Imagine

Art: Chris Jordan
Art: Chris Jordan

ONE OF THE (many) ways this culture is killing the planet is through a lack of imagination. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, and especially in light of three pretty typical responses I’ve read, each one showing less imagination than the one before.

The first comes from global warming activist George Monbiot, who, just ten days after the earthquake and tsunami, wrote in the Guardian, “As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.” His position was that the catastrophe — the mass release of highly toxic radiation — was caused not by the routine production and concentration of highly radioactive materials, but rather by a natural disaster combined with “a legacy of poor design and corner-cutting.” If the capitalists can just design this monstrous process better, he seems to believe, they can continue to produce and concentrate highly radioactive materials without causing more accidents. Similar arguments were made after Oak Ridge, Windscale, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl. You’d think by now we’d all know better. And you’d think it wouldn’t take a lot of imagination to see how routinely performing an action as stupendously dangerous as the intentional concentration of highly toxic and radioactive materials would render their eventual catastrophic release not so much an accident as an inevitability, with the question of if quickly giving way to the questions of when, how often, and how bad.

The second comment I read came from someone who did not have George Monbiot’s advantage of living half a world away from the smoldering radioactive mess. In late March, an official with the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency told the Wall Street Journal that Japan is not reconsidering nuclear energy in the wake of Fukushima, because “Japan couldn’t go forward without nuclear power in order to meet its demand for energy today.” He said that a significant reduction in nuclear power would result in blackouts, then added, “I don’t think anyone could imagine life without electricity.” There’s nothing surprising about his response. Most exploiters cannot imagine life without the benefits of their exploitation, and, perhaps more importantly, cannot imagine that anyone else could imagine going through life being any less exploitative than they are. Many slave owners cannot imagine life without slave labor. Many pimps cannot imagine life without prostituting women. Many abusers cannot imagine life without those they routinely abuse. And many addicts cannot imagine life without their addictions, whether to heroin, crack, television, the internet, entitlement, power, economic growth, technological escalation, electricity, or industrial civilization.

The failure of imagination at work here is stunning. Humans have lived without industrially generated electricity for nearly all of our existence. In fact we thrived on every continent except Antarctica without it. And for nearly all those years the majority of humans lived sustainably and comfortably. And let’s not forget the many traditional indigenous peoples (plus another almost 2 billion people) who are living without electricity today. The Japanese official is so lacking in imagination that he can’t even imagine that they exist.

George Monbiot, in his Guardian article, asks some important questions about living without industrial electricity: “How do we drive our textile mills, brick kilns, blast furnaces and electric railways — not to mention advanced industrial processes? Rooftop solar panels?” But he reaches an illogical conclusion: “The moment you consider the demands of the whole economy is the moment at which you fall out of love with local energy production.” Actually, no. The moment you consider the demands of the whole economy is the moment you fall out of love with the whole economy, an economy that is systematically exploitative and destructive, an economy that is killing the planet.

It is insane to favor textile mills, brick kilns, blast furnaces, electric railways, and advanced industrial processes over a living planet. Our ability to imagine is so impoverished that we cannot even imagine what is happening right in front of our faces.

Why is it unimaginable, unthinkable, or absurd to talk about getting rid of electricity, but it is not unimaginable, unthinkable, and absurd to think about extirpating great apes, great cats, salmon, passenger pigeons, Eskimo curlews, short-nosed sea snakes, coral reef communities? And why is it just as accepted to allow the extinction of indigenous humans who are also inevitable victims of this way of life (many of whom live with little or no electricity)? This failure of imagination is not only insane, it is profoundly immoral.

Imagine for a moment that we weren’t suffering from this lack of imagination. Imagine a public official saying not that he cannot imagine living without electricity, but that he cannot imagine living with it, that what he can’t imagine living without are polar bears, the mother swimming hundreds of miles next to her child, and, when the child tires, hundreds of miles more with the cub on her back. Imagine if this public official, or rather, imagine if we all were to say that we cannot imagine living without rockhopper penguins (as I write this, the largest nesting grounds of endangered rockhoppers is threatened by an oil spill). Imagine if we were to say we cannot imagine living without the heart-stopping flutters and swoops and dives of bats, and we cannot imagine living without hearing frog song in spring. Imagine if we were to say that we cannot live without the solemn grace of newts, and the cheerful flight of bumblebees (some areas of China are so polluted that all pollinators are dead, which means all flowering plants are effectively dead, which means hundreds of millions of years of evolution have been destroyed). Imagine if it were not this destructive culture — and its textile mills, brick kilns, electric railways, and advanced industrial processes — that we could not imagine living without, but rather the real, physical world.

How would we act, and react, differently if we not only said these things but meant them? How would we act, and react, differently if we were not insane? And I mean that in the deepest sense, of being out of touch with physical reality. How can it be so difficult to understand that humans can survive (and have survived) quite well without an industrial economy, but an industrial economy — and in fact any economy — cannot survive without a living planet?

The truth is, the Japanese official and anybody else who states that they cannot imagine living without electricity had better start, because the industrial generation of electricity is simply not sustainable — whether it’s coal or hydropower or even large-scale solar and wind power — which means someday, and likely someday soon, people will be not only imagining living without electricity, but actually living without it, along with the more than 2 billion already doing so. About this prospect, a hapa (half Hawaiian) man recently said to me: “A lot of us are just biding our time, waiting to go back to the old ways. Can’t be more than a few decades at the latest. We did okay out here without microwave popcorn and weedwhackers and Jet Skis.”

Which leads me to the third article I read, titled “What Are You Willing to Sacrifice to Give Up Nuclear Energy?” In it, the author talks, as did the Japanese official, as did George Monbiot, about the importance of cheap energy to the industrial economy. But he’s got it all wrong. The real question is: what are you willing to sacrifice to allow the continuation of nuclear energy? And more broadly: what are you willing to sacrifice to allow the continuation of this industrialized way of life?

Given that industrial-scale electricity is unsustainable, and that a lot of people and other species are dying because of it, another question worth asking is: what will be left of the world when the electricity goes off? I can’t speak for you, but I’d rather be living on a planet that is healthier and more capable of sustaining life, rather than one that resembles the restricted area around Fukushima.

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

Comments

  1. D.J.always keeping it real and insightful.
    Emancipate ourselves from mental slavery- step one. Begin. Peace

  2. I agree Joseph, the chains that bind us to a doomed vessel of life afloat on the vast seas of galactic space are in our minds. Real freedom can only come if we work to liberate our minds.
    Jensen says: “And many addicts cannot imagine life without their addictions, whether to heroin, crack, television, the internet, entitlement, power, economic growth, technological escalation, electricity, or industrial civilization.” The addicted mind is a conditioned mind. There are methods to be liberated from this inner slavery; they have been called spiritual paths. But whether you choose to call them spiritual or not, they are effective means of realizing freedom from conditioning. The 12 step program is a generic version of such paths. Addiction, denial, attachment, willful ignorance, resistance to change — these are the universal human problems that these methods have been devised to counter.

    Small groups dedicated to going beyond our addictions need to first focus us on awakening to the nature of our plight and its fatal nature. Lacking at least a beginning awareness of this situation, there is little to be done. We have to identify and own the problem before we can engage the work needed to grow beyond it. We have to meet the enemy, and it is us.

  3. The enemy is not “us” per se. We are not Weyerhauser, destroying old-growth forests; we are not BP, raping the land for fossil fuel and dumping toxic waste into the ocean; and we are not the world’s militaries, killing as a career. Jensen speaks on this all the time; we liberate our minds by being open and mindful to reality, to what is actually happening, and then by acting to stop the real enemy from continuing to kill the planet.

  4. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

    -Albert Einstein

    This entire issue of ORION seemed like a wonderful, crazy circus barker monologue: See the elecricity emancipator!! Watch technology SAVE nature!! Jump on and off the merry-go-round of education!! See the fish Gargantuan!! Ride the car of the Future!! Discover the meaning in Art–Believe it or Not.

    Quite amazing.

  5. There are some who say the problem many too many refuse to speak of openly started 10,000 years ago. Then they go on to conclude there is nothing that could have been done in all that time. Long before I could see things the way I can now, it was possible to apprehend that there must have been a point in time, during those thousands of years, when things could have been different….but only if someone could have adequately communicated widely, loudly and clearly enough what continues to be denied everywhere until this very day. This is how silence kills the world, I suppose.

    The family of humanity has a problem and, as a consequence, Earth has a colossal, human-induced challenge. Human life is the problem. No one, literally not a single person with any credibility, is willing to point to the science indicating with remarkable simplicity that the human population is both the primary and proximate cause of the global ecological threats to the human community which we are called upon to confront now here.

  6. Steven, as much as I admire your tenacity in articulating this point, I still wonder.

    I wonder: What if tomorrow, every news channel, every twitter feed, every magazine, newspaper and website proclaimed that human population growth is the root problem of all mankind (and I agree with that premise, BTW), and everyone who heard it took that to heart as the ONE issue of our time ..what would result?

    I think the real reason that nobody wants to talk about poplulation growth is that nobody believes that we have even the remotest chance of reigning that in voluntarily. I think we’re accepting that we will have even more substantial overshoot until that point where nature delivers us a good, swift kick in the ‘nads. Rinse and repeat.

    There are certain things we can control, and problems we can forestall. Human biology and the genetic compulsion to make more humans as long as the resources hold out is a trend no population of living organism has ever ceased to do voluntarily, as far as I know. No, we’re not bacteria in a petri dish, but everything I’ve ever seen tends to support the view that, yeah, well maybe there is not much of a difference.

    What am I missing in your message?

  7. Population control dialogues are hot buttons for many, many people (see what happened with Ted Turner & Bill Gates advocating population reduction).

    24 countries are in population deficit (-population growth), dozens more have declining population but the high growth nations (mostly poor and African) make up the difference and then some. Trends show that wealth, education, stability and more advanced infrastructures tend to diminish the size of families over time.

    China looked at the science and acted (in a way only a totalitarian gov. can); Japan absorbed the data and there was/is a cultural shift. European nations and affulent US citizens are diminishing family sizes. It seems poverty, cultural mores and lack of knowledge (and empowerment) create exploding populations.

    The real sticky discussion is who decides what’s a sustainable human population globally and regionally.

    Mr. Salmony–what’s the numerical tipping point–what’s your ideal # for population(s). ?

  8. A major factor in population increase is the anti-life policies of the catholic church. We might also include the growth at any cost basic philosophy of capitalism, not to speak of this pernicious theory’s responsibility for driving most people on earth into poverty. Any significant change in population dynamics will depend on a whole new worldview based on spiritual principles, such as caring and sharing. To effect such a shift is our real problem. Piecemeal approaches will be wholly inadequate. Do it right or forget about it.

  9. I hate to be the curmudgeon on this point Mike, but I’m thinking we better just forget about a (voluntary) comprehensive mind shift on population growth. We’ve all been fighting a delaying action of applying increasingly extravagant fixes to achieve ever decreasing marginal returns. (For the love of Pete, I heard a guy on the radio lately talking about growing meat in the laboratory) If we conserve resources in one place, they will be gobbled up in another by others who finds the slack. This is what organisms do. The only possible mind-shift, as I see it, is that imposed from above, a la Red China. Anyone eager to live there? No? Me neither.

    So, instead: Bottom of the 9th, two outs. Coming to the plate with a .999 average this season is number 1 on this team, Ma Nature. There’s the 3-2 pitch…..and this one is well hit…..going, going…..

    As I’ve said a few times here before, the fact that it is a futile act doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be tried, but we’ve all got to acknowledge that the single highest act we can offer up for the health of this planet is to just snuff ourselves. Yeah, right. You first. I’m just happy if nobody gets the idea to snuff ME instead of themselves, thus achieving the same net result.

  10. Plowboy — Your lack of optimism is not ill founded. We find ourselves in a really tight corner. Nevertheless, black swans pop up at the most unlikely moments. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, etc. Like the physicist who imagined himself swallowed into the heart of a super massive black hole, only to find that the detailed plans needed to reconstruct himself had been holographic-ally projected onto the huge curve of space at the ends of the Universe. Now his only problem was how to get out there to reassemble himself and make the journey back to his comfy armchair back home. So, maybe the worse it gets, the better the eventual answers will be. Someday it might dawn on us that we are going about our lives on Earth a whole wrong way. That will be the day….

  11. Gotta tell ya Mike, smart money says there is about “zip” chance of us pulling up.

    Mssr. Jensen’s rage is fueled by just this idea: That humans have the potential to transfer our exquisitely and finely tuned appreciation for individual preservation (or the preservation of a small group) to the entire world’s population and the health of the planet at large, and make daily, selfless, altruistic choices. He’ll tell you that, no, these ARE selfish choices that impact the individual the most, but that is not a pitch that has any legs. We as a species can’t grok proximate cause attenuated to those distances. He stomps his foot and wags his finger in anger each day we don’t come around to “getting it.” It is not as if I don’t understand his rage, that despair, that abiding sorrow. It is not a hard attitude to cop to, once you’ve lived long enough and paid attention.

    So you hold out a forlorn hope that “something” will trigger this awakening, not triggered already by two world wars, extinction of species, nuclear holocaust, THE holocaust, global warming, Salk vaccine, standing on the moon…to list the missed best opportunities is essentially to recount only the most recent history of mankind and all of its recurring tragedies and inspiring triumphs.

    And, aside from righteous rage, Jensen’s belief in the possibility of this transformation is fueled by what, exactly?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not espousing nihilism as a response, but anyone who might be deferring or avoiding facing his own plans to deal with the impending outcomes, well, they are only a chicken with his head on the block, wondering when the butcher is going to see the light and become a vegetarian. They’ll be just as surprised too.

  12. Wade — I don’t think our situation demands a choice between compassion for our sickening world and concern for one’s own survival. You can do both. Render unto Caesar etc. Besides, if I had to give up my hopes and dreams for our world in order to save my own sorry ass, I don’t think I would care that much to stick around anyway….

  13. I am certain that holds true for you Mike, and many others here. I’d like to think it applies to me too, but I’m doubting that I’ve ever been put to an adequate test. I will say that the ideals of the childless are much easier to hold to when the rubber hits the road. I speak only from my experience in the matter, of course. There is nothing like having children to care for to turn what was once a clear imperative into extremely muddy water. You fight each day to balance what might be expedient in the short term, while balancing for their future, and everyone’s future. I’m sorry to say that most days the exigency of the circumstances trump most everything. It is this essential human failure that we are bucking, because I sure ain’t alone in that behavior. As a matter of fact, on looking around me, I’d say I’m pretty far to the conservationist end of the scale in my community. The vast numbers of peeps on this planet don’t even have this equation in mind, at all. This is the paradox we’re all facing, and have always faced: The species, as represented by billions of individuals, will always choose to exploit short term gain over long range benefits….even if such choices ultimately result in overall decline of habitat, depletion of essential resources and, ultimately, the population itself.

    We are the locust horde, and we won’t stop until we hit that wall. In the meanwhile, we will continue to eat the planet…until it finishes eating us. One big hell of a fix, to say the least.

  14. Dear Wade,

    Great question, Wade. Your query is one of the very best I have seen in long, long time. Thank you for it. Let me begin with a quote and end with a comment.

    “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
    — A. Einstein

    Perhaps a transformation of human consciousness will give rise to a new manner of thinking about the world God has blessed to inhabit as well as to able responses to the human-driven global predicament that appears to render ‘the brightest and best’ of my generation mute regarding what really matters. We elders appear trapped in upside down thinking such as ‘greed is good’ and unsustainable lifestyles based upon outrageous per capita overconsumption and hoarding. Perhaps change toward sustainability could be in the offing.

    Sincerely,

    Steve

  15. I love that Albert Einstein quote (I used it in the 4th comment in this thread).

    Here’s another appropriate one:

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.–Mahatma Gandhi

  16. Comment below is posted by Orion on behalf of Ian M, whose blog is http://ondisturbedground.wordpress.com/

    ‘Spot on, Derrick.

    The way Monbiot and other mainstream ‘green’ commentators have begun cheerleading nuclear power depresses me profoundly: “I have this guy’s books – he’s supposed to be on MY side!” Here’s Mark Lynas, another ‘environmentalist’ writing the nuclear industry’s PR for them in the wake of Fukushima:

    ‘Without the large-scale carbon-free [sic] option of nuclear generation, there is much less chance that industrialised and industrialising societies alike will be able to keep the lights on without significant and increasing use of coal. […] We need nuclear power. If what happens at Fukushima dims the prospects for increasing the world’s use of it, then the battle against climate change will be infinitely more difficult to win. (http://www.marklynas.org/2011/03/what-does-the-japanese-quake-crisis-say-about-nuclear-power/)’

    The priority is crystal clear: keeping the lights on – that is to say keeping extractive industrial society up and running (preferably with as few CO2 emissions as possible) – at the expense of the biosphere. In the comments Paul Kingsnorth calls this ‘supply side environmentalism':

    ‘[…] the issue of the tech is almost irrelevant, because the problem is the paradigm, not the technology. This was, after all, the original driver behind the green movement. If you are pursuing a progress-and-growth paradigm, a kind of ‘supply side environmentalism’ if you like, then you are limited in your discussions to a [simple] argument about which form of big, centralised tech you need to power your society. Whichever you choose, it will lead to a lot of destruction, because the paradigm is the destroyer, not the technology. That applies to nukes, coal, big wind and big solar. If you don’t change the model and the assumptions behind the model, then you don’t solve the big problem.’

    (For more on this I recommend Kingsnorth’s ‘Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist': http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-kingsnorth/confessions-of-recovering-environmentalist and his work with the Dark Mountain project: http://www.dark-mountain.net/).

    I think I’m going to have to start ignoring commentators in the corporate media, even the token dissidents (whose place, safely sequestered in the newspaper back pages, might act to reinforce the illusion that the viewpoint they express is marginal). They have to carve a niche for themselves within that system – itself a profit-driven capitalist enterprise – which inevitably imposes a limit on what they can say. I’m going to have to learn to speak for myself, and find a way to make my voice (and the voices of those around me) count for something. A raft of truth and sanity in a sea of lies…

    Thanks to Derrick for showing that it’s possible.

    Ian

  17. I have lived without a motor vehicle for over four years. This is possible because I live in an older streetcar suburb near a city center. The original streetcars have been replaced with buses. So, with no car I have eliminated about four tons of personal carbon dioxide production a year. I still get to places I need to go to but impulsive joyriding is impractical.

  18. tt_tiara – I hate to sound so cynical, but… not driving a car just means that gas is marginally cheaper for everyone who does. Being car-free has its advantages, but it won’t stop the destruction unless you can convince everyone else to do the same thing. (And even if you did, personal transportation is only a fraction of the overall problem). I didn’t have a car (or motorcycle) for several years and couldn’t convince anyone else I knew that it was the cool thing to do.

    The problem is that Derrick is mostly right. Personal consumer choice will not solve the problem and neither will technology nor politics. However, I read “Endgame” and “Deep Green Resistance” and I still can’t figure out how a small group taking down civilization against the wishes of the majority will not result in even more destruction as desperate people try to survive. If we can’t get the majority of people to agree to power down voluntarily, reverse population growth, and dismantle industrial civilization, then we are heading for a horrible bottleneck which few will survive.

  19. Lack of imagination. Yes! And lack of intelligence too, for all our self-congratulatory technohubris. If there’s such a thing as a single root to our present problems, it surely has to be this!

    Humans ARE part of nature. Whether we see ourselves that way or not is largely irrelevant. Nature is self-maintaining and self-correcting system, so however much one element of the system alters it, the system as a whole will compensate. Is compensating. And in imagining that we are the ones, with our self-evident lack of imagination and intelligence, who must control/correct the situation, we merely continue to demonstrate our lack of imagination and intelligence. What goes around comes around …

    THIS is ultimately why nuclear power is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter how good our technology becomes. For as long as nature – whether in the guise of earthquakes or humans – is part of the equation, it’s unsafe.

    Even the more environmentally aware of us, in focusing linearly on a single component in a complex feedback system, are missing most of the picture. Take this obsession about COâ‚‚ levels for instance. A rise in COâ‚‚ levels and global temperatures favours rapid vegetative growth. As does the staggering over-nitrification of our environment, an equally important but largely ignored effect of human activity on the planet. These changes are the other half of an equation which features wholesale destruction of robust, multi-layered, perennial forest ecosystems and their replacement with fragile, vulnerable, single-layered, largely annual monocultures. If the planet is to compensate this dramatic reduction in biomass, it needs conditions that favour rapid vegetative growth, so opposing rising COâ‚‚ levels is actually counter-productive.

    If we want to enjoy a relatively stable state on this planet, then we need to focus on the conditions that CREATE that stability, not the symptoms of it. The system needs to restore critical levels of biodiverse multi-layered biomass. This means a complete overhaul of our agriculture and the whole thinking behind it. Start with the basics: healthy ecosystems need healthy living soils and clean living water. They need diversity. This makes the industrial model of agriculture impossible.

    So people will turn over their useless lawns and take over vacant city lots and grow an unruly riot of edible trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Nurture their soil. Make their own compost. They’ll stop buying all the useless ‘stuff’ we fill our lives with. They’ll find a sense of security, self-worth and peace in their relative self-sufficiency. Community will become meaningful again. ‘Wealth’ will be gradually redefined and money will revert to being no more than a convenient means of exchange. Will this happen because people have the imagination and intelligence to see the importance of it to the global ecosystem? Highly unlikely. They’ll do it when they can no longer afford to do anything else. Nature is self-correcting, remember? Trust it! The wealth is now too concentrated in the hands of the few, but that’s a GOOD thing because it’s what will make the change happen more quickly. When a system is this top-heavy, it can only collapse, and with it everything that supports it – industry, agribusiness, the lot.

    If we want to participate consciously in the process, all we have to do is open our eyes and learn to work WITH nature, not against it. But if we don’t it will happen anyway.

  20. At risk of being perceived as a troll, I, in all seriousness, am ready to give up Derrick Jensen’s Internet connection, eye glasses if he wears them, bicycle if he rides one and you get the picture. I reject the mutually exclusive nature of the proposition. Not only are they all unimaginable, to propose that only one — forgoing electricity — should be imaginable shows a lack of imagination. Sorry, I don’t want to live in a world without polar bears or without electricity.

  21. David J — Our excessive use of electricity threatens the continued presence of polar bears. Maybe you need to choose which you would prefer to lose?

  22. Rene M — Creativity is merely a subset of the much larger category comprised of anything outside the narrow confines of our conditioned consciousness. Changing our fixed ideas is the real perceived threat.

  23. WendyH — You say: opposing rising CO2 levels is actually counter-productive. You might want to look more deeply into that one. However I understand that you subscribe to the idea that almost any thing that hastens civilization’s collapse is worthwhile. You are on the same page as DJ on this. I would ask you and DJ to look more deeply into what that collapse would really be like, and the extreme unlikely-hood that such a phenomenon would result in a better world for all of us by some vague mechanism by which Mother Nature automatically restores order. Don’t bet all your chips on humankind somehow coming to their senses in the aftermath of such an apocalypse either. Looks to me like we need to work to fix our problems before it is too late to do so. The various deus ex machina interventions that have been proposed all turn out to be a day late and a dollar short in the end.

  24. mike k … It’s a matter of perspective. Your’s appears to be more anthropocentric than mine. Oren Lyons put it better than I can …

    “I do not see a delegation for the four footed. I see no seat for the eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior, but we are after all a mere part of the creation, and we must consider to understand where we are, and we stand somewhere between the mountain and the ant, somewhere and only there. As part and parcel of the creation.”

    So do I want to hasten the collapse of civilisation? No. I want to hasten the process of planetary recovery. That’s different, because who’s to say whether it involves the collapse of civilisation or not? That’s entirely up to us: how quickly can mankind wake up and smell the coffee and realise the only way forward is to work with nature rather than against it?

    There’s no doubt our present situation is unsustainable, so it can’t do anything else but change. Why prolong the process? Humans aren’t in control of it – it’s waaaay bigger than us – so they can either come gladly or make it utterly miserable for themselves. I know which approach I’m choosing.

  25. WendyH — I don’t see your response having much to do with what I commented in #24. Also I wonder what in all that I have shared leads you to believe that “It’s a matter of perspective. Your’s appears to be more anthropocentric than mine.”

    I am familiar with Oren Lyons and his perspective, and am in total agreement with it. Like it or not we do have a position now that affects the lives of countless fellow beings. Unless we get our act together, all living beings on Earth are going to suffer and die in greater numbers than have already done so due to our misdeeds.

    Thanks for your comments, most of which I agree with.

  26. take a look at this entire Orion issue: Education, How Art informs us, Tech & Evolution, Big Fish, Nature / Nuture.

    no answers but some touchstones

    my question is: can we teach, or pass along, wisdom? ecologically-based, earth first and biosystems anchored wisdom.

    or is it too political, too pliable or manipulated in a twiiter / consumer world.

    what say you, commentors?

  27. Stevie c — Imho wisdom cannot be taught or transferred to another. The most one can do is to stimulate the desire of a person to seek and be willing to do the often lengthy work to acquire their own deeper understanding. The problem is to find those willing to take up the path to wisdom, and find ways to encourage them to begin the work.

  28. mike k–

    Yes, wisdom might not be transferrable as much as slowly revealed.

    But what if…

    Bio-ethics and cuuriculums anchored in moral reciprocity were mandatory at every age level and integrated into math, science, language and history.

    What if degrees in economics, business and accounting all required certification in ‘full-cost’ analysis that included the environment and biosystems.

    What if we trained our children, and ourselves, to be ethical and look at generational dynamics of decisions we make.

    Could we become wiser as individuals, families, communities and nations?

    Could we not set up a system that cultivates the foundation for wisdom. DJ’s article is about imagine…can we not imagine a dormant wisdom emerging.

  29. Stevie c — These are certainly excellent suggestions you make. But how to get them implemented? The power wielding persons so largely in control of our destinies show no signs of implementing these changes. Neither do the vast majority of citizens show much interest in working to achieve their implementation. We are up to the basic question of how to awaken the sleeping public. The power elites control the most massive, persuasive apparatus for shaping the TV besotted masses that has ever existed. That vast propaganda machine exists solely for keeping people ignorant and controlled. The changes you speak of are not understood by the masses, and not seen to be in their interests by our rulers. The small groups I espouse would act as peaceful revolutionary cells to spread a new consciousness of where we are, and what we need to do in order to come out of our addictive, subservient trance, in order to create a new world of justice and opportunity for all.

  30. Wow!
    Interesting article!

    Thx a bunch for writing this Mr Jensen!

  31. Thank you for this well penned piece. It is so true that we need to keep imagining and thinking creatively in order to move forward. The second that we stop doing that, we are doomed. Support artists, designers and creative thinkers!

  32. Stevie C – those are some great suggestions. Good on ya.

    Mike K rejoins with “But how to get them implemented?”

    I suggest taking a page from the fundies’ playbook and start educating people and start running people to sit on your local school boards. They understood that power is built from the ground up and they’ve been very successful.

  33. Jensen ask us to imagine our lives without electricity; that is fine but it is no more than an academic exercise.

    There is just about no one in the world, that has access to energy, that would willingly do without it.

    A starting point might be to imagine life before electricity. But you do not have to imagine that because it is well documented and was more often than not brutal ,short and filled with drudgery.

    What is stunning to me is not the failure of today’s people to imagine life without electricity. Rather it is the authors failure to realize or acknowledge what came before.

    I am a climate hawk; I would have had no problem with a tutorial on carbon, wasted energy and even how that has a negative impact in quality of life issues.

    But this piece has a taken a decent point and inflated it way beyond reason. Life in the dark, life without electricity is not a good thing.

    Access to energy should be considered as a basic human right; we need energy and we need for it to be clean.

    It is not a no-brain-er.

  34. Why do we have to look at this as an either/or issue? Few of us would want to be without electricity completely. But there’s a lot of truth in the old adage “less is more”.

    Electricity is only part of the picture. Many people who’ve deliberately downsized and drastically reduced their consumption of all manner of resources are showing that the gulf between what we presently use and what we actually need is immense. There’s lots of room for manoeuvre here. Less direct power consumption, less indirect power consumption through the purchase of far less unnecessary ‘stuff’, just less consumption full stop.

    Life is still brutal and filled with drudgery. Most of us are still slaves or serfs to the monied few despite the supposed abolition of slavery, and astoundingly, most of us are too stupid to even realise it. Life’s generally not so short and the drudgery goes on in an environment that’s a bit more comfortable than being outdoors in all weathers, but really, plus ça change ….

    How many people are truly enjoying their extra years? Does all their ‘stuff’ bring them happiness? Research would seem to indicate that the happiness index is highest in some of the least developed and ‘privileged’ societies. Some don’t even have electricity …

  35. Wendy H, I agree with everything you said; that’s what I was talking about when I mentioned quality of life issues.

    Less is more; I agree with that and don’t mind if environmentalist sell it.

    What I do object to is when environmentalist broadcast overly esoteric rants that they, themselves cannot live up to.

    The problem with it is that the public who are ‘too stupid’ as you said are likely to take the ranting seriously and hold it against the concept of believing in and doing something about climate change.

    It’s just human nature; most people think emotionally and not cognitively and the do not like to feel that they are being talked down to.

    And in that sense, the environmentalist is an impediment to the implementation of effective measures that might yet mitigate climate change.

  36. Hm. Life without electricity brutal drudgery? Not for the Amish. Though, on the other hand, they do have batteries and flashlights.

    I think some electricity is a good thing, myself. A tiny bit… to read by, mostly. Refrigeration is nice on top but can be lived without. The only thing in my kitchen that’s electric apart from the fridge and the lights is my juicer.

    I think most of us could live very well with tiny and intermittent amounts of electricity, with the rest of it reserved for real need. But the system we live in does not permit frugal sanity. It’s either 16 tons of crap we don’t want… or nothing. Or at least that’s the way much of the thinking goes.

    I would agree that life without any electricity is not “ideal” now that we know it. But neither is life with huge amounts of it busting the world to pieces.
    —-
    Todd, what exactly have the fundies been so successful at? Have they managed to make the world better, even if we look at the values they cherish? It sure does not look that way to me. Yes, they have clawed their way to power. So what? Power used in the same old crappy ways is not the revolution I am looking for. Nor, I wager, are they.

  37. When I read parts of this most recent piece by Jensen, I cried. Because I can imagine like w/o electricity (or, as Wendy suggested, much less). I’ve been imagining it for years and years and would love to be able to live that way. I’ve written numerous articles in which I said similar things. We are seriously limited by a lack of imagination. And those of us who aren’t are still caught up in the current system unless we’ve been lucky enough to have carved out a life that carefully and thoughtfully eliminates the detrius, the extraneous, the useless.

    Times before electricity may have been brutal, esp. for the poor. But they are now, just in different ways. Is it not brutal to be forced to have a tooth pulled rather than fixed? Is it not brutal to have to decide between food and rent? Is it not brutal to work and work and work and still not have enough $ to take care of your kids? And once we have managed to work our way up that wage ladder (if we ever do, esp. in this economy), is it not brutal that we have sold ourselves to do it? For that matter, is it not brutal that work and more work is what we have come to expect as normal, taking precedence over doing what fulfills us as alive, creative human beings? Lucky is the person who managed to make a living doing something they love. And increasingly rare from my experience.

    The fact that virtually everything in my home requires electricity to run, including turning on the water, makes me feel quite insecure. At least I have a wood stove for heat and propane to cook on (though that’s not great for the Earth either).

    In my “past life” as an activist, much of my work involved small-scale, community-based economic models and I wrote and gave workshops and speaches on the topic. The most frustrating aspect of this was those people who, like Monbiot fell “out of love” with the small-scale concept because they could not, for example, replace 300 jobs immediately (so therefore we need large corporations for jobs), or that it made no sense to, say, can food locally when it could be done so much cheaper (???) at large plants then trucked to stores. This was because, like Monbiot, they had bought into the current system/paradigm and simply could not imagine selling another, more local/regional/Earth-friendly/human-scale one to others (even if they actually liked the idea themselves).

    I read once somewhere (not sure if it’s true or not but I hope so) that logically bumblebees should not be able to fly. But they do! Logic isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. And, as many have already said, we may not want to live w/o electricity but we will be forced to, probably sooner than later.

    How can anyone, after experiencing the massive “weather events” and other disasters that impacted millions in this country alone, and that will cost billions to recover from, question that we are going to have to do something about our large-scale systems upon which we rely for our very lives? The way I live is not sustainable. And it won’t survive a real disaster. And if that real disaster comes, it will never be the same again. And real disasters are going to be happening more and more in unpredictable ways. That hurricane was “supposed” to go directly over my town. But instead it went directly over Vermont. People woke up in the morning to water in their bedrooms, fields full with harvest under several feet of rushing water, cows washed away, historic covered bridges gone forever. That’s just one storm. There will be many to come. We are not perpared. Rather than trying to get back to “normal”, we should be imagining a different way to live.

    We do not know everything though those in power act like they do. We do not know the how the mysterious workings of consciousness and spirit interact with the physical world (most, of course will start to roll their eyes at this point. Perhaps once we begin the hard work of creating a sustainable culture, building on and expanding the examples and models that already exist, the next steps will become clear. But if we are expected to know, today, everything necessary, if we are to be expected to solve every problem or difficulty first, well then we might as well give up right now. Because we won’t know what to do until we start doing it.

    In my heart I know those words are true. I also know that chances are no real changes will be made, not substantive anyway, until it is probably too late to matter. I used to have much more hope and optimism, 20, 30 years ago. But now, not so much. The continuation of the human story is a possibility, but unfortunately not likely.

  38. Susan, it’s always so good to run into you here. I think the longing for another life entirely, resilient and reconnected, is growing. Have you seen my series on vignettes on Ludda? I would love your feedback.
    http://leavingbabylon.wordpress.com/ludda/

    Yes, our human odds are not so good. But you know, when I was dxed with cancer, I read an essay written by Steven Jay Gould, about how statistics do not determine the future. He found those slim but real odds to strengthen him, beat mesothelioma, and lived another 20 years. I too have beaten the odds. And so perhaps will humanity… this is not the first crisis we have faced.

    Lotsa hugs your way.

  39. Vera, thanks for the link. I have bookmarked the page and will check it out when I have more time, in a couple of days or so.
    I do have hope that what seems obvious will not come to pass. My sister who was in a terrible car accident and was given a 10% of survival, and then only as a “vegetable”, didn’t die and is definitely not a “vegetable”, though I do get frustrated with her. So I know anything is possible.
    Years ago I had a bumpersticker in the office of the non-profit I cofounded and ran. It said, “We don’t believe in miracles, we rely upon them.”

  40. You’re all concerned and depressed about climate change; likewise the public’s ignorance and lack of concern.

    And let’s not sugar coat it, you / we are not getting anywhere fast trying to sell solar, wind and even conservation.

    And I think we agree that we’re running out of time. When I try to solve a difficult problem I tend to look for the single, fixable element that could make a difference or at least buy some time until a better solution is possible.

    I see the environmental community bogged down in purest ideology that may and should bear some fruit in time but for now is un-sell-able.

    I suggest a para-dime shift toward compromise and practicability and taking a realistic and un-prejudiced look at some technologies like nuclear power.

    I don’t see the alternative given the time frame, political obstacles and the extreme expense to upgrade infrastructure and build storage for wind and solar.

    As far as a concentrated power that can go on line now, within existing infrastructure and can keep the wheels turning while producing no carbon, that’s all that’s available right now.

    I think ya’ll are loosing this war because you are too ideologically driven and impracticable.

    That’s all I have been trying to say in these post: You are right; the world out there is run by an onerous machine.

    It’s a paradox: You cannot stop the machine and even if you could it wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.

    The best you can possibly do is find a cleaner way to make the wheels keep turning.

    The hope is that we will evolve into a better machine, but I don’t think any of us expect to see that tomorrow.

    For now, it’s no use asking if the air is any good when there is nothing else to breath!

  41. Tom: “Unprejudiced look at nuclear power?” You mean, like the Japanese are currently doing? Heh. With nukes, it’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of *when* the next disaster strikes.

    Why do you think we need to keep things going as they are? Just cut the power that is lighting up the cities of the earth like cheap Vegas whorehouses, and you don’t need no nukes.

    No, what we need to do is finally solve the problem that keeps every sane change at a standstill. The problem of power. So that we can actually deal with what is happening instead of always grasping for some stupid nonsolution that kicks the can down the road because everything else is “politically unfeasible.”

    Feh.

  42. Vera, I would bet the farm that the Japanese do not kill nuclear power; I don’t think they can do that and maintain their industrial base and standard of living.

    People like us might dream of dumping that base, but again I would just about bet the farm they don’t.

    And the Germans are taking perfectly good reactors off line and replacing them with coal and natural gas. I think that is a hysterical mistake, although I wish them well with their crash program to go green. I think the fruit of that effort will prove what is possible and what it cost.

    Hey, if it works and it’s affordable I’ll buy it and dump nuclear.

    I think technology and the energy that drives it have improved the prospects of humanity greatly and God knows there is a lot wrong with our society and our world, but I think the notion that technology is the culprit is just plain wrong and the notion would have less and less credence if people understood the past better.

    We are a dark species with a woeful past and I see technology as a light in the forest and I have confidence in engineers to solve the problems of nuclear power and I think most people would be astounded to read an account of the worst accident ever at Chernobyl and understand the true extent of the damage.

    Very few people who are against it are willing to take a step out of their para-dime and have an unbiased look.

    For those who are willing to take that step I would recommend, ‘Whole Earth Wisdom,’ by Stuart Brand.

  43. Tom, many of us think that Stewart Brand is a sell-out to those interests that are of late making him rich. But I am not interested in sniping back and forth. Since you are the lone technotriumphalist here among us… I have a question for you.

    Why must the Japanese maintain the so called standard of living? Why not change it? As in, changing it to something more in line with a finite planet (and their very finite set of islands)?

    For example, the American so called standard of living includes permanently lit up cities and roads (even in the middle of nowhere!) and flush toilets (which turn valuable fertilizer into pollution). To me, the whole notion of the “standard of living” is hopelessly 20th century, and outdated. Based on a ridiculously unwise, blind, wasteful paradigm. So tell me your thoughts on that?

  44. Ok, you have missed your point entirely, again; I said the Japanese likely WOULD retain nuclear power; I made no value statement what-so-ever as to what they SHOULD do!!!!

    And I have attempted to make a similar point in every one of the five or so previous post.

    But you are not hearing me dammit; what people SHOULD do is useless when they are going to do what they are going to do.

    The above is just a natural fact and the most basic fact; most people want ease and want the wheels to go round and round and they are not even going to listen to even your better ideas when you’ve got this dialogue going about turning off the lights.

    The fact that I keep trying to make that point and that you keep hearing it different is diagnostic; I think.

    I am not going to answer your question as to what the Japanese SHOULD do, because I never even broached that subject, never put a dog into that fight.

    You are all acting so Simon pure and Simon simple dammit, but I do not think you have a clue how utterly impossible it is to change human behavior in the time we have to deal with climate change, which is just about no time at all, dammit.

    And I find that to be tragic because you are just about the only people (besides the scientist) who get this and understand climate change.

    And I am glad you do, glad somebody does, but I think your thinking on how to deal with this problem is quasi-religious, antiquated and anthropomorphic!

    It’s like you’ve got a click, a club and it’s your way or the highway and I not surprised that you see Stewart Brand as a sell-out; I see him as an admirable man with a very good head on his shoulders.

  45. Humans en masse, it seems, are only capable of putting our hearts and souls into working together for a common aim when our backs are right up against the wall. No wall, then we wander around in our own little circles and any attempt to persuade us to do otherwise (absent some authoritarian whip cracking), has about as much chance of success as herding cats.

    Humanity needs a crisis to get us to act. The majority will only do so when the sh*t has hit the fan big time. Until that happens, most will bury their heads in the sand, because they can’t face the upheaval necessary to carve out a new way of living voluntarily (and anyway, who knows, it might not be necessary, particularly if we use technology that WILL, sooner or later, render vast areas of the planet uninhabitable for centuries … dear heaven! how much more stupid can we get?!)

    So this connects right back to what I said on page 3 of these comments. We are part, whether we see ourselves this way or not, of an intelligent (vastly more intelligent than we like to think we are), self-maintaining, self-correcting system. If it has to go into crisis mode to turn us around, then that’s what it will do. And turn around we will, BECAUSE we are part of an intelligent, self-maintaining, self-correcting system. It really is that simple!

    Personally I struggle to understand the mentality that wants to preserve our present ‘standard’ of living. Life is so dull when there’s no challenges to face. So numb when we spend most of our time cocooned in our insulated prison cells that cost us a lifetime’s work to acquire. So unrewarding when everything you want and need comes at the touch of a button. So pointless when your sole aspiration is to accumulate large numbers of small green pieces of paper or the heap of useless stuff you can exchange them for.

  46. Tom,

    I get what you’re saying…let me paraphrase:

    Nuclear+Better Safety= Stop gap measure to slow down carbon-based energy. Assumption: society will accept risks of nuclear energy before it will radically change behavior of energy consumption.

    I think most of that is supportable by historic and current trends and data.

    Having said that, I believe it’s catastrophically wrong-minded. Adding nuclear driven energy sources to the mix statiscally increases the chances of permanently poisoning large swathes of the earth’s atomosphere, ground water, oceans and habital terrain.

    Japan’s accident was nearly a global disaster (and may be yet) allowing a river of radioactive isotopes into the ocean.

    If we take nuclear off the table, as we should, it will force nations to adapt…if we adapt the posture that it’s feasible, it will always be feasible and change will not happen until we, sadly, experience the unthinkable.

    I think the article Imagine is as much about the ‘unimaginable’ both good and bad. Both must be seen before transformative actions can be taken.

    Peace

  47. Tom, I hear what you are saying. People will do what people will do. True enough. It’s also true that when people see a profoundly stupid way of doing things, they sometimes change it. Especially, if the Four Horsemen are at their tail. Seems to me, you are not giving humans enough credit.

    As for “standard of living” — you said: “I don’t think they can do that and maintain their industrial base and standard of living.” So I, not unreasonably, asked you why you see that standard of living as non-negotiable. Why not instead see it as a variable?

  48. I totally agree, because another example is cell phones, 10 years ago nobody needed them, but in such a short time, it seems that they cant live without them, and dont care if the cell towers affect all the people living nearby and use them so much without even knowing the effects for their health.
    It is terrible how easy and rapidly people get used to new technologies and as Derrick says, so horrible that as easily accept the destruction of the real things that sustain their lives. I thank so much Derrick for saying things so clearly and helping to get rid of the kind of thinking that keep us in chains.

  49. Well, in my comment before i wrote about the real things that sustain their lives, but they are not things, it is life that we are destroying, they are the soils, the living waters, the forests, it is life no things, and i think that it is very helpful the vision that we need to go beyond our own individual guilt of being part of this destroying system, to think in terms of how to stop the bigger projects of destruction, and at the same time create sustainable communities. Because these are all shared problems, we need to solve them together and organize as collectives to work in all this issues.

  50. Vera asked – Todd, what exactly have the fundies been so successful at? Have they managed to make the world better, even if we look at the values they cherish? It sure does not look that way to me. Yes, they have clawed their way to power. So what? Power used in the same old crappy ways is not the revolution I am looking for. Nor, I wager, are they.”

    Whoa…breathe deep, Vera. ALL I’m saying is that they have been successful at gaining power by starting at the grassroots – on school boards, affecting the education of the next generation – and working their way up. I suggested there was something to be learned from their tactics. Did I say I *liked* the fundies or did I suggest that power be used “in the same old crappy ways” (whatever that means)?

    No, I didn’t.

  51. We are in an interesting position. We can’t go forward and we can’t go back. Our correct refutation of the plethora of methods proposed to resolve the world crisis has cleared the ground for a leap beyond our timid expectations. When things get as totally rotten as they have now, it is truly time for creative leaps beyond the suffocating confines of old paradigm thinking. The world is presenting us with a zen moment. What will we do? Everything we are holding onto is condemning us to a horrible fate. Do we leap, or dither uncertainly waiting for a miracle to deliver us??

  52. Whoa, Todd. Where did I suggest you liked them (and I don’t care one way or another, frankly)?

    As for learning from their tactics… why? That was my point; why? Why would you want to learn from the tactics of people whose results in the world are these lackluster results, to put it mildly?

    And if you think that you can use power differently from *within* the system, may I offer you the Brooklyn bridge? It’s up for sale, cheap. (Or will be, when broke NY starts selling off its infrastructure, heh…)

    The logic I am trying to illuminate here, Todd, is that seizing power this system holds is not a solution. What the fundies have done is *not* something we should try to emulate. Unless we want to step into the shoes of the current power holders and turn into another generation of same old same old. How many times does it have to go this way before people notice it is not a viable path?

  53. The only war is the war against imagination.
    The only war is the war against imagination.
    The only war is the war against imagination….
    the war that matters is the war against the imagination
    all other wars are subsumed in it.
    Diane di Prima

    Solar IS Civil Defense – the flashlight, radio, cell phone, and extra set of batteries we are all supposed to have on hand in case of emergency can be powered by a few square inches of solar electric panel. Add a hand crank or pedal power generator and you have a reliable supply of survival level electricity day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.

    Further, over 58% of the energy the US generates every year is “rejected,” it is wasted and does no useful work. I am not sure that the end of nuclear power means the end of industrial electricity, but I am sure that with or without nuclear power we can go a lot farther in becoming more energy efficient and thus reduce our effect on the natural environment.

  54. I must agree but find it somewhat difficult to imagine a project a greater proportion then ridding the world of electricity. How might we organize people to do this? Maybe by blogging on a computer and uploading it to the internet that is only active because of massive and reliable electricity networks. It seems if Mr. Jensen wants to get on with the non electric revolution he should unplug and start how it would start if there was no electricity. By himself, with very few other people knowing about it.

  55. But Joel, if Mr. Jensen did unplug his computer and disdain electricity he would not be able to post his ideas on the internet and we would not be having this conversation!

    Making and using a moderate amount of cleanly produced electricity is a great idea and one that the environmentalist might even be able to sell.

    Ranting about doing away with electricity is an us-sell-able idea, a dog that is just not going to hunt, and while it may seem a innocent and academic idea, when the general public hears you talking that way they may conclude that you are nuts and that all of your ideas, even your better ones like combating climate change, are bogus.

    Why on earth can’t ya’ll try to keep the conversation on climate change between the ditches?

  56. Because there are no ditches. It’s all connected (electrically or otherwise :) ).

    The thing is though, why would an environmentalist even want to stop climate change if it’s the natural and necessary response of the planet to human modification of the biosphere?! Attempting to halt a rise in COâ‚‚ levels comes from exactly the same mindset as the one that douses genetically modified plant life with a cocktail of chemical poisons in an attempt to turn natural systems into an all-variables-controlled mechanised production line. For all its intent, it’s a mindset that works AGAINST nature, not with it, because it’s not seeing enough of the big picture.

    And in the context of the bigger picture, electricity is a side issue.

    IF you remove vast amounts of the thick diverse vegetative layer and topsoil that maintain the climate of the planet in a stable state, reduce it to ashes, litter the environment with its constituent chemicals in bio-unavailable form, replace it with a monoculture, use up or pollute all the surface waters beyond the capacity of the soil (which you’ve mostly killed or removed) to clean it up again, the natural response of a self-maintaining, self-correcting system is to vastly accelerate the process restoring the state that maintains stability. What goes around comes around. That’s how feedback loops work. High environmental nitrogen levels, high COâ‚‚ levels in the atmosphere, higher temperatures, an increase in available fresh water and a liberal dose of stormy weather to mix it all up all contribute to rapid plant growth, topsoil rejuvenation and aquifer restoration. We should not, under any circumstances involving sanity, be standing in its way. Not least because we don’t even understand the half of how it all works.

    Instead we should be using what limited intelligence we have to learn how to work WITH the process, and if you think on this for a while it becomes blazingly obvious that we need an agricultural revolution. The industrial model of agriculture is by far and away the main factor here. The planet CANNOT remain in a stable state with the wasteful and inefficient way we go about feeding ourselves, because it’s this, more than anything, that’s led to so much topsoil destruction and loss of climate-stabilising vegetation. We need to return to predominantly small-scale local production where the majority of the population have their own patch of ground on which to grow a glorious diverse multilevelled and chaotic riot of foodplants with a mass of perennials as well as annuals. A quarter acre cultivated in this way can feed a family year round for a minimum of effort. A quarter acre of wheat couldn’t even keep them in daily bread, not even if it was the highest yielding crop imaginable.

    Single-layered, mostly annual monocultures are a complete and utter disaster. They’ve got to go. They are going. They will go. Even with no policy decisions and with the utmost resistance from agribusiness, this is already happening spontaneously worldwide. The monocultures are in terminal decline, whether we like it or not, because they are not nature’s way. And people are turning to natural ways of growing and finding them hugely successful, BECAUSE they are imitating natural systems.

    So get growing people! Dig up your garden and grow your food. Find out just how many of those ‘weeds’ you keep uprooting you can eat and enjoy. Swap and share produce and seed with your neighbours to develop varieties perfectly adapted to your locality. Stop using chemicals. Make your own compost and bring life back to your soil. Ask “How can I work WITH nature, not against it?” Ask it like a mantra every morning when you wake up and every night when you go to bed! This, far more than all the hot COâ‚‚-rich air being expended on this forum, will help the planet AND ourselves change the situation we’ve created.

  57. I thought we were just talking about electricity; where did this rant bout saving the world with you own little garden plot come from?

    The problem that I have observed with this forum is that most of you are so cock sure that you have the answers that your ideas obtain a fervor that I can only describe as fundamentalist and quasi-religious.

    I love the natural world, but I don’t think I have any illusions about that ‘noble-savage’, living in harmony with nature crap.

    Nature is harsh and not sympathetic to our comfort or desires and that does not mean that we are at liberty to shit all over it, but by the same mantra it means that decisions about the use of resources and technology should not be made by fundamentalist with an idealistic agenda.

    It’s not a no-brain-er; it’s complex and full of irony!

  58. LOL!!! Who on earth said anything about noble savages?! All I’m talking about is what was, less than a century ago, the norm for societies across the planet.

    You’re perfectly free to express cynicism and a disdain for any idea that doesn’t meet with your own terms of reference for this conversation, or agree with your own or what you imagine is the much-abused ‘general public’s opinion, but the title of the article is ‘Imagine’ and its focus is on human lack of imagination every bit as much as electricity.

    Diversity has evolved in natural systems because it gives strength and flexibility of response to perturbation. Maybe you might think on the implications of that for human conversations …

    Pour scorn as much as you like, but some of us are speaking from the practical perspective of having begun the process of downsizing and creating a largely sustainable way of living. If that smacks to you of fundamentalism, perhaps that’s because it involves getting down to the basics. Tell me Tom, how do YOU intend to ensure a supply of food for yourself (and your family if you have one) when the supply chain of industrial agriculture fails, as it surely will, and your local supermarket shelves are empty?

  59. that’s interesting WendyH. It’s great that you’ve educated yourself and have taken action.

    But if the industrial food supply chain utterly fails, your patch of sustainability will be immediately at risk by massive, overwhelming populations without food. What will happen…? Explosive migrations from urban centers, even small cities…

    Keep up the battle and good work, but don’t think you’ll be spared from a global breakdown of food distribution and interdependency.

  60. Interesting presumption! What makes you imagine that I think I’ll be ‘spared’? We’ve all got to go sooner or later. I’m doing this primarily because I could no longer sit around all day talking about what needs to change and not doing anything about it. Personally, I have no illusions about what could happen if there’s a catastrophic global failure of industrialised agriculture. If someone comes and shoots me for my cabbages then that’s what they’ll do. But at least I’ll die content I lived a life consistent with what I felt in my heart was the right thing to do.

    However the likelihood of catastrophic global failure is, at least in the short term, considerably less than the likelihood of piecemeal failures. What do you do when you see the warning signs? Carry on as if nothing’s happening and hope someone else will bail you out? Or use the intelligence and imagination you were born with to experiment with possible solutions which you can then pass on to others?

  61. WendyH — You say: “But at least I’ll die content I lived a life
    consistent with what I felt in my heart was the right thing to do.”

    Bravo! I feel so good hearing you say that. Everything we do does not have to show some material or survivalist gain. There are higher and more precious values and meanings for our being here. Doing what is right transcends the calculations of the lower mind. In an age like ours words like honor and truth need our willingness to sacrifice if necessary to redeem their ultimate meaning.

  62. Your question to Tom:

    ‘Tell me Tom, how do YOU intend to ensure a supply of food for yourself (and your family if you have one) when the supply chain of industrial agriculture fails…’.

    You state as fact that the ‘supply-chain will fail’ and your emphasis on the word ‘YOU’ set’s up a classic strawman arguement that Wendy will do well (or better) than Tom in a scenario Wendy forsee(s), and has done somethings to prepare…this is how you’re framing the discussion…as survival, not something intrinsical good as you suggest in your post to me.

    There are tremendous advantages to getting intimate and closer to your food sources (I grew up on a small, NE farm–it was difficult but also magical). No argument there.

    But, it was you that challenged Tom on his ability to survive when the supply-chain dies and the ‘YOU’ emphasis (and your previous posts) positions yourself as ‘ensuring food’ for your family–if not, why the emphasis on ‘YOU’?

    Being content that you did the right thing if chaos ensues is a completely diffirent discussion.

    I’m not suggesting you or anyone abandons hope, or doesn’t continue persuing what’s best for themselves, neighbors and communities. I’m suggesting it’s a journey and we all might possess different peices to the puzzle–maybe even Tom.

  63. Seems to me that Tom Hagood rants here precisely because he’s lost the ability to imagine.

    Something different. Something better. Something that does not keep the train running towards the cliff.

  64. Perhaps we should all begin our posts with “let a thousand flowers bloom; here’s another one to add to the bouquet.”

  65. stevie c … Hmmm … you seem to be reading a position into my response than wasn’t where I was standing. Back up one more step in the response chain and you might understand where I was coming from. It’s precisely because we all have different pieces of the puzzle that I asked Tom what he was doing to ensure his food security. YOU in capital letters to emphasis him, Tom, personally. The disdainful tone he adopts seems to imply that he thinks he has a better solution, so I’d like to know what it is. And YOU not because I have a ‘better’ answer, but because at least I have one answer that not only makes sense to me and a lot of others but actually works in practice. Fundamentalist? Well that’s a matter of perspective. Idealistic? Hardly. Ideals don’t fill your stomach, but growing your own food does.

    I think if you read back through what I wrote at no point do I say this is the only factor, the only solution or the only perspective. But yes, survival comes into it because the present industrial model of agriculture is unsustainable. Unsustainable is unsustainable.

  66. Wendy H, the norm of societies a century ago was appaling. I wasn’t there, but my father and grandfather and the history books have told me all about it.

    That is just one point that I think Orion readers just don,t get.

    Vera, I have a very good imagination, but I am also a realist.

    And I just don’t think most of the comments in this forum are based on realistic accessments of events or prospects.

    The right has a hard time accepting that climate change is real; the left has a hard time coming up with realistic solutions and the way they rant about their unrealistic solutions convince the right that you are absolutely nuts!

    You are both basically fundamentalist!

    I am a centrist; all I am really interested in finding a way to mitigate climate change that is actionable, that can gather enough capitol and political will to move forward.

  67. WendyH….perhaps I was reading something into your post(s) that was unintended and perhaps, at the same time, the intention is there.

    Both are possible.

    You wrote:

    “I think if you read back through what I wrote at no point do I say this is the only factor, the only solution or the only perspective.”

    I’ve read your posts, and you consistently state your ascertions as facts which immediately places other perspectives as false…you may not say this is the ‘only perspective’ but you do express, quite triumphantly (see my last point) that your approach is superior.

    A sampling:

    Wendy: ‘Attempting to halt a rise in COâ‚‚ levels comes from exactly the same mindset as the one that douses genetically modified plant life with a cocktail of chemical poisons..’

    Counter Point: No it isn’t…it’s changing human behavior to help create a more stable environment for all life. 350.org does not have same mindset as Cargill or Exxon.

    Wendy: ‘…mostly annual monocultures are a complete and utter disaster. They’ve got to go.”

    Counter Point: ‘monocultures’ exist in nature without human manipulation–should they go as well. Additionally, monocultures have sustained billions of people over many millenniums–rice, bean and corn-based cultures. Do you think India and China will be able to adopt your 1/4 acre approach…or the 250 million US citizens living in and around dense urban centers?

    Wendy: ‘This, far more than all the hot COâ‚‚-rich air being expended on this forum, will help the planet’.

    Counter Point: Ahhh…wow, even if you believe this statement, you say it in such a dismissive way that it underminds its intent. ‘This’ refers to your recommendations, yes? and ‘…CO2 rich air being expend’, must refer to other people’s expressed thoughts and opinons. Thus, your way, is far better than all others…not the only way, just the best way.

    Finally, your dialogue is a ‘mono-logue’…how we grow our foods and ‘agri-business’ is important but you begin to make it a ‘oneness’ while there are many moving parts to striving for a healthier planet: population dynamics, education, alternative energy sciences, legislation, human rights, activism, yes…even technology and electricity.

    OMG…I’m becoming Wendy…my apologies didn’t mean to lecture…(is that a tick on my leg?)

  68. Tom H.

    I think the predominant difference between you and ‘orion’ reader is not their lack of understanding of history, but their unwillingness to simply operate within the confines of accepted methodologies.

    While you’re a centrist, much needed in this day and age, we may also be at point where ‘radicals’ must come forward more fervently. Most radical thinkers have been, in their time, been labelled nuts or worst: from Galileo to Darwin to Rachel Carson to advocates for civil and human rights, all radical thinkers, all considered nuts.

    Einstein once said: ‘Solutions to the problems cannot come from the minds that created them.’ (paraphrase).

    Imagining the world without electricity is an exercise in re-thinking, except for the Amish of course,, and challenges us to re-evaluate what’s important.

    If you can get conservative leaders to acknowledge climate change you’re my hero…go for it.

    If Wendy and Vera and get the next generation to understand we need to better understand our food supply-chain, they’re my heroes.

    Room for both on the Mt. Rushmore edition of healthy planet memorials.

  69. stevie c … At the risk of this becoming a tedious tit-for-tat, it goes without saying that these are my opinions. As Democritus of Abdera is supposed to have said “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.” And as for my comments being a monologue, this is a forum for expressing opinions and thoughts about Jensen’s article. You may want to engage in dialogue with other commenters, but it’s not a requirement of participation. And if you don’t like the way I express myself, then don’t read my posts!

    Attempting to halt a rise in COâ‚‚ levels comes from a reading of a situation that perceives a linear chain of effects and their apparent proximal causes, and supposes the solution to be the removal or reversing of that process. The same kind of linear thinking is behind the industrial model of agriculture. But natural processes are not linear. They’re complex multifactorial, interdependent and interrelated feedback loops. Applying linear thinking to them has a long history of missing the mark.

    Nature doesn’t tend to produce monocultures. It may produce ecosystems with one species predominating, but they’re not monocultures. Monocultures only exist where all other competing lifeforms for that same patch of ground are deliberately exterminated.

    We spray our crops with insecticides, killing the soil flora and fauna as well as anything above the surface, and herbicides, killing everything apart from the one crop. Every year after harvest, we torch the remains of the crop, or simply turn the soil over, exposing any remaining life to the air and consequently killing it too. We leave the unprotected soil exposed to the elements, so with no vegetation to hold it together, and no humus left in it to absorb rainwater, it simply washes away or has all the goodness leached out of it. Because of that we then apply artificial fertilisers, but because of aforesaid lack of structure and organic matter, most of that washes out too, ending up in watercourses where it causes all manner of problems. Then, when we’ve destroyed that piece of land completely, we cut down another swathe of virgin forest and reduce that to dusty desert too … it’s not a very intelligent use of resources, is it? Particularly not when nature has evolved self-maintaining feedback loops that ensure all lifeforms within any given ecosystem contribute to the health and sustainability of the whole and all we have to do is learn how it works and take advantage of it. (But of course we DO like to think we can do better, don’t we? As if!)

    Yes, monocultures have fed us for a while, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only form of agriculture that could or would have been capable of doing so. And yes, for as long as monocultures comprised a percentage of the Earth’s surface within tolerable limits, the rest of the planetary ecosystem could maintain a stable state. But it’s got completely out of hand now. We’ve removed far too much vegetation.

    And yes, there are other factors too, but it’s our agriculture that’s had probably the greatest impact simply because of the vast areas of land involved. There’s nothing else on this scale. BUT the system has evolved to be self-correcting, so the destruction of the vegetation that’s responsible for keeping the climate in a stable state creates the very conditions that will accelerate its replacement. It’s actually extraordinarily beautiful and fills me with wonder and awe at the sheer perfection of it.

    As for the comment about hot air, that was decidedly tongue in cheek and included myself as much as anyone. Try not to take me (or yourself perhaps?) so seriously! As Einstein said, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity…and I’m not sure about the universe.” In the face of such stupidity, (personally I think) you can only laugh. Just as well nature has that one covered, eh?

  70. WendyH,

    Earlier this week scientist recorded sub-atomic particles moving faster than the speed of light.

    To come clean, I was never really challenging any of your opinions, or even the validity of your statements. I was trying to get you to reconsider the way you presented them…I don’t even know why–I’ve just seen too many smart people refuse to modulate their veracity and only frame conversations to suite their bias and intellectual ‘comfort-zone’.

    You’re clearly intelligent, engaged and taking action on your beliefs–all good.

    And it appears by your last post you already know that ‘certainty’ is a short lived luxury–even for Einstein & the speed of light.

    Peace

  71. A movement is growing based on the book, co-authored by Derrick Jensen, called Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. Deep Green Resistance has a plan of action for anyone determined to fight for this planet-and win. If you’ve ever been inspired by Derrick’s work, then here’s where the solutions are. The time for action is now. Now this war has two sides…

    98% of the old growth forests are gone. 99% of of the prairies are gone. 80% of the rivers on this planet do not support life anymore. We are out of species, we are out soil, and we are out of time. And what we are being told by most of the environmental movement is that the way to stop all of this is through personal consumer choices. It’s time for a real strategy that truly addresses the scope of our predicament.

    Where is your threshold for resistance? To take only one variable out of hundreds: Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are already gone. Is it 91 percent? 92? 93? 94? Would you wait till they had killed off 95 percent? 96? 97? 98? 99? How about 100 percent? Would you fight back then?

    Good people have stayed silent for too long. We’re tired of ineffective, symbolic acts – piecemeal, reactive, and sad. Now our despair and anger can be matched by an even deeper joy, beyond compare, the joy of beginning to fight back, effectively. We are pleased to announce the formation of DGR Action Groups worldwide. Take the first step and join the resistance.

    Learn more about the strategy, find groups that have formed near you, or find out how to start your own group at:

    http://deepgreenresistance.org

  72. I think one of the problems of living in this culture is that the physical world is largely absent in most of our lives, particularily in urban areas. The sounds of industry overpower everything, and we forget all that is lost in the process.
    For me, Jensen states the obvious with such clarity, bombast and sanity that I dare, for one second, to feel hope. If there are others like Jensen out there, we may all make it through if we can only unify and work together.
    Love the article!

  73. This article really challenges the reader to imagine a world where you are one of the two billion who doesn’t have electricity. For most people in America this would be an immense challenge; our worlds as we know it, revolves around the constant connection to the Internet, or high level technology that requires a flow of energy (fossilized and renewable).
    What two billion people in this world do everyday with out effort, we can’t imagine for ourselves, so to explain why we can’t imagine life like this, Derrick Jenson invites us into his idea of addiction, for 1st world countries, like America, technology is our addiction. We fail as a country to have imagination, to expand out mind outside the walls of our house, or even outside of the computers screen. “Being out of touch with physical reality.” Say Derrick, as he explains how humans have forgot how to live with out technology.
    Humans seem to be the only ones, who are excluded from nature; we seem to be shutting it down instead of returning ourselves to a natural ecosystem, we have monopolized the ecosystem.
    What are we willing to risk to get what we want, the cost of cheep energy to the environment is larger than can be repaid, What will happen if we continue to live in our industrialized world?

  74. Grew up Amish. Fled my backward past. Went High Tech. Got a BS in Physics:Math. Took on Environ. Engineering. Read some crazy peoples writing about profound ecological conundrums. Understood the implications. They were clear to me. Went backward. Deeper. Screw electric. Hell yeah, we can live without it. And without a lot less also.

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