The end of industrial agriculture could be an opening where the culture of resistance gets serious. Somebody has to start repairing the prairie. That industrial carbon has got to be sequestered, and the bison brought home to help. A political migration to Kansas happened once; there’s no reason it can’t happen again. People felt the emergency of slavery and knew that the entire west could fall if Kansas didn’t hold as a free state. Thousands of abolitionists moved to the middle of nowhere—the cultural edge of the universe for Boston urbanites—to stop slavery, and they succeeded. If environmentalists would only understand that the prairie is desperate to return and do its part, that all it needs is people willing to help it, then acre by acre hope could take root. The young and idealistic have been willing to fight fascism in Spain, to harvest sugar in Cuba, to pick coffee in Nicaragua. They’re needed now to plant prairies, only no one is calling them. Let this be the first call: repair, restore, rejoin. Repair the broken rivers, the exhausted soil. Restore the grasses and their animal cohorts. Rejoin as participants, never again to dominate. Stop buying barely edible industrial waste products manufactured from soybeans, and start dreaming of prairies. The land itself is cheap. Understand that corporations don’t own the land. They are very clear that if they owned the land, they’d have to pay farmers as employees. Now, they can command prices below production costs, and the federal government makes up the difference. Farming, according to the US Department of Labor, is a statistically insignificant occupation. There are ghost towns across the Midwest without enough children to fill a baseball team, let alone a high school. And just like MEND is financially self-sufficient, grass-based farmers can make money in the first year. So gather your friends and your deep green vision and go. Thousands of people did it in 1854. Another 100,000 followed Helen and Scott Nearing to Vermont. Follow the Pasque flower, the first one to open in the tall grass prairie; follow the bison. Their beauty and sturdy grace alone could call a generation. The Dakota Indians sing when the Pasque flower blooms, to encourage the rest to follow. Let your acre of prairie be that first flower, and sing for all you’re worth.
The last two generations have seen a mass migration from rural life to urban, both in the US and around the globe. Those dislocations, caused by economic pressures ultimately based on the application of fossil fuels to civilization, are a billion tears in the weave of human cultures and human hearts. As the oil age shudders and dims, those migrations will naturally reverse if they can. People go where the hope is, especially the hope of basic survival. I say “if they can,” though, because the land they have left behind has in many places been reduced to salt flats and sand. Nothing is beyond repair—life wants to live—but their repair may take resources and time that starving people don’t have, as well as democratic decision making in areas ruled by corruption. How this will play out is anyone’s guess. It’s a horrifying race between the forces for life and justice and the accumulated power of the entitled. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement is forty-five million trees and one Nobel Peace Prize strong, and is as rooted in democracy and feminism as it is in the regreening slopes of their mountains. “Failure to act now will be catastrophic. This means that we are the only generation of humans ever who are able to effectively respond to this challenge,” said the Prize recipient, founder Wangari Maathai.40 Dust storms from China, meanwhile, have affected air quality in Colorado, 94 percent of Iran’s agricultural land is degraded, and one-third of Pakistan is under risk of desertification.41 All of this shows how absolutely necessary the aboveground and the militants are to each other. DEW alone cannot stop processes of desertification, while all the committed efforts of human rights and democracy activists will not produce the essential changes needed in the time left to our planet.
The crumbling of the global economy could easily mean that in the majority world, where the impoverished majority live, the rural poor get to stay home and the urban poor can return home. For the minority world, where the rich and powerful minority live, Europe is in a very different situation from the United States and Canada, because Europe’s built environment was in place long before the age of the automobile, and it was designed to human scale. They have also done a much better job at protecting the farmland outside towns and cities. Sweden, for instance, outlawed shopping malls. Anyone in the US who suggested that would be either tried for treason or burned as a heretic. The average bite of food in the US travels 2,000 miles, in part because it has to: the land around towns and cities has been devoured by asphalt, the sacrifice demanded by the God of Gasoline. As the inimitable James Howard Kunstler puts it, the suburbs are “a living arrangement with no future.” That future is almost here, and urbanites in the US and Canada need to face it now, before the laws of physics enforce their own facts. This is true whether or not DGR actionists get serious.
The coming of energy descent and biotic collapse, in whatever proportions, do not have to mean mass starvation. To be very blunt, it is up to us whether we starve or eat. Will the energy left to society go to more useless crap for the wealthy or will it go to transport basic sustenance while local economies struggle into existence? Are we willing to tell the wealthy that they can’t have a personal mountain of electronic junk, not while we lack for food? And 90¢ of every food dollar in the US goes to processed food. Right now, subsidies to the grain cartels make agricultural commodities the cheapest calories on the market. The food supply is structured for corporate profits. So unstructure it. It is our mutual fault if we starve, our failure to take back our power. Our denial is, in the words of Kunstler, “wholly incompatible with anything describable as our collective responsibility to the future.”42
That responsibility includes the final target of industrial capital. Fourteen hundred people control the world economy. This one is simple: they have our wealth and we aim to take it back. Once more, this will necessitate the combined dedication of the aboveground and the militants. The destruction of the physical infrastructure of capitalism is only a stopgap so long as law structures organized theft, and that theft is backed by force. But the activism and initiatives to redirect our economies to human needs are not winning, not anywhere on the globe. Those initiatives need help. Targeting the infrastructure of global capitalism involves little threat to human life. There are twenty major stock exchanges. All of them are profoundly dependent on electricity. All of them close at night. All of them are in large cities that require transportation for millions of commuters. And once more: without the Internet, globalization would not be possible. Believing that the poor are dependent on the rich is just an updated version of the White Man’s Burden. They don’t need America’s grain, GMOs, technology, or corporations. They definitely don’t need the rich to transform their “resource base”—their land, trees, fish, oil, sunlight, or labor—into wealth and then loan it back to them. The more our actionists can disrupt the flow of capital, the more breathing room there is for fragile radicles of justice.