So can it be done? Can industrial civilization be stopped? Theoretically, it’s not that difficult. Industrialization is dependent on very fragile infrastructure. It requires vast quantities of fossil fuels, which come from relatively few places, enter through a small number of centralized ports and processing facilities, and then have to be transported out along vulnerable supply lines, including the highway system. Industrial civilization is utterly dependent on electricity, and the electric grid is a million fragile miles long. The system is also dependent on the Internet; globalization would not be possible without it to organize and transfer both information and capital. And finally there is capital itself, which flows every day through twenty major stock markets—a finite number indeed.
Any of the above could be targeted in a multitude of ways. Serious nonviolent actionists could blockade the ports, the processing facilities, the stock exchanges, the main highways outside New York, Washington, DC, Chicago. There are only sixteen main bridges into Manhattan. A flow of bodies would be necessary to keep the system at a standstill day after day, bodies provided by people willing to face the consequences. Ask yourself if you have that many people. No? Now ask yourself how long it would take to get that many people, how much political education, how much consciousness-raising against the sweet, numbing dream of conformity and cheap consumer goods? How much can you count on that slow build of courage when the planet is losing species and gaining heat every minute?
The human race as a whole could do with an honest assessment of the destruction inherent in civilization and in our resultant swollen numbers. We could make a series of difficult decisions, reorganize our societies economically, politically, spiritually, and sexually, and restore the monocultures of asphalt and agriculture to living, biotic communities inside which our species could take its humble place once more. Instead, China and India are hurtling into industrialization as fast as the coal can be mined, and the United States’ entitlement to 4,000 pounds of steel for every citizen plus the gas to move it continues unabated. We’re not on the edge of the “Great Turning,” but on the brink of destruction.
In a similar vein, industrialization could be brought down by nonviolent direct action—but will it, when most environmentalists refuse to understand the basic nature of political power and hence the principles by which the strategy works? More importantly, do we have the sheer numbers of people that would be required? And how many species have gone extinct since you opened this book? I need hope to be backed up by more than a fundamentalist insistence on it: I need proof, actual evidence that either the bulk of humanity will willingly give up civilization, right now, or that enough of us are willing to risk our lives to bring it down to make nonviolent interventions feasible.
Reality tells me differently. That means we face a decision, individually and as a resistance movement. Because a small number of people could directly target that infrastructure; a few more, willing to persist, could potentially bring it down.