Don’t talk to me about sustainability. You want to question my lifestyle, my impact, my ecological footprint? There is a monster standing over us, with a footprint so large it can trample a whole planet underfoot, without noticing or caring. This monster is Industrial Civilization. I refuse to sustain the monster. If the Earth is to live, the monster must die. This is a declaration of war.
What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.
Somewhere along the way the environmental movement – based on a desire to protect the Earth, was largely eaten by the sustainability movement – based on a desire to maintain our comfortable lifestyles. When did this happen, and why? And how is it possible that no-one noticed? This is a fundamental shift in values, to go from compassion for all living beings and the land, to a selfish wish to feel good about our inherently destructive way of life.
The sustainability movement says that our capacity to endure is the responsibility of individuals, who must make lifestyle choices within the existing structures of civilization. To achieve a truly sustainable culture by this means is impossible. Industrial infrastructure is incompatible with a living planet. If life on Earth is to survive, the global political and economic structures need to be dismantled.
Sustainability advocates tell us that reducing our impact, causing less harm to the Earth, is a good thing to do, and we should feel good about our actions. I disagree. Less harm is not good. Less harm is still a lot of harm. For as long as any harm is caused, by anyone, there can be no sustainability. Feeling good about small acts doesn’t help anyone.
Only one-quarter of all consumption is by individuals. The rest is taken up by industry, agribusiness, the military, governments and corporations. Even if every one of us made every effort to reduce our ecological footprint, it would make little difference to overall consumption.
If the lifestyle actions advocated really do have the effect of keeping our culture around for longer than it would otherwise, then it will cause more harm to the natural world than if no such action had been taken. For the longer a destructive culture is sustained, the more destruction it causes. The title of this article isn’t just attention-grabbing and controversial, it is quite literally what’s going on.
When we frame the sustainability debate around the premise that individual lifestyle choices are the solution, then the enemy becomes other individuals who make different lifestyle choices, and those who don’t have the privilege of choice. Meanwhile the true enemy — the oppressive structures of civilization — are free to continue their destructive and murderous practices without question. This is hardly an effective way to create a meaningful social movement. Divide and be conquered.
Sustainability is po Continue reading