The Age of Ooops


FOR AT LEAST FIFTEEN YEARS, I’ve been publicly arguing that this culture is functionally, inherently, systematically unjust and unsustainable, and that while legislative approaches can slightly mitigate some of the injustices or unsustainability, these approaches will never be anywhere near sufficient. Well, I was wrong. I recently undertook a thought experiment in which I challenged myself to imagine a piece of legislation that would solve the injustices and unsustainability of this culture.

Maybe I should back up a little bit. A central problem of this culture is a near-total lack of accountability on the part of perpetrators of violence on every level, from domestic violence and rape (only 6 percent of rapists spend even one night in jail) to government-sponsored torture and war crimes to massive crimes against the environment. A not-very-funny riddle should make my point. Q: What do you get when you cross two nation states, a large corporation, forty tons of poison, and at least eight thousand dead human beings? A: Retirement with full pay and benefits (Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide). I’m not the only person who has noticed that those who are destroying the planet almost never pay any real costs themselves. What happened to Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum, who among others should be held accountable for the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill? He was released from his position with a $1.6 million severance payment, as well as an annual pension of about $1 million (he also holds several million shares of BP stock). While some daring souls have boldly asked whether it might be a teensy bit appropriate to, ahem, politely request an inquiry into whether this severance package should be reduced even the tiniest bit, I’ve not seen many public calls (though I’ve heard a lot of private calls) for Hayward’s head to be paraded around New Orleans on a pike.

The solution I dreamed up to this lack of accountability is a robustly enforced legislative version of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle suggests that if an action, or policy, has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, the burden of proof that this action is not harmful falls on those proposing to take the action. They can’t act if they can’t prove no harm will come. So, for example, instead of presuming that deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is safe, and only suspending drilling when there is proof of harm, we should presume that this action is harmful until it has been proven otherwise. The same logic should apply to the emission of greenhouse gases. In fact, there are thousands of examples of harmful actions that would be stopped by any reasonable application of the precautionary principle.

Of course, a perverted form of the precautionary principle is already employed by our culture, but instead of serving the public or the environment, it serves corporate entities: actions that protect the real world, including human communities, must be shown to not harm profits before they can be seriously considered. Today, potential harm is typically calculated through a process called “risk assessment” wherein the corporation that’s going to conduct (or, more accurately, perpetrate) some harmful activity writes up an often large, often unreadable document that purports to lay out the project’s potential risks and rewards. There are many problems with this process. First, the documents are often based on absurdly false pretenses, and the documents themselves are openly falsified (the environmental impact statement for the Deepwater Horizon rig, for example, contained references to the potential effects of an oil spill on walruses and other Arctic mammals). Second, these documents are often approved by bureaucrats or technicians who are as corrupt as their corporate equivalents (and indeed, a revolving door exists between these two seemingly oppositional entities), under duress (approve these documents or lose your job), or in cahoots (or even in bed, literally) with members of the industries they purport to oversee. But all of the above is trivial compared to the primary problem of so-called risk assessment, which is that the profits from the projects being assessed generally go to the company’s leaders and shareholders while the risks are foisted off on those humans and nonhumans who suffer when things go wrong (or often even when they go right). Union Carbide derives profits from a factory manufacturing bulk industrial chemicals (most of them toxic) in Bhopal, India, while the people of Bhopal suffer under the day-to-day operations of the factory and die when the factory explodes. British Petroleum gains the profits from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, yet the Gulf and its human and nonhuman residents suffer the toxic, and now disastrous, consequences.

It’s a ridiculous system that leads unavoidably to atrocity. It’s like a gambling house where the heads of corporations make money if the dice roll right, and if the dice roll wrong, you die. No wonder they keep rolling the dice. No wonder we keep dying.

And so, if we want to maintain a livable planet, we must change the calculus of risk assessment. The enforced precautionary principle legislation I came up with goes something like this: if someone attests that some policy, action, or product will not harm the public or the environment, and then puts in place this policy, action, or product — that is, imposes the risk of harm upon the public or the environment — and the public or the environment is then harmed, that person should be brought to justice: put on trial, sentenced to return all of the profits to the victims and to clean up the mess, and assigned some other sizable penalty appropriate to the scale of the damage. In other words, since the rewards are internalized, so, too, should be the risks. After all, if the people putting these policies, actions, or products in place are telling the truth, and there really is no significant risk to the public or the environment from deepwater drilling, greenhouse gas emissions, dams, or the manufacture of toxic chemicals, then they have nothing to lose, right? Such a policy would only be a problem for them if they were either lying or mistaken. And when you risk the lives of others, you certainly shouldn’t lie, nor should you be cavalier about the possibility of being mistaken.

If those who were enriching themselves as they destroy human and nonhuman communities had to take risks commensurate with the risks they imposed on others, their destructive behaviors may very well stop overnight. And now imagine if this applied not only to policymakers and CEOs, but to all people significantly associated with the project, from engineers who design destructive products and accountants who find ways to pay for them to marketers who advertise them and bureaucrats who sign off on them. This suggestion isn’t even all that radical. There exists significant legal precedent: if you and I are hired by a third party to rob a bank, and someone dies because of our actions, all three of us would face charges, even if you were the triggerman and all I did was drive.

Bureaucracies, of which corporations are one form, have as one of their primary functions the dispersal of accountability. I didn’t do anything wrong! I was just doing my job! I was just making the trains run on time. Never mind that the trains were heading to death camps. If you are a public servant entrusted to review environmental impact statements for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and you truly believe that deepwater drilling doesn’t pose serious risk to oceans, ocean life, or coastal communities, you should be willing to share some of the risk with all the other creatures who will be harmed when that drilling technology does what we all (probably even you) knew all along it could do — fail. And how’s this for a novel idea: if you don’t truly believe it, you shouldn’t sign off on it.

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. A lucid, perfectly sensible argument, and overall one of Jensen’s finer columns, though seriously, seriously compromised by the whole “head on a pike” comment. Hyperbole or not, I don’t think there’s any place for that in a conversation about healing our world.

  2. Aw, don’t get your knickers in a twist. There’ll be plenty of pikes and pitchforks if things keep going the way they are. That’s what happens when the rich and powerful grotesquely overreach and can’t seem to change course. Of course, I wish they would… change course. And prove the precedents wrong.

    I have a problem with Jensen’s argument. I don’t have a problem with it being a sort of a magic wish, or perhaps a thought experiment. What I do have a problem with is … that different rules will somehow save us. Never mind that the rules are enforced by the rule makers, and the rule makers like irresponsibility built in? Never mind that if somehow a different rule was pushed through the heroic efforts of a Greenpeace coalition on rocket fuel, wouldn’t they immediately work to alter it and to carve out loopholes, along with directing the enforcers to go light on the perps by, say, cutting their funds? I say the whole idea that different rules would make all the difference is, well, completely silly. Sorry, Derrick.

  3. Will the pikes and pitchforks be made in China?

  4. Heh. A good guess. Though a well shaped branch will do in a pinch. :-)

  5. I thought ‘head on a pike’ was the best part of a very well thought out column. There’s a problem with being non-violent; your enemies, and the enemies of the environment who are by definition sociopaths, count on your nonviolence, which in this venue is the same as being a doormat. How’s that working for you?

    While I support everything the Zeitgeist Movement is proposing, their resolutely nonviolent stand bothers me; I understand the reasoning behind it; there’s the obvious ‘nonviolence is good’ one, and the underlying one of ‘if we propose violence, they’ll shut us down’ one. It weakens and slows the process though, and time is running very short. A few well chosen heads on pikes would go a long ways towards convincing certain people that graft and greed is not necessarily a good life-choice.

  6. He’s a poet and a thoughtful man, but I question whether soft quiet talking is really going to make enough difference now. After the French Revolution, the French aristocracy ceased to be a problem… Perhaps you don’t live near a homeless park and see them everyday like I do. There’s a LOT of anger out here in reality-land, which is a long ways away from academia-land.

  7. Yes, I would like to see accountability! Good points in article and in comments, and… how do we get there? It seems to have been tricky grounds for 1000’s of years to pass on a sense of morality and ethics.Critical mass is on the horizon- every conversation is critical. My favorite Wendell Berry quote, “nothing exists in isolation”.

  8. Risk management is all very well in theory. The fact of the matter is that it has not been applied. Human society did not apply the precautionary principle to the use of limited natural capital to build and operate the vast structure of civilization. It took the risk of devastating its life support system under the understanding that it would not have to pay the price. It was wrong. The damage has been done. The clock cannot be turned back. Sensible application of the precautionary principle in the future can only ease the inevitable powering down.

  9. I like the analogy regarding “I just make the trains run on time.” I perceive that this could be extended to the press. Right now the Main Stream Media is as corporate as one can get. And they have failed miserably in regularly covering stories like the Gulf of Mexico in a meaningful and coherent manner. And it is no accident either. Corporate Media should stop presenting itself as the Fourth Estate, since clearly it is simply a corporate mouthpiece meant to distract or appease the people, and at times just promote disinformation and propaganda.

    As for OOPS! If I were to come into a person’s home and pour Corexit into their automatic icemaker or surreptitiously place some other poisonous substance in their home with the knowledge that it would be consumed–I could be charged with criminal conduct–a felony. And if I lied about it after the fact, that would be perjury and obstructing justice. If other people tried to help me cover up with lies, they would be accessories and co-conspirators.

    But when a huge corporation does this–it’s just “OOPS!” Did I do that? Oh well, sorry to hear about the cancer and the fact your children will be infertile. Well–carry on.

  10. “Sensible application of the precautionary principle in the future can only ease the inevitable powering down.”

    Unfortunately, we’re still stuck in the inertial pull of ignorance. This country is full of people who think that precaution is for pussies and hand-wringers, a fictional concoction of the perfidious Left set up to roadblock the beneficial energy of American business.

    Maybe now that the phrase “the Koch Brothers” is becoming ubiquitous, that ignorance will eventually be replaced by awareness of who the real criminals in our society are and why precaution is imperative.

    And I’m down in the abstract with the heads-on-pikes thing, though that kind of thing can get out of hand when put into practice, history shows. I’d almost be happy with a few hundred televised perp walks over about a year’s worth of highly publicized white-collar prosecutions, with most of the sentences being 20 years or more and with forfeiture of sufficient assets to repay the people–and states and countries–that lost millions and billions in investments, economic growth and productivity, etc. They keep their heads, in other words, but lose everything else but the state-owned clothes on their backs. And maybe bring back Eliot Spitzer to lead the prosecutions and to finish what it appears he’d gotten started before his abrupt departure, which sure looks to me like a “precaution” having been taken by someone feeling some heat from the AG’s office.

  11. The BP drilling operation was undertaken because that particular reservoir has lots of vuggy porosity(about 35%), high rock pressure, and the vugs are connected, resulting in high permeability. What that means if very high open flow without the need for treatment like hydrofracturing or pumping. So the besides the rig itself there is little initial investment needed to get alot of oil back out. That well had the highest withdrawl rate and reserve of any single well in the world. It was an excellent choice for a well site. So that did it because it was even cheaper oil.

    Unfortunately the oil had a lot of dissolved natural gas in it. So when it came up the pipe it outgased and there was a relatively minor methane explosion and fire. This is of itself would not have caused any spill. Unfortunately one of the technicians panicked and withdrew the pipe from the wellhead. Out of concern that the pipe might have a rupture if it was twisted as the drilling platform shook, which was highly unlikely. But he didn’t disengage the pipe from the baffle and stopper that are designed to completely plug the well head if the pipe was blown out of the wellhead. So the baffle and stopper tore and there well head was open. I see alternative and primary media harping on and on about extra backups for blow-out preventers, but backups don’t work when they are ripped out of the well head. Basically that only thing needed to stop this thing from happening is a closed electronic circuit for the pipe winch that opens when it is connected to the wellhead, and only closes when the pipes connection to the wellhead is broken. An open circuit would make it impossible for the pipe winch to get electricity, since the circuit would be interrupted when ever it is connected to to stopper at the wellhead.

    And before anyone screams “the company was to cheap for this system !1!1!!1one!” no such system has ever been needed in the forty years we have been drilling, because no one has ever been stupid enough to pull out a pipe without disengaging it from the well head. Because it breaks equipment and costs money. And for that matter most winches are very slow and would stall before the tear the stopper, I wonder why they had such a high powered winch? But if this accident makes such a system mandatory then the drilling platforms will be literally idiot proof short of someone taping a stick of dynamite to the pipe when they put it in the wellhead.

    The problem here was human error because Transocean(the company that runs the BP platforms) does not train i’s employees as well as the Oxidental or Exxon employees have been trained for the past seven years. BP actually had little to do with the operation sides shipping and the original geologic work . But BP should get bitch slapped around for subcontracting to Transocean, which is shunned by the other oil producers as a liability. The actual equipment functioned well and is used to extract from similar wells in the Gulf and off the coast of Argentina with no history of failure despite being used for nearly 20 years. But if you don’t know how to use the equipment then you’re going to get fuck ups.

  12. Derrick I think you’ve taken a wee turn to yourself. While the thought experiment is a nice idea, its pie-in-the-sky with custard. Do you seriously think such legislation would ever get a foot in the revolving door? You can’t use a corrupted system to bring that same corrupted system to account. It’s corrupted!

    It’s also silly. No risk assessment, no matter how realistic, can ever cover all the bases. You would effectively bring all human activity to a halt. We have something akin to this enshrined in UK Health & Safety legislation. It ties up any new initiative, no matter how benign and worthy, in so much red tape it stifles it at birth.

    Legislation never solves anything. As Gandhi said “Good government is no substitute for self-government”. What we’re seeing now is the full expression of a cultural history that is centuries old. It’s deep. It’s systemic. The only thing that’s going to change it is a fundamental revolution in individual attitudes and ethics. That revolution has now begun and is enshrined in the non-violent protests starting to erupt all over the globe. Non-violence is key. It epitomises the force of the moral dimension so lacking in the present system.

    The corporations may have all the monetary power, but money is just pieces of paper. Tokens. It’s what YOU do with it and how YOU react to it that determines its influence. The present system relies on a potent combination of apathy, fear, greed and ignorance to maintain its dominion. It’s potent because it exploits basic human weakness and reduces us to these common denominators. Human nature is so much more than that, but for it to be so requires individual engagement and conscious choice.

    The real power resides with the people. It always has. Individually, we can take that back in an instant, and if enough join together to do so, and hold fast in the act, the ‘battle’ is won. The moral dimension is central and key. Without it, you don’t change the game; only the players.

  13. This quote from John Lame Deer sums it all up …

    “Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. Without a prison, there can be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.”

  14. For years Peter Montague put forth info, ideas, examples, etc. of how the precautionary principle would work. But because $ and profit are all that matter to decisionmakers, risk assessment is what we have. And if it costs too much money to avoid the risks, even if those risks are loss of life, ecosystems, clean drinking water, and so on, then the $ wins out. Every time.

    I always get a kick out of it when someone says of a disaster such as what hit the gulf last spring/summer, “It was human error.” Of course it was human error! Humans are the ones that decided to drill where we have no real control of anything (despite all our technology and book smarts). Human beings made ignorant overall decisions. Blaming it on one man who may have made a mistake doesn’t absolve the whole damn process of energy exploration and drilling from the massive destruction and suffering (human and nonhuman, present and future generations) caused by those decisions. The current massive fracking operations are another excellent example of human decisions gone so wrong it’s unreal.

    And while individuals can make some choices that make a difference, one thing I’m sure of, nothing I can do at this point in time will change the course of the destruction of this planet as we dig, drill, blast, for energy all the while contaminating everything good we need to survive. The ONLY thing that will change this is for massive, and I mean massive, demonstrations in virtually every major city/power station/drill site/corporate headquarters/etc. in this country. It’s only my opinion but I see nothing to refute it. Will this happen? Highly unlikely until things get so very bad in so many ways that finally people don’t have anything to lose. Not realizing that right now, this moment, every moment, we are losing so much beauty and life and true (nonmonetary) value.

    Re: Ooops – you know, it’s the real simple things that could actually change things. Something as simple as saying, “No, you can’t do that because we don’t know the harm it could cause, and based on past experiences with similar things we know there’s a good chance harm will be caused if you do it.” How simple is that? But then these days if something is that simple and obvious then no way will anyone pay attention. Such a simple thing as the precautionary principle could happen IF people forced the issue.

  15. OK, Snackman, whatever the precise details of the cause, even you are not saying that the (in your opinion) simpleton/poorly-educated-employee who made the wrong move is the only one responsible for the debacle. On average it’s true that you’re ALWAYS going to get some fuck ups. Here we have a contract for drilling rights between the US government and a solvent corporation that should have sufficient insurance to cover BIG problems like this (if they don’t they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place – and whether or not anyone should be doing it in the first place is the question at hand here now). The consequences for such a fuck up should be severe enough that even a holy corporation could become extinct. The existence of this level of consequences would have the same effect as Jensen’s idea.

    I agree, Wendy, that no risk assessment can cover all the bases.

    The abstract corporation has an abstract head (besides the flesh and blood ones who never legally have to show their face). That’s the head we need to see on a pike. Let’s begin constructing the corporate guillotine.

    Wendy and Susan, I agree that the only way to initiate the changes needed is by a massive movement of people. The challenge I see is how to help enough people see that we are indeed hitting rock bottom (or nearly – how much worse will it have to get before enough people wake up?). To make this happen is hardly easier than creating legal consequences for these acts. Corporations control the media (and seek more control by assaulting PBS/NPR). Most working people don’t have the time or energy to look beyond Fox for their worldview. They’re not stupid people. They just haven’t yet come across a truly balanced set of facts.

  16. Several years ago I devoured both volumes of “Endgame” and found myself in agreement with not all but certainly major parts of Jensen’s thesis (theses?). So I was disappointed to read “The Age of Ooops.”

    Jensen wants to invoke a “precautionary principle” whereby “‘they’ can’t act if ‘they’ can’t prove no harm will come.” Come to what I’m not sure. There is a logical fallacy here: It is impossible to prove a negative. For example, one cannot prove that mankind will never survive. It is a matter of faith.

    Even were it possible to prove a negative, does Jensen seriously propose that capitalists (or any other ruling class will not find a way to obviate such “rules”or laws?

    In “Endgame” Jensen consistently holds that it is civilization itself that is responsible for our plight. Braudel, without actually saying so, maintained the same in his monumental three volume work on Capitalism.

    I believe rather that it is _this_ civilization that is destroying the world. We cannot return to hunter-gatherer status, nor would I particularly want to. Emma Goldman, American hero extraordinaire, and her compatriots knew over a century ago who was responsible for our plight. Capitalism must go. I am not a violent man (and despite her rep, neither was Goldman) but some way must be found to displace this mind-numbing, soul-ravaging, and world-destroying system of wage-slave exploitation. Just witness the current concerted effort to remove what little power working folks have for collective bargaining.

  17. The problem I have with Jensen and this attitude in general is this.

    1) Nothing is for free. Universe runs on the gibbs free energy equation. Energy is constantly being loss, their is no such thing as balance or even dynamic equilibrium. And ultimately there is no such thing as sustainability.

    2) The precautionary principle is supposed based on the guess of the loss vs gain of any action. I losses are always greater than gains then you are still having a net gain. This is not the fucking hippocratic oath. I am an MD, I am a PHD in carbonate geology. I will do harm if the gain is greater than the potential harm.

    3) We are not running out of hydrocarbon fuel sources. There is still a 78 year supply of cheap oil(cheap meaning able to produce gasoline for less then 4.10 2001USD/gallon assuming a 5% increase in demand compounded yearly) based on known recoverable reserves. And their is a 225-300 year supply of coal, assuming a 8% increase in demand compounded yearly. And a 150-200+ year supply of gas assuming a 4% increase in consumption compounded annually.

    My number was based on the current estimated known recoverable reserves from cratonic(on shore) oil drilling only, from various AAPG Bulletins. The peak oil graph you guys use alot on your sites is on the Hubbard Decline Curve. However this only counts proved recoverable reserves rather than known recoverable reserves. Proved means that you have 4 wells within the drainage radius of the proposed well site, which ensures that you will hit oil. Putting this way, proved reserves are for areas with active drilling, while known reserves are estimates based on geology but in sections of oil fields without enough active drilling to prove the reserve exists. I always used the lower estimates though, so the number should be as conservative as the current data allows. Hubbard Decline Curve is also optimized to predict decline of oil production from Texas limestones, in fields where all data is available(Texas law states that all companies have to give their well logs and production reports to the state and that they must be accurate), and that there are outside markets that cause diminishing returns from marginally producing wells. This was an excellent graph that tracked the production of Texan oil very well. However a graph showing the worlds production of petroleum as it is exhausted would be a descending plateau rather than a peak, since there is no outside source of oil to make the marginally producing wells undesirable. So instead of a 150 year slow decline from a peak, you get a 75 year plateau and a steep drop off at the end.

    4) Who says we want a biosphere anyway? Of course it is much cheaper an easier to rely on it for the moment, but in a few hundred years it may be cheaper to eliminate it and replace it with human artifice. We won’t know until it becomes cheap enough to test out, but even today we could keep a few hundred thousand humans alive indefinitely without utilizing the biopshere. It would just be hard and ridiculously expensive to do so.

  18. Snacks, the human body is a biosphere. A large percentage of what makes up a human body consists of organisms cycling thru this particular area of space we call ourselves. “We” won’t need a biosphere if we voluntarily become extinct in the process of transferring our personhood to a new species of robots that will “be us” into the future.

    In your plan I sense a profound disdain for most of humanity. And I suspect I wouldn’t be one of the ones invited aboard your spaceship.

    Also, in your second point, I imagine you meant to write the opposite when you wrote, “I[f] losses are always greater than gains then you are still having a net gain.”

  19. It seems the only people willing to put their lives on the line for food and the dismantling of empires are anywhere but here: Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia… OK, let’s see what comes of the Wisconsin party.

  20. Hey snacks…

    Glad to see you worked out the math… we can just keep burning this fucker, until… oops, what just happened to Japan… it is disappearing before our eyes. Nothing to worry about; we didn’t need that piece of land or those people. Anyway, what we do to the earth has absolutely no Fucking impact on the environment… Boy, sure glad we understand that!

    Hey snacks… what other bright ideas u got to share with us poor slobbering imbeciles?

    Can’t wait to hear more!!!

  21. I think a lot of people already know we’re hitting rock bottom, Ed, but our daily lives make it possible and necessary (if we’re to get anything done, and of course doing is THE most important thing because otherwise we have no $ to survive) to push that awareness to the very bottom of our concerns except for every once in a while, like the BP disaster, when circumstances force reality to the top. Then the powers that be say the equivalent of “the oil is almost gone” and life gets back on track. Of course the oil isn’t almost gone, it’s still sitting on the now dead ocean floor, people and animals are sickening and dying but that isn’t making mainstream news either. So it’s hard if not impossible to keep our true reality always up there in focus so it actually informs what we do, how we live. I’m one of those Cassandras who can’t force the reality to the bottom of anything, which feels truly like a curse.

    What will it take for enough people to finally hit the streets as they have done in Wisconsin over union rights? Not sure. People have to make the connection between their own failing home economies, the rise of corporate control and dominance, and the destruction of the planet that supports that corporate rise and domination.

    Re: “balanced facts”. What is that? Facts are facts. And as someone who has researched and written about things like GMOs, food irradiation, corporate control, “free” trade, energy issues, and so on for the past 25 years I now believe that while facts are important (if only to save my own face and reputation), they rarely actually make a difference in how someone lives. What ends up helping people to change is when something hits them emotionally. When their beach is ruined, when an animal they feel particularly drawn to is harmed or endangered, when their child or wife or lover comes down with a disease associated with a particular kind of chemical or pollution, when their favorite place is razed for a factory or shopping mall or drill site, etc. Then it becomes personal, their heart aches, they get angry and want to know more and do more. This is why it’s so heartrending that the Gulf disaster was covered up as much as possible. So many people were shocked. So many people really cared. But inertia still won.

    Right now I sense the Earth is pretty angry. Not in a personal way as we humans get angry, there’s nothing personal about it. But she’s angry and we’re witnessing the results everywhere, more and more, all the time. Some day enough of us will wake up. Of that I have no doubt. Because so much is happening it will become impossible for the powers that be to keep it under wraps like they are able to do now (for the most part). But by then it will be too late.


  22. Susan, by balanced facts I mean the situation where a newsperson or pundit knows ten things about a situation, but four of them don’t support his agenda. An honest person or news organization would bring out all ten and then try to explain why they still believe what they believe in spite of the four troublesome ones. The Fox, on the other hand just hides those four under the carpet. And in good Orwellian doublespeak they call that fair and balanced.

    I understand what you’re saying about the involvement of emotions in decision making, but transparency and access to sufficient information can shape those emotions, too. Yes, things have to get up close and personal before we finally react. As things are going that may happen sooner than we expect.

  23. “That’s the head we need to see on a pike. Let’s begin constructing the corporate guillotine.” Intriguing, Ed! Tell us more?

    Daniel, lately, Derrick seems to write contrary to insights he so eloquently established earlier. Disappointing.

    Snack reminds me of the engineer who got famous in the 60s by writing that the earth would support a trillion (?) people, up to the heat death line. Of course they’d have to live entire lives in cubicles, and get permission to go anywhere or to exercise, but heck, who cares? With a future like that, who needs apocalypse?

    Kultur, yer in fine fettle! :) Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

  24. Vera, as you’ve noticed before, altho I don’t believe in magical or quick idealistic solutions, I do think that legal and political steps brought us to this state of affairs, and that it’s not a one way street. What was done thru these methods can be reversed thru these methods.

    It’s a lovely cowpie you’ve aimed me toward, but why should any one person imagine that he or she can draw the detailed roadmap out of here? I don’t really expect to ever do more than paint the picture in broad strokes. I’m generally just trying to convince people that altho corporations are extremely powerful they’re not invincible. If I had a clearer plan than this then I should be the one writing these articles, not just occasionally commenting.

    A slight shift in the membership of the supreme court could be a step in the right direction. If we can keep the Republicans out of the White House and out of power in congress and the senate, even tho corporations also fund Democrats, enough Democrats would seize the day and do the right thing. The state of the economy is bringing things into clearer focus for a lot of people – frivolous things falling by the wayside, more attention to what really matters. The faster we fall the sooner we’re likely to bounce back up.

    It’s all about small incremental steps. Many systems of personal growth show us that process gets you there, not goal oriented-desires. Not giving up on the idea of democracy no matter what form of it you have at hand.

  25. On violence vs. nonviolence – I think Martin Luther King put it best in his last speach – It is not a choice between non-violence and violence, but between non-violence and non-existance.

    There may be some situations where a group is under such dire risk of destruction that armed resistance is the only hope of survival (eg. active genocide), and I cannot condemn that choice unless I faced it myself. But otherwise, violence usually brings on more problems than it solves. Armed conflict is one of the most destructive forces on the environment and on people there are, and it is nearly impossible to have armed action without many innocents killed in the process. In a world where the powers laid against us have nuclear weapons, violence can only lead to global destruction. Active non-violence, on the other hand, can bring down tyrants, as we have seen in the last few weeks.


  26. Snacks, I always enjoy and welcome an alternative view…and who knows how this sucka will play out..but to flippantly dismiss the biosphere as so much potential collateral damage hits me as, well, nuts.

    You obviously have a large store of knowledge on fossil fuel issues, and I wouldn’t presume to argue your technical points, but let me pose you one: What viable energy alternatives are you banking on to carry us over that depletion threshold and beyond? (And for the moment, let’s just use an optimistic window of 75 years)

  27. ED T….I’d just propose that if we could all just put aside the idea that one political idealogy or another is the reason for our current sad state, we’d then be on the road to a better life. As soon as the left, and the right, wakes up to the fact that they’ve been played for too long by the ends of power, the better off we will all be. Political irrelevance for all politicians is the only way out of this thicket, says me.

  28. Wade, if I recall correctly, you’re a lawyer, so I appreciate your weighing in on this.
    I wonder up to what point you might agree with my interpretation that, thru a series of legal decisions, the corporations have been given, if not Carte Blanche, then at least an extremely unfair advantage compared with the will of the people in this country. And their interests are totally contrary to ours.
    I’ve read a couple years of your comments, so I have some sense of where you’re coming from. But don’t you think it’s necessary to address the legal underpinnings of this situation that vastly favors the few and almost ignores the interests of the many?
    I know that both sides can be very disappointing on this and other matters, but the Republicans seem to go in lockstep with the interests of the corporations, while the Democrats can go one way or the other depending on the balance of power in the congress.

    I personally would like to ignore the whole thing and live off the grid like I did in the past, depending mainly on interactions with neighbors, who weren’t even that close by. But I have children and grandchildren. They’re all more tied up in this mess than I need to be. And with the present and growing population, walking away from it is an option for a precious small percentage of humanity.

  29. Ed, I think the rule of law has been the number one casualty in the last couple of decades, and even as a lawyer I have to say that my faith in laws (and the political parties that champion them) to lead us to a brighter future is severely impaired. It is often noted that America doesn’t lack for laws (or, consequently, lawyers) and that the utility of enacting even more laws seems to have long ago reached a point of diminishing returns. The binary, zero-sum result political system continues to offer up the illusion of winning or losing to the citizens it purports to represent. I think it is high time we stopped believing that fable. To do that, we’re going to have to turn loose of a lot of dearly held beliefs. One of which, I’d just propose, is that a certain political party (or radio talk show host, or TeeVee pundit, or NFL franchise, or Dancing with the Stars team…) speaks for me, or you. They speak to their own power, and never did otherwise, but only now we are really seeing the end-game of that craven dedication.

    On the corporation issue though, I think we all first have to appreciate that corporations are inseparable from the political process, and that has gotten way out of control in our lifetimes. But, to think that if a certain number of “our” Supreme Court justices would only get themselves appointed we could reign in corporate power is hopelessly quaint, I believe. I see many good and conscientious people around me playing the “next election we’ll finally win” game. That sure keeps them busy, and I’m sure that it is no accident that this channels energies that might be more usefully spent charting their own destinies. It is fun to root for a team, I can’t deny that.

    As a parent also, I think a lot about the issue you raise. I think that the greatest gift a parent can give is to instill in the child the idea that blame begins and ends with them, and the will to put that belief into practice. If we have enough people taking that degree of personal responsibility, we’ll get where we need to go. Right now, on this topic, I think that this would mean that pointing the finger at the opposition is the most futile of acts.

    So much for me. What do you think?

  30. Wade, I’m not ready to give up on voting at every opportunity, supporting organizations I think are working toward the right goals, talking about the political process even (or especially) with those who think it’s useless, and, from time to time (definitely not constantly) showing up on the streets as a supporter of this or that. I’m probably not far from your position on the effectiveness of all that but I’m still ready to do all those things more or less consistently. Obviously I’m not a confirmed revolutionary.

    I agree with you about personal resopnsibility. And since I was the only constant presence in my children’s lives, I sure can’t blame anyone else if they didn’t get that from me. And as a biologist I’ve also tried to get them to see survival in terms of finding the right niche.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, and let’s not give up on the Magna Carta.

  31. You too Ed. And I probably was a little too strident in my manifesto to personal responsibility. More exactly, I think my view is that the individual should assess themselves for blame before looking for it in others. Obviously, in this life, there are others who legitimately have some blame to own.

    The older I become, the more I realize that my sphere of real influence is truly tiny, and I probably have more potential to do that than many others. The internet seems to have expanded the illusion of influence, but not necessarily actual influence. What I see mostly is collective finger pointing, to the point of dysfunction. There are only a few that I’ve found that truly are taking the higher road. John Michael Greer, the Archdruid, is currently one of my heroes in that regard. The cat is just flat-out lucid..amazing intellect. His message though is one of having less to own and manage, not more. That is not a message likely to be found palatable by your average Joe. I’m convinced it will be, and sooner than we think. We can eat the offering willingly, or be force fed. I’m working on my appetite now.

  32. Jumping back a few posts, I have to say I agree with Plowboy on Snacks comments – I actually appreciate the knowledge that Snack shares on fossil fuels and the alternative perspective on peak oil, if at the same time I cringe at the dismissal of biospheres.

    To be honest, I think some portions of the environmental movement are too deeply invested in peak-oil collapse. Some of it seems more closely rooted in Revelations than in actual ecological understanding (the “rightous Gaia will kill off the undeserving billion of eco-sinners” attitude that one hears, even in forums like this). That attitude is frankly just genocidal. I suspect some of this “longing for collapse” comes from despair, depression, and feelings of powerlessness – an almost suicidal impulse to bring on the destruction we fear.

    However, I also see a misguided hope that collapse will bring about the changes that we don’t seem to be able to bring about through our own collective action. In many ways it reminds me of the communists during the late 19th century who predicted that capitalism would collapse under its own contradictions before the end of the century. Of course, that didn’t happen – capitalism turns out to be incredibly resilient in maintaining and adapting to new conditions and new means of exploitation.

    I can’t help but think that we are making the same mistake about peak oil – hoping that somehow the destructive system will collapse on its own, because the long slog of building a movement for change against overwhelming odds seems, well, overwhelming. Or hoping that a collapse will finally shock people into realizing that they need to change their ways and see things the way we do, which we seem ineffective at communicating by other means. Even simply the hope that somehow the oil will run out before we tip climate change into the truly cataclysmic range. But I suspect that industrial capitalism is more resilient than we think, and will find ways to substitute for depleted resources and energy sources and otherwise kick the can down the road far longer than we suspect – leaving little of the natural world we love left, and causing immense human suffering along the way.

    As for Plowboys question about what to do in 75 years when it finally does run out – well, there is coal for a few hundred years after that, and the nuclear breeder reactors, as well as advances in renewables and more efficient uses of energy. That puppy can probably keep running for a lot longer than we think – but at a steep price.


  33. @ Plowboy and EdT more recently – I think the mistake is to limit the range of actions that we consider important. Who gets appointed to the supreme court next can make a big difference in the outcome of many things. Who gets elected in the next elections can make a big difference. Planting a community garden can make a big difference. Talking with your friends and neighbors – and listening – can make a big difference. Direct action civil disobedience can make a big difference. The real solution is multi-faceted, multi-pronged, and non-linear, and while there is room to critique what seems to be ineffective, we should never make the mistake of thinking that there is one answer.


  34. Capitalism has realized its destiny to occupy every corner of the globe. So it now stares down the barrel of its most explosive internal contradiction. There is nowhere left for it to grow…yet grow it must, or die.

    But, there are no untapped markets left and every human being, outside of a tiny parasitic ruling clique, has been enslaved. Some of us are chattel, the rest are slaves to debt. The entire globe has been overrun by the false promises of the prophets of prosperity.

    Capitalism, this dangerous elixer, has now been heated to the point that it is ready to explode; and we are sitting on the powder keg. In its death throes capital will launch a killing spree of historic proportions. Millions will be murdered, poisoned, and deprived of lives by way of neglect, deprivation, abuse and torture.

    Capital will strip the planet of its eons-old carbon layer, burn that carbon for fuel and quarterly profits, warm the planet and acidify the oceans until the Earth becomes uninhabitable. As it continues to self destruct, perhaps ‘the living will envy the dead.’ Let us stop for a moment and rethink our commitment to capital.

  35. Ragweed, you wrote: “Who gets appointed to the supreme court next can make a big difference in the outcome of many things. Who gets elected in the next elections can make a big difference. Planting a community garden can make a big difference.”

    Of those three examples, I’d honestly say that the third is the only one that has much of a hope of bringing change. I despair in saying that, but after witnessing too many years of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” I’m resigned to accept it. Or maybe this is how it should be, who knows?

  36. As much as I have gone on in these pages about “awakening”, I do enjoy a good long snooze from time to time. Someone forgot to tell me the Jensen Festival had come to Orion City once more. Belatedly waking today, I plunged into the rich stew of dissensus being served up, and swallowed the whole darn thing almost without chewing. Burp!

    I did note with approval that the acrid smoke of overheated emotions had yet to dim the clarity of the discussion. Not that I have successfully avoided that pit of no useful outcomes at all times myself. How easily irony turns into invective! Absit omen. Or heaven forbid as is more currently invoked.

    Give me a little time to digest all this good thought being shared. But just for now, my first thought about Derrick’s latest piece was, “You have got to be kidding!” DJ knows better than almost anyone that his proposal has not a chance of being enacted, and would not mean squat if it was. Our problems have much deeper roots and more branches than such pin pricks could ever resolve. Maybe he is just playing Zen Master to get us to think a little more deeply about our real problems?? I sure hope so. Otherwise, there cracks a noble mind…..

  37. Plowboy,

    Its all connected though. Whether you can plant a community garden depends on the local government approval of using public space in that way (or on someone having the money to donate the land). Who is in that government, and which people have influence can make the difference between a park becoming a community garden, vs astroturf and stadium lighting. Frankly I think there are a lot of elected officials who are deeply committed to the change we want to see – Bernie Sanders comes to mind.

    I do agree though that there is too much emphasis on the personality of an elected official and the “team”. It doesn’t so much matter who holds office, as the pressure that is brought to bear on them. The mistake many people made with Obama was to throw an incredible amount of energy into getting him elected, and then not follow that up with building public pressure to keep him focused on what they supported him for in the first place.

    Mike K – I would give Jensen a little more slack. Part of successful organizing is having a vision and a goal to fight for, and having a concrete proposal, as opposed to abstract “change the system”, can help coalesce organizing. It’s nice to see an actual proposal out of Jensen, whether or not there are the means at this point to implement it.

    Where I take issue is that the precautionary principle is not a new idea, nor is it original to Jensen – yet he writes as if this was something he just dreamed up. It makes him sound like he is either out of touch with the broader environmental movement, or he is disregarding their contributions. Either way it feels very individualistic – and real change only comes from people working together. Let’s at least acknowledge that people have been working on this and thinking about it for decades.

    I guess that is one of the biggest issues I have with Jensen – it always feels like he is working alone. He is always exhorting people to change society, but he never offers a picture of how to work together to do this. His lectures have no sense of “we”, of the give and take of working with others. Even his frog article, which I loved, was about Jensen making a difference, alone.


  38. In my opinion, the strength of Derrick Jensen’s writing is in his uncompromising facing of our reality, regardless of the depressing and almost hopeless feelings that engenders. Only the truth has any possibility to free us from the nightmare we are collectively enacting. Only a rude awakening can deliver sufficient energy to blast us out of the profound sleep we live our days in. That first step could propel us onto a path of transformation to create a better world.

    Gradualism, lukewarm gestures, and unrealistic hopes will only enable the ongoing disaster of history. These consoling attitudes are a major source of the crisis we are facing. To imagine that some version of the same failed ideas that got us here will somehow pull our chestnuts from the fire is a fatal delusion.

    To think that because we cannot at this point deliver some guaranteed one-shot solution to our deep and complex problems that have only grown worse since the dawn of civilization, justifies putting our reliance on familiar (failed) approaches would be a fatal mistake. We need to exit the box in which we are suffocating. If new ideas and actions cannot be developed there is no real hope of our growing beyond the death trap of the modern world.

    It would be helpful if those truly concerned about our world would quit picking apart and ridiculing every attempt to point towards innovative possibilities, and join with those seeking new directions. I can only hope that DJ will go back and read his own stuff, in order to clear his head from the delusional thinking put forth in his recent essay. Stay true to your principles Derrick!

  39. Back to Plowboy, I have been following Greer’s blog for over a year since someone here pointed him out. You’re right, it is lucid writing and obviously someone worth paying attention to on a regular basis. Also what you said about the limited influence we have here in the pixel world sadly I think is true.

    Ragweed, I like your point about people’s failure to keep the pressure on Obama after the election. Actually, pressure on him and all elected officials seems to be the only way to make most of them do their jobs.

    For a community garden this year I had to go one town over to even get on a waiting list. My balcony’s going to be very green and multi-layered – good for my mind but not so satisfying for my belly. But I’ve seen a few plots that I’ll have to start poking the local officials about.

  40. Ragweed: Here in the South, we have our all purpose excuse handy, always: Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission! This has always been my default m.o. on incidental matters, and I find it increasingly useful. As our technological capacity descends, and our hallucinated “wealth” leaves the system, there is going to be less and less time, energy and money available to regulate and prohibit the purely mundane and cosmetic niceties, such as neighborhood covenants. I see this as a very positive development. More and more, we’ll just decide to do these things out of necessity, and our neighbors will no doubt do the same. No voting necessary!

  41. Plowboy: I wouldn’t count on technological collapse to reduce regulation. We forget how highly regulated peoples lives were in the middle ages. Nearly everything one did was regulated, licensed and taxed by local officials and the church hierarchy. If someone died in the road, there was a slew of regulations that had to be followed – burying a body before the local priest and undertaker got there cut could get you sent to the stocks or worse. There is no reason to think that a descent of technological capacity will be one where power is decentralized – we could just as easily go feudal. After all, 18th century plantation slavery was low-tech, pre-industrial and organic.

    Though I think the “better to beg forgiveness,” attitude is a good one to have. It’s not just the voting, but the collective will to resist being dominated that keeps power at bay.

    Mike T – but no rude awakening will make people wake up from their big sleep and see things our way. Think of how the Great Depression brought about the New Deal in the US, and Hitler in Germany. Both are possible outcomes of a “rude awakening”.

    There are no easy answers. Nothing is going to shock people out of their complacency and all work together to avoid the death trap. We need to work together and respect other people as human beings, not sheep. Which is not always easy when we see the crisis coming and lots of others don’t.

    Where to put your feet when you take your first steps on the path is as important as where the path ultimately leads – you need both. I don’t think its fair to criticize Jensen for thinking about the steps to take on the path. I just wish he would acknowledge that others have gone this way before, and we are not in it alone.


  42. I guess you’d have to have lived it Ragweed, as I have. Not sure where you are, or even if you are in the U.S., but I’ve lived in, and visited, most of the continental U.S. When you move from a relatively wealthier and more highly regulated jurisdiction, to a relatively poorer and minimally regulated state like the one I now reside in, the differences are pretty stark. Yes, some of that is a matter of priorities, and local attitudes in general, but a lot of it is not. There just isn’t a lot resources for that sort of thing, and that is the wave of the future for most governments. Things slip through the cracks, because nobody has the wealth to repair those cracks, and they widen as things get further along. The bad side of this is, of course, that even the “good” regulations get short shrift, and some we’ve just not gotten around to enacting, to avoid unwelcome economic repercussions (Like car inspections, believe it or not….can’t burden the poor drivers who wouldn’t have transportation otherwise, don’t you know) But, it would truly be an ill wind, and I find that being the beneficiary of benign neglect does has its advantages.

  43. Prophets are those who point out things which are totally obvious to people awake to reality, but completely obscure and incomprehensible to those who have become ignorant and deluded through acceptance of the cultural myths foisted on them. Gradual progress, voting to effect change, capitalism, popular religion, science, will fix everything, etc. That somehow things will work out well in spite of the vast array of dysfunctional beliefs held by the majority of humans is being disproved every day by the escalating disaster around us. Those surviving in small enclaves free of the worst aspects of modern life may still indulge in fantasies of progress, but the rest of us can only wonder how bad will it get, how soon? Unwarranted optimism is just another nail in the coffin of our higher possibilities. Real hope is based on an unflinching assessment of our situation. Real hope accurately gauges the enormous task of inner transformation facing us.

  44. Plowboy,

    I’ll believe you there. I actually have some knowledge of that, as my parents live in rural southern Ohio, basically in the edge of Appalachia. And yet, I find it interesting how much time people spend complaining about and meddling with their neighbors who live a half-mile away.


    Ok, I will buy that. Now what do we DO.


  45. John — I am tempted to answer as Gurdjieff answered Ouspensky when he asked that question: “DO!? Man (as he is) can DO nothing! He let O. mull that one for a while before he explained: “Before a man can DO, first of all he must BE.” I’ll leave that one sit there for what it is worth. If one were really interested, he could read Ouspensky’s account of his meeting Gurdjieff and his ideas in his book In Search of the Miraculous.

    As a popular saying has it, “we are the one’s we have been waiting for.” Well not quite. I would rather say, we could be the ones we have been waiting for if we join in the kind of transformational work necessary to discover/create a new way of dealing with our problems on Earth.

    I have written in these Orion pages quite a bit about specially designed small groups to accomplish the various stages of a constructive process to resolve the numerous problems facing our continued life on this planet. I have answered quite a few questions regarding the initial design and gathering of these creative groups in a piecemeal fashion. Recently, however it was suggested by some commenters that I put it all together in a more extended document. Being characterologically averse to working on extended writing projects, I have so far avoided doing this. I have alibied my laziness by thinking, “after all, if folks can’t take a hint from what I have put out so far, and get involved, what are the chances that they will work to create the groups I envision?”

    I am not temperamentally a salesman type. Unfortunately, most folks think they already know what small groups are, and many an other thing. This presumption of prior knowledge about a whole host of areas is the greatest obstacle to embarking upon something totally new, unexplored, and creative beyond preconceived limits. Now I feel I have gone on too long, and probably alienated anyone with the slightest interest in alternative solutions….

  46. Mike,

    I get the Gurdjieff point, but let me raise you Voltaire “Yes, but we still must plant our gardens”.

    Collective movements can change the world – Ghandi among many others have taught us that. Maybe it is not the most perfect action, maybe it did not have the most perfect outcome, but we are all better for what was accomplished. I see the value of small-group organization (it is at the heart of the affinity group concept in direct action, the CR groups of 2nd wave feminism, etc.) and I would like to read more about what you have in mind. But I also think we need larger scale collective action.

    Frankly, I don’t know that the kind of transformation of consciousness that you are talking about can exist without being part of a larger movement, in all it’s imperfections. Being a part of a movement for change can be an incredibly powerful force for changing consciouness.

    What I still don’t quite understand is what these small groups you are talking about will do – other than the vague idea that somehow out of them will come new ideas. Which is great – we desparately need new ideas – but in the meantime, a planet is being destroyed as we speak, so lets also work on the actions we know do some good. Or at least, lets not trash someone for thinking of a concrete plan.


  47. Plowboy,

    Another thought that came to me after reading Amartya Sen last night.

    Democracy and elections do matter – if for no other reason than the fact that there has never been a famine in a democratic country with a free press. This is pretty well documented historically, at least in the last 200 years or so -famine only happens in autocratic regimes, or colonial dependancies. India, despite being extremely poor and having had some major crop failures and other economic and social disasters, has not had a famine since independance, because democratic elections have made sure that government has an incentive to prevent large numbers of people from starving.

    So elections do matter, even if they are flawed and corrupted.


  48. John — The small groups I envision would be interested in planting gardens, a la JM Greer’s Green Wizards project, and also involved in creating a large movement — of small groups. AA is an example of a movement affecting millions, composed of small groups.

    As I see it, people need to undergo a deep change in several dimensions of themselves in order to become the true and effective agents of the kind of actions needed to usher in a new and better world. The sorrowful results in India following Gandhi’s death, were largely the result of his extremely numerous followers being unable to follow his example of rigorous personal practise in self transformation. Hence they were woefully unprepared to follow in his footsteps. (I am fully aware of the other causes for the disaster of Partition and other misfortunes that have befallen India.)

    I pointed out in a recent post that most Americans, even the “educated” (in some ways especially them) are woefully ignorant concerning the global disaster in progress, and its real deep causes. One basic function of small group study would be to counter the delusions and misinformation common among us. We did not learn in school the things we really need to develop in order to survive as a species. Neither do the Media or our so-called leaders know this crucial information. It is past time to confront Reality. Small intensive groups can foster this second education (in many ways so contrary to the first one foisted on us).

    Above is a sketch of the first step of awakening from our fatal trance. There are further essential steps, but without the willingness to engage this first one, the others would be beyond our reach. Thanks for your interest, John. I am fully aware of the difficulty for most folks of even considering that some of the most basic truths are things they have yet to learn. How to invite some of them to that possibility would need another post. If we could sit together for a couple of hours and converse, I might be able to give you a clearer idea of what I have in mind, and its feasibility. Some things are hard to deliver in the unforgiving finality of print. It makes you seem inflexible, even if you are far from that….

  49. John….careful now, I didn’t say elections don’t matter (at least I don’t think I did). My point is that the idea that either of the two current major political parties have any other concern than staying in power, or that there is a victory to be had on choosing one over the other, is a flawed theory.

    Interesting observation on democracy and food. I’ve not read Sen, but I’m afraid that is not correct from my point of view. The Confederacy suffered, by any definition, a famine throughout most of the war years, and even after those states had technically rejoined the union. I guess that you could argue that there was martial law imposed throughout much of the South, both during and after the war, but there were free elections. Too, you’d not convince any displaced person of the dustbowl years that they weren’t in the midst of a famine. There certainly was a political component to that disaster as well.


  50. There is a difference between persistant food-shortages and actual famine (where a significant portion of the population actually starves to death).

    I am not sure what the numbers on teh confederacy are, but that was a situation of a population under a major war and martial law, as you say (not to mention the slave population under the confederacy). Post-war, much of the population was disenfranchised and under occupation – much like Ireland during the potato famine.

    As for the dustbowl – it is actually surprising how few people died of starvation during that period (though several thousand died of dust pneumonia). There were enough relief efforts to prevent wholescale famine in the region. People were hungry, and 2.5 million left the region, but the numbers that actually died from starvation were low.


  51. I am glad Derrick Jensen took this tack, but I do not believe our current civilization can be reformed. We need to part ways with all the concepts that have informed the entire history of civilization–the central governments, standing armies, macro-economies that have defined the entire history of civilization and move toward a post industrial, decentralized, peaceable, democratic organization of society. Industrial civilization is on an inevitable destructive course. It is inherently unsustainable and cannot be redeemed by legislation, especially when the fox is guarding the henhouse, when there is a revolving door between the USDA and Monsanto (a practice of the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations–and for any starry-eyed Obama supporters still left out there, keep in mind it is his government that lied about the severity of the Gulf oil spill). Few of you may notice but we are actually in the midst of industrial collapse. As evidenced by the Gulf disaster, the nuke disaster in Japan, the system is breaking down helped along by increasingly violent weather and earthquakes and tsunamis. Nature is winning and for this to be win-win for humans, a sustainable way of life, steady state economy, and a way of organizing human society that respects nature’s arrangements is the only way out for humanity. So we better “get it” because nature will win out, with or without us. Or as Ken Kesey once said, “You are either on the bus, or off the bus.”

  52. Griz — What you say makes a lot of sense to me. I wish more people would wake up and jump off that “civilization” bus that’s bound for hell in a hurry. But this time let’s get on a vehicle that’s not running on magic cool-aid. That trip left the dreams out in space, and lots of wreckage on the ground. Maybe we learned some things? I sure hope so, because this trip is way too important to blow.

    Most folks are completely out of touch with the realities of Planetary Initiation. They think that this must be some New Agey delusion or crackpot occultism. The simple fact is that we on Earth are now facing exactly that situation. The evolution of intelligence on any planet in the Universe inevitably reaches a stage where the Power unleashed by their growing knowledge exceeds the capacity of those manifesting it to wisely utilize it. Unless this situation is resolved in a timely manner, that population will destroy themselves, and forfeit the opportunity to develop further and join the community of more highly evolved intelligences.

    The necessary first step towards planetary salvation is for a significant number of persons to awaken to the impending doom, and take effective measures to avert it. The means to effect this first step are not beyond the present abilities of any one not too deeply asleep in cultural lies and delusions. Small groups of such persons can be designed to attract and educate others, with the potential to become a movement with sufficient numbers and innovative solutions to meet the world crisis. A fundamental illusion is that ordinary people are powerless and incapable of making a real difference. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that nothing other than this will be capable of meeting our pressing need.

  53. Mike K–The Ken Kesey allusion in no way implies another electric kool-aid acid test. I just like the quote and it works for me. The ‘bus” we need to get on is one bound for a sustainable and democratic re-organization of human society that respects nature’s arrangements.

  54. Griz — I did not mean to imply that your Kesey quote put you in the position of a 60’s throwback. I am still a fan of Kesey, in spite of all that unfolded from the unstable mixture of idealism and craziness back then — after all I was a part of that. The evolution of a true revolution is bound to go through some unsuccessful experiments in its course. So much the better to learn from. We could use some of the energy that motivated folks back then. Breaking out of the lukewarm doldrums we are stuck in now will take some fire.

    I do agree with the direction you are pointing to. It will take some hard rowing to fight our way clear of the deadly currents of our present misdirections. The falls of our oblivion are much nearer than most realize….

  55. mike k–I think what your posts are saying is that we cannot rely on government or legislation to point us in the right direction. If I am optimistic about anything is that much good is happening below the radar–individuals, small groups, NGOs, whole communities are actually doing things–planting gardens, starting CSAs,carrying out the technology transfer to renewable energy all without government help. I think you are also saying that for this to happen humans will need to evolve and that evolution will be a consciousness evolution. I do not mean to be warm and fuzzy in making this point. It will require of us a rigor and self-discipline unprecedented, but this should be joyful and fun not dour and puritanical. But it will take effort and realism, rather than runaway idealism.

  56. I think Derrick Jensen is an interesting thinker. But this piece is an amazing exercise in total naivete. How are we to understand society today with such an a-historical analysis, so oblivious of class consciousness?

    The question to be addressed is how did the present society develop, and what do we have to do to get rid of it? Of course, “this culture [read: system] is functionally, inherently, systematically unjust and unsustainable.” Previously, Derrick Jensen has been known for saying that civilization itself is unsustainable. But now, in this essay, he proposes a “legislative” solution which (unless this is a joke… on me and others like me) can only be called unrealistic capitalist utopianism on steroids.

    The present system is controlled lock stock and barrel by the very corporations that are raping and plundering the earth. These corporations also control the political system. In fact, the political system is their state, not ours. When you think about it, they (the corporations/banks/capitalist ruling class) have all the control, and we have none. How different, for instance, is our political system from say Hosni Mubarak’s, the former Egyptian tyrant? We have two parties? Both of these parties conspire to keep all third parties out of the debates, and both take a commanding lead through corporate donations, which have just been strengthened by the legal system (the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United) which, low and behold, is also part and parcel of the capitalist state. “Legislative” solutions have about as much chance as a drop of cold water in a hot frying pan.

    I used to think that Jensen was at the very least a realist, for thinking that the present system is unsustainable. The present system is indeed unsustainable, and will drive us all (starting with the animals but also including us humans) to extinction very soon, unless we overthrow it. But the present system is not necessarily the same as “civilization.” Human beings make their own history, but they make it in light of their past inheritances and experiences. Suppose we were to wake up and break from those past experiences, and revolutionize society according to a conscious design in which the true relationship of man and nature was reestablished? This is what Marx and Engels wanted. Think we can’t do it? We made the mess we’re in didn’t we? So why can’t we unmake it?

    I wish you all well. But it is clear that the only road out for humanity is revolutionary socialism: we overthrow capitalism, and we re-design society in accordance with the preservation of both humans and nature. Nothing else will do. Violence might be involved. Sorry, but get real.

    — Comradely greetings, Chris Kinder

  57. Hey, we snagged a Marxist! :-) Welcome, Chris. It’s a pleasure to hear from you. You are quite right to be shocked by this silliness from Jensen; many of us here are. Maybe you are right, it’s a joke. We can always hope.

    The rest of your solution seems as whimsical as Jensen’s. I used to live in a country that had overthrown capitalism. It did not work out very well. ‘Sides… human troubles did not begin with the birth of capitalism a couple of centuries ago… they began a few thousand years ago… as you would see from the study of the late Neolithic. All the best to you, comrade, and come back any time.

  58. Dear Friends, Yes it’s true that, “human troubles did not begin with the birth of capitalism a couple of centuries ago… they began a few thousand years ago… as you would see from the study of the late Neolithic.” Human troubles have a long history, under various class-divided societies, starting with the first class division, that between men and women. The earliest agricultural societies as in ancient Mesopotamia, for instance, pretty much wrecked their local ecosystems.

    But capitalism? This one wrecks ecosystems for lunch. By driving up the rate of exploitation of labor, and the expropriation of nature, into unheard of heights globally, capitalism has changed the game big time. Now it’s not just local ecosystems, but the whole biosphere that’s at stake.

    But you know this. What country did you live in, Vera, that overthrew capitalism, and what went wrong? Have you looked at the writings of Trotsky, co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution of 1917, who analyzed how Stalinism betrayed the revolution there?

    Just as the bourgeois revolution had mistakes and setbacks, so too the workers’ socialist revolution has historic twists and turns. My hope is, we can work these out and move forward to a truly Marxist socialist revolution that can save humanity and the planet.

    Comradely, Chris

  59. Levity aside people, please don’t let’s get sidetracked into another dual between ‘systems’. We have far too much of this already and all it does is strap every able-bodied mind to a pendulum which, being a pendulum, can only swing to and fro; marking time, but little else.

    The ‘system’ is a red herring. It’s completely irrelevant (which is what makes Jensen’s present lapse all the more disturbing). Gandhi nailed it: “Good government is no substitute for self-government.” In a collective comprised of self-governing individuals, ANY system can be made to work. It’s no more than a procedural framework, after all.

    It’s human nature that’s at the foundation of our present mess. It’s our immaturity, our childish inability to accept full responsibility for our actions and their consequences, our weakness when it comes to maintaining principles in the face of fear, intimidation or the temptations of self-indulgence, our reluctance to face what’s in the mirror and deal with it, our apathy and disinterest, our fear of diversity and difference which manifests as arrogance and disdain, through intolerance, all the way to genocide.

    The revolution that’s needed here is the one that heralds The Age of Self-Government. Anything else is just a swing of the pendulum: same play, different actors.

  60. “It’s human nature that’s at the foundation of our present mess.”

    Wendy, I am not sure what you mean by human nature. Homo sapiens existed for 2 MM years. Civ has been around 6,000. What human nature?

  61. “Wendy, I am not sure what you mean by human nature. Homo sapiens existed for 2 MM years. Civ has been around 6,000. What human nature?”

    Human nature? Who and what we are, physically, psychologically and spiritually!! The range of behaviour open to us by virtue of that nature, and the choices we make within the contexts we find ourselves in.

    What’s ‘civilisation’? It’s just a collective noun to describe the behaviour and achievements of a large group of human beings. It has no independent existence – no ‘thingness’ – of its own. It’s the sum of its constituents, nothing more, nothing less.

    The same applies to ‘capitalism’ or ‘communism’ or any other schism. Boil it down to basics and it’s just a bunch of people getting together and agreeing to abide by a certain set of ideas (or a self-selecting elite deciding to impose those ideas on everyone around them).

    What determines the success or failure of any ‘system’ is not the strength of the ideas. Ideas are just ideas: they don’t grow food, build shelters, share, trade, cooperate, disagree, fight, injure or kill each other. It’s PEOPLE that do that!

    If people can’t govern their own behaviour, what possible hope can there be that any system of ‘government’ comprising such individuals would behave any differently than they do? If those same individuals are not even aware that they have a nature that requires governing … then we really are in trouble!

  62. Wendy – you say that human nature is at the center of our current mess… so, I ask you “Who are we.” “what is this human nature that has created such a mess?”

  63. “Wendy – you say that human nature is at the center of our current mess… so, I ask you “Who are we.” “what is this human nature that has created such a mess?””

    @kulturCritic, without a tedious and wholly unnecessary essay on the entire range of human behaviour which is amply evident in any form or format in which people express themselves, maybe you could focus on what immediately followed my initial statement, viz “It’s our immaturity, our childish inability to accept full responsibility for our actions and their consequences, our weakness when it comes to maintaining principles in the face of fear, intimidation or the temptations of self-indulgence, our reluctance to face what’s in the mirror and deal with it, our apathy and disinterest, our fear of diversity and difference which manifests as arrogance and disdain, through intolerance, all the way to genocide.”

    It’ll do for starters …

  64. Wendy — I am in consonance with much that you shared. Plato said, the State (culture) is the individual writ large. Others have opined that the government we have is the one we deserve. At any rate, I feel that a better world can only be created by better people. External rearrangements will never solve our problems. Pogo was right, we have met the enemy, and it is us. The guys in a prison group I took part in came up with this: If you are in a mess, YOU are the mess you are in. This is a basic understanding of AA, and indeed of all spiritual paths.

    I agree with your inventory of our many personal defects. My question to you is: by what process are we to become “self-governing” individuals? Also, what arrangements are such evolved individuals likely to create in order to share our planet in peace and mutual prosperity? And I would be interested to hear your profile of the self-governing individual? Thanks for your insightful comments.

  65. Wendy — I posted before reading your interesting dialog with kulture critic. I would say to kc, we are fucked….unless….we do something about it, and pronto.

  66. @mike k, your guys were right, and @kc, if that’s all humanity amounted to then we really would be f*cked.

    As I see it, no ‘evolution’ is necessary. We are already everything we need to be. All that’s necessary is that we wake up to the fact and reclaim it. Take responsibility for it, rather than pushing it away and trying to make it someone else’s problem. Responsibility = response-ability.

    And as for the process, it’s already underway, and has been since time immemorial. It’s called growing up or, if you want to use psycho-speak, the process of individuation. It’s encapsulated in the myths of the hero’s journey found in every culture on Earth. None of us can duck it because our lives continually deliver up exactly the challenges we individually need. What we can do though, and have been doing to a progressively greater extent the more we’ve dropped the cultural rituals and markers that used to speak to this process, is to ignore it, deny it, rationalise it away as unrealistic, unscientific mythical twaddle, medicate it away, insulate ourselves from it under the guise of ‘health and safety’, or otherwise distance ourselves from it with a raft of excuses as to why it shouldn’t be personally applicable. The thing is through, the more we do that, the greater the challenges become until we’re finally forced to face up to them …

    What would a society of grown-ups look like? I imagine, much as it did 250-odd years ago. I posted this quote from Lame Deer a way back on this thread, but it’s worth repeating:

    “Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. Without a prison, there can be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.”

  67. Wendy – I cannot disagree with your last post. I would only recommend you glance at the following monograph.

    Hierarchy, Equality, and the Sublimation of Anarchy: The Western Illusion of Human Nature

  68. Wendy — I hope you are OK with some friendly, hopefully constructive critique?

    “As I see it, no ‘evolution’ is necessary. We are already everything we need to be. All that’s necessary is that we wake up to the fact and reclaim it.” In the words of my (East) Indian teachers: I am That, You are That, All of this is That, And there is nothing other than That. (And that’s That!) By That they mean that ultimately indefinable Divine Reality which is the real foundation and meaning of everything we can be aware of. So done, case closed.

    Not quite. There remains the situation that almost all of us are totally unaware of That, and our unfortunate behavior is ample testimony to that fact. The basic problem of embodied intelligent life is to gain the foregoing Realization, and live among each other on the basis of that Realization. It must be understood that this Realization is not at all a mere matter of intellectual assent or understanding, but a shift in consciousness that reveals a hidden world of Love, Beauty, and Power.

    The point is that throughout history it has been understood that Realization is the supreme goal of intelligent life, and it ain’t cheap. This is the rationale for the variety of Paths and their practices, designed over the centuries to assist those drawn to this heroic endeavor. I don’t think Joe Campbell would disagree with me on this. To drop the whole machinery of our acquired ego is not a snap course, hence the small number who have actually managed it to some significant degree.
    I hope my remarks do not strike you as fanciful or irrelevant. I am quite serious, and I feel that grasping the difficulty of the task ahead of us to unsnarl and heal the tremendous negative karma we have inherited and are perpetuating will require a realistic appreciation of what we are up against. On the other hand I believe we have the tools to do the job if we are willing to take them up.

    I do not mean to say that considerable progress cannot be made, even by the least among us towards the supreme goal. Even a little of this medicine can achieve great healing.

  69. @mike k – In a word, yes. I’m very familiar with what you’re speaking about (indeed have spent decades immersed in it and many other similar viewpoints, working towards a rationalisation of all world views, which is how I’ve come to increasingly more simple formulations that many mistake for naivety :-)

    The thing is, the Eastern world view can get as vastly overcomplicated and sophisticated as the Western world view is wont to do. Homo orientalis is no less prone to drama addition, delusions, misapprehensions and power trips than Homo occidentalis, and the establishment of spiritual hierarchy necessarily requires that you hype it up to the eyeballs and promulgate the illusion that That is something out of reach of ‘ordinary’ mortals. Ooops, there swings the pendulum again …

    I’m not convinced most of us are totally unaware of That. Far from it, in fact. It all depends on how you contextualise the question and the language you use to do so. In the last few decades it’s a question I’ve asked an awful lot of people in a lot of different ways and I tend to meet with either acquiescence or outright denial, not the incomprehension that would signify a genuine lack of awareness. If you follow the premises of the Eastern world view and accept that individuality is relative and contingent and that at some level, consciousness is a continuum, then this is something every person not only CAN become aware of (by virtue of being conscious), but usually already is. The problem in the West is more that we lack the framework to hang these experiences on in order to validate, integrate and understand them. Often all that’s necessary is to give someone ‘permission’ to speak about them.

    The West is woefully underequipped to deal with this dimension of our existence. The priesthood of organised religions don’t tend to ‘allow’ such experiences in those who aren’t card-carrying members, and the scientific priesthood don’t ‘allow’ them at all. So it becomes something we keep to ourselves or rationalise away as imagination or misapprehension. Or we sign up for the Eastern route or some New Age confection and make a career out of making it all as dramatic and difficult as possible. (As for ego, it has a vital function in maintaining the integrity of the individual. It becomes problematic only when it attempts to assume the role of master rather than servant, so I’d caution against following any exhortation to rid yourself of its entire machinery.)

    At the end of the day, it’s all beautifully simple. It always is. We don’t even have to DO anything. We just have to be what we are, and in being so, we have no option but to be instruments of That. Or did you really think the thoughts in your head were yours alone?!!

  70. Chris: “Human troubles have a long history, under various class-divided societies, starting with the first class division, that between men and women. The earliest agricultural societies as in ancient Mesopotamia, for instance, pretty much wrecked their local ecosystems.”

    That’s not a very long history. Going back 10,000 years, that’s only 5% of our species history. Maybe less, if a longer sapiens timeline emerges from studies. Before that, we were more or less egalitarian, more or less did not wreck ecosystems, did not wage wars (tho there always were skirmishes) and did not have the fabulously wealthy oppressing everybody else. And populations were more or less stable.

    “But capitalism? This one wrecks ecosystems for lunch.” But isn’t that just what was already going on in Mesopotamia, scaled up via technology and oil?

    “What country did you live in, Vera, that overthrew capitalism, and what went wrong? Have you looked at the writings of Trotsky, co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution of 1917, who analyzed how Stalinism betrayed the revolution there?”

    Czechoslovakia. What went wrong? People who thought they knew better than other people, got into power, wrecked the old system, created a shitty new system, and eventually ran out of plunder and out of patience of the population. Without the Soviet Big Stick, it was a house of cards. And no, I don’t think Trotsky woulda done it better. Once you drag out the old shiny boot to force your fellows to make your ideals happen, human hell results.

    I would be delighted if you took a peek at my favorite somewhat-disillusioned Marxist on my blog.

  71. “Human troubles have a long history, under various class-divided societies, starting with the first class division, that between men and women. The earliest agricultural societies as in ancient Mesopotamia, for instance, pretty much wrecked their local ecosystems.” That’s not a very long history. Going back 10,000 years, that’s only 5% of our species history. Maybe less, if a longer sapiens timeline emerges from studies. Before that, we were more or less egalitarian, more or less did not wreck ecosystems, did not wage wars (tho there always were skirmishes) and did not have the fabulously wealthy oppressing everybody else. And populations were more or less stable.

    “But capitalism? This one wrecks ecosystems for lunch.” But isn’t that just what was going on in Mesopotamia, scaled up via technology and oil?

    “What country did you live in, Vera, that overthrew capitalism, and what went wrong? Have you looked at the writings of Trotsky, co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution of 1917, who analyzed how Stalinism betrayed the revolution there?”

    Czechoslovakia. What went wrong? People who thought they knew better than other people, got into power, wrecked the old system, created a shitty new system, and eventually ran out of plunder and out of patience of the population. Without the Soviet Big Stick, it was a house of cards. And no, I don’t think Trotsky woulda done it better. Once you drag out the old shiny boot to force your fellows to make your ideals happen, human hell results.

    I would be delighted if you took a peek at my favorite disillusioned Marxist on my blog.

    (I apologize if this is a duplicate. My first posting vanished.)

  72. Wendy, as I see it human nature is not far removed from chimpanzee (our first cousins, slightly removed) nature. And of course no discernable human evolution is possible on even a millenial scale. Subtle cultural changes maybe. This is what everybody’s talking about when they refer to evolution.
    I like your image of the pendulum simply marking time – yes equals no, and here we are. It’s time we made the best of it.

  73. Wendy — “At the end of the day, it’s all beautifully simple. It always is. We don’t even have to DO anything. We just have to be what we are, and in being so, we have no option but to be instruments of That. Or did you really think the thoughts in your head were yours alone?!!

    For me, to think that there is nothing for me to do in a world that needs so much done is a very disempowering thought. Also to think that meditation, study, service to others is unnecessary flies in the face of millennia of wisdom teaching about the importance of following a spiritual path. Spiritual growth just does not come that cheaply. Your remarks remind me of “teachings” I heard from hippie gurus in the sixties. With all respect, I just don’t buy it.

  74. kultureCritic — Sahlins seems a typical academic, in that he takes pages and pages of irrelevant erudition to finally state a simple truth in his final paragraph: That we are primarily what culture has made us. I have spent too much ink in these pages already making the same point about the “human nature” canard, without taking and ungodly amount of time to do it. Oh well, I suppose paid intellectuals have to do their thing. Thanks for sharing it anyway. The Greek history was interesting.

  75. @mike k, you misunderstand what I’m trying to convey. The last thing I’m advocating is sitting around gazing at your navel with a flower up your nose. ‘Being’, as opposed to ‘doing’, is not a passive occupation. Far from it. It’s difficult to convey these ideas in this medium, but I’ll try and summarise as briefly as possible. Take it as read that there are truckloads of subtle nuances.

    We’re here on this forum avidly discussing what the hell we ‘do’ about the mess we’ve got the planet and ourselves into, trying to come up with workable ideas while taking Jensen’s apart, getting hung up on ‘system’s and their various merits and demerits, etc, etc, as if it’s all down to us to come up with a solution and put it into action.

    In being what we are – cells in the body of the planet, coalescences of consciousness, however you want to formulate the relative and contingent nature of our individuality – we have no option but to do exactly what the planet’s homeostatic mechanisms are directing us to do. We just have to follow the path and perform the actions that the deep urges within each of us are prompting us towards. But the longer we cling onto the idea of ‘doing’ the more we get in our own way, the more we labour under the misapprehension that our woefully inadequate intellects are up to the task (which is simply another instance of ego overstepping its bounds), and the less we actually achieve.

    In ‘being’, taking care of others is a given too – it’s part of our nature as social beings. We do it without thinking. It’s when we start thinking that problems arise. Perform whatever spiritual practice you need to to get out of your own way and drop your conditioning. It can be as complex or as simple as you like or need. But in the simplicity of ‘being’ lies a far more elegant solution than the ones buzzing around in the ‘doing’.

    It might all a bit seem paradoxical, but as Niels Bohr famously said, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

  76. I find this article relatively weak compared to the otherwise very cutting and direct criticism of Jensen. In former columns his arguments were directed at that political action, regulations, authoritarian rulership does not lead us anywhere. Even though this was meant as a thought experiment and it is reasonable to assume that the author and most of the readers do not really believe in it coming real, it nevertheless leaves a feeling of credibility to regulations and proper laws to hold the possibility of saving the planet from destruction. This is what environmentalists of all sorts dig and what caused things like the EPA, Greenpeace and the WWF (meant in this context as negative examples of watered down environmentalism!). The head on a pike comment was more what I would have expected.

    The underlying concept is interesting though – the natural concept that each one should be fully responsible for his actions, even if that action was part of a larger operation makes very much sense. Though of course it loops back to lifestyle choices as it comes back to individual purity. How can I call for machine operators or accountants of a corporation to take part of the blame if I myself am also complicit by buying their products? Lifestylism is not the solution and Jensen already wrote about that, so in a way this leaves me puzzled – where is the line to be drawn between those who are to blame and have to pay in case of a disaster because they “did their jobs” and those who can rightfully say that they were “just doing their jobs” without taking the blame?
    There is no clear distinction in the article, so I find it very confusing and overall one of the weaker ones from Jensen.

  77. Wendy, you say: “In being what we are – cells in the body of the planet, coalescences of consciousness, however you want to formulate the relative and contingent nature of our individuality – we have no option but to do exactly what the planet’s homeostatic mechanisms are directing us to do. We just have to follow the path and perform the actions that the deep urges within each of us are prompting us towards. But the longer we cling onto the idea of ‘doing’ the more we get in our own way, the more we labour under the misapprehension that our woefully inadequate intellects are up to the task (which is simply another instance of ego overstepping its bounds), and the less we actually achieve.”

    The problem is that we do have other options than the preferred one you have indicated, and we are relentlessly pursuing them. As indicated by Sandra’s article in this issue of Orion, the directors of Monsanto show little intention to stop poisoning us all. The American military continues to operate under the aim of achieving “full spectrum dominance” and destroying or enslaving all who oppose it. I am sure you can think of numerous unhealthy options being enacted by agents in our world today. It seems unlikely to me that folks are going to change their harmful behaviors just because I have decided to be on the basis of the homeostatic mechanisms of the planet urging me to do so.

    I have problems with checking my intellect at the door in order to enter an unthinking state of being mysteriously informed by planetary vibrations. I believe we are going to need our best thinking, as well as other resources to confront the complex web of difficulties we are facing. Intellect is like other powers: it can be used skillfully and constructively or it can be used poorly and destructively. It is up to us to discriminate, and choose the former.

    Your prescription for living in today’s world has failed to hint at any methodology for propagating it to others, or methods by which people could enter what in fact would be a rather distant and rare state compared to what they have up to now experienced and acted from. Therefore I must take your ideas as a wishful daydream, rather than a practical program.

  78. Sorry Wendy, my computer failed to transmit the last paragraph of my little rant. Which said:

    I do not wish to be harsh in criticizing your ideas, but clarity about these crucial matters is really important. There are many fruitless bypaths in the search for the real solutions we desperately need, and we cannot be too distracted by them if we hope to exit the morass we have created in our world. I respect you and welcome your comments, but I do have reservations about some of your ideas.

  79. flares — Thanks for your input. I agree completely with your comments.

  80. @mike k, once again you seem to be taking off in all manner of directions from the launch-pad of my response. However, those directions are neither intrinsic nor implicit in what I wrote. Nothing I said precludes the kind of actions you seem to have in mind, but if you prefer to believe they do and pass judgement accordingly you are, of course, perfectly at liberty to :-) Namaste, brother!

  81. The value of Derrick Jensen is that of a warner, an awakener, one who shakes us out of our comfortable slumbers, as Paul Revere is said to have done on his famous midnight ride. This is not an inconsiderable service. It is vitally necessary. But in addition to this, he points out the nature of the enemy and why it is dangerous to our very survival. And since many are still convinced that civilization is their greatest friend and resource, he reveals that the one they thought to be their salvation is actually the agency of their doom. That’s quite a lot of new and startling information to deliver to a world asleep in its long night of cultural dreaming. I think he has done a great job on this mission, but he needs our help.

    I can see small groups springing up to read his books and discuss them, and then go on to consider and develop ideas and actions to deal with the unfolding crisis that is our world today. As far as solutions, I don’t think that is DJ’s long suit, his vague ideas about sabotage and violent overthrow are something out of an old anarchist cookbook — they just plain won’t work. Sorry, it is going to be up to us to come up with better ways to deconstruct the dysfunctional aspects of society. Nevertheless, thanks Derrick for trying to light a fire under us to get us away from out TV’s and get busy saving our world before it is too late. What if folks had gotten together with others and devised ways to derail Hitler before he became unstoppable? Who knows? It sure as hell would have been worth a try. Bonhoeffer and his guys were way late to the game. Let’s get something going before things happen that may foreclose our options…

  82. Wendy — I respect and admire your ability to respond to critical commentary with grace and a lack of rancor. I am still working on that myself, and am learning from you. We each have chosen different means and developed our own understandings on our journeys. There is no reason that our differences should cloud our realization that at deep levels we are moving in the same direction in spite of surface variations. I respect your ideas and hope they are serving you well. I feel we are comrades on our journeys towards greater truth.

  83. @mike k – Rancour?! Oh goodness I long ago gave up taking myself seriously 😉 It’s far more fun if you don’t. Same direction? Undoubtedly.

    Incidently, with the likes of Monsanto and the military it’s as well to remember they’re hanging on by the skin of their teeth and running scared. Their time’s up and they know it. That’s why they’re behaving the way they are – trying to cement as much control as they can into a system that’s already crumbling. But the more outrageous their demands become, the more they hasten their own demise. Their ‘power’ is entirely dependent on a combination of civil obedience and the intimidation Goliath brings to bear on David. But we all know how that story turned out …

  84. Wendy — I don’t know if you are familiar with the short pieces by Malcolm Gladwell appearing in the New Yorker, but here is one that contains important hints as to how we might bring some aspects of the classic fight between David and Goliath into the struggle to depose Monsanto and other corporate Goliaths….

  85. @Chris (1)

    Funny, the “head on a pike” comment was one of my favorite part…

  86. Misko — How about “streets running with blood.” Does that turn you on? (Maybe in caps? I chickened out on the caps…)

  87. @mike k

    you mentioned:

    “Misko — How about “streets running with blood.” Does that turn you on?”

    you mean like what these people are responsible for, like normal civilized life, like the streets of Irak and Afghanistan where they murder children, men and women for the psychopaths who profit from this daily carnage, like the millions of indigenous children, women and men of this Turtle Island aka America slaughtered for those who promote and enforce and profit from this genocide?

    That’s why I like the image of these psychopaths getting a taste of what they’ve done and what they keep doing. I can’t stand these brutal cold calculating murderers and I have no pity for them and for whoever protects them.

  88. Misko — I’m glad you are angry at the right people. I wouldn’t be comfortable being in your sights. I have often been full of anger at these folks myself. But my question to you (and Derrick) is: Do you really think killing is the only effective way to achieve the changes we seek in society? Or does history tell us that the cycle of idealistic revolutions overturning tyrannies only results in new tyrannies arising? Is it possible for us to create a new way(s) of ushering in a better world for all?

  89. Hi, mike k

    here’s what I think, but I’ll let Derrick say it, as he put it clearly and concisely here:

    “To bring down civilization involves six different broad categories of work:

    1- The personal work. We need to change ourselves. Not only must we reject the reward system of capitalism, but we must attempt to eradicate oppression wherever we find it. We must eradicate the desire to dominate, exploit, use

    2- We need to relieve pain. Civilization and the civilized continue to create a world of wounds, and we all desperately need to apply salve, to put on
    healing hands.

    3- We must defend against the attacks of the civilized: filing lawsuits attempting to force those in power to follow their own laws, publicly exposing the actions of the despoilers and so on.

    4- We must also do the work of restoring the damage caused by this way of life.

    5- We must do preparative work, that is, we must also prepare for future attacks, we must prepare to fight back, and we must prepare ourselves and others for civilization’s collapse. Flexibility must, I believe, underlie much of our work in preparing for whatever happens.

    6- We must also take the offensive. We must not let those in power continue to hack with impunity at whatever fragments of ecological or communal integrity
    remain. We must strike at the root of their capacityto do this great damage. We must bring down not only the physical infrastructure that allows them to commit these grest atrocities, but also the destructive mindset that has created this infrastructure. We must attack on all fronts, wherever and whenever we find the

    I got this from “Endgame vol 2″

  90. Wow, so far it seems to be mostly just me, but I have no issue with Derrick pointing out what should be obvious. If we all weren’t so brainwashed into believing that the commons is something that brown people/ third world people/ poor people are stuck with, and not us, not our debt or responsibility, then we might be able to make that leap of paradigm. I’ve found paradigm shifts quite useful in my own life, and also useful in helping others expand their views at times. I really think that Derrick was just stating this obviousness.

    So did a shift happen? Not seeing it at all. He seems to be the writer others love to hate, the one to deviate from for group cred. I’m not getting why it’s so important to distance selves from Jensen’s writings.

    And it’s not that I’m promoting Loyalism. It’s that when we’re ostensibly on the same side, and yet so easily divided, so ready with criticism sans any sense of community or ‘we’ to it, we’re weakened. And why are we abetting our enemies so well?

  91. Oh, and I love how anger removes any last vestige of activist credibility. How different would the Americas have been over the last centuries if indigenous people had seen the danger and killed the conquerors?

    It takes all, but I just never seem to hear advocates of armed resistance belittling pacifists in the way the reverse is true. A lot of that is class privilege in action. It’s easy to keep the fight in words when it’s not you n’ yours on the line; there is a useful creativity, even sometimes a beneficial recklessness, that comes from having little or nothing to lose.

    Ain’t gonna be the middle class that foments any sort of real revolution. It will be the joined forces of the disenfranchised, foremost. Thrills me to know that it will be joined, however, by middling-classers who are rogues and rebels and outsiders often to their own. That “destructive mindset” appeases by doling out privilege. But there’s proof enough that it isn’t irresistable, not at all.

  92. I’m wildly disappointed in this article. A LEGISLATIVE SOLUTION???? C’mon!!! Jensen knows how the system works, and that caution is routinely thrown to the wind when it comes to technology and profits. The “head on a… pike” comment was the only part of the whole article where anything resembling realistic solution was offered. Seriously, if this is the voice of deep green resistance, we really are fucked – really, really hard. He’s offering a soft, civilized solution. I feel like this article is even contradictory to his Endgame premises.
    This is just sad.

  93. What an awesome thought, if only it were true, Derrick Jenson, keep writing, please. It’s time to have an all out assault on the environment, and poor, hey! Well, we shall notice what’s up, what goes down, what dies in the oceans, the forests, what animals can be saved, among us humans as well.

  94. Misko — Synchronicity (Jung) gets pretty weird sometimes. A couple of days ago I had an impulse to pull Endgame down from the shelf above my reading chair, where it had been peacefully resting since I read it a few years ago. I just popped it open at random and there was the six points you shared in your comment. I actually thought about sharing it on Orion, as you have, but just let it slide. I really admire Derrick’s work, and that six point summary is excellent. Thanks for carrying through on what I didn’t do. (Are we linked on some sort of activists inner plane?)

    My problem is with step six. Where he advocates bringing down the infrastructure. The ideas he shares in endgame are how to bring down cell phone towers, dams, the electrical grid, and the internet. The only one of these that would have a really powerful effect is bringing down the electrical grid. The others would cause considerable consternation, but fall far short of initiating the collapse of civilization. I watched a Nat Geo program on the consequences of a total grid takedown, in this case by a hypothetical gamma ray burst from a nearby star exploding. We don’t tend to realize how dependent we are on electricity, even for food. The Nat Geo scenario was that within a few months tens of millions in the USA alone would die, and a Mad Max scenario would unfold. This is not my idea of how to create a more loving and happy world.

    And BTW the aerial blast that DJ put forward as the match to ignite this holocaust would need to have a substantial nuclear trigger, not the simple gadget from Popular Mechanics that he references. The other five points he raises are right on in my book.

  95. mike k,
    I can understand not wanting people to suffer. I don’t like to see people suffer, but on the other hand, in order for this cult-of-mass-extermination to keep going there are countless people, human and nonhuman, who have been slaughtered – and the survivors forcefully assimilated – and countless are still being slaughtered and forcefully assimilated into civilization, as this is required for such a sick culture to exist…

    people are so integrated into this Death-Machine aka civilization that they prefer protecting it over a living planet. this thing should have been dismantled a long time ago, and many tried to do so.

    so I’m reduced to lighting a candle and wishing for some sort of combination of a Yellowstone Mega Volcano eruption with Mega Solar Flares and Mega Earthquakes and Tsunamis to help put an end to this insane cult that’s in the process of finishing off Life on the planet, since, in my view, if this global dominant culture keeps going it will be even worse than what Sun and Earth could do.

  96. Misko — One of the serious pitfalls on the path to envisioning and creating a better world is to fall into despair and impotent suicidal rage against the worst perpetrators of our nightmare. To pray for some Force to end it all is a symptom of this syndrome. Been there. Not a good place to visit, and impossible to live in for long. Reminds me of Jehovah getting so fed up with our mess that he decided to destroy us all (almost). For my part, I hope the Yellowstone super volcano remains merely smouldering so as to give us more time to clean up our act, and pass this crucial initiation. Seriously, the necessary first step — seeing clearly how dire our situation is — is not a place to dwell on too long, but rather an incentive to move on and seek solutions. Even Derrick has not invoked massive solar ejections and mega tsunamis as a solution to our problems. I wish the best for you; it is truly better not to lose hope.

  97. Thank you mike k,
    I’ve been waiting for this madnessivilization to jump into oblivion for about 20-25 years now. At first, the reality of this global dominant society was very hard for me to deal with and I almost did abandon. Of course, I know my wishes for Earth and Sun to intervene in the way I mentioned in my last post – because an effective resistance against civilization hasn’t yet taken form – are only wishes and so I’ve worked at building also; and I still do.

    And, I’m one of the happiest person I know. Seriously.

  98. haha good on you Derrick -;- you’ve pointed out the obvious -;- which shows up the glaring truth – which is just not even defendable or even debatable -;- i mean who could debate that without showing the agenda for what it really is -;-thank you for being you – we need voices like you in the world -;-

  99. Misko — It is good to hear you have not given in to despair. You had me worried. But I know that many of us who are deeply concerned for all the living beings of our Earth have these times of anger and sadness about all the abuses being perpetrated against the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. And these are true feelings, the cries of our Soul against all those perpetrating these crimes against the common good. We need to use the energy of our pain and anger to work harder to change the deadly course of “civilization”. It makes me happy to know that you are happy, in spite of all the dark stuff we are aware of.

  100. @Jbolden – I think I sadly have to agree – at least on this article – at least if it was meant seriously.

    @mike: You write “his vague ideas about sabotage and violent overthrow are something out of an old anarchist cookbook —they just plain won’t work. …What if folks had gotten together with others and devised ways to derail Hitler before he became unstoppable?” The problem is, that we are in a way a minority. The majority is very much caught up in civilizations delusions. This is, why DGR will never be a mass movement. This poses of course the ethical problem of it being relatively undemocratic on one side and very hard to act with nonviolent means on the other side. If a small group wants to realize its ideals against the desire of a majority, violent, organized measures are probably the “weapon of choice”. I do myself have an ethical problem with that, as this kind of action requires a justification in form of “better let a lot of people die now than even more in the future” or even ” better let many humans die and suffer now than allow ecological destruction and even more human suffering happen in the future”. Such a justification is tough and it requires a deep conviction of the reality of this situation. If this is indeed inevitable, and Derrick makes that case, then of course, this has to be averted “with all means necessary” – and even so against a vast majority of people – comparable to the masses of people in NAZI Germany who followed Hitler. The resistance there had to operate against a majority but still for a just cause.
    One has to be clear though, that this is undemocratic and basically challenges our assumption of democracy as the highest good.

    Regarding the Mad-Max scenarios after a collapsed infrastructure – IIRC Jensen accepts this as a possibility. He still regards this as a better future in the long term than “killing the planet”. He accepts the death and suffering of millions or billions, including himself as “collateral damage”. This is what makes any kind of anti civ writers extremely controversial, as obviously any major disturbances in civilization, industrialization or rapid degrowth will lead to suffering and death of mostly civilized people in a world that is massively in overshoot. The defensive argument here is, that a continuation with “business as usual” will lead to a involuntary collapse anyways with even more suffering the longer it takes. A soft landing, a voluntary change is excluded on the basis of there being no evidence for that in the past 50 years of environmentalist movement.

  101. P.S.: Of course the arguments I made in my last comment stem from Jensens books I have read. The present article seems to deviate from that a bit in that it describes exactly what was excluded before – a voluntary, slow, soft, legislative change that would solve the problem. This is what confuses me because Jensen writes over and over again, that this is not going to work.

    Of course one can argue, that this impossibility is still valid, as the thought experiment he made in the article is a form of legislature that never is going to be passed. Never.

  102. Flares — The prime manifestation of our capitulation to the Dark Side of our evolving consciousness is the belief that a better world can only be ushered in by coercion, violence, authoritarian control, or widespread catastrophe. This is the perverted philosophy/psychology of the Khemer Rouge, Stalin, Hitler, etc. The death of Love is the birth of perverted substitutes which pretend to replace it, but only lead to suffering and death. All forms of fascism are anti love, as demonstrated in Orwell’s 1984.

    But what chance do the “Children of Light” have in a struggle with the Forces of Darkness? Was the evolution of intelligence doomed to destroy itself from the beginning? Or will we find ways to transform the ordeal of this initiatory challenge into a spur for forging the inner means for our deliverance? That is The Question that hangs over the present world situation. What will prevail: domination or cooperation, hate or love? The answer is up to us. This is a must take test; there is no way to duck this potentially final exam.

  103. Couple of scattered thoughts

    Mike @86 – Paul Revere was not really “an awakener, one who shakes us out of our comfortable slumbers” except in the most literal sense. Revere and William Dawes were part of a highly organized communication network for a citizen’s militia (or resistance movement, depending on your view). When they observed movement by British troops, they set in motion a carefully planned series of actions – Revere and Dawes rode proscribed routes to Lexington, alerting select Minutemen along the way who mobilized their communities and sent of additional riders (40 in all) to other outlying communities. Contrary to the Longfellow mythology, Revere was not the sole person to mobilize a countryside, but rather a link in an organized chain. The people he woke were people who were ready and prepared to be awoken and to mobilize “on a minutes notice”.

    In other words, Revere’s ride was at the end of a long process of preparation, organizing, training, communication, discussion, and raising consciousness. It was in the context of organized collective action that had already taken place. And I know that Revere was being used as a different sort of metaphor, but I think there is an equally important metaphor about organizing.

    On the whole subject of “bringing down the system.” The problem I have is that any sort of sudden collapse is it ignores the cascading chain of events that a sudden collapse would entail – and not just in terms of human suffering.

    What happens when cooling systems start to fail in nuclear power plants? Or oil drilling platforms suddenly fail? Or a super-tankers loose navigation and steering control? And even if such disasters are averted, why do we think that millions of people who are suddenly without their traditional means of life support will quietly keel over without taking a lot of the environment with them? Think of the deforestation alone when tens of millions of people suddenly find they have no fossil fuels, and have to burn wood to stay alive through the winter. The organic gardens and self-sustaining communities that have been built could easily be swamped in the chaos and near-warfare that might result.

    I think the desire for a sudden destructive shock is ultimately looking for an easy way out. Unless you really want to wipe the slate clean with a massive extinction event and let a new stage of evolution commence, then a soft landing is goal. The alternative sounds too much like destroying the planet in order to save it.


  104. The myth of light versus darkness of good versus evil is one of the prevailing myths in our culture. But it is mostly just that – a myth. And I think Jensen is trying to say that in his books, by saying that no single means to do something is the only way to do it. That there have to be multiple approaches to a problem, some seemingly dark other seemingly light. The distinction between light and dark is one that we have learned, that has been inculturated in us. Most of us have grown up in the time of the cold war, and the rest has been raised by parents who did. In these times, certain premises were at work – good versus evil, capitalism versus communism, …
    I saw an interesting documentary on BBC called “the trap” (it is a three part series, you can find it on google videos). In it, it is explained how certain assumptions have crept into this culture. In the third part, the topic is “positive” versus “negative” freedom. One consists of liberating people in a way that enables/empowers them to do many things and erect a better world – this is often driven by a few people with a vision who then inspire more. Sometimes or often this leads to violence. Examples are Hitler, the Soviet Union but also the French revolution. In the past it has been argued that this kind of freedom always leads to violence and more opression. The BBC documentary makes a point that this is not really true. That actually the other kind of freedom, one that is promoted by neoliberals and basically aims towards individualism and individual freedom as well as the freedom of noninterference is the wrong way. This is the kind of freedom we have been taught to aspire since the 1970ies.
    What has happened is (in short), that the idea that each individual person is the primary unit of humanity, that each person is a unit, acting in its self interest and towards personal freedom and that social and political shifts and change comes from the desires of all individuals out of each individuals self interest. The movie makes it very clear that this is utterly wrong, that altruism exists, that ethics are important, and that individual choice is not the primary element of change. And science seems to back that up, as humans developed to be social animals, group oriented. It is a bit complicated, but in general it is not a good idea to reduce humans to individuals.

    I am not saying that it is ultimately a wise idea to enforce the will of DGR on the world by force, to “end industrial civilization” against the will of the vast majority. On the other hand what is the alternative in face of a dying planet. The problem is, that people are not willing to give up their lifestyles and they definitely are not willing to reduce it (no one wants to exchange western lifestyle with one resembling the average lifestyle in Bangladesh). And in the end – population overshoot even suggests that eventually the population has to decline to be sustainable and that is something people are also not willing to consider voluntarily.

    I see three ways this can go – Either somehow now (within 10-20 years) an unprecedented voluntary global change happens in which the majority of people turns into tree hugging hippies. Or either in that timeframe or after that there will be an enforced change in the way people behave – either by groups of people – either “resistance” people or politicians that leads to a sustainable way of life, demanding more or less going beyond industrial civilization. Or finally the technotopians vision is to use the best of highest modern technology to keep things going as they are now by all means. This, Jensen argues, will prolong the timeframe but eventually has to collapse. This is of course debateable.

    In any case, your point is that if one has to use violence to achieve the good goal, one has lost from the beginning because it is giving in to “the dark side” and it is “anti-love”. I think Jensen and the movie I mentioned make good arguments that it does not have to be so. Of course, I would also prefer to see a “Sunflower revolution” in which just convincing people is enough, but I think in this case it will not happen. The only way you can convince people of a more sustainable way of living is if you give them a way to do this without giving up what they perceive as advances and benefits of industrialism and even tell them that things get better.

    So people start to talk about electric cars and energy saving light bulbs and solar cell electricity as a means to do that – saying “you can have it both, a washing machine, a car, a computer, the internet AND a living planet and healthy ecologies”. The big question is, if that is possible and probable. Jensen seems to have concluded that it is not and acts upon that. In this peace however he seems to have turned away from that and suggests that given a proper legislation, it could after all work. This puzzles me a bit.

  105. Ragweed — There is always the danger when using an off the top of one’s dead metaphor, someone will call for a more precise parallelism than one intended. But Paul R, aside, what I intended was more an awakening in consciousness than being rocked out of bed by an earthquake or nuclear disaster or armed revolution. To my mind, a revolution in how people think, what they believe, and hence in their actions is what is needed. Many need to be shocked out of their complacent cultural trance in order to begin the process. Kinda like that other Paul on the road to Damascus — oops — I may be running into some superior biblical scholarship I can’t really deal with! :-)

  106. Flares — Light and darkness are merely metaphors attempting to delineate complex realities. In truth all language is merely hints that require our interpretations to become meaningful. If we expect more information or precision from language than it can deliver, then of course that is a trap with unfortunate consequences.

    As far as the usefulness or even presumed necessity of violence for evolution, I don’t buy that one. That’s the “evolution” that has brought us to the brink of self-destruction. All violent revolutions in our history have only paved the way for more profound problems and suffering. As I wrote before, exponents of violence will always justify their means with some pie-in-the-sky ends that in the end hardly are worth the sacrifice of one human life. The use of anti-life means generates a karmic shadow that poisons any supposed benefits gained thereby. Those espousing these methods of solving our problems always operate from a really short term view. Either we solve our dilemmas within a spiritual context, or we will prove ourselves unqualified to continue in existence. We are involved in an exam where it is impossible to pass by cheating, or evade the test by denying it even exists. Smiley Blanton put it very simply: Love or perish.

  107. Mike – I want to point out that Derrick uses several examples of violent changes that ended up at least better than befor. Of course in the light of overall “progress” any and all development that ever happened in the past 10000 years “paved the way to more profound problems”. That includes all violent and nonviolent changes. An example of violent change that lead up to something generally regarded as positive is the French revolution, the Invasion of NAZI Germany (after assassination attempts on Hitler failed) and even the Liberation of India from british colonialism was not without violence at all. Examples of how nonviolent change can lead up to something less desirable are Russia (the people peacefully traded a questionable regime that at least kept some equality against an capitalist oligarchy).

    I wish it would not be so, I wish, spiritual awakening would indeed happen, and all people would suddenly “get it”. If that is the only way, then I guess we are so screwed.

    I do not think the Native Americans or the indigenous of Brazil or Africa are “tainted with bad karma” for defending their sane way of life with violence.

    As I said, I would love if it would work that way – do some sit-ins, pray, chant and hold up posters, write letters to politicians and officials, tell them how wrong they are and they listen and believe it… But I see not a shred of evidence that anytime soon the majority of people and especially the majority of people in power have a “consciousness shift” that allows for a significant change away from destroying the planet. The utmost they think about is how to keep their lifestyle while reducing ecological footprint a little by replacing lightbulbs and driving electric cars. Do you think that this will save the planet? What do you think has to change to save the earth from being killed?

  108. Flares — You ask important and penetrating questions. This is good, we need to look deeply into our possibilities to find the answers we need. It is a shame that so many are deluded by the appeal of immediate action, and actually dismiss the need for thoughtful planning and analysis. Some folks operate from the assumption that they already know all they need to know before plunging into what may turn out to be ineffective or even counterproductive actions. The people we are seeking to counter in their single minded drive for power, are not so foolish. Their actions are backed by extensive research and planning, and thus are quite effective in gaining power over our lives. Isn’t this something we could learn from them, in order to defeat them?

    As far as the short term actions using violent or nonviolent means to overthrow especially despicable tyrants and their considerable backers; yes I would endorse such actions. But when it comes to our deeper problems and making the changes that would eliminate the possibility of such regimes ever arising again, those temporary victories have not and will not accomplish that. Hence the ongoing patterns of oppression that characterize the history of civilization. As Stephen Daedalus says in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

    So what is the cause of this recurrent nightmare? A lack of spiritual development in a sufficient number of people. The cure? Develop the means to foster, spread, and accelerate that essential growth of consciousness. Now a lot of important questions arise from what I have just put forth. Too many to enumerate in this brief note. There is much creative enquiry and discovery to be done to birth the necessary means to accomplish what I stated above. I believe that those willing to involve themselves in this spiritual quest have already ample tools developed over the millennia by previous researchers to shape a modern means to accomplish our successful transition through this dangerous but inevitable initiation.

  109. flares — A footnote:
    One of the first problems one has in sharing about things people are actually unfamiliar with, is that they think they already know what the words you use mean. This is not the case. In order for them to get some idea of what you mean when you use for example the word spiritual, the two of you must engage in a dialog. Even then, when we are handling deep and evolving terms like spiritual, there is not going to be a fixed precise definition possible from your exchange however lengthy and probing it may be. And this is good. The search to establish this kind of fixed mutually agreed understanding sometimes goes by the name “fundamentalism”. Truth, on the other hand is flexible, changing, and mysterious. To become comfortable with this uncertain and ambiguous nature of our attempts to grasp and share things that are deeply significant is a step towards being able to enter new territory with an open attitude. This is a creative approach that small groups are good at facilitating. It takes time, but it is well worth it. To move ahead without this deeper basis for knowing what each other really mean by their words and ideas, avoids serious problems when the stage of acting on these convictions arises.

  110. A footnote on small groups as centers of innovative education: People have asked me what small groups would do. One thing they can do is beginning to lift for their members the pall of ignorance and misinformation that most members of our society function from. As Socrates observed long ago, most folks are full of “knowledge” that is false, and was inserted into their minds by sources they are unaware of. In other words they take their beliefs to be their own independent understanding, when in fact they only represent their conditioning by others, and by the pervasive influence of their culture, which has its own control agendas.

    Today I was watching “The Billionaire’s Tea Party”. The inside story of what the real motivators and creators of this deluded mob intend to accomplish. You may be able to view it on the website of LinkTV. Highly recommended. Small groups could view investigative shows like this together, and then discuss what they got from it. Also groups can form around reading material (which would be quite novel and challenging to many) and discussing same. One facet of waking up is learning things you did not know, and unlearning things you thought you knew. Jensen or Chomsky’s stuff would make a good start. Maybe some Orwell. There are lots of possible choices, and many good videos. Meet in each other’s homes once a week. Structure the sharing part of the sessions so that first you go around , and each person shares whatever they want, without interruption or feedback. When that is completed, then you can have a free back and forth period. What is so hard about that? If folks can’t get together and discuss our serious world problems, what kind of hope do we really have? Not interested enough to make the effort? Then you are part of the problem, not the solution.

  111. BTW the educative scenario is only one function or stage of developement for small groups, much more is possible.

  112. A note on small group energies:

    I am fresh from a dispute with my wife of thirty some years that began to stir some negative emotions for both of us. Fortunately, we have gotten past these disconnects many times in our long relationship. But it reminds me how difficult it sometimes is to get along with others, even those you love the most. This time we used the method of letting one of us talk without interruption, until they had said all they wanted, then letting the other do so, and back and forth until a sense of calm and greater understanding prevailed. Whew! It’s good to escape from those emotional black holes. Sometimes personal insights into the origin of our feelings in our past history, even back to childhood, spontaneously emerge, helping us to understand where such intense feelings are coming from. Without our commitment to spiritual work on ourselves, and techniques such as I just mentioned, I doubt we would be happily together after all these years.
    We encounter the same highly charge emotional encounters from time to time in group work. It is best to be prepared for this in advance, since these tornadoes often arise totally unexpectedly. Giving every member the power to call for a group silence or brief time out is one such moderating device. We can get pretty carried away in the heat of the moment. Groups need passion and emotional energy but must learn to use it constructively, lest it get out of control and blow the group apart, or cause some members to leave.

  113. The Empire cannot be defeated you traitorous dogs.

  114. The Empire was defeated long ago, in the very moment of its conception. We are witnesses now to the final hours of its long curve of collapse.

  115. I wish we could make that assumption. But I suspect that the empire, or the empire that will rise from it’s ashes, is more resilient than we think. The Roman Empire did not significantly threaten the global environment. I think a post-carbon, post collapse future could just as easily be one where big groups of men with spears put the rest of us to work on labor-intensive plantations.

    And a repeat of my earlier comments – Marxists are still waiting for captialism to collapse under its own contradictions (which was supposed to happen in the late 1800s).

  116. Ragweed — In responding to “Anonymous” I was presuming him to be the person who has posted here before from the faux-heroic dimensions of some game-world scenario of power-crazy fascist idealism, and seeking to answer him in the tones of exaggerated certainty he chooses to speak in.

    Of course your remarks coming from our troubled real world situation are completely accurate. We have no guarantee that the story of history will not continue to be one of patterns of mutual oppression and suffering. On the other hand, neither do we have any certainty that a new world of loving cooperation will never come into being. Somewhere between those two uncertainties lies the field of our creative possibilities.

    The spiritual guides of humankind have offered us many tools to move toward our higher possibilities. In spite of our ignoring or misunderstanding and perverting their ideas, they continue to warn us of the dangers we are courting, while providing real methods that go to the deep roots of our problems. Will enough people listen and awake in time? That is the crux of the planetary crisis or initiation we are passing through. We will never be permitted to pass on into the expanded possibilities of intergalactic communion unless we heal the fatal failure to learn to love that is at the heart of all our difficulties. When one understands this, all the elaborate band-aids and pseudo-solutions lose their delusive appeal.

  117. “Nothing can save us but changing the minds of the people around us. Lots of readers don’t like to hear this, because they want action, and this doesn’t seem like action to them….” Daniel Quinn.

  118. I’m of the opinion that ALL scientists should live by the motto of: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

    Here’s the latest for all you scientific research lovers out there….

    ps: why don’t you all just zap us en masse and get it blood well over with already!

  119. I enjoy Jensen’s magic pill solution to a problem that just won’t go away. I am working on a similar paradigm in a novel that makes the same assumptions Jensen does about irresponsible capitalism and the demonic corporatocracy, and concludes with a similar (although profoundly different) magic pill solution that is, like Jensen’s common sense approach to the issue, all dream and no substance; for it seems we must now rely upon a dream some of us have. A solution seems too far down a tunnel with no light at its end.

    I always enjoy your work, Mr. Jensen. Write on.

  120. Wendy, thanks. And you to Plowboy. Thank you all for your contribution here. Wendy I found this I thought may resonate with you?

    “It is not my experience that we are here to fix the world, that we are here to change anything at all. I think we are here so the world can change us. And if part of that change is that the suffering of the world moves us compassion, to awareness, to sympathy, to love, that is a very good thing.”

    – Cheri Huber

  121. Real love and compassion are not passive self-referential states that stand by and watch the world being pillaged, enslaved, and destroyed. We are here to help others, not merely to revel in exquisite states of “love” and “compassion”.

  122. Thanks for your thanks AT, though I’m not sure exactly what you’re thanking me for. No matter. Gratitude is a nice state to hang around in.

    That’s an interesting quote. It does resonate to a degree, yes, but it strikes me as incomplete, and incomplete in a way that gives a false impression. We cannot know if we are here FOR anything. All we know is there is an apparent trajectory to our lives that a large number of us experience and rationalise as a sense of purpose, and like to speculate on its origin and aim because it gives meaning, and hence coherence to our existence. It may well be illusory. Not everyone appears to need meaning in order to exist coherently, so I would tend to put ‘purpose’ in the file marked “Perspective Choices”.

    And as for change, there’s nothing in our awareness and experience that is not changing, so where the doing and the being done to begins and ends, who’s to say? It seems more appropriate to me to say that change is a primary quality of the field-state in which we exist.

  123. Hi Mike K. I think I understand your meaning about ‘love’ and ‘compassion’ not being impotent, and not action provoking in this discussion. This quote for me asks for an opening of self, or a settlement into the present to feel the right thing to do over self interest. I think to ‘feel’ deeply the real love / connection / compassion towards all life may give a response what I thought Wendy was extolling, to bridge that connection, over thinking, to really feel the Earth and its suffering….could just get us through the veil of preferences into that fully cognizant human being? Wendy, your point on non-violence as essential to underline the moral dimension missing from today’s decisions was fundamentally important. I believe this viewpoint Plowboy has defended for a long while. (Thanks Plowboy for your honesty and forthrightness. I really appreciate your clear and insightful contributions). What you say about the ‘corrupt system’ being unfixable, and all the ideas that flow from that poisoned was terrific! Also the Media or so called ‘Fourth Estate’ that sidetrack and misrepresent. The entire weight of these systems creating weighing down on the solutions that need to come from us (I think what you are essentially saying). I feel I reach this place looking for impetus towards full ‘response-ability’. I thought maybe something beyond pure intellectualizing, might be a potent gateway to that fully integrated and connected self we must become. I think it would be akin to an opening of self to allow the process of deeply registering the pain of life to re-align ourselves? I am not sure on this but the idea of a threshold and new set of values must be attained. Something held beyond the mundane, to fully shift our ideas about life and meaning. To fall into the world emotionally, to fully witness it with all its brutal reality and feel again deeply for each and every one of us what that meeting holds? I think it would be a very sobering and ‘individuating’ experience. I would expect it would focus our sense of challenge and promote our sense of response-ability, as you stated Wendy. I have used your ideas here as markers to try to give voice and frame what you raised so I can understand it better. I like your idea of we being the answer we seek, our essential self-government, our growing up that is required. At this time we all together face this urgent change that is required. Here on this beautiful Earth we call home. Caring deeply, beyond the ‘isms’ as Plowboy artfully described. Maybe the acknowledgment and full registering of this appalling state of misery being created daily around us…maybe this could be enough to flip us out of our shells and say no more! Maybe it can evoke in us the changes we must make, surely?

  124. AT — You wrote: “…the idea of a threshold and new set of values must be attained. Something held beyond the mundane, to fully shift our ideas about life and meaning. To fall into the world emotionally, to fully witness it with all its brutal reality and feel again deeply for each and every one of us what that meeting holds? I think it would be a very sobering and ‘individuating’ experience. I would expect it would focus our sense of challenge and promote our sense of response-ability…”

    I am in total agreement with your thoughts. For me, Derrick Jensen helps us to look deeply into the heart of the darkness that is enveloping our world. This is an essential first step in a process that next examines our desperate need for “a new set of values…something held beyond the mundane, to fully shift our ideas about life and meaning…”

    The twelve steps of AA represent something new in history: a generic spiritual path to meet our modern problems without the problematic beliefs and biases of previous religious structures. In these steps is the way beyond our repetitive failures. Forget the focus of alcohol addiction. The big book of AA states that alcoholism was only a symptom of our sickness; the real problem is selfishness in its many forms, in other words an unreconstructed egotism. Unraveling this central knot is the key to freeing ourselves from our multiple dysfunctions. If the damaged and distorted ego continues to rule our thoughts and behaviors, it matters little what revolutions or outward rearrangements we make in the world — the same horrific results will be forthcoming. Only new men and women can make a new world. The basic means for accomplishing this transformation are in our hands. There is no substitute for the deep changes in ourselves required for our continued existence on Earth. The realities of spiritual truth are unaffected by their denial and distortions by the present generation. Ignorance of these basic principals of reality will not save us from the consequences of our hubristic egotism. The present initiatory test we are passing through is a pass or die examination of our fitness to continue our evolutionary opportunity.

  125. Thanks Mike k for presenting that AA process. I had no experience of it previously. The steps of admitting powerlessness and seeking guidance. The admittance of defect and as AA puts it conduct a ‘searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Then admitting those wrongs in whatever form is most powerful. In effect drawing a line or becoming aware, truly aware. Then pray for change, visualize with help of a mentor, maybe meditate and allow that heart centered part of our being to speak. I think of a something Ramona Africa of the MOVE Organization said that you can’t have both, avid consumerism and indulgence and try to live more in tune with nature. There needs to be a choice. I think stillness, self evaluating, acknowledging and admitting,making recompense and growing with guidance are very important. Especially with the counter flow of our culture. I remember a recent conversation with work mates that complain about teens and their actions. I said the tribe and village raised children once not just the parent and now there seems little of that present. Why complain when the Elders, us, don’t do their jobs. Don’t embody the vision, care, knowledge and self sacrifice to show others how we should be. Yes the ‘damaged and distorted ego’, I couldn’t agree more. And as you say ‘Only new men and women can make a new world’, how to get there? Immerse ourselves in the teaching and visions of Lame Dear maybe Wendy? Find a worthy mentor to realign ourselves with? I thought of advising myself as I would a friend, it is more dispassionate. ‘Well my friend, as you have admitted so selflessly, all these things you have done wrong, I think you need to do this, this and this’… And see what happens? It is critical as you say to ‘find a new set of values’. Thank you.

  126. Speaking of mentors..I just got this today. ‘Bolivia enshrines natural world’s rights with equal status for Mother Earth’ available on

    ‘Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.’

    ‘The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities.’

    ‘In the indigenous philosophy, the Pachamama is a living being.

    The draft of the new law states: “She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”

  127. How to get there? Well yes AT, we could, for instance, do a lot worse than model our personal journeys on the Native American rite of passage to adulthood but at the end of the day it’s what works for YOU. We all have our place: different skills, different paths, different points of focus, different levels of action. One size does not fit all and there are as many ways to achieve what needs to be achieved as there are people involved. We each have to find our own way: that’s part of growing up. Others can point out various options and examples, but we have to take the decisions and the responsibility. Ask [suprapersonal collective consciousness of your choice] what is required of you. Listen with the heart, put aside fear and ACT when appropriate. Master anger and channel it into effective intelligent action without violence to fellow beings.

    I posted this a while back on this thread but it bears repeating. As we were busy pontificating here, the bank bonus season was underway. In the US and UK, what happened? A lot of outrage, noise and objection, a lot of cynical and resigned shoulder-shrugging, a few colourful protests, but no EFFECTIVE action. The bankers got their bonuses and laughed all the way to the … ah yes … silly me! Meanwhile in the Netherlands, with bonuses a small fraction of what was paid out in the US and UK, the Dutch people (via a rapid social media campaign) simply said ‘No! We’re not standing for this. If you pay these bonuses we will withdraw all our money from the banks.’ So the banks capitulated. Of course they did. Global capitalism depends on the willing acquiescence or disinterested apathy of the masses for its survival. It is powerless without OUR participation.

    So if we want to stop what it’s doing to the planet, then it’s in OUR hands. It’s no good crying ‘foul’ and calling for justice, because the elite you’re appealing to for action are by and large the same people you’re trying to stop. They’re laughing behind their hands while they’re pretending to listen which is why I think Jensen’s idea here is so silly. We’re well past the point where anything like that could have worked.

  128. I’ve done a lot of “research” around the internet and it is clear to me that the answer is to live without money. I do not know how 6 billion people can possibly do that, but it’s become clear to me that as long as we all have a stake in the money economy we can never hope to restore or return to the natural economy. How many of us get angry with the destruction of the environment in one moment and then get worried about our retirement investments in the next? How is hoarding up the fruits of this toxic system now for some freedom in the future not a giant hypocrisy?

  129. @Diane I don’t think it’s money that’s the problem. It’s our attitudes towards it and what we do with it. Money is just a token of exchange. If we banned it, it would be necessary to invent an alternative because society needs tokens of exchange. The problem is that we want more than we need. And that doesn’t just apply to money …

  130. AT — You wrote: “Find a worthy mentor to realign ourselves with? I thought of advising myself as I would a friend, it is more dispassionate. ‘Well my friend, as you have admitted so selflessly, all these things you have done wrong, I think you need to do this, this and this’… And see what happens? It is critical as you say to ‘find a new set of values’. “

    You touch on an important truth of all real spiritual paths, namely that there is no substitute for inner guidance. Outer sources of help are invaluable on one’s path, but there is no substitute for one’s own inner awakening of true discernment. Real outer guides always work to help you find your inner guide, your own soul.

    For many years now I have engaged in a dialog with what I choose to call my Higher Self. Each of us has within us higher and lower elements. We are free to ask the higher part of ourselves to advise us. I do this in a written journal. Over time, I have come to trust the guidance I receive in this way on a regular basis. “Ask and it will be answered.” So few think to ask. This is a precious resource already existing in each of us, waiting to be consulted. Will we govern our lives by the lower or middling parts of ourselves, or seek to follow the best we know? The eleventh step of AA asks us to ask for guidance from our (self chosen version of) a Higher Power. The beginning of this process for me was to consult the already existing higher part of myself, while also realizing that if guidance from the Higher Power beyond myself was to come in response to my prayer for it, then it would be received by my higher self and thusly transmitted to me. None of this is to say that one’s critical faculties should be put to sleep in this process. We must always weigh carefully any guidance received. The ego can be quite skillful in slipping in its desires to distort the truth.

    Thanks for your sharing AT. It is gratifying to share with someone who has thought deeply about these crucially important matters.

  131. Money is a symbol of something else and that something else is the problem. It should not be banned or replaced. It should simply cease to have any value. Abundance flows freely in this world when money is removed. I’ve experienced it. Yet I struggle to make a life without money permanent because of fear. Others have done it and some of you may find it interesting to read their thoughts. I will leave it to you to look for them yourself.

    Derrik Jensen has said that we have to be willing to go to some sort of extreme. Many of us thought he was recommending violence. I’m not so sure he was. If he indeed was, I think that moneyless living is a better way to bring violence to the system without having to commit any violence at all. It may also be a way to bring love and compassion to the system without having to prosthelytize any specific philosophy or religion.

    It is a way for only a few, perhaps, but those few may be able to bring about change. I know they have brought about some degree of change for myself.

  132. Reading through these comments one thing has become very clear–most of them ignore the context in which humans exist–the Earth. I’d like to see humans try to change the laws of nature. Argue about human constructed systems all you please. Mother Nature doesn’t recognize them. Screw the environment and it will screw us right back with the consequences of our own actions.

  133. I can’t find it, but someone posted a very sensible comment,”Reading through these comments one thing has become very clear–most of them ignore the context in which humans exist–the Earth. I’d like to see humans try to change the laws of nature. Argue about human constructed systems all you please. Mother Nature doesn’t recognize them. Screw the environment and it will screw us right back with the consequences of our own actions.”
    True Marxists understand this, as did Marx and Engels. OK, you’re skeptical, but it’s true. Marx understood that all wealth is created not just by labor, but also by nature, which is what labor must act upon. And Marx understood that capitalism increasingly must destroy nature for profits, with the cost of this destruction being passed onto us, society. Nuclear energy is the best example of this, since none of the cost is born by the industry, it’s all born by us, the people.

    We can’t change the laws of nature, of course. Marxists understand this. But we can live in harmony with nature… Marxists are for this. And we can create a civilization that is in accord with nature, and thus survive as a species.

    OK, you’re still skeptical. Yes, some Marxists have been for taking over existing capitalist industries as they are, and putting them to use, without specifying that they need to be totally transformed (to renewable and sustainable etc) That’s a mistake. We all make mistakes.

    What is civilization? It’s just the way humanity has come to survive on this planet. But instead of destroying the planet with our fraudulent “survival,” let’s make it a way that both humanity, and the planet, can survive together. Other species have done it for millions of years, so why not us? But to do that we must overthrow capitalism, the exploitative system that destroys both labor and nature as it devours us all for profit. Capitalism is the true evil empire of today. Only working people can overthrow it, and remake the world. We’re all working people, aren’t we? Hello, what are we waiting for? All we have to lose is our chains!

    Comradely greetings to all, Chris Kinder

  134. Thanks Mike k for your acknowledgment. It is my privilege to share this forum, I thank you for your kind words and reminding me to ask that higher self. Also that dusty journal is off the shelf again and being used. Thanks! Reflecting on these latest comments I still see the pivotal need to align my life with my values. There seems no other way.(?) Central to everything I do are my concepts of what is right and fitting. What I value and hold dear. Through that I live my life. It is critical therefore they are focused inline with what is most important to me. I would say choosing such values can become very difficult if it comes from a place of fear and let doubts rule. It is imperative to be the change I want to see. So fundamental it seems to everything I believe. A beautiful quote by Cherri Huber- ‘That which you are seeking is causing you to seek’, has the effect of throwing my viewpoint to the reverse looking back from what I hope to see and become. I see holding those values and beliefs true and living as a consequence from them reduces so much turbulence and confusion for me. I have recently enacted some changes which I can’t answer my fears. My mind cannot at this stage answer exactly what will happen. It maybe something we all have become use to in this system, those lucky enough. To fall into a semi-sleep of daily routine contained by the familiar. I see this must happen. As Wendy pointed to, to each an individual journey enacting solutions where we can. Making that choice is something I think the mind is least capable of doing initially. Your thoughts please.

  135. Thanks for sharing, AT. The inner journey can be at times a lonely one. And yet, as Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Whatever the price, once the process of deeper questioning has begun in one’s life, it refuses to be silenced. The quest for a redeeming truth becomes a preliminary answer to the problem of the meaning in one’s life.

    On this path of self and world discovery, it becomes crucially important to find fellow seekers to share the way. To seek and suffer alone is too heavy a burden. No matter if your companions do not see things exactly as you do, they are essential helps, and in traveling together with them, you will enrich your path and be strengthened to continue through the sometimes difficult passages. At the same time, engaging in the work of sharing with others will reveal itself to be an essential part of the work to be accomplished. After all, learning to love one another is one of the central problems we are facing in our earthly adventure. A small group can be the ideal crucible for overcoming the isolationist tendencies of our separate egos, and learning to work together in spite of differences.

    Having a conversation with my higher self in a journaling format has been a real resource for me. The higher part of oneself needs some way to relate with the lower self. Lower does not mean “bad” in this context. The higher self would like to be the friend and guide of the lower aspects of one’s self; it only needs a context and format to engage in this relationship. One of the goals of a spiritually oriented life is to be guided and directed by what is higher. We want to grow towards what is higher, so this inner dialog is a way to make this dynamic between what is lower within us and what is higher explicit, so that we can work with it consciously, rather than have it proceed in a confused way under the surface. Good luck in your efforts towards awakening, it feels to me that you are on a good path.

  136. Chris Kinder, ask yourself: are our problems 200, 300 years old, or do they go back to the beginning of civilization? Easter Islanders did not have capitalism, and they destroyed their environment and crashed, nevertheless. How would a Marxist explain that?

  137. Chris Kinder — I agree with your identification of “capitalism” as a prime factor in our difficulties. It is not the only culprit unfortunately, but it is a big obstacle. This maleficent ism has been cobbled together over the last few centuries to act as a smoke screen and alibi for the depredations of the rich and powerful on the rest of us. Skillfully woven of many spurious strands, including neo-Darwinism and phony protestant religionism, this preposterous theory has been used to delude and defraud the majority of people suffering under it, so that they end up kissing the hands that are relentlessly pillaging them. Freedom and the sacred rights of the individual are trumpeted as virtues of the capitalist way of life, which is promoted as the true religion of unrestrained acquisition.

    The real problem we face is the abuse of power by the few against the many. Since even the times before the Pharaohs, those engaging in exploitation have understood that they must concoct some justification for their rule over others. They knew that confusing the minds of their subjects was essential to dominating them. When the Divine Right of Kings became untenable, new means to control the peoples minds had to be devised. Capitalism, the real religion of the Western dominator societies was created to fill the bill. Anyone, including Marx, who dared to question its precepts had to be demonized and branded as heretical, to the point that today even to breathe the word socialism is considered beyond the pale.

    Until we uncover the means to free our minds from the pervasive smog of social conditioning, all our efforts to make a better world will turn in endless circles of self deception. Lack of understanding makes a prison stronger than stone walls and steel bars.

  138. Chris Kinder, I just came across a quote that pretty much sums the Marxist approach for me, and I wonder what your response would be?

    “That’s what always bugged me about Marx. He goes to great lengths to describe the soul-terrorism of the industrial revolution, but then his solution is to turn that nightmare machine over to the workers.

    It’s getting near time to shut off the damn machine.”

    Be well…

  139. Dear Folks,

    Thanks for this discussion. Of course the problems of the rape of the environment go back to the beginnings of civilization… and before. How did all the big game disappear from North America and Australia if not from hunter gatherers at their peak? Evidence shows that big game was driven over cliffs in such quantities that could never be used and were in fact wasted.

    Note however, that the end of the Ice Age may have also played a role in the disappearance of the big game, but still, human kind’s hands are in this…

    And as for civilization? The very first, or one of the first, the ancient Sumerians of the fertile crescent, mucked up their environment big time. By developing irrigation, and then over using it, they achieved a gradual salination of the land that exists to this day (desertification of Iraq) The Sumerians had to deal with lowering crop yields, and eventually had to replace their tusted crops with hardier strains.

    Meanwhile, the agricultural revolution led to a population explosion and more importantly, the development of a surplus product, which allowed for the rise of a ruling class. Essentially, this meant the consolidation of primitive warrior cults into early state powers. These, naturally, demanded more and more resources from less and less fertile lands, due to the salination.

    This pattern continues through history. I don’t believe I said that capitalism was the only culprit here. But Marx correctly said that history is essentially the history of class struggle, and class struggle–particularly the ravages waged upon us and the environment by the ruling classes–has ben and is our problem.

    Flash forward to today. Marx’s analysis of class society included a clear recognition that rape of the environment goes back to ancient times. But Marx saw that now, we are reduced to two basic classes, and that capitalism has escalated the destruction of nature along with its acceleration of the exploitation of labor.

    With the last stages of imperialism–marked by globalization, and the current financial crisis–we have a dramatic increase in both the rape of nature and the exploitation and impoverishment of the working masses. Now we have capitalist-caused climate change as well. If we don’t overthrow capitalism, we’ll face further devastation from the financial crisis, and possible extinction from the climate crisis.

    But I put to you — why can’t a civilized, egalitarian, humanist world survive, through a planned (non-exploitative) economy, cooperation, restructuring of industry to renewable resources, and world-wide democratic formations which put the mass of the working people in power?

    Greetings to all, Chris Kinder

  140. “But I put to you — why can’t a civilized, egalitarian, humanist world
    survive, through a planned (non-exploitative) economy, cooperation,
    restructuring of industry to renewable resources, and world-wide democratic
    formations which put the mass of the working people in power?”

    In an ideal world, maybe. But in the real world, not a hope. All you’ll succeed in doing is changing the principal actors and the scene, not the play!

    The answer isn’t “out there”. It never has been and it never will be. It’s no good dealing in ultimates or imagining that some grand ideal is going to somehow magically change the individuals that comprise the collective you’re trying to impose the ideal on. A grand ideal might inspire people to behave better for a bit. Even a generation or two. But to do that on any scale, those same people will need to have experienced an awfulness in preceding events to convince them to make the ideal their own and adhere to it. Once the awfulness experience fades from living memory, human nature reasserts itself and the whole play repeats itself yet again.

    It’s part of base human nature to act in selfish, acquisitive, greedy, manipulative, power-crazed ways. It’s rooted in our mortality. We are driven by an existential fear to seek control, security, stability, advantage and insulation against the threat of non-being. For as long as humans remain rooted in that fear, they cannot do anything else but scratch and claw their way over each other in a desperate attempt to attain the illusion of invulnerability, predictability and permanence. It is a far stronger motivating force in the majority of us than the love and compassion we’re capable of feeling for others and for the rest of existence. The excesses of corporate capitalism are no more and no less than a sublimated form of this urge taken to its ultimate extremes, but it will surface in ANY form of social organisation, communism included, unless that underlying urge is addressed.

    The paradox is that control, security, stability, advantage and insulation are the very things which feed the fear and exacerbate the behaviour which makes the very thing we fear more and more inevitable. Come face to face with awfulness – ie. death, extinction – and you soon realise what life’s worth living for. The entire history of the human race can be seen in terms of these cycles, progressively and insidiously growing ever greater in scale until we finally stand here now facing the extinction of life on the entire planet by our own doing. This is the endgame. Either we finally learn to accept and embrace the impermanent and chaotic nature of our earthly existence, or that existence ceases.

  141. Yikes! Wendy, have you read Ishmael yet? I am begging ya, please! It’s a fun read on top…

    Chris Kinder, that is a fine analysis. You have looked into things in great detail, and that makes conversation across ideologies so much more pleasurable. I think Marx has much to offer, and was right about capitalism coming apart of its own internal contradictions. Happening as we speak.

    Nevertheless, I have been reflecting lately that the class analysis is just another way of dividing us. Not all elites are dicks, and not all “working people” are nice folks. As Wendy says, ya cannot fix things by simply putting someone else on top. Been there done that, for millenia now, and it’s the same disaster as the new rulers step into the shoes and habits of the old rulers.

    Capitalism seems to be in the process of overthrowing itself, while the elites seems to be planning a neofeudalist future. Not a radical enough solution, comrade, sorry. Go to the root, back to them crazy Sumerians. This civ must go!

    P.S. Planned economies don’t work. Planned cities don’t work. Planned lives don’t work. Look at nature… if Mother Nature actually planned evolutionary developments, we’d never have made out of primaeval slime. :-)

    Looking forward to your thoughts.

  142. “It’s part of base human nature to act in selfish, acquisitive, greedy, manipulative, power-crazed ways… We are driven by an existential fear to seek control, security, stability, advantage and insulation against the threat of non-being.” Wendy I am left with a dismal view of outcomes. One may succeed and thousands fail to make a friend of fear or dissolve it’s hold. I can see how promulgated the sense of fear is by media, just general conversation really. Going back to ground zero as far as any concept of civilization really doesn’t alter this seed of destruction. Makes one think. Aside from working to limit the affects of fear, of letting go, it seems a huge affront to the mind and all sense of progress, planning and stability…a quandary. I remember stories of Diogenes and his mockery of civil society. Deluded slaves creating our rack to carry. Self awareness has is draw backs. Looks like it’s going to dissolve into a fist fight for McDonald’s coupons? But seriously…what hope?

  143. AT … to answer your question. No hope – because hope is a blind, powerless, passive sort of limp-wristed thing – but plenty cause for optimism. We conquer our fears by facing them, so what dissolves the existential fear that drives us to our present insanity is to be faced with death. (Ancient societies knew this very well, so the rituals they used to graduate their members into adulthood invariably involved a close encounter with death.)

    This is what we are presently coming to face on a planetary scale. We’ve done this so many times before in our endless cycle of wars with each other, but none of that was enough to integrate the lesson into our collective intelligence – we really are incredibly stupid for all our overweening hubris – so this isn’t a battle to be ‘won’ by killing more of ‘them’ than ‘us’. This is a battle to be won by achieving victory over our base natures and restoring order, intelligence and right attitude to our relationship with this beautiful planet of which we’re part. Our present crisis is necessary. Everything is in its proper place. Everything is as it should be. The Earth knows what it’s doing and it has a power and will to survive way beyond our puny imagining. Each of us, in billions of different ways, will be brought to face death. It’s imminent and it’s unavoidable. In doing so we either conquer that fear or succumb to it, but it’s what will make ‘men’ of us.

  144. Trying to win a victory over our base nature is just taking domination inside. It’s a dead end. There is no more wrong with our natures than the natures of the shark or a rattlesnake.

    “base human nature to act in selfish, acquisitive, greedy, manipulative, power-crazed ways”

    Yeah, and it is also human nature to act in selfless, sharing, generous, honest, and power-sane ways… Let’s not forget that, folks…

  145. Hmmm..there is a quote from the movie ‘Three Kings’ where George Clooney’s character tries to explain why people do anything, (way off topic now). ‘Necessity’!

    I can see where Wendy is going, as the fear grows in the world, resources scarcity, greater population pressure, forced migration etc..take your pick of thousands of reasons. In the eyes of a starving daughter or son, or family member contains all the reason necessary. I can see it also as a reason to bring people together for safety. To ask for a culture of love or higher principle seems a great way forward but I can see it needs certain pre-conditions to prevail. Otherwise it is just another resource for the scavenging mobs where fear and the power of strength will hold out. Vera, I wrestle with this also, the way must be considerate. Can it prevail? Now is a time. Not during crisis. After maybe. Derricks argument to enact a conservation principle extends much wider in scope I think. What do we preserve? Whats worth taking hold of and growing in each of us? Wendy, I like your vision of facing death and finding true value. I think I have yet I contend with the day, with imperatives. It is a deeply personal understanding yet is not supported in anyway by my current social/economic environment. My vision…nothing. Just it isn’t as scary as I had believed. Peace is the outcome, direction nil. Still it remains, the question of personal action. Your thoughts?

  146. “Trying to win a victory over our base nature is just taking domination inside. It’s a dead end. There is no more wrong with our natures than the natures of the shark or a rattlesnake.”

    Ah no! There’s a big difference between an alcoholic struggling to gain control of his addiction and the addiction itself just falling away. Facing our fears causes them to fall away, or at least fall into a condition where the tail is no longer wagging the dog.

    It’s absolutely true there’s nothing wrong with our natures, but it’s about keeping the balance to maintain freedom. Freedom = health, so it’s the difference between health and pathology. When you’re dominated by fear it doesn’t matter whether its of apparent external or internal origin. What goes around comes around. It’s a state of domination. When the domination falls away, you are free to choose how you react to a situation. Free to feel compassion and respond with love.

  147. ‘Necessity’ … yes. But it all depends on what you see as necessary. For some, necessity is finding a source of clean drinking water. For others, it’s the latest Gucci handbag …

    The question of personal action? Whatever you choose according to the context in which you find yourself. The operative word there is CHOICE. If your actions are not driven and constrained by inappropriate fear (and to be driven by existential fear IS inappropriate when you’re under no immediate threat of imminent demise) then you are free to choose. If you find an inner peace and stillness and act from that place then, to use a sporting analogy, you’re the squash player who’s holding the centre of the court rather than running crazy round the walls.

  148. Just a note to say that you can discuss this essay with the author on May 17th – Derrick Jensen will join a live web event hosted by Orion magazine that day exploring this issue, and those contained in other recent columns in Orion. Go here for details and to register, the event is free and open to all:

    Time is 7 pm Eastern, 4 PM Pacific.

    Erik Hoffner
    Orion magazine

  149. I’m allergic to dust, so i’m cnsotantly sneezing! I go through a packet of tissues a day, and my nose is always red. Also, it means my eyes are cnsotantly watery and itching-meaning my eye make up is a mess! I have very sensitive skin too, the only brand i’m not allergic to is Nivea. I’m also allergic to cats, dogs, and other animals with fur.

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