Deep Green Resistance excerpt: The Triumph of the Pornographers

Lierre Keith / Excerpt from Chapter 4, “Culture of Resistance,” of Deep Green Resistance

The triumph of the pornographers is a victory of power over justice,
cruelty over empathy, and profits over human rights. I could make that
statement about Walmart or McDonalds and progressives would eagerly
agree. We all understand that Walmart destroys local economies, a
relentless impoverishing of communities across the US that is now
almost complete. It also depends on near-slave conditions for workers in
China to produce the mountains of cheap crap that Walmart sells. And
ultimately the endless growth model of capitalism is destroying the
world. Nobody on the left claims that the cheap crap that Walmart produces equals freedom. Nobody defends Walmart by saying that the
workers, American or Chinese, want to work there. Leftists understand
that people do what they have to for survival, that any job is better than
no job, and that minimum wage and no benefits are cause for a revolution, not a defense of those very conditions. Likewise McDonalds. No
one defends what McDonalds does to animals, to the earth, to workers,
to human health and human community by pointing out that the people
standing over the boiling grease consented to sweat all day or that hog
farmers voluntarily signed contracts that barely return a living. The issue
does not turn on consent, but on the social impacts of injustice and hierarchy, on how corporations are essentially weapons of mass destruction. Focusing on the moment of individual choice will get us nowhere.

The problem is the material conditions that make going blind in a
silicon chip factory in Taiwan the best option for some people. Those
people are living beings. Leftists lay claim to human rights as our
bedrock and our north star: we know that that Taiwanese woman is not
different from us in any way that matters, and if going blind for pennies and no bathroom breaks was our best option, we would be in grim circumstances.

And the woman enduring two penises shoved up her anus? This is
not an exaggeration or “focusing on the worst,” as feminists are often
accused of doing. “Double-anal” is now standard fare in gonzo porn, the
porn made possible by the Internet, the porn with no pretense of a plot,
the porn that men overwhelmingly prefer. That woman, just like the
woman assembling computers, is likely to suffer permanent physical
damage. In fact, the average woman in gonzo porn can only last three
months before her body gives out, so punishing are the required sex
acts. Anyone with a conscience instead of a hard-on would know that
just by looking. If you spend a few minutes looking at it—not masturbating to it, but actually looking at it—you may have to agree with Robert Jensen that pornography is “what the end of the world looks like.”

By that I don’t mean that pornography is going to bring about
the end of the world; I don’t have apocalyptic delusions. Nor
do I mean that of all the social problems we face, pornography
is the most threatening. Instead, I want to suggest that if we
have the courage to look honestly at contemporary pornography, we get a glimpse—in a very visceral, powerful
fashion—of the consequences of the oppressive systems in
which we live. Pornography is what the end will look like if we
don’t reverse the pathological course that we are on in this
patriarchal, white-supremacist, predatory corporate-capitalist
society. . . . Imagine a world in which empathy, compassion,
and solidarity—the things that make decent human society
possible—are finally and completely overwhelmed by a self-
centered, emotionally detached pleasure-seeking. Imagine
those values playing out in a society structured by multiple
hierarchies in which a domination/subordination dynamic
shapes most relationships and interaction. . . . [E]very year my
sense of despair deepens over the direction in which pornography and our pornographic culture is heading. That despair is rooted not in the reality that lots of people can be cruel, or
that some number of them knowingly take pleasure in that
cruelty. Humans have always had to deal with that aspect of
our psychology. But what happens when people can no longer
see the cruelty, when the pleasure in cruelty has been so normalized that it is rendered invisible to so many? And what happens when for some considerable part of the male population of our society, that cruelty becomes a routine part of
sexuality, defining the most intimate parts of our lives?

All leftists need to do is connect the dots, the same way we do in
every other instance of oppression. The material conditions that men as
a class create (the word is patriarchy) mean that in the US battering is
the most commonly committed violent crime: that’s men beating up
women. Men rape one in three women and sexually abuse one in four
girls before the age of fourteen. The number one perpetrator of childhood sexual abuse is called “Dad.” Andrea Dworkin, one of the bravest women of all time, understood that this was systematic, not personal.
She saw that rape, battering, incest, prostitution, and reproductive
exploitation all worked together to create a “barricade of sexual terrorism” inside which all women are forced to live. Our job as
feminists and members of a culture of resistance is not to learn to eroticize those acts; our task is to bring that wall down.

In fact, the right and left together make a cozy little world that
entombs women in conditions of subservience and violence. Critiquing
male supremacist sexuality will bring charges of being a censor and a
right-wing antifun prude. But seen from the perspective of women, the
right and the left create a seamless hegemony.

Gail Dines writes, “When I critique McDonalds, no one calls me
anti-food.” People understand that what is being critiqued is a set of
unjust social relations—with economic, political, and ideological components—that create more of the same. McDonalds does not produce generic food. It manufactures an industrial capitalist product for profit. The pornographers are no different. The pornographers have built a
$100 billion a year industry, selling not just sex as a commodity, which
would be horrible enough for our collective humanity, but sexual cruelty. This is the deep heart of patriarchy, the place where leftists fear to tread: male supremacy takes acts of oppression and turns them into sex. Could there be a more powerful reward than orgasm?

And since it feels so visceral, such practices are defended (in the rare
instance that a feminist is able to demand a defense) as “natural.” Even
when wrapped in racism, many on the left refuse to see the oppression
in pornography. Little Latina Sluts or Pimp My Black Teen provoke not
outrage, but sexual pleasure for the men consuming such material. A
sexuality based on eroticizing dehumanization, domination, and hierarchy will gravitate to other hierarchies, and find a wealth of material in
racism. What it will never do is build an egalitarian world of care and
respect, the world that the left claims to want.

On a global scale, the naked female body—too thin to bear live
young and often too young as well—is for sale everywhere, as the
defining image of the age, and as a brutal reality: women and girls are
now the number one product for sale on the global black market.
Indeed, there are entire countries balancing their budgets on the sale
of women. Is slavery a human rights abuse or a sexual thrill? Of what
use is a social change movement that can’t decide?

We need to stake our claim as the people who care about freedom,
not the freedom to abuse, exploit, and dehumanize, but freedom from
being demeaned and violated, and from a cultural celebration of that

This is the moral bankruptcy of a culture built on violation and its
underlying entitlement. It’s a slight variation on the Romantics, substituting sexual desire for emotion as the unmediated, natural, and
privileged state. The sexual version is a direct inheritance of the
Bohemians, who reveled in public displays of “transgression, excess,
sexual outrage.” Much of this ethic can be traced back to the Marquis
de Sade, torturer of women and children. Yet he has been claimed as
inspiration and foundation by writers such as “Baudelaire, Flaubert,
Swinburne, Lautréamont, Dostoevski, Cocteau, and Apollinaire” as well
as Camus and Barthes. Wrote Camus, “Two centuries ahead of
time . . . Sade extolled totalitarian societies in the name of unbridled
freedom.” Sade also presents an early formulation of Nietzsche’s will
to power. His ethic ultimately provides “the erotic roots of fascism.”

Once more, it is time to choose. The warnings are out there, and it’s
time to listen. College students have 40 percent less empathy than they
did twenty years ago. If the left wants to mount a true resistance, a
resistance against the power that breaks hearts and bones, rivers and
species, it will have to hear—and, finally, know—this one brave sentence
from poet Adrienne Rich: “Without tenderness, we are in hell.”

Read more excerpts from or order the Deep Green Resistance book.

Read more critiques of pornography at the Deep Green Resistance News Service archives.

Chris Hedges on the State of Extraction: exploitation, capitalism, and patriarchy

Chris Hedges spoke last weekend at the State of Extraction conference at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. While most speakers focused exclusively on natural “resources” ripped from the planet, Hedges brilliantly linked this environmental devastation with the social impacts of colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism on our most vulnerable populations. He challenged the narcissism, individualism, and identity politics that have come to dominate modern culture, including most of the left. He identified as especially insidious the widespread acceptance of prostitution and pornography: no other subjugation is so widely rationalized and dismissed as these abuses of women. Even in so-called progressive and radical circles, sexualized violence and racism are fiercely defended where no one would try to justify such violations in any other circumstances.

In fact, Hedges was temporarily deplatformed from the State of Extraction conference precisely for calling on the left to recognize the war against women as part of the larger colonialist project, in his recent article amplifying the voices of women on the front lines. Even in venues actively opposing the status quo of capitalism and extraction from the earth, any challenge to the accepted wisdom of patriarchy is met with knee-jerk attacks and an unwillingness to listen. We’ve seen this again and again in recent years as radical feminist speakers have been silenced: deplatformed from venue after venue, threatened with rape and murder, and attacked in vicious smear campaigns. The only thing unique about this latest incident is Hedges’ position as a privileged white man.

Deep Green Resistance strongly advocates for a radical view of our interlocking crises, environmental and social. We need to get to the root of our problems to fashion effective solutions. In our FAQ Is DGR a Feminist Organization? we explain:

Right now, patriarchy is the ruling religion of the planet. Women are just another resource for men to use in their endless quest to prove their toxic masculinity and breed soldiers for civilization’s constant state of war. The masculinity and the war—against people, against the planet—together have created a perpetual motion machine of domination and destruction of the land and human rights. This is why militarism is a feminist issue, why rape is an environmental issue, why environmental destruction is a peace issue. We will never dismantle misogyny as long as domination is eroticized. We will also never stop racism. Nor will we mount an effective resistance to fascism, since, as Sheila Jeffreys points out, fascism’s root is ultimately the eroticization of domination and subordination–fascism is in essence a cult of masculinity. Those are all huge spin-outs from the same beginning. The result is torture, rape, genocide, and biocide.

Please ponder this as you watch Chris Hedges give this amazing and truly radical speech:

Trigger warning: Besides the generally disturbing nature of this subject, Hedges reads a graphic account of a brutal rape from minute 46 to 48.

Also read DGR member Jonah Mix’s analysis of the speech and male backlash against it: When “Paternalism” is Worse Than Commercial Rape: #StateofExtraction and the New Manarchist.

DIY Resistance: Grasp Things at the Root

Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance San Diego recently wrote an excellent piece on our dire situation, the ineffective and thus unrealistic solutions proposed by “experts”, and what it will really take for us to address the interlocking problems of ecocide, genocide, and other oppressions. His essay is a clear call to and explanation of the necessity of direct action, for those who can be on the front lines and for those who can play an invaluable supporting role.

We are not going to stop the destruction of the world by voting. We are not going to stop the destruction of the world by shopping. We are not going to stop the destruction of the world by opening our hearts to the reality of our connection to everything. We are going to stop the destruction of the world by stopping the destruction of the world.

You read that correctly. It’s a simple idea, but it’s true. Stopping the destruction means literally stopping the physical forces that are destroying the planet. This is not something we can wish away, pray away, write away, or vote away. Chainsaws need gas or electricity to run. Take away the gas and electricity and they cannot cut down trees. Mining companies need bridges and roads to access mines. Block the bridges and the roads and they cannot mine.

Read and share this important article: DIY Resistance: Grasp Things at the Root

An Open Letter to the UK Environmental Movement

Earlier this year, Deep Green Resistance UK published an open letter to the UK environmental movement, asking folks passionate about stopping ecocide to evaluate the environmental movement to date, and to think and act strategically. The letter describes DGR’s strategy and approach, acknowledges that not everyone will agree with all aspects of DGR’s analysis, and asks each reader to make up his or her own mind as to which resistance options to support and pursue.

Our culture currently rewards behaviour that benefits the individual at the expense of the group. Acquisitive and insane behaviour such as denuding the landbase of living systems makes powerful individuals rich, and this is the behaviour we see from those in power. This will continue while there is still money to be made, in other words the destruction will continue until there are no more living systems left to exploit. A number of respected scientists are coming to similar conclusions.

Solutions which make no attempt to destroy this culture, or which postpone action until the distant future, are worryingly misguided. The current system is one of arrogance, sadism, stupidity and denial. It will not change of its own accord. The British government’s stance on fracking, despite massive public opposition, is a testament to this and an example of this culture’s insatiable appetite.


What we propose is that people in the UK environmental movement begin to consider whether their activism- be it community, political or radical- is effective and commensurate with the scale of the problems we face. Community gardens and anti-fracking protests are all part of this resistance movement, but unless they are linked to a larger political struggle, those efforts will fail. Regardless of what our differences might be, we need to start working in tandem.

Read the entire Open Letter to the UK Environmental Movement from Deep Green Resistance UK

Robert Jensen: Some Basic Propositions About Sex, Gender and Patriarchy

Robert Jensen, a radical activist and professor in Austin, TX, wrote an article last month on the debate within feminism on transgenderism. His piece clearly presents the disagreements between radical feminists, who view gender as a patriarchy-enforcing social construct to be abolished; and the transgender movement, with a more liberal approach of encouraging individuals to choose their own gender roles without challenging the larger system.

The goal of radical feminism is a world without hierarchy, in which males and females would be free to explore the range of human experiences—especially experiences of love, whether sexual or not—in an egalitarian context.


Nothing in a radical feminist analysis minimizes the social and/or psychological struggles of—nor provides support for violence against—people who identify as transgender or people who do not conform to patriarchal gender norms but do not identify as transgender. Radical feminism is not the cause of those struggles or the source of that violence but rather advocates for an egalitarian society with maximal freedom without violence.

Read the whole article: Some Basic Propositions About Sex, Gender and Patriarchy. You can also listen to Robert Jensen on RAGE Radio: “Community, Collapse, and Despair”, on Derrick Jensen’s Resistance Radio, and in the video “Talking Radical in a Mainstream World.”

Deep Green Resistance East Coast Roadshow videos

We reported a while back on the summer 2012 East Coast Roadshow. We recorded the presentation at the final stop in Washington, D.C. View the videos below (English subtitles available), or browse all our Deep Green Resistance youtube videos or Deep Green Resistance member appearances.

Sam Leah

Sam Leah gives a crash course in what civilization is, how it works, and why it can’t continue.


Rachel analyzes environmental activism to date, including an explanation of liberal vs radical approaches.

Xander Knox

Xander Knox looks briefly at what we can learn from past resistance movements. Unfortunately, the recording cuts off before he describes the resulting DGR strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare.

Radfems Respond

Several Deep Green Resistance members participated in Radfems Respond the weekend of May 24th 2014, in Portland, OR. The event was facilitated by Samantha Berg, with the goal of providing safe space for discussion:

Hey social justice activists!

Are internet flamewars bumming you out?

Do interactions on social media sometimes make you feel like you’ve entered a fighting pit?

We’re tired of the lightless heat, too. That’s why Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) has arranged for a public dialogue on two of the most controversial issues facing modern feminism, abolishing prostitution and ending gender.

On Saturday May 24 we will honor Memorial Day weekend with a political ceasefire and call for the opening of peace talks. In the spirit of honest, respectful engagement, you are invited to come ask radical feminists any questions on these subjects you may have wanted to ask but were too intimidated by rancorous internet interactions.

Please join us at Multnomah Central Library in Portland for what will be a thought-provoking day for everyone who wants clarification on what radical feminists really think about prostitution and gender.

The panelists shared important information, concepts, and experiences around radical feminism, well worth watching and reading. You can see videos of three of the presenters, and read transcripts from two of those three:

Lierre Keith

Keith speaks on the difference between liberals and radicals.


Watch the video above, or read Rachel’s “This Is What I Said At Radfems Respond for her analysis of a radical conception of gender and her experience expressing these politically challenging ideas.

Heath Atom Russell

Read Russell’s “Radfems Respond, WoLF, and MRAs” to learn of her personal experience transitioning to be a transman, then detransitioning, and the backlash she received from the queer community for developing a critique of gender

Other Panelists

Kathleen Barry and Dawn Schiller also spoke, but were not recorded.


Samantha Berg’s “The City of Roses Shall No Longer Tolerate Feminism” gives an excellent overview of the threats and backlash from local queer activists, angry that radical feminists were gathering to speak.

From Radical to Mainstream

We are used to being labeled radicals, and sometimes, we use that term to refer to ourselves. But we are using the word very differently than most people do.

The root of the word ‘radical’ comes from the latin word ‘radix’, meaning ‘root’. Radish comes from the same root word.

When we say we are radicals, we are referring to a distinct political tradition that seeks to address the roots of social issues, rather than only addressing the symptoms or surface manifestations of deeper problems.

When people use that word against us, they use it to mean “Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme.” They mean we are fringe, crazy, deranged.

By asserting this, they claim the mainstream political space for themselves. They claim rationality, logic, and centrism, and in so doing they assert a great power. In order for us to be successful, we cannot allow them to claim the mainstream any longer.

This is a battle that has been conceded by many radicals for hundreds of years, and has contributed to the sidelining of movements. Many groups have faded into obscurity, complaining of alienation while divorcing themselves in every way from the trials and tribulations of average people. This is a political dead end.

Withdrawing from political engagement can take many different forms: self isolation is, unfortunately, one of the most common in radical groups. If we wish to succeed, we must buck this trend. We must remain engaged with society. We must claim that political space for ourselves.

WE are the normal ones. WE are the mainstream. The capitalists, the bankers, the CEOs, the businesspeople, and those who follow them blindly – they are the crazy ones. They are ones who occupy the political fringe, measured in both historical and commonsense terms.

This may seem like a purely rhetorical change, but by changing the narratives we act within, we take an important step toward expanding the effectiveness and scope of our work.

Report from the East Coast Roadshow

The roadshow crew from left: Sam, Rachel, Cooper, Xander, and Val

Update: East Coast Roadshow videos available

Noam Chomsky gave the dedication at the opening of the Civic Media Center, a radical bookstore and community space in Gainesville Florida, and a signed photograph of the author smiled bemusedly from the wall as myself and four other members of Deep Green Resistance set up a table with our information and arranged chairs into rows. Most of the walls in the CMC are covered in bookshelves to the ceiling, filled with titles that make me wish that we had hours here to sit and read, instead of less than an hour to finish editing the presentation for our second stop on what we’ve been calling a Culture of Resistance Roadshow. We’ve been up late and awake early writing, editing, and discussing the minutiae of what we’ll be trying to get across, but we’re still feverishly tweaking the wording and checking our sources as the first of our talk’s attendees come in and greet us. Three of us will speak today, one for each of the three sections into which we’ve split our material. Behind the projection screen over our heads, a poster reads: “Until the lions have their historians, the tales will always glorify the hunter.” — African Proverb. Though we don’t yet know it, that proverb will become a slide in a later version of our talk — one among many additions and edits the presentation will go through in the next two weeks. In fact, we’ll learn so much from the discussions, questions, and experiences of each stop on the tour that no two presentations will be exactly alike. In each variation, the idea that proverb addresses is one that we wanted to challenge and talk about with others – who do the histories of our culture glorify, who do they erase, and what do the answers tell us about power and how to resist it?

Our first presentation two days earlier was at Florida Atlantic University’s Biscayne Bay campus in Miami. It was structured differently from the ones that would follow, because we shared time and discussion space with both the Miami-Dade Green Party and South Florida-based anti-capitalist group OneStruggle. Each group spoke for about twenty minutes. First, OneStruggle organizer and political cartoonist Stephanie McMillan lead us through her illustrated explanation of capitalism’s contradictions. (Read Stephanie’s great webcomic about the environmental emergency, Code Green.) She also explained that OneStruggle is focused on connecting capitalist exploitation with other, intersecting social justice struggles including the ecological crisis — a focus that DGR shares.

Next, a representative from the Green Party gave us a detailed rundown of some of the most critical threats to the area, with an emphasis on the risks imposed by the Turkey Point nuclear plant in nearby Homestead, Florida, which was fined $140,000 by federal regulators back in April of this year for failing to adequately protect employees from radiation exposure, not to mention the surrounding environment from contamination. Last, Sam and Xander from DGR spoke about our group’s basic premise — that civilization is unsustainable by definition, and that it will continue to destroy more of our land and communities until we dismantle it. They also emphasized the need for decisive, coordinated direct action that can address the common roots of the overlapping problems that OneStruggle, the Green Party, and DGR are targeting. Topics addressed in the discussion that followed ranged from local, specific issues of destruction and exploitation, to the larger strategies and principles that guide each of the three groups.

In between Miami and Gainesville, we stopped by the Night Heron Activist Center in Lake Worth to help some great folks from Everglades EarthFirst! stuff, stamp, and seal the envelopes of the EarthFirst! Journal’s latest fundraising mailout. Afterward, we all headed to nearby Jupiter to visit and swim in the Loxahatchee River. Myself and two others on the tour are Florida natives, and it was great to spend some quality time with Florida’s prehistoric-looking ferns and pine scrub before heading North out of the sunshine state.

A fair portion of the discussion in Miami had focused on the details of how civilization destroys landbases, and on debate over whether reforming the civilized system is possible or desirable. With more than an hour to fill in Gainesville, we felt we could shed more light on the issue in a longer, more detailed presentation. In the introduction of our talk, we began by addressing the fundamental question: what is happening to the air, water, and land, and why? We didn’t only want to try and answer that question, we also wanted to ask it of the community members who attended our talks. Different types of destruction, extraction, and oppression are occurring in every region we visited, and we wanted to hear about them from the people who are experiencing them directly. We were also interested in placing each local issue within the context of the global ecological crisis. For myself and others in DGR, learning the true definition of the word civilization was a major step toward identifying and understanding the destructive patterns of industrial culture.

Civilization is the phenomenon of people living in cities, more or less permanently, in large enough numbers to require the routine importation of resources. From this definition, we tried to explain the effects of civilization as a social system and arrangement of resources. When the land a group of people lives on cannot support them, the resources need to come from somewhere else. Sometimes those resources have to be stolen from other human communities, the way North America was taken through genocide and terrorism by civilized European cultures. Sometimes they have to be extracted from the surrounding biotic community – think industrial logging, fossil fuel extraction, industrial agriculture – at devastating cost to human and nonhuman life. The antagonism between capitalist, industrial civilization and the nature world is basic: infinite growth cannot be maintained on a finite planet.

In addition to talking about the physical, material implications of the civilized system, we also wanted to examine the myths of civilization. Certain ideas and narratives crop up again and again to justify the violence inflicted by the system. For instance, humans are separate from and above the rest of the natural world. Or, survival is dependent not upon cooperation with the land, its species, and other humans, but upon the domination and exploitation of them all. Dismantling the apparatus of civilization will also mean dismantling our unspoken adherence to the myths that the culture propagates.

Our second section asked: how do liberal and radical approaches to political change differ, and how likely are each of those approaches to help us dismantle civilization? We used historical and contemporary examples to illustrate some main distinctions between liberalism and radicalism. Greenwashed consumer choices and trendy, industry-approved lifestyle changes are the logical conclusion of liberalism’s core tenet of individualism. Despite their ongoing failure to halt or even slow the murder of the planet, individual lifestyle changes are persisting within activist culture and even growing in popularity. Now, fifty years after Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, these lifestyle changes have posed no significant challenge to the environmental destruction she wrote about. The point is not to devalue the changes that we can each make to our lives.

In addition, liberalism is idealist in nature, which means that it identifies the locus of social change in changing people’s minds instead of in changing physical reality. Radicalism values education as a necessary part of a resistance movement, but accepts that material reality shapes our experiences and therefore our ideas, not the other way around. The liberal approach also tends to emphasize an adherence to abstract principles, like dogmatic nonviolence, where a radical approach means a diversity of tactics and a practical focus on what can be effective within a particular context.

In this section, we also talked about what a culture of resistance means to us in DGR. A singular approach does not a culture make – we need everyone’s ideas, talents, and dedication, using whatever means can be effective for halting the ecocide our planet is experiencing at the hands of our culture. However, differing tactics and approaches are most effective when they each fit into a larger strategy, and work toward a common goal. We also spoke about how systems of oppressive power like civilization, capitalism, patriarchy, and racism interlock to keep oppression and ecological destruction in place. They share common roots of domination, marginalization, and enforcement through violence, and if we want to effectively challenge any of these systems, we need to address them all.

Our third section focused on general strategic principles for resistance, and also on the specific strategy that DGR is working from, which is called Decisive Ecological Warfare or D.E.W. We examined the successes and failures of historical acts of resistance like the British Suffrage movement in order to discuss target selection and the nature of asymmetric conflicts like the one we find ourselves in today, where one side wields vastly more capacity for force than their opposition.

We went into a lot of detail in these sections during the Gainesville presentation, particularly with the first section’s explanation of civilization’s effects. We felt it was very important to address each of these topics in Gainesville, but attempting to address everything in our presentation meant that it ran a lot longer than we had hoped, and left too little time for discussion afterward with the group. We found that cramming too much information into a short time didn’t make the concepts we were addressing any easier to convey. In fact, the attempt to preempt every possible question with a pre-written explanation seemed to make it even harder to get a productive discussion off the ground.

In the twenty four hours between Gainesville and our next talk in Atlanta, we reexamined the approach we’d taken to our presentation. We needed to pare down the information, focus on fewer, more fundamental concepts, and allow as much time for discussion as possible. Also, we felt that the physical set up of our last talk – seats for attendees in rows, facing us speaking at the front of the room – needed changing. We resolved to sit in a circle whenever possible, and also to focus on conscientious facilitation of discussion in order to avoid only a few voices dominating the conversation. That night and on the drive to Atlanta the next day, we considered and reconsidered each section that we had written, adding some minor points but cutting out and revising many more in order to allow more time for discussion as a group.

By the time we arrived at the Little Five Points Community Center in Atlanta, I felt better about our talk with the changes we had made. We didn’t end up giving our presentation in Atlanta, however, because the film End:Civ by director Frank Lopez was being screened at the community center right before we were scheduled. Since that film addresses so many of the points we planned to cover, we decided it would avoid redundancy and be more productive to move straight into discussion. We arranged ourselves into a large circle with everyone in the room, and did go-around introductions as well as a short rundown of the topics we had planned to present on. We started out writing down the names of those who raised their hands to speak within the large group, and there were a lot of crucial topics brought up that needed to be discussed: the nature and role of technology within civilization, the relationship between aboveground and underground actions, what it means for land to have a carrying capacity of organisms. We also spent some time talking about the local resistance to the Vogtle nuclear plant.

The idea of carrying capacity ended up being a common focus of discussion during many of our tour stops. The idea that the planet can only support a certain number of organisms was challenged by some who attended our talks. In order to illustrate the concept, we talk about an experiment done in the sixties on St. Mathews Island. Twenty nine reindeer were introduced to the island, where there existed no natural reindeer predators. As a result, their population exploded to six thousand in a short time. The island’s ecosystem could not support that many deer, and they quickly began to degrade the landscape by overfeeding. Eventually, there wasn’t enough sustenance left to sustain their numbers, and the population underwent a crash die-off to less than fifty animals. This sequence of events is not unique to the deer population. The trajectory of their population graph is the same as it would be for any species that overshoots the carrying capacity of the land.

For me, learning about carrying capacity and overshoot added a lot of urgency to my critique of civilization. During our presentation, we placed the graph of the reindeer population from the experiment next to the human population graph – the curve is strikingly similar. Industrial agriculture, which essentially creates food out of fossil fuel with the use of petroleum-based fertilizer and mechanization, has allowed the human population to stave off the crash experienced by the reindeer and other species. We can delay the effects, but we cannot defy the limits of the natural systems we exist within.

Some who reacted to us with hostility at our presentations when we brought up carrying capacity seemed to interpret our analysis as a kind of misanthropic agenda to reduce the population by any means necessary, but it seems to me that such an interpretation misses the point. The civilization and the population it supports isn’t going to crash because DGR says it will; it’s going to crash because a finite planet cannot support an infinite number of organisms. The real question is, what will be left of natural systems when the artificial systems that support us can no longer do so?

After meeting a lot of wonderful activists in Atlanta, we headed to Asheville, North Carolina where we had a great time doing a talk at Firestorm. We spent some time in the city but were also excited to be able to camp for two nights out in the black mountains, right along the Blue Ridge parkway. I’ve lived in heavily developed areas all my life, and I’ve never before been able to appreciate how many stars are visible once you get away from the artificial lights of the city. Combined with the fireflies, the night sky near the South Toe river outside of Asheville took my breath away.

In the city, we stayed at a collective house with members of the Katuah EarthFirst chapter, and had a relaxing night browsing through their huge and amazing library. Some Katuah members explained the current problem of gentrification in the city, which is seeing an influx of corporate chains and a gradual removal of the local economy, as well as an oppressive police crackdown on communities of color and the homeless. We sat on the porch and watched the fireflies, playing guitar and singing songs about resistance.

After Asheville, we traveled east to Chapel Hill, also in NC, to speak at The Internationalist. The discussion here centered heavily on specific issues of strategy, particularly on the relationship between the aboveground and an underground segment of resistance. This great conversation carried over into the next morning, when members of the Croatan EarthFirst! Chapter made us an awesome breakfast before taking us hiking and swimming in the nearby Haw river.

We then headed to Knoxville, Tennessee to give a talk at the Birdhouse community center. A volunteer named Rachel who attended our talk showed me the community garden afterward, which is beautiful, and the food it produces is free to anyone who needs it. The strawberry she gave me from the garden was sweeter than any I’ve had from a grocery store. Before heading to DC, we stopped at the Wingnut anarchist collective in Richmond to do an interview with Weekly Sedition, a radio show on 97.3 Richmond Independent Radio.

We also got to visit the folks working with R.A.M.P.S. Campaign (Radical Action for Mountain People Survival) in West Virginia, who organize direct radical action against mountaintop removal coal extraction. We got to spend some time in the mountains with the fireflies, but we also went to see a mountaintop removal site. I had never seen one before, and the way the trees suddenly gave way to the barren dust of the extraction site was extremely disturbing. On a happier note, we also spent time swimming at one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, a lake surrounded by craggy cliffs. Val, Xander, and Cooper from DGR were even brave enough to leap into the water from the highest among them, about fifty feet. Sam and myself weren’t quite as adventurous, but had fun jumping into the water from some of the smaller precipices.

By the time we arrived at our last talk, at Radical Space in Washington DC, the content of our presentation and the structure of our discussion had both changed quite a bit. At each stop, we learned more about how to convey our message, and more about what that message needed to contain. We narrowed down some of the more abstract, theoretical concepts we had started out talking about. While the philosophy behind our critique of civilization is compelling to some of us on the Roadshow, we found that it wasn’t as accessible to talk about with others as concrete examples and local issues. Toward the end of the tour, we also began having a short discussion toward the middle of the talk as well as a longer one at the end, in order to address as many questions and comments as possible. Each stop brought us into contact with a very diverse group. We met a lot of environmental and social justice activists, but we also talked to many people who were less involved with activist culture. In some places, we spent a lot of time discussing the definition of civilization, and the reasons that this system is fundamentally unsustainable. In other places, like Chapel Hill, we felt like we were preaching to the choir on the issue of civilization, and spent much more time talking about a strategy for bringing it down. The diversity of viewpoints within our discussions sometimes made facilitation a challenge, but that diversity also made each stop a learning experience about what kind of issues each community is dealing with, and how different individuals are dealing with those issues.

We ended our trip by traveling to the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous in Pennsylvania, where we were more focused on learning and participating in discussion instead of leading them. DGR is a new group, and we’re very aware that we need to be learning and cooperating with those who have vastly more experience with direct action than we do. We facilitated a workshop and discussion on strategy, where we talked about how to apply basic strategy and target selection to direct action. After we got through the workshop section, the discussion turned to DGR specifically, and the specific strategy that we are advocating. Since DGR is such a young group, it was a great opportunity to talk to the many activists at the rondy who had many years of experience on us. We also talked about the kind of relationship we’d like to build between DGR and other radical environmental groups like Earth First! After the rondy, two of our members were able to stay and participate in the blockade of an EQT well pad in the Moshannon State Forest.

Our East coast tour is over, but we’ll be taking the knowledge and experience we’ve gained on it to other projects. A West coast tour begins on July 25th in Eugene, Oregon. This tour is intended to raise awareness and support for, the 3rd Annual Unis’tot’en Action Camp in Unis’tot’en territory in the north of Unceded Occupied so-called British Columbia. In addition, several DGR members will be traveling up the west coast holding public events to build opposition to these genocidal and ecocidal pipelines and gather donations of food, blankets, money, and other supplies, and then attending the 3rd annual Unis’tot’en Action Camp August 6th-10th. Please donate to this project!