    Let us imagine (in full agreement with Joseph Campbell) that “our job is to straighten out our own lives” and that it is precisely the unsustainable ways we are living out our lives in this wondrous planetary home we inhabit which is inducing the formidable global challenges now looming so ominously before all of us on the horizon. Consider that human beings are the primary cause of certain converging ecological threats the children could confront in the future.

    In all the discussions I can recall about “the human predicament” never have I heard the idea presented that human beings cannot resolve problems which we are responsible for creating. We are not asked to change a world which is perfect, but to make changes in unsustainable patterns of behavior that are within our control. The mastery that gave rise to the global challenges to human wellbeing and environmental health is the same mastery that can be deployed in responding ably to those challenges. If conspicuous per-capita overconsumption and extravagant hoarding of limited resources; rampant overproduction of virtual mountains of unnecessary stuff; and unbridled overpopulation activities by the human species, when taken together, are “producing” threats to humanity, Earth and its environs, then sensibly changing these ways of behaving will mitigate and eventually resolve our plight. Is there any reason to doubt that human beings can alleviate any plight human beings can produce? Our task is to adequately deploy gifts God has given humankind to acknowledge, accept, address and overcome the human-induced challenges before us.

    By choosing necessary changes in our behavioral repertoire (in the sense of willing the inevitable), the family of humanity will find its way through the human-driven mess we have made in this world (not of this world) which is the perfect creation of God, I suppose.

  316. There are many statements in this article that I can affirm: systemic solutions in our gloablized world are essential; but I cannot agree that efforts to live more simply, in the sense of doing what we can individually to help provide clean water for those who lack it and for future generations is not also important.

  317. Turn off the corporate tv with the imbeded consumer messages and learn to think for yourself. I am an activist who refuses to participate in Hallmark holidays, I don’t buy anything new I can get used and do not eat corporate food.

    A clean healthy body goes a long way in seeing through the BS. Americans are poisoned everyday and ask for more. They don’t see the obvious connection between shows like HOARDERS and the reality of our consumer existance. Madison Avenue told us we need it and we are entitled so many believe they are Master of the Universe when in fact they are pawns in the ultimate power game.

    I believe we can take down the corporate giants with personal choices and a clear strong voice. Persistance!

  318. to # 334
    “Turn off the corporate tv with the imbeded consumer messages and learn to think for yourself.”
    American TV comedy had been telling audiences when to laugh “by injecting variable degrees of laughter sound” when you actually had not found it funny, or so funny!

    They left nothing for mind to EXTRAPOLATE.. or to find the ANECDOTE “Even while resting at home”

  319. Just wanted to discuss a couple thoughts from the Derrick article, “Forget Shorter Showers”. It’s quite obvious that taking shorter showers or putting in a garden is about as effective as tightening your hand drum in the face of the so called military industrial complex. Surely they’re shaking in their boots. The double bind of which he speaks is clear. Seen from a sane and logical perspective, all arrows point toward a treacherous precipice at this point. Participation in the industrial economy, i.e., driving a car, shopping at Wal Mart, even perhaps hosting a mail order craft business or solar install group, given their respective embodied energy budgets, is not ultimately a win for our planet or it’s people because of the destruction and exploitation latent in these systems. So choose the simpler life. We relax, egoistically satisfied that our short showers(or no showers), organic home grown food, and lack of indulgent electricity usage is turning the planet towards a golden sunrise. Well, we lose still because human beings and the being that is Earth is still being rapaciously consumed by industrial civilization. The third option, that of actively opposing the industrial machine is scary because it likely involves death either indirectly through biting the hand that feeds or directly through simply being killed. Derrek says that, though scary, “any option is better than a dead planet.”
    “The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through…Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States- who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustice that surrounded them.” Perhaps I may be misunderstanding something here, but it seems to me that the third option, that of actively opposing industrial civilization, belongs squarely next to “gardening to save the world” inside of the double bind. Let me attempt to draw a parallel here. Someone decides to plant a garden to eat good food, consume less fossil fuel, and feel a little bit more at home. That’s all fine and good. Suppose they plant a garden as a political statement against industrial civilization. Obviously this is vain and ineffective. Now, say I am an aid on Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad because it makes me feel personally soothed inside at the astonishing injustice of an amoral institution. Fine and good. Say I participate in the railroad as a political statement against the institution of slavery. It’s about as effective as gardening. In both Nazi Germany and the antebellum South, we have to wait not for individuals, but for massive armed conflicts(fought for their own reasons, I know) to upset the status quo. To me it seems that if you live through a protest or an act of rebellion, it means you weren’t being effective enough. Following, it seems that being gunned down by the man or left to rot in a dungeon to die is about as effective as gardening. Unless you get famous- really famous, albeit perhaps posthumously. Let’s also not forget while invoking the great resisters of recent history that none of them ever made so much as a scratch or a dent in the onslaught of industrial civilization. Some even purport that they were allowed to perform a lead role in a sort of socially engineered event. In fact, most of the changes these people are credited with participating in, such as the fall of the “Third Reich”, only served to further consolidate and strengthen the great machine that is industrial civilization.
    Another point here is that of mass participation. What if Gandhi was the only one who made salt, spun fabric at home, or practiced non violence? It was not until mass participation that these acts had any real significance. Derrick notes that government and commercial sectors do far more damage to the ecosystems of the Earth than the residential sector, but who does this commercial sector serve? What if everyone started growing their own food, keeping their own seeds, meeting their economic needs locally? How serious would the Powers that Be take these movements if they actually became significant enough to cut into profits and threaten control over food supply, medicine, and fuel? How quickly would these “small acts” be challenged and because they are so innocent, how would they be challenged? Not enough people catch rainwater, especially where it is disallowed. Not enough people make their own fuel. Not enough live from their gardens or support local businesses. If enough did finally, and government opposed it, this might in fact incite open rebellion. We may never know. Anyhow, this is getting a bit long. The long and short of it is that it is a very difficult situation. All I know is that if the industrial machine falls apart in my lifetime, I hope it’s either a quick death or that I”ve got a lot more books by the Rodale Press or Chelsea Green than I do by Derrick Jensen.
    If the point is simply that one should not be overly prideful or self satisfied at the political statement that is their own personal 50 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet, then that is indeed agreed. Nuff said. Pride goeth before a fall. Personally, I like alternative energy projects because I like tinkering and learning things I did not know. I am also a gardener. And while I do believe that gardening and tinkering can be parts of regional economic and social movements that could indeed become extremely subversive to industrial civilization, this is not the key motivating points. I like to garden because I like to feel and smell soil, I like the sun and the moon, I like good food, and it makes me feel kind of… randy.

  320. Well Brian if we look at the fall of the Berlin Wall, we see that it came of its own, as an auto-implosion, because people did not support their government anymore, and that government was so rotten it couldn’t function anymore. It looks like these two conditions are arising faster and faster in our own country. If many people think like you do, we may soon have enough dissatisfied people who do not support their government anymore, and Wall Street seems intent on pushing us into another crisis. As they predict themselves, we can expect a crisis every 4 to 8 years. So just wait and see, how the next crisis will disrupt our entire society to the point where Wall Street may fall like the Berlin Wall. Our job now is to construct an alternative structure and network that can then be used as a safety net and/or as a basic momentum for building a new society.

  321. I agree with his point about being more of an activist. One thing that I disagreed with was how he made simple living seem so minute. The industrial economy is a problem, yes, but simple living is definitely the first step in taking down this system. I feel like if we lived more simply- consumed less, drove less, etc, then it would have a concentric effect on our industrial system. He didn’t go into specific detail about the industrial systems, but certain systems could deteriorate if we used less. For example let’s use the clothing/ textile industry. The shirt I am wearing was made in Mexico, so if I didn’t consume this shirt that would be one less shirt the factory made, thus one less shirt that had to be transported (less carbon dioxide emission). If this caught on, I believe it would have a profound effect on that specific system. This could be applied to anything, toys, electronics, furniture, etc. In Anne Leonard’s Story of Stuff we explored the damage caused by being a nation of consumers. She explains problems like mountaintop removal, cutting trees, and killing ecosystems. She explains how most of the stuff we consume is designed for the dump. Another issue she explains is how much waste we actually make (4.5 pounds per day). So I do agree with Derrick Jensen when he explains the industrial economy as a main issue, but I don’t think he has explored the ripple effect that simple living could create. He brings up examples of activist opposed to: Hitler, Tsarist prisons, Voting Rights Act, and Civil Rights Act, but if you don’t think simple living is a solution, what is? If he wants people to be more active, then spreading the idea of consuming less would definitely be a great start. We as individuals can’t do much by ourselves, but if simple living was a new way of life, we would see change.

  322. I believe there is a huge disconnect here between the “industrial” and “us” — the industrial civilization is completely driven by our consumption of goods and services. Whether we are “to blame” or not for that consumption (OK…advertising play a role)…if we all stop consuming, then at least one leg of the stool supporting the industrial complex falls. I believe we need BOTH personal change and activism toward social/political change. AND WE NEED POPULATION REDUCTION NOW!!!

  323. I loved Jensen’s article, and I’ll recommend it to others. I will say, though, that any political activist working to radically change the deadly, oppressive grip the predatory capitalist system has on the environment (and every other concern) would be wise to live simply (such as, for example, taking shorter showers), if only to deflect distracting, self-righteous criticisms such as those the climate-change-deniers level against Al Gore for his energy-hogging estate and lifestyle.

  324. Everybody has a point here: reducing our consumption on a personal and industrial level (which go hand in hand) is a necessity. The elephant in the room is that Capitalism is ruled by High Finance, not manufacturing. In 2008 the 5 biggest banks (think especially Goldman Sachs) have literally high-jacked the Government by figuring out how to receive trillions of $ with no strings attached and be ruled under special exemptions which give them unmatchable competition and power. They now use this formidable power to funnel our tax money into their pockets –think how they get 3% interest on the money they get from the Feds at close to 0% . Or think how they can bring entire nations down to their knees (like Iceland and Greece) just by playing with their adjustable debt rates. This Wall-Street mafia casino has little to do with manufacturing anymore and is utterly anti-Constitutional. So why don’t we demand to be governed by the DEMOCRACY described in our Constitution? Then we might be able to reign on capitalism itself. The 2 are not necessarily the same. I vote YES to Democratic Capitalism — which could be organized in a Green fashion — and NO to Totalitarian Capitalism a la Goldman Sachs whose sole purpose is its own greed and power, even if it means the extermination of life.

  325. ‘…industrial[mafioso]economics lives by getting n forgetting– life-based* economics lives by giving n forgiving’ – anonymous.

    *may refer to David Korten ‘Living economics’

    Democracy is so Greek! it belongs in the museum — awaiting the dictatorship LOVE randy dandy haha…

    For an antipodean view of simple living see Dr Ted Trainer site

  326. complexity increases exponentially
    the more complexity the lesser usage
    the more complex a technology gets the faster it causes disadvantages
    it is impossible to solve problems without making the world more complex
    complexity reach a level where we can not solve our problems
    the need for solutions do not increase gradually
    material and intellectual complexity stick together
    economies without co–evolutionarity are vulnerable and inefficient
    complexity are an autonomous process that can not be controlled
    increased complexity can only be opposed by equally increased complexity
    the increase of complexity reaches a ceiling and collapses either caused by autocollapse, inner imbalance collapse or outer imbalance collapse
    complexityimbalances will explode
    increased complexity creates increased polarization
    outdated technologies creates prosperity
    happiness is a paradoxical state of mind between security and liberty
    & humanity are since long not being any happier despite the ever expansion, the exploitation and the growth
    so really – what’s the point

  327. very well put ditlev palm…and to that [the complexes of complexity] i rest my case.

    hope something or someone does the right thing for the gulf oil spill…

  328. I have no problem making any personal sacrifice to save our planet. I have a problem when the people telling me to take shorter trips on ones who fly on private jets all over the country and use up enough fuel to run entire cities or when I’m told I should take shorter showers and I know how much water Las Vegas goes through in just a day. I have no problem saving water, but I think the town of Vegas MUST BE CHANGED. They will not do it, unless or until they are ENCOURAGED to do so. When it hits their profit margin, they will change. I haven’t been their in years and refuse to go back until they change but as long as millions continue to visit this adult amusement park, they will continue as before wasting water and not making one single change. Oh, I almost forgot, Vegas did make a change about 15 years ago, when they stopped automatically service a glass of water in restaurants. So, the casino owners didn’t change anything, but they expected their paying customers to make a sacrifice. Must have gone to the same school as Al Gore, now that he wants to save the world. I wonder why he never thought of this when he was wasting all that fuel to fly around the world to campaign or just be Vice President. Sorry, I just have a real problem with hypocrites who still fly around in private jets using far more fuel than they need. Lady Ilea

  329. Jensen’s piece is interesting but premature. I believe that it is important to develop good alternatives to catalyze change, not force it. We need to develop sustainable, efficient, and low cost lifestyles. We aren’t there yet, but I believe it is possible.

    We drive vehicles designed to survive a 65 mph crash on roads with a 25 mph speed limit. We use the Carnot cycle for transportation and to generate power when it is ridiculously inefficient. Stand-by power was listed as a major cause of the brown outs in California. Cloth grocery bags are too bulky to fit in my purse (I refold plastic bags and reuse them). We don’t have good ways to get from the train station to the office without getting our business clothes wet in the rain. Buses do not run the type of routes that are needed and are generally empty. Commuters waste an unbelievable amount of time in traffic. Air conditioning is run at night when outside temperatures are cooler than temperature the house is being cooled down to. The entire houses are heated in the winter when I only need heat in the room I am in.

    Technology is part of the solution, not the problem. Smarter thermostats, light weight cars for short trips, and automatic turn-off for cell phone chargers are all part of the solution. I don’t think anyone wants to return to simpler times when it was common for women to die of childbirth. But I believe it will take more than technology. I believe we are all responsible for creative problem solving.

    Personally, I would like to divide the pentagon budget by the number of barrels of oil we import and add a ‘pentagon’ tax to the oil we consume. 😉

    It is possible to develop sustainable alternatives that are more efficient, cost less, and require less effort then current lifestyles. If we develop them, many people will switch.

  330. We already have some technologies, except that they don’t work very well. There are programmable thermostats, but that doesn’t solve the issue of heating or cooling just a few rooms when needed. The set temperatures affect the entire house. And the programmable thermostates are very expensive. Even if most people practice earth saving techniques, it won’t be enough. Every person on this planet needs to participate. That means that personal public appearances will have to become internet appearances. The one I will NEVER, EVER forget is when Al Gore flew across the country on a private jet, just to attend the Academy Awards in case he won and award on saving the environment. It was absolute hypocrisy. He was on the East Coast just prior. Wow! Such a necessary trip. We can no longer have two sets of rules, the rules for those who have and those who don’t have. It won’t work to save the planet! We need newer, better, more affordable technologies and EVERYONE must participate. There just can’t be any more profiteering of our planet because we are killing ourselves and our children’s future. LI

  331. There is a perspective that recognizes our whole health as a civilization first. Honesty around that presents an agenda that is successfully transformative. The home of that is birthing today and will render itself more widely visible during August this year.

  332. The general thesis of this article is sound. Yes, it is not enough to be green (especially when it’s the absurdist kind that sees people throwing out all their old stuff and going shopping for new “green” stuff). But I disagree with statement to the effect that humans can do “good” things for the environment, unless that doing “good” is doing less. Human destruction can be measured with one easy metric: the amount of energy it is expending, no matter how efficiently. Everything is a shade of brown, and that brown adds up. I agree it’s not enough to simply shut up and use less — we must agitate for better tax and other laws that make it harder for society itself to be wasteful. We also need to accept the reality that the human population explosion is the root of all our problems. The single best act anyone could do for our world is to engineer a virus that quietly and painless makes people sterile in a way that is not immediately evident. This one investment of brown will pay off handsomely in green results, even if Bill and Melinda Gates throw billions at finding a cure (as they almost certainly would).

  333. I really appreciate Jensen’s writing, but don’t agree with the “strawperson” he sets up when he critiques personal change. I believe personal change is NECESSARY but not sufficient. Unless we “take shorter showers, change lightbulbs and grow gardens” any structural changes we make won’t “stick” because we must change the way we think before we change the way we act. When we start the “sustainability parade” through personal actions, politicians and corporate leaders will rush to get in front and hold up their banners. If we don’t change our individual behavior, our work as political activists seems a bit hypocritical. How about we do both!

  334. the world is full of degreed ‘clever fools’ – most of which promote further misery for humanity and the environment.

    these ‘fools’ are generally schooled in the not so-uni[ted]versity whose driving principles are derived from democratic values…values that has been hijacked, modified or transformed by salaried-degreed-cleverfools for the ‘growth-economy’ to benefit this entity called corporation which is endowed with with all rights human can have but without its resposibilities[which is awful beyond measures!]–to me this entity represent the core of our current problems. But further down I always remember what my prof said ‘…environmental problems is SOCIAL problem’ and changing minds so that it behaves in ecologicaly sustainable manners will take aeon if not forever. i’m cynical and feel sorry for myself already ergo I will continue composting, planting trees, retrofitting whatever etc ad infinitum…mea culpa o mea culpa.

  335. When a person lies, it takes mental energy to keep track of their lie and to try to remember the various philosophies and justifications they actually have and pretend to have. This makes them less effective, and less confident. The reason to live simply, while acting politically, is not that it actually helps. The reason is to prevent being a hypocrite – because as a hypocrite you can never be as effective.

  336. Dear Marko thank you for your crystal clear comment…freedom from guilt is liberating!

  337. This article says it all and says it right. I have been an organizer all my working life, and I have arrived at the same conclusions.
    The downside is that it is hard to raise money to organize around systemic change, because the rich do NOT want the root causes of the problems to be addressed.

  338. While I agree that it is delusional to think that individual acts of social responsibility are the solution to all of the world’s problems, individual change is empowering and radical.
    All change is based on individual acts which in themselves are insignificant when taken in isolation. Radical change takes place when the fiber of society and the accepted reality changes. This is of course politically and economically driven; but the politics and economy are dependent fundamentally on the basic values of the society. Those values change thread by thread; not only individual by individual, but individual habit, individual belief, and even individual thought at a time.
    By learning to live sustainably, by honoring the rights of others and the environment in thought, word and deed is radical transformation. It is also setting the example that change is possible. If change is possible on an individual level, it is possible on a social level.
    Sustainable living, even when it is alternative, is the cutting edge of change – especially when that alternative is intelligent, collective and viral.
    I applaud those who have the courage to put their beliefs into practice, despite the dysfunctional economic, political and social structures which mock at that individual effort.
    History makes heroes of those people and movements who dared to dream and live the impossible only in retrospect, after the “impossible” has been proved to be not only “possible” but essential to our humanity and the survival of society. Imagine how ridiculed people who freed and educated “their” slaves were at the height of slavery.
    Though such courage makes “heroes” in our pop culture history, real change takes place when faith/ideals change, and enough people have the courage to live those ideals.
    Finally there is another danger, which is thinking if we change the government and the corporations without having made individual transformation that any lasting change can take place. Revolution based on destruction has proven only to empower the destroyers. Real revolution can only take place thread, by thread as people actually live the change they demand.

  339. Personal change does bring social change. The importance of routinely doing simple things that lower our individual ecological footprint is not just about the immediate quantitative results, it’s about attitude. If you discriminate against your neighbors because of their race, are you going to stop Hitler? If your own backyard is dirty with garbage and you drive a gas-guzzler, are you going to vote for the green party? If an artistic-oriented event brings awareness about greedy corporations, does that not contribute to something? I don’t think most people will take a short shower, change a light bulb, and then be satisfied that they’ve changed the world. Personal integrity and effort does not prevent raising awareness about our political and economical systems, and I think the author knows that. People need realistic accomplishable solutions. If your goal is to bring down the government and the economy, you need to think about how we get there, and about what these new systems will be. Because if it’s not realistic, you might as well not waste your time and go change a light bulb. As a conservation biologist, I visited locals, children, municipal officers, churches, you name it, and talked with them about the natural areas and endangered species surrounding them, and they develop a surprising sense of pride and desire to preserve their resources for their well-being, future generations, and their own enjoyement. When people are educated and care, there’s a better chance that we’ll live in a more sustainable society.

  340. Concur with Joel, have problems with other parts of the article.

    I have no qualms with saying that Mr. Jensen is just plain wrong. He is a sloppy thinker and his reasoning is flawed. He makes assumptions after assumption about the conservation movement that are simply not true. Even worse, he seems to believe that there is one true way out of this mess, which is just a ludicrous proposition. If we don’t fully understand the problems we face, we cannot fully understand the course of action that is best. That does not mean that we shouldn’t do anything. It simply means that we can only do what we know works and we cannot make drastic changes without further knowledge. Below is a point by point analysis.

    First problem’s problem: Those are NOT mutually exclusive. But its even more than that, I would argue that 99% of the time you have to begin by enacting change in yourself and grow from there. You’re not going to overthrow Hitler by dumpster diving (that analogy was poor but I’ll use it anyway) however, by getting a critical mass on board with dumpster diving you can change the mindset of people and enact huge change–not just by “reducing carbon emissions by 22 percent” but by influencing law makers to do what really needs to get done. It’s not about conserving to enact change, its about conserving to enact change that will in turn enact change.

    Second problem’s problem: Exact opposite. We, as in everyone, are the ones causing the problem. We are the problem. We enable our leaders, political, industrial, academic to sit back and ignore the problem. The Kirkpatrick Sale quote baffles me for the above reasons: “We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.” That is so, so, so incredibly short-sighted. I also take issue with the blame tactic… its as if they just want to pawn off responsibility to let themselves off the hook and not feel so helpless in what they seem to feel is a fruitless effort in the conservation of consumables.

    Third problem’s problem: False dichotomy. We are at all times both citizens and consumers. They take citizen and consumer to be in conflict with one another in order to show that citizens have other kinds of power. The fact that we have those powers does not change the fact that we are consumers as well. By definition, a human being must consume. It is part of who we are. Whether that be food that we grow ourselves, or the pesticide ridden peach from the grocery store, we must consume. Even the least “advanced” societies, throughout history, have consumed in ways that have been detrimental to the earth. Its about finding balance in our lives now and always searching for better ways to do everything.

    Fourth problem’s problem: Straw man, and if an inference is made, non-sequitur. Not only are they writing it in a confusing way to persuade you that the other side of the argument doesn’t holdup logically, they are completely misrepresenting the opposing side. (Mostly because they don’t seem to understand the other side) This is how they break it down: (I’ve included the whole paragraph at the bottom of this post for easy reference)

    Premise 1: Every act within an industrial economy is destructive +
    Premise 2: We want to stop this destruction +
    Premise 3: Unwilling to question (or destroy) intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive
    Conclusion: If we are dead, we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible

    The author is imparting beliefs that are simply his creation of the other side of the argument. He is making all kinds of assumptions (ironically, a logical fallacy in and of itself) about the other side of the issue. This is probably do to a lack of listening skills if I had to guess. However, he seems to believe in his own premises, he just thinks they arrive at a bad conclusion. His conclusion would be this if I can infer from his above points: if we are ALIVE, we CANNOT believe that we will cause the least destruction possible. Now, assuming everything in the new syllogism is all true, it still doesn’t follow logically! In fact, their premises are little mini-conclusions in themselves that do not follow. P1: Every act within an industrial economy is not, by definition, destructive. P2: Assumes P1. P3: Assumes P1 and is conclusory in that it assumes, without justification, that questioning (or destroying) will somehow alleviate the problem… destroying those institutions, in all likelihood, would cause a whole slew of new problems. On top of all that, his new conclusion does not follow! Assuming P1, 2, and 3 does not in anyway lead to his conclusion.

    Last paragraphs problem: Exact Opposite. The job of the activist IS to navigate the system with as much integrity as possible. To act with integrity is to do all one can do solve societal problems in the most responsible way possible.

    From the article: (see above)
    “The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.”

  341. Individual choices make a difference for the individual. I’m healthier and happier because I gave up my car and took up bicycling. A locally grown, mostly raw vegan diet has been good for me as well as the planet.

    The bigger changes come at the community level, when we build the institutions that support all our neighbors in making healthier choices. Our experiments in multiparty democracy could set an example for other communities.

    It does boil down to individual choices. If you spend your time working for a nasty corporation so you can pay taxes into the war machine, don’t pat yourself on the back for recycling the containers from the inessential crap you buy.

  342. This is a fantastic essay and makes point I’ve been banging on about, but much better than I’ve been able to express it.

    No more “feel good” campaigns. No more symbolic acts that give people feelings of satisfaction without actually having tangeable results.

  343. Jensen is saying that shorter showers taken by you won’t change the world. Sure it will make a difference but it won’t make everyone else take shorter showers and this is what is required.

    Other commenters have said that Jensen does not offer a vision. True, not here. But his vision is clear from his books. He sees the end of human domination for the sake of non-human life. This is another way of saying massive human population crash. He is okay with this. Most environmentalists are not.

    There are no solutions, people.

    Live simply for the sake of living simply; it will make you a happier person. But don’t think that what you do makes much of a difference. It is not enough and nobody else actually cares. You are not such a beacon on hill as you believe.

  344. Quick! You can buy Derrick Jensen’s latest book online at Amazon. It will then be shipped to you, wherever you happen to be in the world. Forget shorter showers, this is an even better way to be sustainable.

    “The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them.”

    As the indigenous population of Palestine is currently doing against the racist, imperialist ambitions of Israel, to cite a more current example.

  345. A dead planet? The planet will not die–HUMANS will. The planet has already undergone drastic changes to its atmospheric and biological makeup. The atmosphere was once heavy with CO2; with plant life came photosynthesis and the emergence of an oxygen rich atmosphere (to scientifically paraphrase). The planet did not die. It changed. Life changed. Old life died and new life flourished.

    If you are afraid of us humans dying out, then say that. Do not cover up your real fear with talk about concern for the planet. The planet will be fine.

  346. Friends of Article 5: 27 states have already called for a new Constitutional Convention, to require a balanced federal budget. 7 more (2/3rds required), and We the People can create a whole new national government system. Like federally financed elections, health care for everyone, equal rights for women, etc…….!

  347. Personal change becomes political in cooperation with others.. Wow, what a mindblowing conclusion..

    Seriously, the most interesting thing is that the most oppressed of the consumer/capitalism system are the ones living in developing countries. That is where the changing climate will/already have the most adverse effects.

    But these countries are exactly the ones that don’t want to change the systemic economic patterns because it is unfair to hinder their economical development lifting people out of povert and increasing their influence in the international community.

    Sustainable development have to go hand in hand with poverty reduction, political change on the civic scale, technology transfer and capacity development of industries and institutions. If this doesn’t become emphasized when outlining stratefies and solutions, there is no development to talk of within sustainable development.

    One can’t stop human beings and societies to use material resources, it is in our nature to do so. Thoug we have to make it smarter. That is why we should push our richer governments and citizens to fund a system on the global scale, incorporating the needs and possibilities of different regional and national contexts. Developing and 2nd world countries will only come to a deal with the north/west if we make it lucrative for them. That means we have to prioritize things differently (yes also you Americans). Cancun is not just a place for holidays.

    Change is already here, its time to adapt.

  348. jensen is just a little before his time. this is clear from the cacophony of the comments, some of which are playing some lilting tunes, like jane 363. way before his time. he is just an augurer, an orion augurer–no ads! there is no doubt that the downward slope we’re on will grate increasingly, the edifice will start to crack here & there creating opportunities for the kind of interventions that some of humanity will see as their time to act. that time is far from here now, derrick. this is the time of lying low. there is no way to prepare, there is no roadmap. there is no schedule, there is no advice that anyone can give. not yet. the internet is the greatest deception. in my locality I perceive more of what I need to know about what to do now & later than all the info I can get in streams of info. by the time that action starts to become conceivable I doubt that the internet will be there to help us persuade one another how to proceed.

  349. If I as an individual can’t change my dependence on consumption then I have no place to stand in order to work for political change. I’m working on a lifestyle of boycott, yet going too slow.
    I’ve heard it said that Green types might buy land in one state,then get in to office, then try to create local full employment, with a lot of agriculture, crafts and energy efficient buildings. If this could get a foothold, then the battle would be on as the majority have a tradition of obliterating anything that questions their tradition and comfort.
    Above all else a voice of a new ethic needs to find a credibility and authority to call wrong wrong. But such authority doesn’t come by talking about destroying the destroyers, which is a logical approach but we are talking about a need for something much more collective, more cosmic, and more intuitively & essentially human a love that is humble enough to love all of the creation.
    Fully aware of the misuse of the earth and of the teachings of Jesus Christ in the last 2000 years by proud christians, Jenson writes of an apocalyptic world. Yet the Bible says that we’ll survive & the second coming will usher in 1000 years of peace. Most shocked of all will be the self-righteous, militaristic, self-centered, proud & powerful who use the name Chrisitan but have no understanding of sacrificial love, reaping what they’ve sown,being good stewards of the earth and loving one’s neighbors in all the earth, as one’s self.
    Revelation or Apocalypse, is the unfolding of Jesus Christ, which will shut up all the exploiters and occupyers who think they speak in Jesus Name, and reveal truth with the needed authority. (see Isaiah 11)

  350. If only scientific evidence always helped us discover what we wished for and nothing more, that would be the best thing. Unfortunately science presents us occasionally with what is unwelcome whenever we acquire, however tentatively and unexpectedly, knowledge that runs counter to human desire. We have seen occurrences of this kind before.

    If human beings evolved on Earth (did not descend from heaven or come here from some other place in the universe) and the emerging data of human overpopulation of our planetary home are somehow on the right track, then humanity could soon confront daunting global challenges.

    Perhaps hubris, greed and foolhardiness confuse human reasoning about the “placement” of humankind within the natural order of living things. There is the rub, I suppose. We have learned from God’s great gifts to humanity—natural philosophy and modern science—that Earth is not the center of the universe (Copernicus); that we are set upon a tiny celestial orb among a sea of stars (Galileo); that such things as the Law of Gravity and the Laws of Thermodynamics affect living things equally, including human beings (Newton, et al); that humankind is a part of the general evolutionary biological process (Darwin); and that people are to a significant degree unconscious, mistake what is illusory for what is real and, therefore, have difficulty both adequately explaining the way the world works and consciously regulating our behavior (Freud).

    Now comes apparently unanticipated, unfortunately unwelcome and heretofore unchallenged scientific evidence that indicate we have widely shared and consensually validated an inadequate, preternatural understanding of human population dynamics and willfully refused to appreciate the necessity for regulating certain distinctly human global “overgrowth” activities. That is to say, as a consequence of the current colossal scale and projected growth rate of worldwide overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activity by the human species in our time, humanity itself could soon be presented with a predicament resulting from 1) increasing and unchecked per capita consumption/hoarding of limited resources, 2) seemingly endless expansion of production/distribution capabilities in a finite world, and 3) unbridled species propagation.

    Extant scientific evidence indicates that human influences could directly and primarily account for excessive extinction of biodiversity, creeping environmental degradation, and the dissipation of limited natural resources. A convergence of scientific evidence points us to something undeniable: global overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities by the human species are occurring synergistically on the surface of Earth and could soon become patently unsustainable.

    It does look as if the challenges posed to humanity by certain unregulated human overgrowth activities overspreading Earth now are huge ones. Even so, we can take the measure of the looming challenges and find solutions to problems of our making that are consonant with universally shared, humane values.

  351. “The United States has an inverted pyramid of intelligence. The vast majority have far greater talents, knowledge, and wisdom than the ruling elite, who have failed miserably at every turn over the past year and decade, for that matter. The goal is to wrench power from the fumblers before they do totally irreparable damage.”

  352. Thank you posting this. It brings clarity to my confused thoughts. I do think that change does start at the level of the individual, and then, by consensus, be forced to the top. Let’s face it, the top 3% is quite happy with the status quo. What we can’t afford to do, as you point out, is get lost in our fuzzy, warm thoughts and stop at reduce, reuse, recycle. We also need the other r word – Revolution.

  353. Earth will take care of itself. Too many people consuming things? Some people will die off.

    This is just another politicized meme attempting to popularize communism.

    The answer isn’t an attack on industry or personal choices, the answer is realizing humans are animals in a symbiotic relationship with the planet.

    70% of the planet is ocean, humans couldn’t destroy it if we tried.

  354. @ Chris

    Overfishing and fertilizer runoff and other pollutants are serious threats to the ocean. We are set to have an ocean only inhabitable by jellyfish by 2070..

  355. This article is sadly misguided and fails to consider the bigger picture.

    Trying to trivialise and separate personal pro-environmental behaviour change from political and social change is missing the point. Discounting any forms of action is foolish considering the scale of change needed for transition to an ecologically minded, low-impact society, and what we do in everyday life is vital to this in so many ways. I agree that the industrial-scale misuse of resources and ecosystems needs to be stopped as soon as possible, but so does our personal behaviour which typically mirrors this misuse right around the world. They are one and the same and by actually setting a precedent (within your own community) through taking responsibility for your own actions, other people tend to see what’s going on and where the benefits are.

    There has been a profound cultural shift in many of the world’s societies over the past 5 years where pro-environmental behaviour has become more common, and accepted, at all levels including personal and political.
    To suggest that individual action is meaningless and futile displays a narrow vision that has lost sight of the role of culture and trends in influencing politics and business. If there’s votes in being green, they’ll be green, and if there’s money to be made by replacing polluting practices with sustainable ones then we’ll see that too…and we are seeing this, albeit in smaller doses than we’d like to.

    Personal and political action can be combined to great effect, and needs to be at every opportunity at a time when our future course of action is being decided. We need a whole range of approaches applied over a sustained period, at the right time, to the right person/community/society (or ecosystem we’re attempting to heal) for any chance of real systemic change.

    This suggests that the act of making a personal choice to live with a lighter footstep is as important as getting politically active in that action sets precedent. One of the biggest barriers to meaningful structural change is that our culture doesn’t believe it’s important! By growing change from the inside out, change is facilitated at many levels, accessible to lots of different folk. Apparently trivial things like growing food, consuming less, growing sustainable, decentralised communities, and generating some of our own energy, all enable (even force) change within the large social structures that feed off them.

    Some interesting points but I’m afraid if everyone thought like Derrick Jensen (in this case at least), we’d be in an even trickier situation than we are now.

  356. Chris on Jan 22, 2011 wrote “Earth will take care of itself. Too many people consuming things? Some people will die off.” It’s not that simple. We’re heading toward a collapse of the entire ecosystem. Species are going extinct now at a much faster pace than at any previous time in millions of years — and after a certain point the extinctions will accelerate, because each species depends on other species to survive. And even if we stopped carbon emissions, the carbon we’ve already put into the atmosphere will continue cooking the planet. If we don’t make enormous changes (INCLUDING a technological fix), by 2100 our species and most others will be gone. We can’t eat money. (

  357. I find the article and the comments enlightening. I think Jensen brings very valid arguments about this issue. What I find intriguing though is how everyone posting seem to consider the US situation in isolation without taking into account the other players in this ecological disaster game: the rest of the world. Yes, you can blame the industrial economy but what are the alternatives to the industrial economy? That is the question that I keep asking myself and which makes me go from website to blogs to forums without finding an answer. What about the emerging economies trying to model themselves after the industrialized countries? What about China?

  358. This discussion has been going on for quite a while and has many comments, yet i’d like to add my view as it’s been 2 years since the discussion started and nothing much has changed around this topic in the world. To me it seems it is not blame that will change things but using your personal power. Neither is it about simple living but about making a choice. We co-create either for better or for worse. Yes the impact of the individual may seem insignificant but it takes all these individuals to cooperate to create change. A multi National company is still made up of these same people. What i do see is that our educational system has not necessarily set us up to understand our personal power and our culture turned us into consumer addicts. So it may take a person with the qualities and integrity of a Mahatma Ghandi to free us from submission (British rule in India). In a similar way that Ghandi told people to stop buying british cloth we can stop buying consumer good made of unrenewable sources. But still it will require more and a change of consciousness on the part of the individual to sustain the created change. When the system we live in and which we unconsciously embody is cause of the problems we see, fixing the problems will not set things straight. System blindness keeps you wandering in the dark looking for a solution to a problem you are not addressing: The system and how you support it. Becoming aware of the system is the first step in changing it. If you’d like to know more you can read my paper on this topic here:

  359. @Melanie Taylor on Jun 30, 2011:
    The alternative solution is already exist, you just have to search wider & deeper enough. Go google: Venus Project, Zeitgeist Movement, and/or Resource-Based Economy (RBE).
    What’s most interesting about this is how it’s gaining popularity worldwide, no, planet-wide, as this is a very global movement. And coincidentally & interestingly, this is along with all the revolutions & protests that seem to happen worldwide recently.

    People seem to start ‘WAKE UP’ everywhere, and feel that *something* is definitely not right!
    Good. Bring it on.

  360. Though it may have been said many times many ways, I too will add my thoughts on this matter. Do we need individual change? Of course! Do we need systemic change? Obviously! Individual change brings about societal change. “You must be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Ghadhi…

  361. well stop relying on the corporations by stopping consuming from them, surely that is part of the simple living solution/ activism?

  362. Derrick will you stop taking money when you publish your books, when you take fees for speaking or cash a check from Orion?

    I didn’t think so…

    The trees don’t like that they died for your message. and that you made a profit on their demise

    Have a nice shower

  363. By calling fish “fish people,” the author negates the whole purpose of the article itself. We’re causing climate change, and we (and the species on Earth not equipped to handle it) are the ones who will be affected. The Earth won’t “die” if it becomes inhospitable to man, we will. And if fish are people, then at least there will still be people left to carry on.

  364. Ever wanted to have dinner with Derrick Jensen, discuss philosophy and resistance over the phone or webcam, or pore over the original manuscripts of masterpieces such as Endgame, Dreams, or What We Leave Behind?

    This is your chance! Help raise money for Deep Green Resistance and enter the raffle to win fabulous prizes! Ticket prices are not too high.

    Check out the Deep Green Resistance website!

  365. the problem is from industries AND consumers.
    consumers consume too much,
    and industries aren’t respectful of the environment.
    removing one problem won’t save the planet, but removing both will.

  366. I am astonished at how bad this economy is. We lost a gold star all because of the finical and enviromental problems. Even worse, the goverment is making food farms, such as aqua farm, produce farm, where they place dye and chemicals in the food to make it last longer but those cheamicals, I’m afaird, cannot be digested by the body because their not natural! As a teen, 15, I was highly disappoint, furious infact and devasted to touch my food at all now that I heard there’s chemicals in it! I know we must save the enviroment, but really, chemicals?? How bout switching the huge energy making companies to less harmful resoures, such as the old fashion way.. Because the oldern days had NO enviromental problems cause they DIDN’T cause any. Why can’t we be like that?

  367. An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: “There is no alternative”. She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

    John Steinsvold

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
    ~ Albert Einstein

  368. I think it’s important that we do our part and try to concerve and reduce our waste but in the end it’s up to the government to make decisions that not only benefit us now but don’t come back to bit us in the ass or our childrens ass in the future. Decisions such as Canada’s removal from the Kyoto is just another example of a government thinking of only the short term and not taking steps to insure the survival of our race.

  369. Simple living came upon me when I started asking myself to draw the line that divides the NEED and DESIRE. It’s a fine line that helps one to stay focussed on the Life’s moment.
    So, my definition of Simple Living is the process of learning the art of ‘feeling’ rather than ‘thinking’
    Considering the enormity of the problem in hand, perhaps we need a solution that’s too big to be comprehendible by human minds; a solution that involves multiple stages of implementation spanning across a few generations/ages. And changing the course of humanity’s evolution towards ‘feeling’ (and not ‘thinking’) is the first stage of the solution and its implementation is already underway. Next stage perhaps is about aligning the consciousness of these simple living individuals to that of the Earth Consciousness (I strongly believe and feel vaguely that EARTH is one living organism)
    Another dimension to look at is the DIVERSITY. In Nature, no two things are alike (every life has its own signature) whereas in the man-made world, mass production is the norm (the only difference between the cars from a car factory is the chassis number) and we haven’t learnt the algorithm of mass producing things with unique identity yet.
    Globalization in the Industrial civilization is our first attempt towards achieving Unity in the Diversity and we need not be ashamed to tell that we have failed this first time. But we have learnt from our mistakes.
    In the next civilization of Simple Living, the individual learns to feel the individuality (I am sure my definition of the DESIRE Vs NEED line is different from that of yours) and those diverse individuals form patterns by uniting together to grow stronger and SURVIVE as a species! And that seems to fit with the Darwinians reason for evolution :-)

  370. Dear Bala,
    i’m glad that you brought up the topic of ‘feeling’, yes i think feeling has a great potential to explore as thinking is limited by default. in the context of transitioning to the next feeling-based civilization – i think we need more inputs from experts/specialists or anyone with authority in the field of ‘feeling’.
    i also think that in the face of imminent collapse the speed of [consciousness] transformation is in revolution rather than evolution. hope all aboard on the new ‘feeling’ based cultural train :)

  371. Looking for how to overthrow and begin a benevolent governing body. 94965 area code. I do all those simple living things but know that is so simplistic and will not make any difference.
    I send emails back to political crap asking for $. Like n Pelosi needing $ to pass a bill, as if we should have to pay dollars for right thinking or right action

  372. In my opinion the writers reasoning has great merit, but the energy analysis he references is flawed, and misleading, esp. about oil. Transportation, it says here, ( now 61.2% of energy use. Yes, for sure, a great deal of that is “industrial”, as in ships, airplanes, trucks, and city buses. And a great deal of transportation use is military. However, if one looks are personal motorcar use of oil, it is substantial.

    Also, I detect in the statement a desire of the writer to absolve him self of guilt. Well, Derrick, when an animal walks the planet it leaves a mark. Humans leave a much larger mark per kilogram than others. When concentrated, I call that mark pollution. All I have to do is look at a grey, smoggy, polluted urban sky.

    Living on earth is to integrate into a system. Careful analysis can lead to ideas that can improve system performance.

    -Jeremy’s thoughts.

  373. Industry in and of itself is not the problem. The biggest problem is that industry is built on a foundation of dirty energy and cradle-to-grave life cycle of durable goods.

    Here’s another paradigm:

    A clean energy grid, supplied mostly by advanced nuclear energy (LFTRs – Google it), that can power desalination plants for clean water, create carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, produce ammonia for fertilizer, and power plasma converters that can recycle everything. Combine this with increased urbanization (already happening), allowing many wildland areas to return to their former conditions, and food production partially located in urban high rises, and moral judgments fall away.

    We have to deal with the fact that there will be 2 billion more people on this planet in the next 40 years, and about that many are in the process of increasing their quality of life. Not only should we not deny them this, we can’t. It’s going to happen. And if we all want to survive on a healthy planet, we need to build industrial systems with a cradle-to-cradle mindset with everything powered by high density, clean energy.

    That is where we are headed. It’s just a matter of how long it takes to get us there.

  374. Chris: Maybe so, but I would like to know that LFTRs are proven economical or safe when scaled to commercial size. There are plenty of energy dreams out there. Why am I a skeptic? Where is my alternative energy source. Believe me I am looking. What is not in doubt, as you point out, is a human population headed to 9 billion, all of whom would like to use the earths finite resources. Even if the technology you suggest works well, there are still material resource limits to growth. Lots of luck on that.

  375. Dear Jeremy,

    So wonderfully well put. Thank you.


  376. The only missing piece in Chris’s statement is the scale. As Jeremy brings in the factor of ‘commercial size’, it unfolds a plethora of questions. To solve them all, DECENTRALIZATION would be the key!

  377. Another problem….

    (Transcribed from The Spotlight, Liberty Lobby from an August 1983 Issue.
    The Spotlight is now known as American Free Press)

    This is what America’s populist inventor, Thomas Edison, had to say about our impossible
    monetary system. He made the remarks while discussing the proposed Mussel Shoals Dam
    electric power project.

    By Thomas A. Edison

    People who will not turn a shovel full of dirt on the project, nor contribute a pound of material,
    will collect more money from the United States than will the people who supply all the material
    and do all the work. This is the terrible thing about interest… But here is the point: If the
    nation can issue a dollar bond it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good
    makes the bill good also. The difference between the bond and the bill is that the bond lets the
    money broker collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20 percent. Whereas the currency – the honest sort provided by the Constitution – pays nobody but those who contribute in some useful way. It is absurd to say our country can issue bonds and cannot issue currency.
    Both are promises to pay, but one fattens the usurer and the other helps the people. If the
    currency issued by the people were not good, then the bonds would be not good either. It is a
    terrible situation when the government, to insure the national wealth, must go in debt and submit
    to ruinous interest charges at the hands of men who control the fictitious value of gold. Interest is the invention of Satan.

  378. Hi Jeremy,

    You’re right, no LFTR has been built to commercial scale. But that will happen within the decade, as will other advanced nuclear designs. They’ve been proven to work, but scaling up is what will take time. When commercialization does happen, all bets are off. Modular production can occur at factories and shipped anywhere they are needed.

    Yes, there are still material limits to growth. But what helps temper population growth? Education, urbanization, and access to contraception. And increased energy makes all of those things possible, though there are of course political barriers to deal with as well.

    If we got to the point I described in my previous post, I would be for a moratorium on all new mining worldwide. Then, setup plasma converters near landfills, run everything through, and sort out what you’ve got. Because there’s a lot of useful resources there.

    Continue with cradle-to-cradle design and soon we’d have a stock of material goods that is available for humanity that has already been mined. And that would be it. Let the Earth heal for a few decades, then revisit the conversation.

  379. as usual, Derrick is right on. The answer, if there is any answer-has to do with the unalterable fact that civilization itself is unsustainable and completely wrong. We will never solve our problems with shorter showers or any other such nonsense, because that very nonsense cannot possibly “Solve” anything. The system itself is the problem; so any solutions will come when and if we abandon the system. This is the crux of what Derrick says, very consistently. We will not get to where we need to go until and if we leave behind our culturally inculcated perceptions and realize that everything we have been brought up to believe is wrong, one hundred percent wrong. Come on, Orion readers, get real. Stop your namby pamby silliness. It is only through the completely dismantling of civilization that this planet can be saved….

  380. There is little that can be done politically when the majority of voters are supporting Rightist political parties. Politicians are in hock to the industrial/financil sectors.
    All we can really do is vote and influence other voters. We need to talk convincingly to people who are NOT like us.

  381. absolutely incorrect and utterly outrageous in your (poorly-supported) premise that ‘Personal Change Does Not Equal Social Change’. What a load of old balls. Of course it does. Personal change and growth is the very goddamn essence of social change.
    How the hell can you assert that people can change their lives without first changing their attitudes?
    Remember how you cannot solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it? Well you need to stop being a victim.

  382. It’s fascinating reading the varieties of comments to this article, still continuing years after it was published. (Thanks Derrick for writing such thought-provoking, status quo-challenging, prickly analysis of “green personal virtue” and earnest collective environmentalism when what we absolutely DO need is a good, hard look at our collective prospects in the face of unsustainable corporate behaviour and government defense of it.)
    I’ve spent years as an advocate for “environmetal education.” Back in the early 90s it was radical (and even sometimes mocked) to recycle, build a composter, encourage more cycling, assess your (or your school’s) waste. As the poles melt, climate change news gets worse and worse, species disappear, hurricanes, floods and droughts increase, the oceans become acidic and depleted of fish – environmental changes rushes at us – we timidly and earnestly buy more organic coffee and drink it from our own cups, and might event turn down the thermostat a bit, or support Greenpeace. There are a few encouraging bigger-picture trends. Ontario, where I live, has a great Feed-In Tarif (FIT) program to encourage people and collectives to invest in solar arrays that add power to the electrical grid, and get a good rate of return for it. But what if our provincial government changes to a Conservative one? What if these programs are cancelled, and the new and growing solar industry that depends on preferential rates to their customers from a provincial utility collapse?
    “Environmental Education” is a very worthwhile undertaking, and tries to make children and young people become a bit more conscious of the connections between human activity and nature. But not too conscious. One of its favourite mantras is, “If only everyone does a little bit…” giving kids the idea that the automatic response is …”big things happen!” Unfortunately when everyone does a little bit, small things happen, in relation to the vast footprint of our style of lliving. And since most people don’t actually do much that’s significantly “green (are there only mostly bad choices?),” we as developed societies are moving only very slowly in the direction of sustainability while the vast majority of what’s hugely unsustainble roars on.
    We are relentlessly egged on in a debt-based economy that encourages consumption and personal debt for everything from houses to education to stuff, a “consumer society” that makes us think it’s normal to be called “consumers” (I counted: the Ontario curriculum uses the word “consumer” more frequently than the word “citizen” – in support of Derrick’s point.) We are trained and educated and advertised to, to be consumers. I’m worth it, Just Do It, You Deserve a Break, on and on … we are not only encouraged to consume, weve been taught over whole TV lifetimes that we are ENTITLED to consume. (If you’re brave, watch Adam Curtis’s BBC show, “The Century of the Self.”) What Derrick’s getting at is we face the very uncomfortable idea that fossil fuels (and power from big dams) have made it possible and very easy for us to increase our consumption to astonishing levels – and find it normal. Or even not yet enough. But probably, underneath, we know (and dread) the idea that to be “sustainable” we might one day need to do some very difficult things. Only not yet, we hope.
    It’s possible that by nature humans, like other species, aren’t actually sustainable. Despite their remarkable intelligence and problem-solving abilities, they are subject to natural ecological limits and controls, when circumstances change. We like to overcome nature, and it’s almost an (Enlightenment?) human duty to strive to overcome limits – all except limiting ourselves, which is an old-fashioned pre-consumer-society idea. We don’t much like thinking about the idea that nature (Mother Nature, Gaia, the remarkably biotic-abiotic balancing act that has kept our little planet stable and open for predictable agriculture for only the past 10,000 years or so) might be undergoing disruption – because of US. Where once we humans ate out an ecosystem and then moved on, or unpleasantly starved, now we now disrupt entire oceans, forests, water tables, rivers, soil banks, extracting everyhing from everywhere, fish, trees, gold, oil, minerals, vast monoculture crops, industrial animals. It all seems normal because despite all our available technology, most of us watch TV and don’t look at the destruction needed to make the wonderful stuff that’s being sung and crooned at us on the box. (Just Google “oil sands” and click on “images” once to see what Alberta looks like now, to give Americans friendly, but very very extra-polluting, bitumous oil.)
    One part of the sustainability movement has as its goals to substitute greener technologies and products for smokier, more polluting, chemically laced, non-biodegradable, genetically engineered, full-of-additives, plastic packaged, foreign-produced, long-distance-travelling stuff – and try to keep our lifestyles the same while gradually replacing the most offending parts. This kind of change has come about largely because of growing public awareness, which is a good thing. Markets ARE susceptible to consumer “demands,” (sometimes piqued by environmentalists warning about all kinds of things they work hard researching: nasty things in plastic, pesticides in food, chemicals in personal care products – many thanks to wonderful people like Annie Leonard with the Story of Stuff). But mostly our egos are still easily seduced by those crooning ads, now claiming to offer more virtuous stuff to our enlightened selves.
    Education – schooling – is a subset of the economy and a reflection of the status quo, not a comfortable place to learn about its unsustainable assumptions. Official curriculum is a curious amalgam of facts, principles, abstractions, formulae, and various other content that is carefully assembled not to offend anyone’s sensibilities. Not therefore an easy package to compile, and not easy to change – but subject to some influences more than others (various “interests” who know how to do that). I periodically scan the Ontario curriculum for various ideas, as a reading on status quo society. While is is very positive on progress, competition, “consumers,” and “resources,” it is wary of most things environmental. It renders environmental ideas neutral by always inviting “balance” – the “advantages and disadvantages” of climate change, renewable energy, and selective hybridization. On the other hand, it does not invite opinions (or ask about advantages and disadvantages) of things such as economic growth, competition, over-consumption (or even “consumer” identity which is flagrantly supports), long-distrance trade of everything, naming the parts of nature as “resources.” I noticed recently that the Ontario curriculum does not even include the word “capitalism,” to invite discussion and understanding of how our economic system works. Nor does it include the word “limits” (except in “speed limits” for safety), or offer much chance to consider “causes” of anything (there is little human agency in curricular learning expectations – a little “human activity” perhaps, but otherwise climate change is “caused” by greenhouse gases. Loss of biodiversity is “caused” by reduction of habitat. But no one does it. (That would be political – and curriculum is supposed to be politically neutral.) We and our thinking, after 12 years, are all to some extent products of these sorts of unspoken biases, emphases, omissions.
    Environmental education encourages contact with nature (very important), and responsible personal choice (a very good thing – but unfortunately a substitute for responsible societal choice). It “encourages” (this is code, by the way, for not accountable content) a wide variety of beneficial activities. The one thing it NEVER speaks of, is SHOPPING. You may turn out the lights, or take shorter showers, or use fewer pesticides or shop local or organic. But the Big One – the sheer volume of imported, fossil-fuel produced, heavily packaged, made-to-break (obsolescense is one of the biggest qualities of all those beguiling light-weight fashions and nifty and ever-smaller-lighter-smarter-shorter-lived electronic wonders) products – our huge level of consumption to keep the economy going – is never mentioned. Consumption is The Word That May Not Be Spoken in our current religion of materialism (except when attached as energyconsumption or waterconsumption, which are both pretty hard-to-grasp quantity wise).
    There are lots of very frustrated people posting here, defending small green actions, and those nice corporations who give them the things they like. Even (I think) a privatized water company. What we really all need is an education that lets us learn to analyze how things work, real cause-and-effects of real human systems, real assessments of what we’re doing by what we’re doing, and what we’re allowing by NOT doing anything. Real costs and benefits (and what “externalized” costs are). How policy works, and to whose advantage. Who infuences what we learn in school and what we don’t.
    But in the end, it’s all about whether or not we’re willing to give up beguiling comfort, entertainment, shopping for fun and fulfillment, and figure out what happens if 2 billion more people come along, AND we generously welcome them to consume like we do. What will that do to the Earth? What will we be doing to each other?
    There are no simple answers to any of this which is why Derrick hasn’t provided them. But we are consuming our way to a future we probably don’t want. And not using our good minds to figure out how not to do that. That’s the big one. Entitlement or self-discipline. Self-indulgence or creativity. Consumption – how about production? Remember when people made things? Remember things that were precious, that lasted a lifetime? Made people proud? Civic virtue – remember the Greeks? Taking on the big stuff, (philosophically) together. (Rugged individualism doesn’t work well for this.) Al Gore reminded us that “Climate change is a moral issue.” So is sustainability. This is about doing the right thing. Figuring out what that is. And often doing the right thing for everyone means getting political.
    Personally, I would argue that if we don’t demand that our education systems address what it really takes to analyze and re-invent our future, then we are negligent. Our children will not be able to maintain a fossil-fueled, “consumer society” lifestyle indefinitely. We’re seeing the cracks in the wall. But right now they are still being educated to “get ahead” instead of “having a good life.” Learn more, get a job (not be self-sustaining in any way), make more money, have more purchasing power, more credit and debt, more stuff, feed the economy. If we stopped to think about it, what would we like them to know, be, do, have, understand, care about, (love?) to live well, instead? Changing curriculum too is a political action. It’s not Derrick, it’s we who have to have the courage to face up to creating solutions to these difficult questions. But thanks, Derrick, for setting off this great forum for discussion!

  383. Some of the comments here seem to be caught up in an either/or dichotomy that misinterprets what Jensen was trying to say. He did not say that personal actions were pointless. He did say that by themselves they will not stop environment destruction. This should be obvious. The labour movement did not improve working conditions by individual workers quitting their jobs or slavery by individuals refusing to by cotton. Personal change can be the catalyst that leads to organized change, but if personal change is not channeled towards organized direct action, it will ultimately be ineffective.
    I can use my own work to illustrate this point. My partner and I do “green” house cleaning. Most of our customers by organic, they recycle and have fair-trade and so-called “green” goods in their cupboards. But we also see a lot of big SUVs in their driveways and their houses are filled with all the latest consumer electronics and pads and cell phones. And not one of them is involved in any form of organized activism. They are consumers who recycle and consume “green” products and they do not seem to have any plans to deal with the serious contradictions in their lifestyles.
    My partner and I do not for minute believe that our “green” cleaning is changing the world. It’s a way to pay the rent that causes as little harm as possible to the environment. But that is all. If we want to change the world, we have to get involved. And we have. Over the last 20 years we been involved in the anti-globalization movement, Food Not Bombs, anti-poverty activism and supporting direct actions (blockades, etc) in the woods. My partner and many of our friends have spent time in jail.
    This is not something our customers want to hear about.
    The rare time we have tried to (carefully) broach the subject of our “radical” past has been met by hostility and suspicion. We’ve learned over the last couple of years that if we want to keep paying our rent we keep our mouths shut. Lifestyle consumerism and radical change do not go hand in hand.

  384. Thank you so much for this article. Letting ourselves become individualized ruins our cultural environment as well as the literal world around us. Asia has mostly been immune to this problem until recently, and now this is a world-wide issue. People thinking that their ego gratification is more important than the health of the group… Let’s get outside and garden together. I’m in Portland. Send me an email and we’ll meet up.

  385. This takes a bit of the North American guilt load off my mind. But mostly I agree with Joel. The industry is catering to the demands and requests of the individuals. The most important vote you will cast is the vote you cast with your money.
    I believe that we can’t have any systemic or drastic change without it beginning as personal change.
    There is an excellent and inspiring documentary about anti-capitalism and environmental rights documentary called “Just Do It”.

  386. Where can I find the sources Derrick uses for his claims in this article?

  387. Well said. I believe there are a couple of undergirding issues (aren’t there always), that complicate the resolve. First is capitalism itself. When all that matters is profit, then the profiteers will provide what makes profit, no matter the geological consequences. What makes profit is the prodicts and services we all continue to pay for. Recycling bottles is nice, but eating meat requires great quantities of water. So, as long as we buy meat, we are complicit in that use of water. For the record, I am not a vegetarian, just an addict. Which brings me to the second undergirding issue.
    We can all jump on whatever life-sustaining, world resusitating bandwagon we wish; but if our behavior does not change…well then? Our demands are the industry’s purpose, becaue that is where the money is. What we pay for, they produce. This will go on ad infinitum until we say stop with our cash (hence, our behavior), not our vote.
    I used the word “addict” for a reason. What is it you feel you cannot live without? And, once you answer that question, what is its footprint via water, carbon, air and whatever other resources we are depleting as a collective?
    If you wonder why things don’t change, look at what you pay for and why.
    We all play a part in the character that is destroying the world. No matter what we protest, no matter our good intentions, if we do not act as described above, we change nothing.

  388. Maybe we need to work a bit harder on distinguishing among needs (what keeps us safe and alive), culture (good familiar home cookin’ and even mon’s roast beef), and created WANTS (all the stuff in those relentless consumer culture surround-sound ads – credit cards, sexy cars, seductive short-lived widgets, fast food, no down payments, getaway faraway, just do it, I’m worth it, syrupybubbly bad-for-your-teeth drinks, happyfication, sing-along team songs) that persuade us that we should call ourselves (even in school curriculum) “consumers.” We can, if we chose, become discriminating choosers of all the pieces of our lives: the food we eat (knowing more about it), the clothes we choose (maybe those workers in Dacca, Bangladesh won’t have died for nothing), the products we buy to look better (are they healthy?), the idea of endlessly renovating our spaces (old and homey used to be charming), what’s important about how we keep warm and cool and get around (how can we reduce our fossil fuel consumption?).
    All of this is possible and, now, urgent. Urgent if we care about the future and our kids. Easy to find out since if we’re here we’re on the internet, we can all can quite easily find how to be responsibly, ethically, fairly, discriminatingly, honestly green.
    I once read that to become vegetarian should take seven years: that it’s good to spend some time learning how to cook some things that are great, that you love, that aren’t meat. Then eating less meat (or no red meat, or no meat at all) won’t be much of a sacrifice. (And yes, it does mean being willing to spend more time cooking. Indians and Asians are champions at making fantastically delicious non-meat food: we can learn from them. Get a good, sharp knife, and learn to be adept at chopping vegetables! Or get two – and invite your mate, kids, friends to chop together.) You might discover (as I did) that it’s good food that’s addictive, not just the taste of meat.
    For a few years I taught a course where everyone had to do his/her “Ecological Footprint” calculation – for some it was quite a poke in the conscience – if everyone lived like you, the quiz asked, how many planets would we need ? Most of the students, who recycled and therefore thoght they were green, were shocked to discover that, even as students, they were up at three or four Earths. It taught me some things, too. It’s not really comfortable staring at your own unthought-through habits and their consequences. But it’s a good place to start.
    Good intentions are a good first step. After that, being an ethical “unconsumer” is an ongoing adventure in discovery, creativity, chopping and surprising new kinds of satisfaction. (I’m still working on it, but now I can grow carrots and eggplants and can spaghetti sauce and bake bread and make some pretty mean vegetable, lentil (+sometimes tofu in assorted Asian styles) -spicy-saucy-dishes.
    If you’re up for new cooking ideas, one of my faves is the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook – a mix of familiar and interestingly ethnic food. It can be fun to shop at farmers markets, or garden, and eat local, organic, low-meat (or meatless), homemade, spicy, tasty, healthy good-for-everyone-including-planet food.
    If you’ve never tried it, one Ecological Footprint calculator is at

  389. i would ask only 3 questions – for starters – in response to the article:

    “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.” –

    so, who IS creating the crises? a multi-headed demon? or aliens? or is it we humans? and OUR systems?

    WHO will come and solve and save? aliens? gods? or we humans, who are in final analysis, individuals?

    “… it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself” –

    who are these who ‘wield power’? non-humans? aliens? are they not individuals that have come together in some common need?

    WHO is this system? a person? an entity? an animal? or is it something created and maintained by humans (individuals, in the final analysis) and their fear and greed?

    “We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.” –

    ok, got it! the systems are taken down. now what? understand – we now have NO systems. how do we live? how do things go on? how do we live – individually and collectively?

    is taking down a system the answer? or changing the systems?

  390. This article is spot on…we don’t fight wars or mend economies as individuals, so how could we expect to fix the global climate this way?

    Solutions have to be large scale and systemic to have a hope of success, and large scale systemic changes only come about when enough minds have changed and can usher in a new paradigm. That means it its root, climate change isn’t a technical or environmental problem, it’s a social problem, with social solutions.

    I wrote a little bit about this myself, recently…

  391. I would like for Jensen and Hedges to admit that the middle class populations of western civilization, particularly in the US, will not rise up and wrest power from the corporate elite as long as the average citizen believes that alternatives to their discontent exist. Whether it’s casting a protest vote, buying organinc, taking shorter showers or the whole PV / hybrid ‘have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too’ consumer experience; it’s all a ruse but it keeps people placated.

    The truth is, the masses aren’t going to ‘rise up’ until they believe they have nothing left to lose. They must be more terrified of telling their children that there’s nothing to eat (let alone go to college) than they are of getting hit in the face with a tear gas canister. When they do rise up, they will seek to restore what they lost: cheap fuel and food; look at Egypt!

    Furthermore, you’ll never convince enough people to willingly dismantle industrial civilization to ‘save the planet.’ Do we really expect millions of people to march on Washington to demand to have the electricity switched off permanently? Activists of this sort will not be viewed as cultural heros like Pavel; they’ll be turned in by their neighbors who see them as a threat to their own personal right to consume as much as they want.

    By all means, if taking shorter showers lets you leave this temporal existence with a clear(er) conscious, go for it.

  392. Thank you Derrick Jensen for writing this article, it has been thought – provoking for me along with all the “Dark Mountain” – type material that I’ve read in the last couple of months by writers such as Paul Kingsnorth and Keith Farnish. Thanks also to all the contributors to this discussion, just as interesting as the article.I cant say I’ve read all of the comments but have got through a fair few. Therefore I may well repeat points made before. Since the thread was started a long time ago it may well be ancient history for some contributors!

    This is a personal response and as such may well reveal a lot about my psyche as a confused and somewhat desperate C21 Western Environmentalist. I have been reducing, re-using and recycling for the last 25 years along with the usual buying organic, fairtrade products, growing some food, writing to my m.p., joining campaigns and pressure groups and at every point trying to do “my little bit”. Every so often I’ve tried to live what to some may seem to some an extreme simple life without all the green (and grey) products but keep feeling drawn back by the technology and objects with the convenience and social approval which goes with possessing these.

    The evidence that ecocide is occurring is overwhelming and I’ve had the uneasy feeling in the last couple of years that everyone doing “their little bit” is pissing in the wind in the face of this monolithic, capitalist civilisation steered by corporations that put money above our and other creatures’ very survival. Derrick’s article has articulated this feeling very well, but it’s challenging – what about all the effort we have all been putting in? Putting Green party leaflets through doors, walking to work, buying a car that drinks a third less fuel than the one before, giving up flying? The soul-searching about constant buying decisions… do I buy the organic apples from Italy or the pesticide-laden ones from Kent? Most importantly where is the line between “want” and “need”?

    It’s pretty clear that many of us humans, significant numbers of other species and whole ecosystems are doomed if we carry on the way we are. But are humans going to give up civilisation? I don’t think so, not until we are forced to. Even when some are forced to by human-created disasters, people in places (so far) unaffected by these disasters will carry on with business-as-usual. In fact that’s what is happening already, for example Alberta’s tar sands and the Niger delta are increasingly toxic while we environmentalists continue to take shorter showers hoping desperately or smugly that we are making a difference. At the same time big techno-fixes like large scale solar or wind farms are offered as alternatives. Given that humans are unlikely to give up civilisation I would suggest pursuing some of these alternative options could mitigate some of the damage at least in the short term. Maybe it would give ecosystems some time at least to adapt to climate change? Better at least than fracking the earth to burn yet more fossil fuel. On the other hand maybe I am grasping at straws in the bargaining stage of grieving the loss of our civilisation and shouldn’t even consider trying to keep kicking the ball down the road?

    Where does this all leave me? The position of relatively aware angst-ridden Green campaigner in a society steeped in denial is not a comfortable one and one I have inhabited for a long time. It’s been necessary to feel that my bit is making some positive difference otherwise I would simply feel like giving up and sinking into nihilism, inaction and seeking oblivion in one of the many ways that civilisation seems to insist we get swallowed up in. But this article (among others) punctures that positivity and quite rightly. It’s ultimately not going to do me or any of us any good to live in false hope. True hope grounded in effective action seems to be the only way forward so therefore at an individual level I am going to at least continue doing my bit. I’m proud of an action I took in my work place for example and I’m not going to stop taking such actions (clients were offered plastic bottles of water to drink before I bought glass decanters for tap water instead and I estimate that I have saved between 1500 -2000 plastic water bottles being created and transported in the last 3 years). I’m also pretty convinced that the trees I’ve planted are better off planted than not..

    According to the biological definition I am a ‘consumer’ simply by my existence so want to seek to consume in the context of a more Permacultural society of connected people rather than as the isolated ego consumer as capitalism defines it. There’s much, much more besides to do but I haven’t figured out exactly what that “more” is yet as there is only so much one person can do and I want maximum effect. There was a time when I first read the article that I felt defensive and thought it had just tapped into my “I’m not good enough” low self esteem thinking. But I see that we simply are not doing enough collectively and at a political level to change the course we are on and I think we had better do it fast. Corporations are not people.

  393. Hi Harry – great comments. You said “There’s much, much more besides to do but I haven’t figured out exactly what that “more” is yet as there is only so much one person can do and I want maximum effect. ”

    Remember that if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing badly.

    I’ve always told my kids that the interesting things in life are found at the edges. Be brave as you walk along the edge of nihilism. You may be surprised by joy.

  394. So derrick or whomever else knows,
    What are we supposed to do exactly? Lets say specifically with fresh water. So we attack the industry? How and what aspect? An example? I want to make change so this article was great but it was mainly negative. Whats a solution so that i can move forward?

  395. Actually, the solution you present would also kill the planet. There are more than 7 billion human beings alive at the present moment. Without an industrial economy – fertilizers, transport, refrigeration, ect ? Their hunger would devour all things. The entire ecosystem would get eaten. – Preindustrial foodproduction methods are simply not productive enough to support the numbers of people we have. There is no going back – only forward. We need an industrial economy that closes it’s cycles of matter. Where products no longer of use end up in new products, not landfills.

  396. A few retorts to this article seem to indicate that government and industry exist to cater to consumers. This may be true for a small… Very small… Sector of government and industry output. The main reason most of the more destructive industries exist is not to provide for consumers, but instead poisen them through lobbies to the FDA to create a market for something no sane reasonable person would consume much less hide in products that don’t need that additive. Most important is that these industries and sectors of government that do not cater to the consumer much less the citizen but cater to themselves and their ideology of domination. Perhaps you are right in saying industry caters to consumer. But what consumer? Perhaps the military industrial complex and the supermarket of war?

  397. Eco-terrorism is a perverse industrial war on mankind and the planet. Eco-terrorism is in the air, food, water, soil, body from pollutants, additives, manufacture, production of chemical, energy, food, waste of every industrial complex for the past 150 years. This is a call against eco-terrorists, against the industry of domination and destruction.

  398. It seems to me that as long as experts willfully ignore the “system causation factor” of the human population explosion, that is to say, the increasing food supply which is literally fueling the explosion, we will continue to see the promulgation of politically convenient thought and economically expedient policymaking. Science regarding ‘why the human population is exploding’ will continue to be denied and endless preternatural, ideologically-driven chatter about ‘what is happening’ will pass for a complete sharing of knowledge. We are in a sad state of affairs.

    Just for a moment, let us imagine that now we have all the greatest population experts speaking with one voice. They tell us that we are headed rapidly for 8 billion people on the surface of Earth, declining TFRs in many western European countries notwithstanding. When that number is reached in the foreseeable future, we will have too much food, too little water and clean air, and no decent environment to speak of. Pollution will be visible to all, everywhere. In the meantime many species of birds and wildlife will go extinct because of the destruction of their habitat from land clearance to grow more food to support an exploding human population. What is happening is made evident. Why this situation is occurring with a vengeance of our watch is avoided at all cost. All this is good, they say.

    All these top rank population experts, inside and outside the scientific community, then go on to say that in order to have more and more happy people we need more and more people who can be counted upon to increase the depletion and degradation that will rapidly subtract from the source of that happiness, our planetary home, until such time as Earth is no longer able to function as a source of happiness. More importantly, because we self-proclaimed experts are ‘free to know’ and then speak of what is determined by the powers that be to be best for the rest of us to know, some scientific research can be and will be denied. While these experts do not lie, they deliberately refuse to give voice to the whole of what is true to them, according to the lights and knowledge they possess. By their conscious silence, these experts will ensure that the unsustainable growth of the human species, the reckless depletion of resources and the irreversible degradation of ecology of the planet happens as soon and efficiently as possible. All this is good, they say, because we are making things better.

  399. I agree with the basic principle that you all are getting at. We need a more sustainable and manageable way of getting things. Such as taking from things that are thrown out and putting them into the new. We are too far gone from the old way so we need new ways. we are eventually gonna run out of resources to use up. Cuba is a good example. They have already reached their peak oil production. They used to be big in agriculture. Now that they are low on oil they don’t have the resources to be making all those oil based fertilizers and pesticides. Almost everything uses oil to run and once it’s gone it’s gone. they have started a sustainable agriculture system. The world should learn from them and start before we are forced to. Less wasting of resources and more reusing.

  400. This is an excellent article – and for me it really hits home. How can we as individuals do something to REALLY create change on this planet? For years I have focused on my own actions in relationship to my decisions with broader consequences, i.e. reduced consumerism, local organic food production, smart use of resources and fossil fuels – but no matter how far I pursue a life of “sustainability” and “low impact”, I cannot believe that my individual actions are causing any significant blow to the industrial corporate nightmare that we are inherently entwined with.

    The time for change is NOW. How long will we allow a military industrial corporate system to consume everything in its path? No longer can we pretend that this problem will go away as long as we start car-pooling, or put up solar panels, or take one less shower a day. The truth of the matter is that more drastic actions MUST be taken, and taken soon. We deserve the world we create, and if we are apathetic enough to allow what is happening to happen, then we have no one to blame for these problems but ourselves. How many man-made disasters must we sit through until we realize, well shit, looks like everything’s been destroyed? We cannot sit idly by while a significantly small group of people destroy everything good left in this world. Do something – anything! Become an activist – write, march, film, protest, expose the lies and create the solutions. Time is running out, freedoms are disappearing, and one day, our children will ask us what we did when it counted most.

    I don’t often go on these kind of rants, but it is something I feel very passionate about. I love this planet and I love humanity and I believe that we came to this world for a reason, and it certainly wasn’t to sit around and watch tv. The greatest illusion of all is that we are powerless. United, we can solve anything. I pray that this message reaches the ears of those with the passion to make real change in this world, to awaken to our greatest potential, and create a new system that benefits everyone.

  401. this resonated so deep on the thoughts that i’ve been developing in mySELF and I thank you for reAFFIRMING my decision to carry ON in the sense that I have…
    (though I wasn’t sure the “purpose” is “worth it”)…. I would LOVE to sit and build with you… have conversations that bring closure (or expansion)… especially considering that “the means don’t justify the ends”…
    too bad i’m reading this NOW & I THOUGHT it was published today.. turns out this was 5 fucking years ago… WHERE ARE WE NOW? WHERE IS DERRICK JENSEN now with these seemingly (concluding) “self-corrective” thoughts. lol
    -how often we rely on science & religion to answer our QUESTions… the destination for me is my journey.

  402. ideas that need to be spread broadly.

  403. This author makes a really great point about the establishment always trying to misdirect the populace into placing its focus and energies into anything other than scrutinizing the establishment and demanding responsibility be taken by the establishment. Of course their favorite misdirection is to simply lead you to believe that blame and guilt lies with you the individual. In an unfortunate twist of irony, this author misdirects himself and the reader into thinking that human civilization itself is a hapless culprit, and nothing could conceivably be done to make it sustainable except to kill it dead and for everyone to live as cavemen. Perhaps this author is simply an establishment shill himself? Instead of placing the responsibility for creating a sustainable civilization where it truly lies, on the establishment, this author first lures us in by correctly telling us that driving to the grocery store isn’t going to make or break the planet, but then tells us that creating a sustainable civilization is a ludicrous and impossible idea we dare not entertain because we’d probably have to take all those solar panels and drive them somewhere after all. Wait, what? Did that really just happen?

  404. One of the things that has *always* struck me as disingenuous about articles like this is that they frame the debate as an either-or, which, in itself, perpetuates it’s own myth.

    I began my ‘activism’ at a really early age, watching the waste in my house growing up, given that my father worked for a paper company — and we went through paper like it was ‘water’ (funny analogy, today). I found it disturbing and cut down on my usage because it simply felt more ‘right’. Later, I got involved in letter-writing (from whales to ivory) and other actions, and, as a teenager, ended up on my town’s Environmental Commission, where we were able to organize a building moratorium and put aside 300 acres of woods as passive-only township parkland (which it remains today, almost 40 years later). Later still, I co-founded Rainforest Relief in 1990.

    But I never let go of the personal-consumption aspect of reducing our collective impact. I agree with one commenter that ‘industry’ is indeed made up of providing that which ‘individuals’ use. However, industry (that is, businesses) is constantly promoting the use of these things, as well as shifting the system towards the use-distribution-disposal of things. They do this by deciding what to manufacture, through advertising and even through political action (lobbyists, etc.). But that all said, those who consume the products do still have some choice. One is to simply avoid the product. I still believe that collectively, we *can* and *do* make a difference when we pool our individual actions. But I agree with Jensen that we cannot stop there.

    Ivory is a good example. It took a combination of political action and boycotting to convince the government to create policies to ban imports of ivory. This included listing elephants on the US Endangered Species list as well as CITES. But before any of that happened, ivory sales plummeted in the US due to the boycott (which was happening in other countries, too). All of this enabled key African countries to create stronger laws, step up enforcement and burn seized ivory stocks (of course, that’s not the end of the story, as China and Vietnam are still markets for ivory and the elephants are still dying).

    Finally, I would also say that, in some ways, we are harking back to a time when *every* action by the individual was a social action. Social media is re-creating an awareness of individual actions that we left behind for some time (albeit, not nearly so much as when we lived in small groups of 30 – 60 interdependent individuals). We now can see individual actions going viral.

    Be that as it may, I don’t recycle straw wrappers because I think it will change the world. As the guy on the beach, tossing in the starfish, one-by-one, says, “it made a difference to that one.” I guess if I can know that I spared the logging of even one tree…

    But there’s also the aspect of my asking myself who I want to be. Do I want to take responsibility for avoiding another paper cup, or just throw my hands up and help along the death of whatever plants and insects and birds were living in the tree that they cut to make it? There’s something strongly affirming — and that feeds my activism in the larger, political realm — when I can tell myself I more-closely walk my talk.

  405. > Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance.

    Stopped reading there.

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