I woke up this morning to find my social media feed awash with David Bowie mourners, with too many articles on the subject to count. His death also featured on TV stations and the airwaves. Bowie is an icon within the industry of 20th and 21st century capitalism, arguably unmatched in terms of following, creativity and cultural impact. He undeniably had great talent. But, how can this culture place such disproportionate emphasis on the death of one man, relative to far more pressing issues?
The spectacle of this culture covers up a greater state of loss, with not even a tiny fraction of the attention paid to Bowie’s death given to matters of planetary life and death. These are just a few of the environmental and technology articles I found today with repercussions far greater than those from the death of one celebrity, no matter how popular:
Plans to build 450 huge hydroelectric dams in the Amazon, Meking and Congo could have a drastic effect on biodiversity, with a potential loss of 1/3 of this planets fresh water fish population.
Our cultural focus is a complete and utter disaster. The cultural spectacle leaves us increasingly distracted, while our world falls apart and we trust our fate to those who profit from the disintegration.
Personally, I feel a lot like Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons Movie, when she says “This town is just one piece of trash away from a toxic nightmare! But I knew you wouldn’t listen. So I took the liberty of pouring water from the lake in all your drinking glasses!”, to which Moe responds with “See, this is why we should hate kids!” But this isn’t a cartoon. Neither Lisa Simpson, David Bowie, nor even Spider-Pig will stop this culture and the world it is creating. We need to take on the responsibility, and resist in whatever ways we can.
Children are choking to death and being prepared for evacuation as forest fires ravage Indonesia in what is probably the most severe environmental disaster of the 21st century. Endangered orangutans are losing their homes and food sources, which, obviously, has a severe knock on effect for their survival. Every day, the carbon emissions from these fires equals those from the USA, and we all know how much Americans love to be “green”.
“Apocalyptic hellish scene” said Ben Henschke of BBC Indonesia. This is a tragic event of unparalleled proportion, but what is this culture talking about? Star Wars!
What is the (extremely) probable cause of this devastation? Corruption and corporate greed! Already there is palm oil being grown illegally on the decimated remains of the forest homes of orangutans. Palm oil giants, sourcing from independent smallholders, are profiteering from what is choking children to death, but what trends on Twitter? Star Wars.
“It’s no wonder we don’t defend the land where we live. We don’t live here. We live in television programs and movies and books and with celebrities and in heaven and by rules and laws and abstractions created by people far away and we live anywhere and everywhere except in our particular bodies on this particular land at this particular moment in these particular circumstances.”
The DGR Southwest Coalition recently held their annual Southwest Gathering, sharing skills & good food, and engaging in many discussions & strategy sessions. As part of the gathering, Deanna Meyer of Deep Green Resistance Colorado joined Brian Ertz of Wildlands Defense to discuss their recent campaign against a Castle Rock mega-mall development. We’ve reported here a little bit on the struggle, and are excited to share this video of Meyer and Ertz describing the campaign in more detail.
The campaign initially petitioned the developer to “do the right thing”: delay construction until June, so that threatened prairie dogs on-site could be relocated with the best chance of survival. Though this would leave the prairie dogs as refugees, displaced from their homes and with the rest of their community killed, at least they would have a chance to try to rebuild their lives. When the developer responded by poisoning the prairie dogs en masse (along with many others, human and nonhuman), the campaign focused on saving those who were left, and on creating an example of the developer by inflicting as much pain as possible.
The campaigners were unable to stop the development or to save all the prairie dogs, but their dedicated grassroots organizing succeeded at achieving their secondary objectives. They forced the developer to halt construction for months, allowing workers to rescue those prairie dogs who survived the mass slaughter. They’ve probably cost the developer millions of dollars and countless headaches, demonstrating the practical value to future developers of doing the right thing from the start.
Learn how these defenders of life leveraged their strengths to overcome a powerful opponent despite mainstream environmental groups saying “it can’t be done”, and how they plan to build on their win:
Bellmeadow, a member of Deep Green Resistance Colorado, reports on the planned construction of the newest biggest mall in the US. The mall in Castle Rock, CO will destroy the home of one of the largest remnant prairie dog colonies on Colorado’s Front Range. Already reduced to 3% of their native range and less than 1% of their original population, prairie dogs would be considered an endangered species if not for the loophole of calling them “pests.”
Recently I heard news that our county (Douglas) was getting one of the nation’s biggest malls. The news simultaneously sunk my heart and angered me. Why the hell do we need another mall? To consume the world? Then my mind raced to the location of the mall, and the prairie dogs that live there. I had been worried about this colony before, about the strong possibility that the remaining colonies comprising hundreds of prairie dogs would be destroyed for some kind of development. After all, a Lowe’s store, an outlet mall, a housing project, and a tire store had occupied their territory and had already killed thousands of these dogs in the name of “development.” And this was the final solution for the 3,000 to 8,000 remaining burrows: complete annihilation of the prairie dogs for a shopping mall set to cover 170 acres in concrete.
Regular readers of this blog or listeners of Derrick Jensen’s Resistance Radio may remember his interview with Con Slobodchikoff on prairie dog language, in which they discussed their high level of intelligence. Sacrificing these beings for short term profit and another shopping mall should be criminal.
Unfortunately, as we know all too well, money and those who wield it write the laws. There’s probably no chance of saving the habitat for the colony under threat; the best-case scenario is “relocation”, a horrible process of sucking the dogs out of their homes, killing many and splitting up families in the process, and moving them to strange new territory where they may or may not survive. Even implementing this salvaging rescue mission will prove difficult, as few landowners are willing to accept the forced transplants, and if a location can be found, it’ll be another struggle to convince the developer to hold off on construction three months so the prairie dogs can be moved at the least harmful time of year.
If you care about prairie dogs and the other people crushed by the relentless expansion of civilization, if you feel anger or grief or shame, let that guide you to action. Join Deep Green Resistance and the culture of resistance!
In January 2013, Dr. Jeremy Jackson spoke at the U.S. Naval War College on the multitude of negative impacts of industrial civilization on the oceans of the world. Jackson is a Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and a marine ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with decades of experience studying oceans around the world. He knows and cares about oceans and presents his depressing information in a succinct and engaging manner.
Jackson asks three crucial questions:
What are the most important human impacts on the oceans and their consequences today?
What are the projected consequences of these changes for the environment (and thus for human well being)?
What can we do to prevent these things from happening?
Jackson does an excellent job answering the first two questions. This video is important viewing for anyone who wants to learn about the desperate state of the oceans and their certain collapse if business as usual is allowed to continue.
Unfortunately, though he identifies the major threats as pollution, overfishing, and climate change, he doesn’t tie these together into a necessary broader critique of civilization. His proposed solutions, with a focus on green technology hopium and voting in the “right” leaders, are almost entirely useless.
Chris Matera founded and works in his spare time for Massachusetts Forest Watch, fighting against destruction of New England forests. Derrick Jensen interviewed him for the November 30 episode of Resistance Radio, discussing the many forces pushing for logging.
As expected, the timber industry puts out carefully crafted propaganda designed to confuse well meaning but ignorant people. Companies claim clearcutting will counteract stressors, correct forest imbalances, and otherwise improve forest health. They claim clearcutting will improve habitat for cute animals (already overabundant because of past logging), not mentioning the threatened species who will suffer further harm. They claim they need to clearcut trees now to prevent future hurricanes from knocking them down.
Less immediately transparent is the propaganda around biofuels, billed as clean and green, but really just another excuse to clearcut forests. Matera says that burning green trees is 50% more carbon polluting than burning coal, and has a similar impact on air quality. He warns people to critically examine claims of energy sustainability, usually heavily based on this habitat destruction and pollution even worse than coal.
Perhaps most surprisingly for many listeners, Jensen and Matera reveal big green NGOs such as The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and The Nature Conservancy as more of a problem than a help. Time and time again, grassroots activists have clashed with such NGOs backing environmentally destructive practices like biofuels via deforesting. Jensen and Matera discuss the dynamics and details of this serious obstacle to environmentalism.
In a thematic follow-up to the interview with Culum Brown, Derrick Jensen’s August 17 Resistance Radio episode features Con Slobodchikoff. Slobodchikoff studies Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs as a model for understanding animal language, and shares some delightful and amazing observations on the complexity of their relationships and communication. For example, the prairie dogs can tell each other the equivalent of “Here is a tall thin human walking slowly wearing a blue shirt coming towards us.”
Jensen and Slobodchikoff discuss the reasons for mass die-offs, habitat destruction, and ongoing intentional eradication of prairie dogs, a topic especially heartbreaking (but important) in light of their intelligence and highly developed social structure. They also examine their role improving pastures and prairies as a keystone species in their landbases, a great bonus to their being just plain cute.
The conversation touches on many other subjects, including language in other species, what actually constitutes language, the assumptions and inherent values of science (Slobodchikoff was pressured to deafen young prairie dogs to see how it affected their language development; he refused), and the many ways science and other institutions of civilization reinforce the arrogant myths of human supremacism.
In this new essay, Will Falk of DGR San Diego explores the extreme possibilities of violence: choosing to die, and choosing to kill. He asks how these decisions relate to the ongoing violence of civilization and asks what we need to do, and what we’re willing to do in response:
It is becoming increasingly clear the dominant culture must be stopped. The more effective we become at resisting, the more violence will be visited upon us. Will we be strong enough to decide to die for a better world? Will we be strong enough to decide to kill for a better world? If this sounds too extreme, then I ask you what decisions were faced by Tecumseh, Nat Turner, Crazy Horse, Denmark Vesey, and Padráic Pearse when they picked up rifles and hatchets to meet bullets and swords?
Falk grapples with the question of how to justify violent resistance to violent abusers, drawing on his participation recently in a group discussion of tree spiking:
When I imagine this logging operation and listen to people urging advocates of direct action tactics like tree spiking to think of the loggers that may be hurt or to disregard any option that involves violence, I cannot help but ask: What about the trees? What about the mycelia networks living in mutual relationship with tree roots? What about the chicks living in the treetops?
These are important questions for individuals and organizations to ask themselves and address. Violence is already happening all around us, for our immediate benefit but probably leading to our premature deaths. Will we face this honestly and make active decisions about whether to die, whether to kill?
Annette Smith is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, an organization she co-founded 15 years ago with Vermont citizens when a large energy project was proposed for her region. After successfully defeating that project, Annette has worked with Vermonters throughout the state to defeat large quarries, landfills, farms, and other large energy proposals while also improving Vermont’s groundwater protection laws. Derrick Jensen interviewed her for the May 18th airing of Resistance Radio.
Annette was favorable towards wind energy 10 years ago, but after investigating proposed development projects and comparing the rhetoric to the reality, Annette now organizes against these corporate projects and their overriding of community and environmental concerns. She details the negative impact of money-driven Vermont wind development on humans and nonhumans, from pollution of water supplies (second only to mountaintop coal mining in negative impacts), forest fragmentation, displacement of animals, and turning neighbors against each other.
Annette tries to address why so many well-meaning, good-hearted people have swallowed the propaganda that wind energy helps to address our climate change and other environmental problems, when in fact these projects don’t displace any extraction or burning of fossil fuels.
Stop Thinning Forests was launched by a Deep Green Resistance Colorado member whose family participated in the Forest Service’s suggested forest thinning projects for private landowners. The website shares the devastating results, including before and after photos. The site carefully documents the evidence that this sort of thinning harms forests and all their community members while increasing risk to homeowners of catastrophic fires. An important read for anyone living in areas where the Forest Service is pushing these policies!
It is our hope individuals using this website will see past the rhetoric that is being used by the Forest Service and the timber industry to convince the public that thinning will keep our homes and forests safe and healthy. It is clear that catastrophic fires are caused by climatic conditions and, as the weather changes and droughts sweep over the west, there is little we can do to stop fires. Perhaps taking a serious look at climate change and human behaviors that accelerate change, along with the insatiable desire to log our forests, would be a more effective way to address the situation.
Most importantly, take a walk into the forests and find a thinned area. Sit in that area a while and then find an area that has not been thinned and do the same. Think about the land, the ground, the living beings who depend on those areas and decide for yourself which place is truly healthier.