Is terminating the industrial economy a moral act?

People often accuse me of inappropriate behavior because I propose bringing down the industrial economy. Interestingly, nobody seems too concerned about the morality of the big banks as they devise ways to profit from economic collapse (to be fair, some are advising their clients how to profit, too, from a collapse they foresee within two years). On the other hand, Australian politicians are trying to distance themselves from the one Aussie in their ranks who has a clue where we’re headed.

But back to me — my favorite subject, after all — and the accusations of inappropriate behavior I attract, like snakes to the eggs of ground-nesting birds. People will die, they cry, purposely and studiously ignoring the millions of people and other animals killed every day by the industrial economy. They act as if the industrial economy is propped up by a solid foundation of love and world peace. It’s all rainbows and butterflies, that good old industrial economy. A friend and neighbor, channeling Buddhism, claims she is taking right action by signing petitions to halt a dam on the nearby river and campaigning for Barack Obama. As if petitions or protests ever stopped anything the kings of industry wanted to construct. And don’t even get me started on Wall Street’s front man, the Trojan horse for big banks and the Pentagon, the prince of (Nobel) peace, the Liar-in-Chief whose war crimes surely match Henry Kissinger’s by now.

People accuse me of inappropriate behavior because, in this increasingly postmodern world, we don’t talk about right and wrong. Cultural sensitivities, you know. Not to mention cultural relativism. Call me insensitive — I’ve been called worse, and my skin is thick — but I claim there is right and wrong.

I’m way too postmodern to believe there’s absolute right and wrong. I gave up that brand of religion years ago. But on specific issues, in particular circumstances, there is damned little gray. Even in the relatively broad example of industrial culture, there is plenty of black and white.

The definition I’ll use is straight from my buddies Merriam and Webster. Moral: 1 a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior: ethical (moral judgments) b: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior (a moral poem) c: conforming to a standard of right behavior d: sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment (a moral obligation) e: capable of right and wrong action (a moral agent)

There can be little doubt that a system that enslaves, tortures, and kills people is wrong. Industrial culture does all that with stunning efficiency. Big Energy poisons our water. Big Ag controls our seeds, hence our food. Big Pharm controls, through pharmaceuticals, the behavior of our children. Wall Street controls the flow of money. Big Ad controls the messages you receive every day. The criminally rich get richer through crime: that’s how America works. Through it all, we think we’re free.

In contrast to western civilization, I think a system is right — and even just — if it treats people alike and liberates them, thus giving them freedom to live unchained from the bonds of culture, politics, and a monetary system developed and implemented by others. I will not go down the road of oppression at the point of a gun or the blade of a bulldozer, but it’s easy to extend the notion of enslavement-torture-death to entire peoples and the landbase. It’s pretty clear I don’t need to go down that road: We’re so thoroughly disconnected from the land and from our neighbors that we no longer have a clue what happiness looks like, much less how we might bring some home.

What, about industrial culture, is wrong? Let’s start with the morality of war criminals such as Barack Obama at, for example, this week’s circus in Copenhagen. Obama is merely following in the footsteps of civilized people such as Thomas Jefferson and George W. Bush in fucking the living planet, and every non-industrial culture. In North America, we’ve been quashing terrorism in since 1492, and we just keep at it, pulverizing the planet while imprisoning and torturing anybody who gets in the way of civilization. We have a long and sordid history, and we keep doing it again, and again, and again. And, in exchange for a comfortably miserable life marked by an equal mix of unhappiness and i-Pods, we tolerate anything to which our hand-picked leaders subject us. This entire, life-draining, life-sucking enterprise requires us to tell increasingly absurd lies and convince ourselves they are the truth. Fortunately, this requires little effort on our part because we are awash in cognitive dissonance as we swim in an ocean of cultural denial.

It is relatively easy to make a moral case in favor of pulverizing the lands and waters myriad other species need to survive. We merely need to convince ourselves we’re not really part of nature. And, because of the aforementioned ocean, that’s not a problem. But then there’s the more difficult issue: the future of humanity. How do we justify the ongoing, ever-increasing destruction of the hanging-on-by-a-thread living planet, when we and future generations need the literal ocean to survive? How do we justify the murderous blob of economic growth in the name of baubles but at the cost of human life? Does that seem right? In destroying the living planet and all hope for future humans to occupy the planet, it hardly seems to me we are “expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior,” while “conforming to a standard of right behavior.”

Like the rest of us, scientists are eager to please the public, so they’re trying to make the dire medicine increasingly sweet by ratcheting up the dumbing down of the bad news. They’ve come up with a Dow Jones Index for climate change, because everybody knows and cares about the Dow, whereas nobody gives a damn about the living planet and our likely near-term extinction.

Climate change index like Dow

Graphs that please the eye notwithstanding, it’s probably too late to stop the frying of the planet unless we bring the industrial economy crashing to a very abrupt halt. Even conservative mainstream scientists admit that only complete collapse of the global industrial economy will save us from runaway greenhouse. Naturally, their paper was rejected by several journals — even the scientific community can’t handle this particular truth — before it was published last month in Climatic Change. We do not know how quickly we’ll need to terminate the industrial economy to save our species. If we did, we could spend that entire span arguing about the morality of bringing down the industrial machine of death. Since we don’t, we need to act as if the matter is urgent, which, as it turns out, nicely matches the data on the topic.

I am increasingly convinced that the only moral choice at all is to bring down the industrial as quickly as possible, and by any means necessary. If that means destroying property, think about the destruction of lives caused by industrial culture. If the means of halting industrial activity are violent, think about the violence and death caused by every civilized action. Using a cellular telephone is legal — and even encouraged by industrial culture — yet it kills women and children in the Congo. On the other hand, tearing down a cell-phone tower that kills thousands of birds every year and facilitates the death and torture of Congolese people is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment. Because tearing down a cell-phone tower almost certainly represents an act of terrorism, it is punishable by suspension of habeas corpus, torture, and life in prison.

Short of violent and illegal acts, we have few options at our disposal. In fact, using all means at our disposal still leaves us a few thousand bricks shy of a full pallet. It appears even our most “outrageous” actions pale in comparison to the scale of the problem we face. The bankers are in charge, regardless of the immoral actions they take. The limited power we have is slipping away faster than justice in our courtrooms.

What does all this mean for us, the people with no voice? Does it leave us moral choices? Does it indicate how we ought to live, in a world gone horribly awry while we were ensconced in the freak show?

I have little to offer here, other than boring pragmatic advice about self reliance and introspection. We should be investing in our neighbors, as has always been true. And those neighbors aren’t just humans. They’re animals and plants, soil and water. We need to protect and honor them as we do our own children. We need to harbor them from the ravages of war, and also from an economy built on war. We need to live outside the industrial economy and within the real world of honest work, honest play, simple pleasures, and paying the consequences of our daily actions. We need to abandon a political system that takes without giving, long after it abandoned us. At the most fundamental level, we need to re-structure society so that children understand and value the origins of food, and life.

It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us. The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?

Comments 24

  • I doubt it!

    One day it is consume for the good of the planet, and the next it is rip the cell phone towers down… I’m still not going to buy one. And I suppose that it makes sense to turn my eyes away from this dreadful computer screen. There is a whole world going by outside my window. -I’m gonna quit the blog for moral reasons! (Medusa!)

    Forgive the religious sentiment of the song here, because we can step beyond the lack of objectivity often seen in anchoring our arguments on one supposed truth.

    Turn around go back down go back the way you came
    Can’t you see the flash of fire ten times brighter than the day
    And behold the mighty city broken in the dust again
    Oh God the pride of man broken in the dust again

    Turn around go back down go back the way you came
    Babylon is laid to waste Egypt’s buried in her shame
    Their mighty men are beaten down the kings are fallen in the ways
    Oh God the pride of man broken in the dust again

    Turn around go back down go back the way you came
    Terror is on everyside though the leaders are dismayed
    Those who put their faith in fire in fire their faith shall be repaid
    Oh God the pride of man broken in the dust again

    Turn around go back down go back the way you came
    Shout a warning to the nations that the sword of god is raised
    On Babylon that mighty city rich in treasure wide in fame
    It shall cause thy towers to fall and make it be a pyre of flame
    Oh God the pride of man broken in the dust again

    Thou that dwell on many water rich in treasure wide in fame
    Bow unto a god of gold thy pride of might shall be thy shame
    Oh God the pride of man broken in the dust again

    And only God can lead the people back into the faith again
    Thy holy mountain be restored thy mercy on thy people Lord

    (Hamilton Camp)

  • Most people don’t have a clue because they are clueless.Nature and the environment must be destroyed to put up ugly ticky-tacky houses for ugly ticky-tacky people.Only ugly ticky-tacky people base their lives
    on the VEG–vanity,envy,and greed,which is the cornerstone of the capitalistic system.A system which must,out of necessity,create these people–brainwash them.It’s easy.Small minds naturally fall for small,
    base pleasures–the VEG.

    The key is to create automotons,incapable,of any reasonable intelligent
    thought,programed solely by the VEG.Barbarians in the purest sense of the word.

  • I’m writing to you, fresh from reading your most recent blog post, so my response is “raw” (gut-level, no coherent aforethought) My mate and I read your post soon upon returning home from a road-trip yesterday afternoon, a drive during which we shared our sense of angst about finding ourselves enmeshed as cogs in the machinery of the “Empire” of evil, the sense of guilt and shame to be members of such a species, as we surveyed the damage being wrought to the sensitive desert environment that informed both of our earliest sensibilities, while aware that the very act of driving is perpetuating the perpetration of these wrongs, asking each other and ourselves that very question: “What to do?”

    Your words wrench my heart; I recognize and respect your passion for Justice, in the spirit of what (our)Grandpa Fools Crow called “Mitakuye Oyasin” (“we are all relations”–i.e. we are all related through the Great Mystery which gives us Life) that infuses your words. You describe starkly, boldly, and courageously (although some may describe you as “reckless,” but I rather think passionate in your convictions) the cost of “comfort” and “security” as conceived of and propagated by the prevailing culture of industrialism and mythology of anthropocentric entitlement. At times, many times over the course of my own life have pondered laying it down, giving it back, in a poignant agony of gratitude for the gift of life and its exquisitely gorgeous and painful experiences; and awareness of what my existence costs the planet. What to do? Why work in health care, caring for more parasites like myself? Why participate in the pharmaceutical medical industrial complex as an accomplice to terracide? What to do?

    I think your closing two paragraphs are a cogent summary, and call to action, (pointing in a direction that puts me in mind of Robert Fuller’s “Dignitarianism” platform for action.) I agree with you: “We need to re-structure society so that we ALL understand and value the origins of food, and life.” My only additional comment is that, based on my sense of how things work, is that we need to re-structure our selves, from the inside out, to cherish, both literally and figuratively, the ground (soil) of Being from which we all arise and upon which we absolutely depend. All the destructive doing of human beings, it seems to me, is symptomatic of deficiency of Being: i.e. Being patient, Being kind (humankind?) Being Still…Rooted in Seeing how life works, humble in the recognition that being endowed with the gifts of life on this planet does not constitute entitlement. Our tenancy is not guaranteed by any document, no matter how eloquent, that says we deserve “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We deserve according to the degree to which we care congruently with the way Life works.

    I have never before posted a response to anyone’s blog, and feel uncertain whether I have anything all that cogent or knowledgeable to add to what’s already being said. I admire and respect what you’re doing and what you’re about, and appreciate your willingness to “put it out there” —Thanks.

  • Many, many heart-felt thanks to you, akiko, for expressing your all too poignant thoughts. Your comment truly “made my day” and is very welcome evidence that there are, indeed, at least a few more members of “my” species that can exhibit sentience. Of course, Mr. McPherson has been doing so for sometime and I will, again, second your “Thanks” to him. If only there were more of “us” perhaps there would be a chance of a livable future. Alas, I think we are members of an all too minuscule minority that virtually assures that Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is an overly optimistic view of what is to come.

    Guy M. is most certainly correct that the only “hope” for a livable future is the immediate cessation of our species hostility toward nature. However, due to the preponderance of a predisposition toward narcissistic self-absorption, that will not happen. The vast majority of slaves on this planet, at least here in the USA, are completely content to continue serving their masters while ever more deeply deluding themselves about their [non-existent] freedom(s). I find it most relevant that many of Hitler’s gas-chamber victims willing walked in believing that they were going to get a hot shower. Please note, I am NOT alluding to ANY similarity to Obama for, after all, he’s no less a puppet than any of the rest of us.

    While I thought the latest incarnation of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” was great, even better than the original, the “message” that we can and do change “at the brink” was in error. Indeed, our “civilization” is well past “the brink” and our “situation” is more like Wile E. Coyote in the old Roadrunner cartoons. However, way too few of us realize we’ve already run off the cliff and gravity is about to take over. I’m currently reading Joe Romm’s “Hell and High Water” and am astounded by the apparent dichotomy between what he has written in the book, too optimistic in itself, and what he currently writes on, which seems even more “optimistic” [deluded?]. I think Johann Hari’s latest(?) post that Copenhagen is a Scam best exhibits the “way of the world” today, since I’ve made the observation over a decade ago that most business endeavors are, in fact, nothing more than a scam, and that’s being too polite. After all, how do “we” get from CEO’s “average salary” being 20-30 times the national average wage in 1970 to that difference being 400-1,400 times today. Actually, that was in a 2006 study by the Institute for Policy Studies. Good luck to the “lesser” species of the world and, with luck, good riddance to “mankind.”

  • Entropy rules.
    And if civilisation collapsed, we’d need to keep pushing soot aloft to the stratosphere for it’s albedo effect or gain a quick coupla degrees. Woodfires, maybe, will do the trick? Will they, Guy?

    There’s naught to do save what many of us are up to;
    plant and nuture permaculture, reduce our footprint, sequester carbon, re-gain atrophied skills, and collect cannibal recipes.
    Oh; and starve the Pharoah as best we can.

  • Guy, thanks again-is the writing getting better, or am I seeing better/clearer?

    Bubbleboy-wow! used to hear that song on WBRU 40 years ago-it gave me a weird sense of premonition back then-now I know why…

    Akiko-please keep responding-I love eloquence!

  • Long before the industrial era, Buddhism (borrowing from Hinduism) noted the interconnectedness of all things, described as “The Net of Indra” (“Indra Jala”, Indra being the head honcho of the Vedic Gods): every object in the Universe is a node in the Net, and an effect on any node will affect everything else.

    It is the nature of the objects to create a sense of despondency (“Sabbe sankhara dukkha”). While most people have to go to a source of water, the Self-reasized person sits in a flood (Bhagvat-Gita 2:46).

    And the next verse:
    You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

    We can only guess where this world is headed:

    But not knowing what’s coming does not justify throwing in the towel.

  • 1) Nature comes to the party hostile to us and not the reverse. I just recovered from a bad head cold caused by a virus. The purpose of that virus and thousands of other virus and bacteria is to kill the host which is us. Our immune system and antibodies saves us most of the time. That is at the micro level. At the macro level nature bombards us with large chunks of rock now and then from space and if they are large enough the effect is devastating to all life including ours. I agree with the filmmaker werner herzog when he stands in the jungle and proclaims that nature is endless murder of eat or be eaten. He is correct. The only creature that ever rises above that even for a short time is us.

    2) I calculate that a complete implosion of the industrial world would result in an 80% reduction in humanity provided no conflicts with nuclear/bio weapons break out. Those who think that this would save other species should look at the likely outcome in africa for the wildlife when 900 million people go looking for food. Total extinction of all animals that can be run down or trapped. When those rich white folks stop coming on a jet for those photo safaris then the animals are no longer an asset to the locals alive but of value only dead as food and a reduction in competition.

  • Nature is cruel. I have watched the comments on this blog for two years and sense that many of you are looking for an easy way out so you can disconnect from what ever happens and find justification when you see the results of a collapse. It will not be that easy.

  • Greg Breneman, you and others who despise nature are tools of empire, working to sustain the unsustainable and therefore cause the extinction of all species, including our own. Nature provides your clean air, clean water, nutritious food, and shelter. Nature is the source of all knowledge, all art, all truth, and all beauty. Your hostility toward nature doubtless comes from ignorance and fear of the natural world.

    When the industrial economy completes its ongoing implosion, we will be unable to dismantle nature at anything resembling the current scale of destruction. Will we take out a few individual animals? Of course. But we won’t be trekking to Africa and, because our populace is comprised largely of people like yourself, we won’t have enough skill at harvesting food to make much of a dent in nature’s bounty before a vast majority of (industrial) humans are dead. People in non-industrial cultures will keep harvesting at a scale that is relatively durable.

    Rather than allowing us to disconnect from nature, completion of imperial collapse will require us to re-connect with nature. Some of us are partially there. I look forward to making further progress in that direction.

  • Memo to Greg Breneman:

    Nature is the greatest good.The human species is the greatest evil,because it’s major goal is the destruction of that greatest good.

    Therefore,anything that decreases the horrible human overpopulation is
    greatly to be wished for.Disease,famine,starvation,natural disasters,war,are all blessings because they ameliorate the scourge of
    human overpopulation.

    Abortion,euthanasia,infanticide,and forced sterilization should be encouraged.

    By the way,if you didn’t suffer from species prejudice(the irrational belief that the human species is the most important thing in existence)
    you could have a free and independent mind,and see truth and reality.

    One example of the benefits of seeing and understanding truth and reality is that it gives you an open mind.One example: 9/11/01 was a brilliant technical achievment.Do you agree Greg?


  • Guy and Frank. I do not despise nature,far from it. If you had read posts from the past I have made you would know it. I like chasing storms through the great plains every year just to be out there for the last twenty years and I enjoy my solitude in the middle of nowhere. I simply have no illusions about what nature really is.

    An example of perspective

    If I am standing on the oregon coast with my camera in march photographing a raging storm with waves of thirty feet crashing on the shore I think that is beautiful and there are few other places I would rather be. However if my boat had just sunk one mile off shore and I am plunged into 47 degree water with little chance of making it ashore alive I am dealing with the reality of what I was looking at and not the illusion of standing safely on shore with my camera with the option of a retreat to shelter,warmth,food and safety.

  • Frank, Nice to see we have another non-anthropocentrist in our midst. By the way, have you read any of Pentii Linkola’s article’s ? I guess you might enjoy them.

  • I’ve come to conclusions similar to what Guy suggests and am seeing more of this Endgame discussion emerging here and there, locally and distant, but of course such discussion must, for self-preservation purposes, end at that line drawn in the sand. How to step over that line and create effective change is the key question.

  • As a raptor lover, I concur with Greg that nature is cruel. And I will add that life is complicated.

    In the raptor world, when prey is scarce, sometimes parents eat their own young. Some eagles exhibit “Cain and Abel Syndrome”, where two eggs are laid, and the older hatchling invariably pecks its younger sibling to death.

    Evolution itself is unfeeling, cruel, amoral, unjust. Evolution made humanity what it is and what we are seeing now is the outworking of many generations of survival of humankind. The survival of the fittest is as work in our industrial economy. The strong prey on the weak and the weak depend on strength of numbers for individual survival. And a bit of luck.

    I watched a mass of blackbirds in a vineyard the other day, balling up in clouds of small bodies as a falcon flew above, flew through the mass of birds, and picked off one for its meal. To that bird, the falcon was cruel; to the others, the one bird was unlucky.

    The industrial civilization gave us penicillin, botox, and dieldrin. It gave us jobs, hospitals, and filled the hospitals with people working their jobs.

    Industry allowed unprecented levels of human prosperity, and unprecented levels of obesity. Pollution and global warming threaten human lives, but solving them threatens human jobs and prosperity.

    Industrial corporations have successfully battled environmentalists and environmentalism by telling the public that their choice would be between their job or their health. Many people chose their jobs and did not choose to enforce pollution regulations.

    Of cource, there are many false choices offered people. A favored trick of industry and corporations is to utterly ignore the concept of equity. Wages and salaries and bonuses are never equitable, nor is wealth distributed equitably across the society. Poor or working class people have more to lose by a small loss of income by percentage, so they are vulnerable to coercion through fear of losing what they have or what they earn.

    The entire system is rigged to the advantage of the few, like a Las Vegas casino. But the little people flock in huge numbers to the casinos, because they love the manufactured glamor and excitement and entertainment of watching the spectacle, even as they are being fleeced.

    But it is all part of the evolutionary development of our species. It only occurs because it evolved to occur, and industrial society ultimately overwhelms and overtakes and displaces healthy, sustainable ones.

    And the industrial society has evolved to the point of unsustainability and will falter and then fail. Many lives will be lost.

    We do not have to bring down the system, nor can we. It will take care of itself. It need not bring down the entire species, though it can and it may.

    We do have hope of surviving the collapse and temporarily existing in a changed world. And then the process will start all over again.

    Within the flow of societal evolution there are many eddies and swirls and vortices and some are good, just, equitable, and admirable. There is always the fight for justice by the few. There is the struggle for freedom and for sustainability and the struggle for peace and for human dignity. All of these are worthwhile subcomponents of the larger civilization, but they cannot control or change the overall direction of the larger civilization overall.

    Barack Obama appears to be the penultimate expression of the manipulation of this society over the masses. He is a pacifier, not a reformer. His job is to make the fleecing more palatable for as long as possible. And he is very good at his job and very successful. The culture of make believe is working as engineered and Obama is a make believe agent of reform.

    And the people adore the spectacle, even as they continue to be fleeced right down to the shirt on their backs and the house they used to live in. This is the stuff of human evolution and it is amoral and cruel and as real as death itself.

    Stan Moore

  • Predatory AND Parasitic!!!

    Driving down the road today a realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Our entire economy is controlled by capitalist pigs who are not only predatory, but parasitic. They eat the underclass alive, and then successfully beseech the government for reimbursement when their complex financial schemes, such as the unregulated derivates market predictably go awry.

    And guess what — the balance sheets of all the bankrupt banks are still and will never be balanced. The toxic assets are still lying there, not accounted for, not paid off, not reduced to nothingness, but waiting for yet more bailouts when needed. The same is true in the residential and (later) the commercial mortgage markets as relates to foreclosures. The banks are not foreclosing on their assets, but leaving them in limbo and listing them positively on the balance rolls as assets, even without income from the financing. This allows accounting trickery and no accountability for the humongous losses involved.

    Every stop of the way, the American people are being hoodwinked, stolen blind, leached of their blood molecules and misled by the compliant media. The government “of the people, by the people and for the people” is no such thing. The predatory parasites (or is it the parastic predators) are in charge and the people are victimized over and over even as they are bamboozled into thinking things will get better.

    It is interesting to hear how astute foreigners have been on the American shenanigans in Copenhagen. It is absolutely clear that Obama and his government intends to try to bamboozle the world into thinking they have a “solution” to climate change, which will consist of pollution as usual and a few “smoke and mirror” tricks to make it appear that the problems are being “offset” by mitigation and that the rest of the world is being taken care of. Obama wants to do for the rest of the world what he is doing for Iraq and Afghanistan — screw them and claim he is working hard for their best interests.

    It is amazing that a skinny guy like Obama can produce so much hot air with not a shred of honesty and not a hint of integrity. Obama talks the talk and flies (not walks) at high speed in the opposite direction of his words.

    I wonder what it is like to sit in on an Obama cabinet meeting. No, I guess I don’t want to know.

    What I do know is that the frog is in the pot and the water is starting to boil. The frog is going to die, and as of yet, he thinks how happy he should be to have gotten out of that cold, cold pond.

  • I’ve been thinking a great deal about the questions raised by this post for several days now. In particular, I wonder about the notion of bringing down industrial civilization. To better understand what this might mean, I spent a couple of days reviewing Derrick Jensen’s work, an author I know you’ve found influential.

    First of all, I wonder what you exactly mean by “bringing down the system”. Are you advocating violence as does Jensen? What would this look like? Random acts of eco-terrorism? A cell phone tower here, a utility pole there? Perhaps burning down a McDonalds or a McMansion? Maybe a dam? Does it mean suicide bombers? Snipers? Assassinations? Setting oneself on fire on the steps of the White House, perhaps? What would acts such as these actually accomplish? I think back to the late 60’s and 70’s and remember the futile terror of radical groups in Germany (Baader Meinhof) and to a lesser extent here in the U.S (Weathermen). And now, how accustomed we are to the daily acts of terror perpetrated around the globe.

    Violent resistance is a meaningless exercise. Our dominant culture (industrial society) will ruthlessly and with overwhelming force crush any such activity while the mainstream media spins it away, obscuring any “moral message” of environmental responsibility. Furthermore, when we speak of “industrial society” to whom do we refer? How about the neighbor next door, that really nice guy who has a pickup truck, two cars and a big motor boat. And actually, we need look no further than that person in the mirror, cell phone and IPod pocketed neatly away. We are all implicated in the crimes of our civilization, we all have blood on our hands, and the idea that we exist apart from society any meaningful way is a fantasy.

    Violence is especially futile if we accept that our chance of “saving” the planet from the ravages of climate change and resource depletion passed years ago. I believe both you and John Michael Greer place that date as being 1980, the year Ronald Reagan was elected president and it was morning again in America. The system is currently collapsing, as seems clearer and clearer with each passing day. What will violence do to hasten its demise?

    I share your angst regarding the continued rape of the Gaia, our Mother. However, our acts in response are critically important. Violence, it seems to me, is an option that has no future whatsoever. The great unchanging law of karma surely bears this out.

  • Thank you, Guy, for this powerful, impassioned article. You’ve brilliantly reframed the definition of moral action, by laying out the immoral context within which morality is defined by the dominant culture, and named the premises upon which the culture within which those of us reading this article live our lives. And then you reframe the question. That’s a fundamentally moral action in itself.

    And then you conclude with naming your intentions and vision: “… And those neighbors aren’t just humans. They’re animals and plants, soil and water. We need to protect and honor them as we do our own children. We need to harbor them from the ravages of war, and also from an economy built on war. We need to live outside the industrial economy and within the real world of honest work, honest play, simple pleasures, and paying the consequences of our daily actions. We need to abandon a political system that takes without giving, long after it abandoned us. At the most fundamental level, we need to re-structure society so that children understand and value the origins of food, and life… It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us…”

    I really liked, too, how many links you had in this piece. It is interesting that you linked to the film, What a Way to Go, which likens the experience of living at this time in the planet’s history and this time of industrial collapse and ecological collapse, to travelling on a train that’s headed over a cliff. I saw that film and strongly recommend it to other readers.

    … And I have one problem with that film, which I think you may appreciate. In the train are wealthy, over-fed, medicated people partying away, obviously oblivious to their fate. The point the film makes pretty well is that the train has to be stopped. My problem with the film is relevant to the comments above, and to the apparent refusal by so many to ask themselves *your* very relevant question, rather than RESIST your question. The problem is this: Since the train is filled with those who are the symbol, in the movie, of the destructive industrial economy, and if the train is about to go over the cliff, if those in the industrial economy were the only ones to go be lost to the cliff, it would save the rest of the planet.

    But the real case is this: Those on the train are not merely blithe about their own death, AND they are not merely going over the cliff. They are along the way, murdering and maiming billions of others in the community of life, while they deny this, and party on. That train has killed too many, and whether or not it goes over that cliff is not as relevant as how much more life will be destroyed along the way to killing those on the train, and how capable we are of envisioning a living planet, before there is nothing left. The train then, has to be stopped, and there are numerous ways to stop it, and given that fact, This “… The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?…” is what we all need to be asking ourselves, constantly, relentlessly, unfailingly, if we have any sense of integrity at all.

    Thank you very much–I look forward to more of your work to stop that train.

  • this essay was submitted minutes ago to

    Obama to World: “See You in Hell”

    President Barack Obama is concerned about global warming. This is, he is concerned that global warming could affect the US economy and thus the ability of the elite financial community to further fleece the American public. So, President Obama maneuvers to create the illusion that he is solving the climate change “problem” by the use of smoke and mirrors.

    What Barack Obama is NOT doing is offering to lower US greenhouse gas emissions. What he is NOT doing is taking dramatic steps to build a truly green organic economy with equitable distribution of wealth for all Americans, much less all the citizens of the world.

    So, Barack Obama wants to trade emissions, not cap them. He wants to make carbon a commodity that can be sold on the open market, with the financial players creating yet more derivates and hedging their investments to maximize profit, Enron-style. Less carbon in the atmosphere would mean less ability to trade carbon, and that does not suit Obama’s purposes. So, he will only approve an illusory, non-confirmable “cap” on emissions so that the financial “players” can buy and sell, invest and enrich themselves as the world turns into a living hell for many.

    This is not the change that many people of the world wanted to believe in. They thought that Obama’s skin color was a reflection of some sort of inner compassion, a hint of some sort of past victimhood, a measure of his universal appeal to the peoples of the world long dominated by rich white men. But Obama is not a black man, and not a white man. He is a chameleon who can make himself into whatever the beholder desires him to be.

    The net impact of Barack Obama’s philosophy and policies will be to facilitate the turning of the world into a living hell for many humans.
    These include the inhanbitants of his ancestral homeland, if not actual birthplace, Kenya, in Africa. Obama will not lift a finger for his grandmother or even his step-brother. He will not lose a moment of sleep over their fate.

    Some Obmma supporters might have hoped that Obama would use his intellect and public conscience to work a new paradigm in which a green economy and an equitable outlook could reverse the selfish capitalist paradigm that has so threatened mankind and put biodiversity at risk. But those supporters were looking at the chameleon and seeing “green”, but of the wrong shade. Obama green is “dollar” green, not environmental green.

    Many perons in the US and around the world were waiting for Obama to finally unleash his goodness in Oslo and then in Copenhagen. Instead, they saw Obama unleash his inner, warmongering, ecocidal capitalist.

    Soon, people of conscience will have to decide whether they can afford to waste more time and resources in supporting their mortal enemy. Soon, the people of the world will have to say “Enough!” and recognize that Obama is their wsrst nightmare and must be exposed, opposed and deposed.

  • C

  • Here is Derrick Jensen’s new essay:

    Published on Sunday, December 20, 2009 by Orion Magazine
    50 Simple Ways to Get Off
    If you’re in love with the world, fall in love with trying to save it
    by Derrick Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Okay, here’s a list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Do something.

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

    © 2009 The Orion Society
    Derrick Jensen lives in northernmost California and is the author of, most recently, Songs of the Dead.


  • Only just found this, but thank you so much for writing it, Guy. It matches very neatly with a couple of articles of my own, which you are welcome to use if you need any more backup for your arguments.

    1) The Problem With…Civilization : (This just sets the scene)

    2) If The Economy Doesn’t Shrink, We’re Finished! : (Only just read Garrett’s paper, and I’m pleased – and sad – to know that the economy/emissions link is sound)

    Will pass your article round to a few more people.