Q: I believe in the hundredth monkey story, in which one monkey learned a new skill, and taught it to another, and another until when a critical mass of monkeys—say, one hundred—had learned this skill, suddenly all the monkeys knew the skill, even on other islands. If enough minds are changed, won’t civilization transform itself into something sustainable?
Derrick Jensen: First, the hundredth monkey story is not true. It is a story made up by some New Agers. It is stupid to base a strategy for saving the planet on a fictional story. If we’re going to base our strategy on the hundredth monkey, why don’t we just base it on Santa Claus bringing us a sustainable culture for Christmas?
And, no, civilization will not transform itself into something sustainable. That’s not physically possible. Civilization is functionally unsustainable. And the fact that ideas like the hundredth monkey are spoken of quite often in public discourse lets us know the extreme distance that we have to go to make the sort of changes that are necessary. The fact that people are still talking about this level of detachment from physical reality is evidence itself that there will not be a voluntary transformation.
No, the momentum is too fierce. What we need to do is stop this culture before it kills the planet. And I can’t speak for you, but I’m not going to rely on a fictional hundredth monkey to do the work for me when I can do the work myself.