"It takes world class stupidity to foul the entire planet." Derrick Jensen
After watching Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, and knowing it had all been predicted, sometime after that, I stumbled onto Endgame. One lone copy sat on a table at the bookstore, in the environmental section.
It rocked my world. Entirely.
Suddenly, everything coalesced.
Here was a person describing the loss, the theft, of the world in the big numbers (topsoil, forests, ocean life…..going, going……) and saying “we’re fucked.”
“No population can support infinite demand. No population can survive a global economy. The problem is inherent, not soluble by any amount of tinkering.” (Endgame)
Wait, an environmentalist who isn’t telling me I just need to recycle, use cloth bags at the grocery store and buy a Prius?! (I dutifully did all of those things. This is the same guy who told me the Prius is actually even worse than regular cars, because of the rare earth mining that must be done, and the manufacturing process uses even more fossil fuels.)
Well, he’s written a new book, called The Myth of Human Supremacy. It’s very good.
One of the things I love about Derrick (and yes, I’m calling him that since we have actually met once and he’s two years younger than me, and I don’t think he’d mind) is that he doesn’t sugar coat much. In this new book, he calls both Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking what they probably are: Sociopaths. Both of these men are big on colonizing space because they are correct in thinking that the human race, the wise ape, is headed for extinction. Instead of using their big brains to suggest we find a different way to live, you know, one that won’t kill the planet, we need to colonize a new one.
“Gosh, the real tragedy of the murder of the planet is that if the planet is dead, it will no longer be able to support our way of life.”
“Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture. A central unquestioned belief of this culture is that humans are superior to and separate from everyone else.”
The vast majority of the book is demonstrating how other life here on the blue marble is intelligent, how other life communicates, how other life deals with problems. It’s fascinating reading.
“The Great Chain of Being has long been used to rationalize whatever hierarchies those in power wish to rationalize. It has been and is central to the notion of the Divine Right of Kings, to racism, to patriarchy, to empire. It is a very versatile tool.
The Great Chain of Being also underlies modern belief that the world consists of resources to be exploited by humans.
Our perception of evolution is infected with this belief in the Great Chain of Being, as so often other people, including scientists, think and write and act as though all of evolution was about creating more and more perfect creatures, leading eventually to that most perfect creature yet: us.”
“It’s much more convenient to live in a world where your morality is based on a clearly defined hierarchy, with you at the top.”
Isn’t it, though? It explains practically every corporate action, every land grab, every resource grab, every genocide. And if what you exterminate isn’t human, why, it’s not genocide at all, now is it? Good thing, because the list of “things” that the human race has exterminated is pretty fucking long and getting longer every single day.
(I wish I believed in karma or some life after death retribution. It would be so satisfying to know that Rex Tillerson, Dick Cheney et al, will get what they have earned.)
Derrick believes that civilization, and specifically, industrial civilization is the central problem and that we must dismantle it now, by any means necessary. He also knows that it’s going to crash of its own volition eventually. But he wants to speed the crash up to save other species (200 go extinct every day). As you might expect, he has lots of critics. Some expect him to blow up dams himself. Others say that violence is never acceptable. Thomas Paine took a lot of shit for his writing, too. People don’t change much over the centuries.
I am not a big brain. I think Derrick might be a little too generous, though. People created civilization, people created agriculture, people created all of the things wrong with our world. The problem, in my very humble opinion, is with people. From our earliest beginnings, we wanted more. We walked out of Africa and hunted and gathered our way around the world. This is a level of living that is sustainable, if human population is kept in check. The proof is in the time frame; people lived on the earth for thousands of years and it sustained them.
Which is not to say that we didn’t alter the world. We did. Other hominids walked out of Africa before and after us and they are no longer here. We used fire and made tools to cut trees down. Large creatures like the wooly mammoth and the cave bear became rarer and rarer until they no longer existed.
There are those who believe that Homo sapiens killed them all. I don’t know. The climate was changing, Toba had erupted, I tend to think Homo sapiens was one of several factors. However much I might not like to admit it, though, people have been violent since our very beginnings. I think it’s in our DNA. And our technology has been an essential part of our lives from the start. I think our end can be seen from our beginnings.
Which has huge implications for the whole notion of free will, doesn’t it?
These are fun things to debate on the Internet, but I can’t, I won’t dismiss Derrick’s work because of what are, essentially, details.
“Such is the poverty of our discourse that mere mention of the biggest problem the world has ever faced can be enough to make me, well, happy isn’t the right word…..perhaps grateful, like a starving dog thrown the tiniest crust of bread.”
Oh yes! Pathetically grateful, even. It’s so incredibly lonely to see what we see and not be able to even talk about it. Because few will see.
From The Culture of Make Believe….”One of the curses of being remotely aware of the effects and trajectory of our civilization is that it’s increasingly difficult, especially for those who maintain touch with their capacity to spontaneously free associate, to feel unalloyed happiness, even in the presence of great beauty.”
Dang, dude. I love that he appreciates the ability to free associate! I love that he acknowledges the pain involved in being a bit more alive on the planet as we watch it die.
“If your experience of the world is at variance with what this culture inculcates you into believing should be your experience of the world, what do you do? Many people respond by denying their own experience.
Of course. That’s the point of a supremacist philosophy.”
He affirms the rest of us. We very very few people who, not only acknowledge that the world is being killed, but feel some kind of duty to bear witness to it. To feel the guilt (holy schmoley, the guilt!), to feel the pain of loss, to try to do whatever we can to mitigate our presence, to live with the knowledge that there is no future. I can count on one finger the person I can actually talk to about all of this in person. One. My husband. Otherwise, it’s all cyberspace. Which is killing the planet.
“In short, people protect what’s important to them, and human supremacists have shown time and time again that their sense of superiority and the tangible benefits they receive because of their refusal to perceive others as anything other than inferiors or resources to be exploited is more important to them than not destroying the capacity of this planet to support life, including, ironically, their own.”
The destruction continues.
(All quotes are from The Myth of Human Supremacy unless otherwise noted.)