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Open Letter to Reclaim Environmentalism

Once, the environmental movement was about protecting the natural world from the insatiable demands of this extractive culture. Some of the movement still is: around the world grassroots activists and their organizations are fighting desperately to save this or that creature they love, this or that plant or fungi, this or that wild place.

Contrast this to what some activists are calling the conservation-industrial complex–­big green organizations, huge “environmental” foundations, neo-environmentalists, some academics–­which has co-opted too much of the movement into “sustainability,” with that word being devalued to mean “keeping this culture going as long as possible.” Instead of fighting to protect our one and only home, they are trying to “sustain” the very culture that is killing the planet. And they are often quite explicit about their priorities.

For example, the recent “An Open Letter to Environmentalists on Nuclear Energy,” signed by a number of academics, some conservation biologists, and other members of the conservation-industrial complex, labels nuclear energy as “sustainable” and argues that because of global warming, nuclear energy plays a “key role” in “global biodiversity conservation.” Their entire argument is based on the presumption that industrial energy usage is, like Dick Cheney said, not negotiable–­it is taken as a given. And for what will this energy be used? To continue extraction and drawdown­–to convert the last living creatures and their communities into the final dead commodities.

Their letter said we should let “objective evidence” be our guide. One sign of intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns: let’s lay out a pattern and see if we can recognize it in less than 10,000 years. When you think of Iraq, do you think of cedar forests so thick that sunlight never touches the ground? That’s how it was prior to the beginnings of this culture. The Near East was a forest. North Africa was a forest. Greece was a forest. All pulled down to support this culture. Forests precede us, while deserts dog our heels. There were so many whales in the Atlantic they were a hazard to ships. There were so many bison on the Great Plains you could watch for four days as a herd thundered by. There were so many salmon in the Pacific Northwest you could hear them coming for hours before they arrived. The evidence is not just “objective,” it’s overwhelming: this culture exsanguinates the world of water, of soil, of species, and of the process of life itself, until all that is left is dust.

Fossil fuels have accelerated this destruction, but they didn’t cause it, and switching from fossil fuels to nuclear energy (or windmills) won’t stop it. Maybe three generations of humans will experience this level of consumption, but a culture based on drawdown has no future. Of all people, conservation biologists should understand that drawdown cannot last, and should not be taken as a given when designing public policy–­let alone a way of life.

It is long past time for those of us whose loyalties lie with wild plants and animals and places to take back our movement from those who use its rhetoric to foster accelerating ecocide. It is long past time we all faced the fact that an extractive way of life has never had a future, and can only end in biotic collapse. Every day this extractive culture continues, two hundred species slip into that longest night of extinction. We have very little time left to stop the destruction and to start the repair. And the repair might yet be done: grasslands, for example, are so good at sequestering carbon that restoring 75 percent of the planet’s prairies could bring atmospheric CO2 to under 330 ppm in fifteen years or less. This would also restore habitat for a near infinite number of creatures. We can make similar arguments about reforestation. Or consider that out of the more than 450 dead zones in the oceans, precisely one has repaired itself. How? The collapse of the Soviet Empire made agriculture unfeasible in the region near the Black Sea: with the destructive activity taken away, the dead zone disappeared, and life returned. It really is that simple.

You’d think that those who claim to care about biodiversity would cherish “objective evidence” like this. But instead the conservation-industrial complex promotes nuclear energy (or windmills). Why? Because restoring prairies and forests and ending empires doesn’t fit with the extractive agenda of the global overlords.

This and other attempts to rationalize increasingly desperate means to fuel this destructive culture are frankly insane. The fundamental problem we face as environmentalists and as human beings isn’t to try to find a way to power the destruction just a little bit longer: it’s to stop the destruction. The scale of this emergency defies meaning. Mountains are falling. The oceans are dying. The climate itself is bleeding out and it’s our children who will find out if it’s beyond hope. The only certainty is that our one and only home, once lush with life and the promise of more, will soon be a bare rock if we do nothing.

We the undersigned are not part of the conservation-industrial complex. Many of us are long-term environmental activists. Some of us are Indigenous people whose cultures have been living truly sustainably and respectfully with all our relations from long before the dominant culture began exploiting the planet. But all of us are human beings who recognize we are animals who like all others need livable habitat on a living earth. And we love salmon and prairie dogs and black terns and wild nature more than we love this way of life.

Environmentalism is not about insulating this culture from the effects of its world-destroying activities. Nor is it about trying to perpetuate these world-destroying activities. We are reclaiming environmentalism to mean protecting the natural world from this culture.

And more importantly, we are reclaiming this earth that is our only home, reclaiming it from this extractive culture. We love this earth, and we will defend our beloved.

-Derrick Jensen

*If you agree, please sign the letter

Earth Day 1970

Let This Earth Day Be The Last

Wen Stephenson / The Nation

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.” 
—Frederick Douglass, 1857

Fuck Earth Day.

No, really. Fuck Earth Day. Not the first one, forty-four years ago, the one of sepia-hued nostalgia, but everything the day has since come to be: the darkest, cruelest, most brutally self-satirizing spectacle of the year.

Fuck it. Let it end here.

End the dishonesty, the deception. Stop lying to yourselves, and to your children. Stop pretending that the crisis can be “solved,” that the planet can be “saved,” that business more-or-less as usual—what progressives and environmentalists have been doing for forty-odd years and more—is morally or intellectually tenable. Let go of the pretense that “environmentalism” as we know it—virtuous green consumerism, affluent low-carbon localism, head-in-the-sand conservationism, feel-good greenwashed capitalism—comes anywhere near the radical response our situation requires.

So, yeah, I’ve had it with Earth Day—and the culture of progressive green denial it represents.

* * *

But why Frederick Douglass? Why bring him into this? And who am I to invoke him—a man who was born a slave and who freed himself from slavery, who knew something about struggle, whose words were among the most radical ever spoken on American soil? Who the hell am I? I’ve never suffered racial or any other kind of oppression. I’ve never had to fight for any fundamental rights. I’m not even a radical, really. (Nor am I an “environmentalist”—and never have been.) All I want is a livable world, and the possibility of social justice. So who am I to quote Frederick Douglass?

Let me tell you who I am: I’m a human being. I’m the father of two young children, a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, who face a deeply uncertain future on this planet. I’m a husband, a son, a brother—and a citizen. And, yes, I’m a journalist, and I’m an activist. And like more and more of us who are fighting for climate justice, I am engaged in a struggle—a struggle—for the fate of humanity and of life on Earth. Not a polite debate around the dinner table, or in a classroom, or an editorial meeting—or an Earth Day picnic. I’m talking about a struggle. A struggle for justice on a global scale. A struggle for human dignity and human rights for my fellow human beings, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable, far and near. A struggle for my own children’s future—but not only my children, all of our children, everywhere. A life-and-death struggle for the survival of all that I love. Because that is what the climate fight and the fight for climate justice is. That’s what it is.

Because, I’m sorry, this is not a test. This is really happening. The Arctic and the glaciers are melting. The great forests are dying and burning. The oceans are rising and acidifying. The storms, the floods—the droughts and heat waves—are intensifying. The breadbaskets are parched and drying. And all of it faster and sooner than scientists predicted. The window in which to act is closing before our eyes.

Any discussion of the situation must begin by acknowledging the science and the sheer lateness of the hour—that the chance for any smooth, gradual transition has passed, that without radical change the kind of livable and just future we all want is simply inconceivable. The international community has, of course, committed to keeping the global temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above the preindustrial average—the level, we’re told, at which “catastrophic” warming can still be avoided (we’ve already raised it almost one degree, with still more “baked in” within coming decades). But there’s good reason to believe that a rise of two degrees will lead to catastrophic consequences. And of course, what’s “catastrophic” depends on where you live, and how poor you are, and more often than not the color of your skin. If you’re one of the billions of people who live in the poorest and most vulnerable places—from Bangladesh to Louisiana—even 1 degree can mean catastrophe.

But the world’s climate scientists and leading energy experts are telling us that unless the major economies drastically and immediately change course—leaving all but a small fraction of fossil fuel reserves in the ground over the next four decades—we are headed for a temperature rise of four or five or even six degrees C within this century. The World Bank has warned that four degrees “must be avoided.” But we’re not avoiding it. Global emissions are still rising each year. We’re plunging headlong toward the worst-case scenarios—critical global food and water shortages, rapid sea-level rise, social upheaval—and beyond.

The question is not whether we’re going to “stop” global warming, or “solve” the climate crisis; it is whether humanity will act quickly and decisively enough now to save civilization itself—in any form worth saving. Whether any kind of stable, humane and just future—any kind of just society—is still possible.

We know that if the governments of the world actually wanted to address this situation in a serious way, they could. Indeed, a select few, such as Germany, have begun to do so. It can be done—and at relatively low cost. And yet the fossil-fuel industry, and those who do its bidding, have been engaged in a successful decades-long effort to sow confusion, doubt and opposition—and to obstruct any serious policies that might slow the warming, or their profits, and buy us time.

As I’ve said elsewhere, let’s be clear about what this means: at this late date, given what we know and have known for decades, to willfully obstruct any serious response to global warming is to knowingly allow entire countries and cultures to disappear. It is to rob the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet of their land, their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives and their children’s lives—and their children’s children’s lives. For money. For political power.

These are crimes. They are crimes against the Earth, and they are crimes against humanity.

What, are you shocked? The same industry, the same people committing these crimes—while we subsidize them for their trouble—have been getting away with murder along the fence lines and front lines for generations.

What is the proper response to this? How should I respond?

Remain calm, we’re told. No “scare tactics” or “hysterics,” please. Cooler heads will prevail. Enjoy the Earth Day festivities.

Fuck that.

The cooler heads have not prevailed. It’s been a quarter-century since the alarm was sounded. The cooler heads have failed.

You want sweet, cool-headed reason?

How about this? Masses of people—most of them young, a generation with little or nothing to lose—physically, nonviolently disrupting the fossil-fuel industry and the institutions that support it and abet it. Getting in the way of business as usual. Forcing the issue. Finally acting as though we accept what the science is telling us.

Um, isn’t that a bit extreme? you ask.

Really? You want extreme? Business as usual is extreme. Just ask a climate scientist. The building is burning. The innocents—the poor, the oppressed, the children, your own children—are inside. And the American petro state is spraying fuel, not water, on the flames. That’s more than extreme. It’s homicidal. It’s psychopathic. It’s fucking insane.

* * *

Coming to grips with the climate crisis is hard. A friend of mine says it’s like walking around with a knife in your chest. I couldn’t agree more.

So I ask again, in the face of this situation, how does one respond? Many of us, rather than retreat into various forms of denial and fatalism, have reached the conclusion that something more than “environmentalism” is called for, and that a new kind of movement is the only option. That the only thing, at this late hour, offering any chance of averting an unthinkable future—and of getting through the crisis that’s already upon us—is the kind of radical social and political movement that has altered the course of history in the past. A movement far less like contemporary environmentalism and far more like the radical human rights, social justice and liberation struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Does that sound hopelessly naïve to you? Trust me, I get it. I know. I know how it sounds.

And yet here I am. Because I also know that abolishing slavery sounded hopeless and naïve in 1857, when Frederick Douglass spoke of struggle.

What I’m talking about is not a fight to “solve the climate crisis.” That’s not possible anymore. But neither is it simply a fight for human survival—because there are oppressive and dystopian forms of survival, not to mention narcissistic ones, that aren’t worth fighting for.

What I’m talking about is both a fight for survival and a fight for justice—for even the possibility of justice. It’s a fight that transcends environmentalism. It requires something of us beyond the usual politics and proposals, the usual pieties. It requires the kind of commitment you find in radical movements—the kind of struggles, from abolition to women’s, labor and civil rights, that have made possible what was previously unimaginable.

Because our global crisis—not merely environmental but moral and spiritual—is fundamental: it strikes to the root of who we are. It’s a radical situation, requiring a radical response. Not merely radical in the sense of ideology, but a kind of radical necessity. It requires us to find out who we really are—and, nonviolently, in the steps of Gandhi and King and many others, to act. In some cases, to lay everything—everything—on the line.

And it requires us to be honest, with one another and with ourselves, about the situation we face. We’ll never have a movement radical enough, or humane enough, until we are.

That is, until Earth Day is buried—and a day of reckoning begins.

Walking the Walk

By Arij Riahi and Tim McSorley / The Dominion

By Arij Riahi and Tim McSorley / The Dominion

FORT MCMURRAY, AB—In the heart of Canada’s oil country, the booming town of Fort McMurray—casually dubbed Fort McMoney—is slowly becoming one of Alberta’s largest cities. From 2006 to 2012, the city grew by 53 per cent, going from a population of 47,705 to 72,994—far exceeding the growth of Alberta as a whole. This doesn’t count the “non-permanent residents” who are simply in town to work; including them, the population balloons to 112,215.

Nearby, however, Indigenous nations are struggling for cultural survival. The tar sands project continues to expand its destructive footprint on the traditional territories of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, among others. For them, opposition to the industrial project is not an environmental concern or a left-leaning pet project. It is a matter of human survival.

“I never did look at myself as a campaigner or an organizer, or an activist or an environmentalist. None of those things,” said Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation who now works as the Alberta Climate and Energy Campaigner for the Sierra Club of Canada Prairie Chapter. “And I can say I still don’t look at myself that way. You know, it’s just doing what I need to for the sacrifices that our ancestors endured to ensure that we have that ability to utilize the land, to sustain ourselves.”

Lameman, a mother of two in her mid-30s, has been working since 2012 to raise awareness among members of her community, located in the heart of northern Alberta’s tar sands territory, about the necessity—and possibilities—of fighting back against the tar sands.

These thoughts are echoed a further 300 kilometres north, by Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). Located on the shores of Lake Athabasca, fed by the Athabasca River and downstream from the majority of the tar sands development, the ACFN has also been fighting against the impact of industrial pollutants on its land.

For the past four years, the ACFN and the Keepers of the Athabasca (a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people fighting for the protection of the massive Athabasca watershed, which feeds into the Athabasca River) have organized the Healing Walk. It was started as a way to bridge the divide between activists and residents of the area—many of whom work for the tar sands—who are concerned but are not interested (or able) to engage in traditional protests. This year, on July 5, hundreds from across Canada, including dozens from the tar sands area, gathered to walk through the tar sands and witness its impacts.

“I am labeled by government officials and the industry that I am an eco-activist. I am not an eco-activist. I am a user of the land,” said Chief Adam at the Healing Walk. “Environmentalists like to see the beauty of the landscape. I was brought up in the bush. I utilize and survive off the land. You may go in the bush and look at the scenery…I go in the bush and harvest the meat, and harvest the fish and whatever else I have to to feed my family. That is the difference between you and I.”

peer-reviewed study released in 2010 by the Firelight Group Research Cooperative, which works with First Nations on community-based research projects, found that tar sands development has already severely limited access to First Nations’ traditional territory.

That link to the land is essential for Indigenous communities, said Lionel Lepine, a father of two who also lives in Fort Chipewyan. “One day, we’re going to be so damn rich [off the tar sands] that there will be nothing to buy. We’re going to be dead,” he said during a discussion at the Healing Walk. “And my poor great-great-grandchildren are going to suffer the consequences.”

Losing access to the land doesn’t only mean losing the the possibility of a subsistence way of life—including the ability to hunt or fish—but in some cases it means not even being sure what kind of development, or destruction, is taking place.

In late June, the Alberta government reported that an oil spill had taken place at the Primrose tar sands operation of Canadian Natural Resource Limited. The operations are located in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) in Cold Lake, Alberta, in Beaver Lake Cree Nation territory.

Lameman went to the site after getting news of the spill, but was initially rebuffed. Officials at CLAWR later changed their position and promised Lameman she could enter the area if the oil company agreed to let her in. Her calls to the company were not returned, she said. It took pressure from journalists and an eventual leak from an anonymous government scientist for the full extent of the spill to be revealed publicly in the Toronto Star in mid-July, including that 4,500 barrels of bitumen had so far been cleaned up from four different sites.

“To me, the response I got is a slap in the face of what it means to be in direct violation of our inherent constitutionally protected treaty rights,” she said. “It was really, really hard to actually feel that and experience that, and it’s not something I ever want to have to experience again, but I’m sure I will.”

Many Indigenous communities across the country are subject to such a disproportionate quantity of pollution that they have become infamous toxic hotspots. In Fort Chipewyan, cases of rare untreatable cancers have been documented since the early 2000s. But people living in the communities have been feeling the impacts long before any studies were commissioned.

“Given what’s going on over there—all the pollution—we call our town ground zero, because ultimately we feel the impacts of tar sands development first and foremost, and our people are dying,” Lepine said during the Healing Walk. “You know, I come from a town which only contains 1,200 people. And the cancer rate there is sky high in the last 10 years, beyond belief. The elders knew about this 40 years ago. When industry first came in, the impacts on our lands became pretty obvious, and as industry came in people started to die.”

For years, First Nations people, scientists, doctors and environmentalists have raised the alarm about the health impacts of the tar sands. It was only this past winter, however, that an investigation into the health concerns of First Nations communities living downstream, such as the Athabasca Chipewyan, was finally announced. The study will be led by the University of Calgary, with federal and provincial funding. The investigation follows a 2009 report, by Alberta Health Services, that showed higher rates of cancer in the community than is found in the rest of the Alberta population.

Since January, two separate reports have found Alberta’s lakes and groundwater are being polluted more than previously realized. The first, from Queen’s University and Environment Canada, showed high levels of carcinogens created by the tar sands extraction process in lakes up to 90 kilometres from tar sands extraction sites. The second, produced by 19 scientists from both the federal and provincial governments, confirmed ongoing seepage from tailings ponds into groundwater.

Tar sands impacts aren’t just felt in northern Alberta, but at every stage of the refining process, including in the southernmost reaches of the country. In Sarnia, Ontario, over 60 petrochemical facilities are concentrated in a 25-kilometre radius. At least three of these refineries, including Suncor and Imperial Oil who are active in Fort McMurray, process tar sands bitumen. The area is known as Canada’s Chemical Valley. It is also the home of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

“Growing up in this community, I experienced a lot of health issues, including asthma attacks, skin issues,” said Vanessa Gray, a youth organizer and member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation who also spoke at the Healing Walk. “There’s a lot of cancer in my family where I grew up, [we were] going to a lot of funerals…it happened all the time.”

Gray’s concerns are well documented. In 2011, the World Health Organization described Sarnia’s air quality as the worst in Canada. Studies have also found alarmingly high rates of cancer, respiratory illnesses and reproductive disorders in the area, as cited in a 2007 report from Ecojustice.

For many Indigenous communities, the fight against the tar sands is a fight for their quality of life. “We’re all human beings first and foremost. We all drink water. So this involves everyone,” stressed Crystal Lameman. “This isn’t about race, colour or creed, this is about our lives.”

Ultimately, it is about the future. “I’m so worried about my kids,” said Lepine. “You know from the words of our elders, they’re our future, let’s support them. Let’s keep them alive, Let’s keep our kids alive. Let’s fight these guys. Let’s fight them harder, let’s take the gloves off.”

Arij Riahi is a legally-trained writer based in Montreal. Arij is at www.twitter.com/arijactually. Tim McSorley is an editor with the Media Co-op and freelance journalist living in Montreal.

– – – – – – – – – –

Originally posted by The Dominion here.

 

Water: A Source of Life, Connection and Hope

By Elizabeth  Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

By Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

Many thanks to the Biotope of Healing at Tamera Community and the Water Symposium 2013. Their experience of restoring water landscapes is reminiscent of Mikhail Kravcik’s statement: “The most important right in the world is the residential rights of a drop of water “…to return again to the cycle of life.

Water is the source of life; we are water beings who all belong to the water cycle. We are part of it. We all originate in a “big drop” growing inside a woman’s body, thanks to love, and that is something that moves me so deeply in my personal life. Humans are part of the water cycle, and through water we can connect with this fact in our daily lives, with the small details of life and through water we relate to the very complex problems of water on the Planet. This also connects us at a level that opens up the possibility to conceive of a utopia. Water has the power to drive our feelings and our thoughts to the sky, to give thanks for life.

I became conscious of this vital importance of water in 2000. Just after the Water War in Cochabamba, when the people’s courage reminded us a very simple concept based on the most basic common sense: WATER IS LIFE. At that time we had forgotten it, as consequence of a long economic adjustment program in the 1990’s that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had imposed in our region in conjunction with complicit national neoliberal governments. Such a simple phrase mobilized thousands of people, almost forcing the Bolivian president to resign, forcing out the powerful U.S. multinational Bechtel and, for a while, the people recovered control over their water systems.

As an activist and a researcher, I soon noticed that women were key actors in this huge mobilization, particularly women belonging to the rural irrigators trade unions. In Bolivia there are still about 4,500 irrigation systems that manage water independent of the government or the state. They are traditional water organizations in rural communities who manage water for agricultural activities and they are very systematically organized.

Women play a very important role in those organizations, not only as authorities of the water systems, but also providing their organizations a vision of the details in the daily task of providing water for agriculture; they are responsible for care.

Urban women also; the poorest, vendors in the popular markets, neighbors that know how to provide water to their families, sometimes taking many hours to collect water. They too took an active part in the struggles in the streets. They organized so quickly providing solidarity in the form of pots of food to feed the water activists. In just a couple of days they organized this solidary system much to the concern of the elites that were waiting watching in fear looking out from their windows and hoping for a favorable end of the conflict.

The people won and, since then, we became connected to the World. Water, once again, connected us to other people… this time all over the Planet. The indigenous wisdom and knowledge gave us the key words to defend water and spread this vision worldwide.

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Extreme weather, more extreme greenhouse gas emissions beckon urgent activism

By Patrick Bond / LINKS

By Patrick Bond / LINKS

The northern hemisphere summer has just peaked and though the torrid heat is now ebbing, it is evident the climate crisis is far more severe than most scientists had anticipated. The latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a notoriously conservative research agency – will be debated in Stockholm next month, but no one can deny its projections: “widespread melting of land ice, extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including a wave of extinctions.”

Even worse is coming, for a giant Arctic Ocean “belch” of 50 billion tonnes of methane is inexorably escaping from seabed permafrost, according to scientists writing in the journal Nature. North Pole ice is now, at maximum summer heat, only 40 per cent as thick as it was just 40 years ago, a crisis only partially represented in the vivid image of a temporary “lake” that submerged the pole area last month.

The damage that will unfold after the burp, according to leading researchers from Cambridge and Erasmus Universities, could cost $60 trillion, about a year’s world economic output. Global warming will speed up by 15-35 years as a result.

With these revelations, it is impossible to mask the self-destructive greed of fossil-fuel firms and their carbon-addicted customers. The ruling crew in the United States, Russia and Canada will enthusiastically let oil companies exploit the soon-to-be ice-free Arctic summers with intensified drilling, joined by unprecedented bunker-fuel-burning in the newly opening shipping lanes.

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An Open Letter to Fellow Environmentalists

By Alex Rose / Deep Green Resistance Redwood Coast

By Alex Rose / Deep Green Resistance Redwood Coast

The earth isn’t dying; it is being killed. And “clean energy” will only make things worse.

I should probably begin by introducing myself; my name is Alex, and I’m a recovering renewable energy advocate. For years, I was a victim of desperation and hope; I petitioned and parlayed, chanted and canvassed; I brimmed with excitement at the prospect of “green jobs” and a “renewable energy economy.” I still see much of myself in many of you.

I know what it’s like. I know exactly how it feels to look around and see a world not just dying but being suffocated, being tortured and maimed, sacrificed on the twin altars of profit and production. As a young person today, I know what it’s like to fear the future, to fear for my future. I—like many of you—have read all the studies and reports I need to see to know what’s coming, what disaster is now screaming, all but unchallenged, down the track upon us.

I know what it’s like to want a way out, a path from this desert of despair to something, anything that will shift us from the deadly course our society is on, some simple solution, the kind of sane idea that even a politician could support.

Like many of you, for years I thought “clean energy” was the answer to the despair that weighs heavier on our collective shoulders and conscience every day. It seemed realistic. It seemed achievable. It seemed aesthetic. And most importantly, I thought it would save the planet.

And I was dedicated whole-heartedly. When I was 14, I volunteered with The Climate Project, a grassroots climate-education initiative created by Al Gore to “awake the masses” to the threat of global warming. I went to classrooms, churches and community centers for years, preaching the good gospel of “green” energy, that we just needed to elect some compassionate democrats. I wrote letters to the editor, hoping to inspire people to be climate voters. I went to city council to beg, and organized protests to demand that the authorities swap the local coal plant for some 21st century renewable energy.

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BREAKDOWN: Substitutability or Sustainability?

By Joshua Headley / Deep Green Resistance New York

By Joshua Headley / Deep Green Resistance New York

“Sustainability” is the buzzword passed around nearly every environmental and social justice circle today. For how often the word is stated, those who use it rarely articulate what it is that they are advocating. And because the term is applied so compulsively, while simultaneously undefined, it renders impossible the ability of our movements to set and actualize goals, let alone assess the strategies and tactics we employ to reach them.

Underneath the surface, sustainability movements have largely become spaces where well-meaning sensibilities are turned into empty gestures and regurgitations of unarticulated ideals out of mere obligation to our identity as “environmentalists” and “activists.” We mention “sustainability” because to not mention it would undermine our legitimacy and work completely. But as destructive as not mentioning the word would be, so too is the lack of defining it.

When we don’t articulate our ideals ourselves we not only allow others to define us but we also give space for destructive premises to continue unchallenged. The veneer of most environmental sustainability movements begins to wither away when we acknowledge that most of its underlying premises essentially mimic the exact forces which we allege opposition.

Infinite Substitutability

The dominant culture currently runs on numerous underlying premises – whether it is the belief in infinite growth and progress, the myth of technological prowess and human superiority, or even the notion that this culture is the most successful, advanced and equitable way of life to ever exist.

These premises often combine to form the basis of an ideological belief in infinite substitutability – when a crisis occurs, our human ingenuity and creativity will always be able to save us by substituting our disintegrating resources and systems with new ones.

And by and large, most of us accept this as truth and never question or oppose the introduction of new technologies/resources in our lives. We never question whom these technologies/resources actually benefit or what their material affects may be. Often, we never question why we need new technologies/resources and we never think about what problems they purport to solve or, more accurately, conceal entirely.

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Let’s Get Free!: A Scope of the Problem

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

By Kourtney Mitchell / Deep Green Resistance

Over the almost seven years I have been involved in social justice activism of various kinds, my level of understanding concerning our social and planetary predicament has grown quite a bit. I began my process towards a radical perspective as a student activist in the university anti-violence against women movement. It was there I developed what I like to call a clear “scope of the problem.

Allow me to back up a bit. I did not know it at the time, but while I was in high school my family survived a rough experience fighting the local police department that helped prime me for radical activism. My mother, while an officer, filed a civil suit against the department for racial discrimination. The ordeal was traumatizing – the media was relentless in their assaults on her character, the department engaged in continuous harassment of my family (including forcibly evicting us from our home on my 16th birthday), all of this culminating in several relocations in- and out-of-state. If it were not for the consistent support of family, friends, legal counsel and a compassionate and talented journalist who had our back, the city and its armed thugs would have certainly continued its oppression against us. Instead, my mother’s case was a primary reason the city organized a citizen’s review board to oversee law enforcement activities. My mother and I went on to write and publish a creative nonfiction book of her experience.

To this day, I am consistently amazed at my mother’s strength and courage. I witnessed her defy all odds, determined to stand up to the city’s bullying and set a lasting precedent for future generations.

As a teen I was not inclined towards activism, but that all changed when I attended college and somehow found myself sitting in the social justice center talking pro-feminist theory with fellow campus community members. I completed feminist and anti-violence training and that is when the real change began.

The information I learned was harrowing. I had no idea just how prevalent male violence against women was. Shaken to the core, I spent several nights in tears, struggling to understand just how the world became this way and how it could possibly continue. From the first night of training, I knew pro-feminism would be my life’s work. It became my passion.

Further social justice training on issues of race and class began to complete the circle for me. My own life experiences started to make much more sense, and I became sensitive to issues of justice and equality.

Then it was time for another wake-up call. I do not remember exactly how I discovered radical politics, but eventually I came upon Marxist theory, which then lead me to anarchism and eventually anti-civilization. I began reading Derrick Jensen’s Endgame in the fall of 2008, and all of the emotions I felt when completing activist training came rushing back to the fore.

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