by Derrick Jensen
Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did.
—Sophie Scholl, The White Rose Society
This book is about fighting back. The dominant culture—civilization—is killing the planet, and it is long past time for those of us who care about life on earth to begin taking the actions necessary to stop this culture from destroying every living being.
By now we all know the statistics and trends: 90 percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone, there is ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in the oceans, 97 percent of native forests are destroyed, 98 percent of native grasslands are destroyed, amphibian populations are collapsing, migratory songbird populations are collapsing, mollusk populations are collapsing, fish populations are collapsing, and so on. Two hundred species are driven extinct each and every day. If we don’t know those statistics and trends, we should.
This culture destroys landbases. That’s what it does. When you think of Iraq, is the first thing that comes to mind cedar forests so thick that sunlight never touched the ground? One of the first written myths of this culture is about Gilgamesh deforesting the hills and valleys of Iraq to build a great city. The Arabian Peninsula used to be oak savannah. The Near East was heavily forested (we’ve all heard of the cedars of Lebanon). Greece was heavily forested. North Africa was heavily forested.
We’ll say it again: this culture destroys landbases.
And it won’t stop doing so because we ask nicely.
We don’t live in a democracy. And before you gasp at this blasphemy, ask yourself: Do governments better serve corporations or living beings? Does the judicial system hold CEOs accountable for their destructive, often murderous acts?
Here are a couple of riddles that aren’t very funny—Q: What do you get when you cross a long drug habit, a quick temper, and a gun? A: Two life terms for murder, earliest release date 2026. Q: What do you get when you cross two nation-states, a large corporation, forty tons of poison, and at least 8,000 dead human beings? A: Retirement, with full pay and benefits (Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide, which caused the mass murder at Bhopal).
Do the rich face the same judicial system as you or I? Does life on earth have as much standing in a court as does a corporation?
We all know the answers to these questions.
And we know in our bones, if not our heads, that this culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. We—Aric, Lierre, and Derrick—have asked thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life, from activists to students to people we meet on buses and planes, whether they believe this culture will undergo that voluntary transformation. Almost no one ever says yes.
If you care about life on this planet, and if you believe this culture won’t voluntarily cease to destroy it, how does that belief affect your methods of resistance?
Most people don’t know, because most people don’t talk about it.
This book talks about it: this book is about that shift in strategy, and tactics.
This book is about fighting back.
We must put our bodies and our lives between the industrial system and life on this planet. We must start to fight back. Those who come after, who inherit whatever’s left of the world once this culture has been stopped—whether through peak oil, economic collapse, ecological collapse, or the efforts of brave women and men resisting in alliance with the natural world—are going to judge us by the health of the landbase, by what we leave behind. They’re not going to care how you or I lived our lives. They’re not going to care how hard we tried. They’re not going to care whether we were nice people. They’re not going to care whether we were nonviolent or violent. They’re not going to care whether we grieved the murder of the planet. They’re not going to care whether we were enlightened or not. They’re not going to care what sort of excuses we had to not act (e.g., “I’m too stressed to think about it,” or “It’s too big and scary,” or “I’m too busy,” or “But those in power will kill us if we effectively act against them,” or “If we fight back, we run the risk of becoming like they are,” or “But I recycled,” or any of a thousand other excuses we’ve all heard too many times). They’re not going to care how simply we lived. They’re not going to care how pure we were in thought or action. They’re not going to care if we became the change we wished to see. They’re not going to care whether we voted Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or not at all. They’re not going to care if we wrote really big books about it. They’re not going to care whether we had “compassion” for the CEOs and politicians running this deathly economy.
They’re going to care whether they can breathe the air and drink the water. We can fantasize all we want about some great turning, but if the people (including the nonhuman people) can’t breathe, it doesn’t matter.
Every new study reveals that global warming is happening far more quickly than was previously anticipated. Staid scientists are now suggesting the real possibility of billions of human beings being killed off by what some are calling a Climate Holocaust. A recently released study suggests an increase in temperatures of 16°C (30°F) by the year 2100.
We are not talking about this culture killing humans, and indeed the planet, sometime in the far-distant future. This is the future that children born today will see, and suffer, in their lifetimes.
Honestly, is this culture worth more than the lives of your own children?