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Peter Lemkin
10-15-2010, 05:49 PM
http://www.earthatrisk.net/ :bawling: :viking:

We have been too kind to those who are destroying the planet.

We have been inexcusably, unforgivably, insanely kind.

-Derrick Jensen
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Opening Remarks for Earth At Risk [by Derrick Jensen]

What is the problem?
There’s a sense—a very real and overwhelmingly devastating sense—in which you could say that the problem is that this culture is killing the planet. One hundred and twenty species were driven extinct today. Another 120 will be driven extinct tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. Ninety-seven percent of native forests are gone. Ninety-nine percent of native grasslands. Amphibian populations are collapsing, migratory songbird populations are collapsing, mollusk populations are collapsing, fish populations are collapsing, and so on. Nearly all rivers in the US (and world) are dammed. Dams are the death of rivers. There are two million dams in the United States alone: with 60,000 dams over 13 feet tall and 70,000 dams over 6 and a half feet tall. If we took out one of those 70,000 dams every day it would take two hundred years to remove those dams. And the salmon don’t have that time. Sturgeon don’t have that time. Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. There is six to ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in much of the oceans. The oceans are being acidified. The oceans are being murdered. Big cats are going. Great apes are going. Vertebrate evolution has effectively been ended by this culture. The world is being poisoned: there is dioxin (and many other carcinogens) in every (human and nonhuman) mother’s breast milk. More than half of the fish in many rivers are changing genders because of endocrine disrupting chemicals put out by this culture. And of course humans have grotesquely overshot carrying capacity, and are committing unparalleled drawdown.
And our response is utterly incommensurate with the multiple crises we face.
There’s a sense, however, in which the fact that this culture is killing the planet isn’t so much the problem as it is the ultimate expression of this insane culture’s deeper problem, which is that it is omnicidal. It doesn’t “just” destroy every nonhuman community it encounters, but it also destroys other human cultures: human languages are being driven extinct at an even greater relative rate than nonhuman species. It dispossesses or otherwise destroys indigenous cultures. It harms women: the gold standard studies reveal that 25 percent of all women in this culture have been raped in their lifetimes, and another 19 percent have had to fend off rape attempts.
Not every culture has destroyed its landbase. The Tolowa Indians, on whose land I live, lived here for at least 12,500 years, if you believe the myths of science. If you believe the myths of the Tolowa, they lived here since the beginning of time. Likewise, not every culture has had such extraordinarily high rates of rape, in fact many cultures, prior to conquest by this culture, have had either extraordinarily low rates of rape, or have been rape free. The same is true for child abuse.
Why do members of this culture act as they do? Well, we can discuss (and I have in book after book) reason after reason, whether it is this culture’s system of social rewards (it generally socially rewards behaviors that benefit the individual at the expense of the group, rather than behaviors that benefit the group as a whole), which leads inevitably to competition, and ultimately to atrocious behavior; or whether it is that a way of life based on constant conquest gives that culture a short-term competitive advantage over other groups who are organized sustainably (if you cut down forests and mine mountains to make war machines, you will probably have a more well-equipped army than a group that does not do this: this is not a hypothetical example: the forests of North Africa, to provide one example among far too many, were felled to build the Phoenician and Egyptian navies), while of course leading to the collapse of landbase after landbase; or whether it is that a way of life based on the importation of resources can never be sustainable; or whether it is that a way of life that produces waste products that do not benefit the natural world can never be sustainable; or whether it is, as many indigenous peoples (for example, Jack Forbes, as in his wonderful book Columbus and Other Cannibals) suggest, that members of the dominant culture are insane, or suffer from a spiritual illness that turns them into types of vampires or zombies who need to consume the souls of others in order to survive. All of those and other suggestions make some sense to me. But I guess for now I’ll just say that many indigenous peoples have said to me that the fundamental difference between western and indigenous ways of being is that most westerners perceive the world as consisting of resources to be exploited, as opposed to other beings to enter into relationship with. And this is crucial, because how you perceive the world affects how you behave in the world. There is a great line by a Canadian lumberman: when I look at trees I see dollar bills. If when you look at trees you see dollar bills, you will treat them one way. If when you look at trees you see trees, you will treat them differently. And if when you look at this particular tree you see this particular tree, you’ll treat it differently still. So part of the problem is that members of this culture perceive the world as consisting of resources. This is insanely narcissistic, indeed sociopathic. And of course it is destructive.
Which leads to the final thing I guess I want to say for now, which is that another part of the problem is, and this is of course in line with the narcissism and sociopathy, perceived entitlement. This culture as a whole perceives itself as entitled to take whatever it is it wants. And many of its members individually perceive themselves as entitled to take whatever it is they want. God gave man dominion over the earth, after all. And it doesn’t much matter whether you believe God gave man dominion over the earth, or whether you believe, as one social change author puts it, that “We humans are Creation’s most daring experiment,” or whether you believe, as Richard Dawkins put it, that “Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command,” (which means that the very epistemology of this culture is based on enslaving others, on forcing them to jump through hoops on command), if you believe you are somehow superior to these others—and it doesn’t matter whether these others are nonhumans, women, children, the indigenous, members of other races or classes: anyone other than the “Chosen People”—then you can easily come to believe that it is acceptable for you to take what these others have, including their bodies, including their lives. So I guess for now I’d say a significant part of the problem includes beliefs in male supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the atrocities of this rape culture; white supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the race-based atrocities we see, whether they are the horrors of the Middle Passage, or the current rates of incarceration of African-Americans in the United States; imperial supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the atrocities of colonialism; civilized supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the ongoing dispossession and extermination of land-based peoples the world over; and finally (for now) human supremacism, the belief that humans are separate from and superior to nonhumans, and the consequent belief that somehow it is acceptable to destroy nonhuman communities, which certainly leads to the ecocide we see around us at every turn.

I want to put this one more way, and I want to be very clear about this. If you asked ten thousand scientists if they believed that all of evolution has taken place so that humans could come into being, I’m sure the overwhelming majority would say no. They might even laugh at the absurdity of the question. But when they were finished laughing, and got back to work, what would they do? Most likely their work consists of in some way contributing to, as Dawkins put it, science’s “spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command.” So if you judge the answers not by what these scientists say—not by mere rhetoric—but by what they do—by their actions—the answer from an equally overwhelming majority would be a resounding yes: you cannot act as though the world consists of resources to be exploited unless you believe—deeply, oftentimes beyond conscious statement—the world was made (or evolved) for you. I recently got into an argument with a high school science teacher who believes this culture won’t collapse, because “we will find better and better ways to exploit our resources and maintain our way of living while still protecting our forests and oceans and the rest of our environment.” Leave aside the utter lack of historical or current evidence for this possibility, and leave aside that humans have grossly exceeded carrying capacity, meaning his statement is also physically impossible, and just focus on his language: exploit; our resources; our forests and oceans; our environment. I pointed out to him that forests and oceans are not ours but that they belong to themselves, and have lives and relationships all their own. I pointed out to him that resources do not exist, that perceiving a tree or fish or river as a resource means you are, as he stated, perceiving it as something to be “exploited” and not as something with its own life, own desires, independent of him, that was not put here for him. No matter how many times I explained it, he could not understand. Even though he does not believe in Christianity, and even though he does not believe God created the world for him, or that God created the world at all, his belief that the world was made for him to use remains such a deeply fundamentalist article of faith that it is entirely invisible to him: from his perspective it is not faith, but simply the way the world is, and it is utterly inconceivable to him that any other way of perceiving is possible, even when at least one other way has been laid out before him. I may as well have been quacking like a duck.
The fundamental religion of this culture is that of human dominion, and it does not matter so much whether one self-identifies as a Christian, a Capitalist, a Scientist, or just a regular member of this culture, one’s actions will be to promulgate this fundamentalist religion of unbridled entitlement and exploitation. This religion permeates every aspect of this culture. This is a big problem, a problem big enough that it is killing the planet.

Peter Lemkin
10-15-2010, 06:09 PM
Derrick Jensen is the acclaimed author of fifteen books, including A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, and Endgame. His writing has been described as “breaking and mending the reader’s heart” (Publishers Weekly). He holds a degree in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, a degree in mineral engineering physics from the Colorado School of Mines, and has taught at Eastern Washington University and Pelican Bay State Prison. He has packed university auditoriums, conferences, and bookstores across the nation, stirring them with revolutionary spirit. Read his opening remarks.

William R. Catton, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Washington Stete University. After World War II service in the U.S. Navy, he majored in history at Oberlin College, married an Oberlin classmate, and earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from the University of Washington. He has published more than a hundred journal articles and contributed book chapters, plus several dozen book reviews. He is the author of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, as well as Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse.

Jane Caputi is a Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Florida Atlantic University. She has written three books, all against patriarchal domination: The Age of Sex Crime, Gossips, Gorgons and Crones: The Fates of the Earth and Goddesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, Power and Popular Culture, and collaborated on Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language with Mary Daly. She also has made a short documentary film, The Pornography of Everyday Life and is now working on a new one, Green Consciousness: Re-Attachment to the Mother/Earth.

Riki Ott, PhD, is a community activist, a former commercial salmon "fisherm'am," and has a degree in marine toxicology with a specialty in oil pollution. She experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill—and chose to do something about it.
She is the author of Sound Truth and Corporate Myth$: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and Not One Drop: Promises, Betrayal, and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Chelsea Green, 2008). She is also the founder of three nonprofit organizations that deal with lingering harm from man-made environmental disaster.

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist specializing on the situation in occupied Palestine, traveling there several times a year for in-depth reporting from the ground in the West Bank and Gaza strip. She was the Senior Producer and co-host of Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio from 2003-2010, and is now a staff correspondent with the Electronic Intifada, an independent online news and analysis publication committed to comprehensive public education on the question of Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the economic, political, legal, and human dimensions of Israel's
decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories. Nora also writes regularly for al-Jazeera English, Inter Press Service, Truthout.org, Left Turn Magazine, and many others.


Gail Dines is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College. She is a long time feminist activist who has been organizing against the pornography industry for over two decades. She has written widely on the effects of pornography on women and men, and has worked with numerous anti-violence organizations to develop educational programs. She is co-founder of the group Stop Porn Culture, an activist organization dedicated to raising awareness about the harms of pornography. For her book Gender, Race and Class in Media she received the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America. Her new book, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality was published in July 2010.

Thomas Linzey, Esq, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Thomas Linzey is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – a nonprofit law firm that has provided free legal services to over five hundred local governments and nonprofit organizations since 1995. He is a cum laude graduate of Widener Law School and a three-time recipient of the law school’s public interest law award. He has been a finalist for the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award, and is a recipient of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union’s Golden Triangle Legislative Award. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Third, Fourth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is a co-founder of the Daniel Pennock Democracy School – now taught in twenty-four states across the country – which assists groups to create new community campaigns which elevate the rights of those communities over rights claimed by corporations. Linzey is the recent author of Be The Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community (Gibbs-Smith 2009), and is a frequent lecturer at conferences across the country.

Lierre Keith is a writer, small farmer, and radical feminist activist. She is the author of two novels, as well as a work of nonfiction, The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (2009, PM Press), which has been called “the most important ecological book of this generation.” She is co-author with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay of the forthcoming book, Deep Green Resistance: Strategy To Save The Planet.

Waziyatawin is a Dakota writer, teacher, and activist committed to the liberation of Indigenous Peoples and homelands. She is the author or co/editor of five volumes, including For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook and What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland. Her current research interests include the topics of Indigenous women and resistance, how to theorize and practice decolonizing strategies of resistance and resurgence, and Indigenous Peoples and global collapse. Waziyatawin currently holds the Indigenous Peoples Research Chair in the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria. When she is not in British Columbia, she is in her home community of Pezihutazizi K’api Makoce (The Land Where They Dig For Yellow Medicine) in the beautiful Minnesota River Valley.