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Q: Won’t we just reach a tipping point in public opinion?

Derrick Jensen: In 2004, George W. Bush received more than 62 million votes in the United States. Admittedly, the Democrats are just the good cop in a good cop/bad cop scenario, but that doesn’t alter the fact that 62 million people voted for George W. Bush. Now people are camping out overnight to get Sarah Palin’s signature. In the small county where I live there are a few issues that will get enough people excited to storm the board of supervisor’s office. One is that they want to maintain their ability to grow small amounts of marijuana. Another is that they want the right to drive ORVs anywhere they goddamn please.

People are not rioting over the unwillingness of this government to provide health care. People aren’t rioting over the toxification of the total environment and their loved ones dying of cancer. They’re not rioting over the United States spending billions of dollars—billions and billions of dollars—to kill people all over the world. And, in fact, one of the smartest political moves that any politician can make is to increase the military budget. That is tremendously popular.

This culture must be undone completely. That’s an absolute necessity. Humanity lived without industrialism for most of its existence. And industrialism is killing the planet. Humans cannot exist without the planet. The planet (and sustainable human existence) is more important than industrialism.

Of course, we would all rather have a voluntary transformation, a tipping point. But if this tipping point does not occur, we need a backup plan.

Q: I’m a fan of Daniel Quinn. He says we should just walk away. I know there is something wrong here. What do you think?

Derrick Jensen: There are two problems with this. With civilization having metastasized across the globe and bombing the moon, where are you supposed to walk to? Are you supposed to walk to the melting Arctic? Are you supposed to walk to the middle of the ocean, where there’s forty-eight times as much plastic as there is phytoplankton? Where are you supposed to go? There is dioxin in every mother’s breast milk, so you can’t even drink breast milk without getting dioxin. There are carcinogens in every stream in the United States and, presumably, in the world. Where are you supposed to go?

Some respond to this by saying, “Oh, no, it’s supposed to be a mental state. We’re supposed to walk away emotionally and withdraw.” But the real physical world is the basis for all life and you cannot withdraw from that.

Withdrawal in the face of moral complexity is no answer. Withdrawal in the face of atrocity is no answer. Two hundred species went extinct today. When faced with those committing atrocities, it is incumbent upon you to stop those atrocities using any means necessary. If you were being tortured to death in some basement, and I knew this, would you want me to walk away? Would you accept it if I said, “Oh, here’s an answer, I will walk away.” What would you call me if I did that? What would you call anyone else who did that?