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In The Nazi Doctors, Robert Jay Lifton explored how it was that men who had taken the Hippocratic Oath could lend their skills to concentration camps where inmates were worked to death or killed in assembly lines. He found that many of the doctors honestly cared for their charges, and did everything within their power—which means pathetically little—to make life better for the inmates. If an inmate got sick, they might give the inmate an aspirin to lick. They might put the inmate to bed for a day or two (but not for too long or the inmate might be “selected” for murder). If the patient had a contagious disease, they might kill the patient to keep the disease from spreading. All of this made sense within the confines of Auschwitz. The doctors, once again, did everything they could to help the inmates, except for the most important thing of all: They never questioned the existence of Auschwitz itself. They never questioned working the inmates to death. They never questioned starving them to death. They never questioned imprisoning them. They never questioned torturing them. They never questioned the existence of a culture that would lead to these atrocities. They never questioned the logic that leads inevitably to the electrified fences, the gas chambers, the bullets in the brain.

We as environmentalists do the same. We fight as hard as we can to protect the places we love, using the tools of the system the best that we can. Yet we do not do the most important thing of all: We do not question the existence of this deathly culture. We do not question the existence of an economic and social system that is working the world to death, that is starving it to death, that is imprisoning it, that is torturing it. We never question the logic that leads inevitably to clear-cuts, murdered oceans, loss of topsoil, dammed rivers, poisoned aquifers.

And we certainly don’t act to stop these horrors.

How do you stop global warming that is caused in great measure by the burning of oil and gas? If you ask any reasonably intelligent seven-year-old, that child should be able to give you the obvious answer. But if you ask any reasonably intelligent thirty-five-year-old who works for a green high-tech consulting corporation, you’ll probably receive an answer that helps the corporation more than the real, physical world.

When most people in this culture ask, “How can we stop global warming?” they aren’t really asking what they pretend they’re asking. They are instead asking, “How can we stop global warming without stopping the burning of oil and gas, without stopping the industrial infrastructure, without stopping this omnicidal system?” The answer: you can’t.

Here’s yet another way to look at it: What would you do if space aliens had invaded this planet, and they were vacuuming the oceans, and scalping native forests, and putting dams on every river, and changing the climate, and putting dioxin and dozens of other carcinogens into every mother’s breast milk, and into the flesh of your children, lover, mother, father, brother, sister, friends, into your own flesh? Would you resist? If there existed a resistance movement, would you join it? If not, why not? How much worse would the damage have to get before you would stop those who were killing the planet, killing those you love, killing you?

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

By asking these questions we are in no way implying that people should not try to work within the system to slow this culture’s destructiveness. Right now a large energy corporation, state and federal governments, local Indian nations, and various interest groups (from environmental organizations to fishermen to farmers) are negotiating to remove five dams on the Klamath River within the next fifteen years (whether salmon will survive that long is dubious). That’s something. That’s important.

But there are 2 million dams in the United States alone; 60,000 of those dams are taller than thirteen feet, and 70,000 are taller than six feet. If we only took out one of those 70,000 dams per day, it would take us 200 years. Salmon don’t have that time. Sturgeon don’t have that time.

If salmon could take on human manifestation, what would they do?

This book is about fighting back.

And what do we mean by fighting back? As we’ll explore in this book, it means first and foremost thinking and feeling for ourselves, finding who and what we love, and figuring out how best to defend our beloved, using the means that are appropriate and necessary. The strategy of Deep Green Resistance (DGR) starts by acknowledging the dire circumstances that industrial civilization has created for life on this planet. The goal of DGR is to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. It also means defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases. This is a vast undertaking, but it can be done. Industrial civilization can be stopped.