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Fight back to save the planet

EarthIt's all well and good to reduce your production of household waste, buy energy-efficient lightbulbs and donate to non-profit eco organizations, but to really save the planet, more drastic action needs to be taken, write Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay.

A great many books on environmentalism written in the last few decades conclude with a listing of things that you, as a citizen, or more likely as a consumer, can do to address the problems. In your capacity as a consumer, you can reduce your consumption or buy products that are allegedly more eco-friendly in order to convince corporations to enact change.

As a citizen, you can write to your congresspeople or other governmental representatives and ask them to enact change. If you want to do one better, you can donate to a nonprofit organization that will lobby governments and corporations on your behalf.

Authors may offer a plethora of different vicarious solutions involving various ways to try to persuade large, entrenched institutions to act against their underlying drives.

We’re not going to do that.

If you are yearning for a way to reduce your personal use of disposable packaging or compost more of your household waste, there are already hundreds of books with tips on exactly those subjects. It’s been done. And we’re not saying you shouldn’t try to reduce your production of household waste.

Minimizing waste is certainly a good thing to do, and we don’t want to insult that group of people (which includes ourselves) who have taken steps to reduce their waste. And obviously we aren’t saying you shouldn’t donate to nonprofit organizations, especially local ones.

We will say that in general you shouldn’t give a dime to big corporate ‘green’ organizations. One example why: Jay Hair, former head of the National Wildlife Federation, immediately went from there to becoming a spokesperson for Plum Creek Timber Company, a timber company so nasty even a Republican called it the Darth Vader of the timber industry. Such is business as usual among the big corporate ìgreenî organizations.)

What we are saying is this: we aren’t going to insult your intelligence by asserting that such solutions are even remotely sufficient to address the problem. Removing an extra few dump-truck loads from those seventy-three Grand Canyons is good, but it’s a drop in the plastic-suffocated ocean in terms of real change.

We don’t have the time or patience to immerse ourselves in a fantasy world where corporations and governments act in ways that contradict their own fundamental imperatives and immediate self-interest because we send them politely worded and well-researched letters.

And we aren’t going to blindly swallow the premise that you, the reader, are a mere consumer, taxpayer, or even citizen. Your identity, your being, is not limited to your economic function in relation to some vast bureaucracy. You are a human being, an animal: whether you recognize it or not, you are a living creature embedded in a network of trillions and trillions of other living creatures, all interdependent.

To succeed in stopping the destruction of the planet, you have to be ready to take responsibility. Not to belittle responsibility by pretending that solely personal actions aimed primarily at protecting you and yours can solve vast problems. Not to surrender responsibility to governments and businesses which claim to act on your behalf or in your best interest. Not to renounce responsibility by pretending that walking away from the destruction will somehow cause it to stop.

 You have to be ready to take responsibility to defend your community. And when your community (by which we mean your landbase, the living Earth, your human community and your own body) is in danger – no, not just in danger but actively under attack – that means fighting back.

Fighting back, in the broadest sense, means a great deal.It means giving up on the fairy tale that those in power act in the best interest of us or the planet, or that they are systematically capable of thinking in the long term.
It means no longer pretending that industrial progress will bring us to some bright new beautiful tomorrow. It means stepping outside of the carefully circumscribed limits that keep us ineffective.

It means deliberate and strategic opposition to those in power, instead of attempts to lobby or convince them to please stop exploiting people and destroying the world.

Fighting back means doing what is appropriate. It means seeking solutions appropriate to the scale of a problem. It means not ruling out actions just because those in power (or Gandhian activists, or the Bible, or those who think buying recycled toilet paper is sufficient, or liberal members of the ìloyal oppositionî) say they shouldn't be used.

And fighting back may or may not look like fighting: it doesnít have to look like violence (although it may). It means not using violence when it's appropriate to not use violence. It means using violence when it is appropriate to use violence. It means using industrial technology when itís appropriate, and not using it when itís not appropriate. It means being strategic, and being smart, and remembering our allegiances and our end goals.

There’s no doubt, we’re in a serious situation that requires a serious response. And though we shouldn’t unnecessarily provoke those in power, we must recognize that effective political strategy will meet with reprisals from those in power regardless of the specific tactics used.

It can be frightening to think of those reprisals targeting you – that’s the whole point after all: it’s a form of government-sponsored terrorism (and one could easily argue that civilized governments are a form of terrorism) – but in the long term (and by now the short term), those in power are destroying the world.

What do we have to lose? If we make them really mad, what are they going to do? Destroy the earth twice?

Here are some of the questions that anyone contemplating serious action should ask themselves. What are the risks if you take action? (Loss of status? State reprisals? Prison? Torture? Murder by the state?)

What are the risks if you don’t? (A freefall slide into fascist dystopia? Runaway global warming? The collapse of the biosphere? Loss of self-respect?)

What would you need from yourself, from your friends, your family, your community, your institutions to make action more possible? (Moral support? Material support? Familial support? Collaboration?)

Where do your loyalties lie? Where do you end, and other creatures begin? What will be your legacy? What do you want to leave behind?

What do you need, and what do you have to give up, to make that happen? And if you don’t do it, who will?
Knowing the answers to those questions, having discarded the paralyzing mythologies of those in power, choose your future, and fight for it.

What_leave_behindThis article comprises a series of edited extracts from What We Leave Behind by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay. Published by Seven Stories Press.

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