I Won’t Go Quietly

So the question arises, how seriously should we be taking the prospect of imminent climate crisis and environmental collapse?  How serious is the threat?  What should we be doing to meet it?

On the one hand, there are the Deep Green Resistance folks, who advocate a guerilla warfare approach to industrial civilization: sabotage to infrastructure, with the goal of saving the planet from the destructive predation of human society.

The DGR point of view is that the salmon and the frogs and the polar bears can’t wait; if we hesitate, they will go extinct, and there is no coming back from extinction.  And by the way, we homo sapiens are next in line.

Well yes but…blowing up bridges, cell towers and power lines is hardly in a day’s work for most of us.  I can’t see myself heading for the hills with a knapsack of dynamite on my back!  And could such a resistance effort work? As the example of Tim DeChristopher shows, it doesn’t take much pushback to land in jail.

At the other end of the spectrum are the people who just don’t see that there’s any problem.

That’s most of us Americans.  Most of my peers really seem to see nothing at all to be concerned about, ecosystem-wise.  I often feel  paranoid and ridiculous to worry about global warming leading to conditions of scarcity that will destabilize the social order. No one else is worrying about this, why should I?

People who love me warn me not to go too far; my neighbor wonders when the FBI surveillance will start on our block.

Really, am I nuts to be even thinking about all this?

But I can’t forget historical scenarios where the majority maintained a go-with-the-flow, maintain-the-status-quo position, and were stunned when their efforts at conformity landed them in the gas chambers.

This was only a generation ago, my friends.

Today our fear is not so much gas chambers as it is mass poisonings by other means: for instance, fungicide in the orange juice, heavy metals in the well water, or mega-hurricanes caused by global warming.

It is already happening.  Of course the powers that be, the powers that are profiting from the status quo, don’t want us to question.  They don’t want us to wonder whether saving the salmon is more important than, say, mining for gold in a pristine river.  They don’t want us to demand cars that run on hydrogen.  They don’t want us to insist on a moratorium on Round-up ready seed and fertilizer.

I’m sorry, but I can’t stand down and go back to minding my own business like a good little girl.  I won’t go quietly into the night.  I won’t be one of the capos who cooperates and shepherds the others to their doom.

But maybe we don’t have to choose between these two extreme scenarios: conformity or resistance.  Maybe we can take a middle route, a resistance movement that works with the conformists to bring about change.

Yes, it’s a reformist hope that refuses to die in me.  It’s a hope that I find echoed in the recently published conversation between imprisoned activist Tim DeChristopher and the writer Terry Tempest Williams:

“TIM: Well there’s no hope in avoiding collapse. If you look at the worst-case consequences of climate change, those pretty much mean the collapse of our industrial civilization. But that doesn’t mean the end of everything. It means that we’re going to be living through the most rapid and intense period of change that humanity has ever faced. And that’s certainly not hopeless. It means we’re going to have to build another world in the ashes of this one. And it could very easily be a better world. I have a lot of hope in my generation’s ability to build a better world in the ashes of this one. And I have very little doubt that we’ll have to. The nice thing about that is that this culture hasn’t led to happiness anyway, it hasn’t satisfied our human needs. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

DeChristopher says something surprising towards the end of this interview.  He says that going to prison was the most freeing thing that could have happened to him.

“TIM: I thought I was sacrificing my freedom, but instead I was grabbing onto my freedom and refusing to let go of it for the first time, you know? Finally accepting that I wasn’t this helpless victim of society, and couldn’t do anything to shape my own future, you know, that I didn’t have that freedom to steer the course of my life. Finally I said, “I have the freedom to change this situation. I’m that powerful.” And that’s been a wonderful feeling that I’ve held onto since then.”

A lot of us are scared and angry and depressed for precisely this reason: we feel we don’t have control over our futures.  We are like the salmon and the polar bears and the bats, facing an ever more inhospitable environment, with no way to fight back.

But what if we did have control?  What if we have a lot more power than we realize?

This is the lesson of the Occupy movement.  Another world is possible.  And we can welcome her into existence.  We don’t have to go quietly wherever the powers that be lead us.

Not yet, anyway.  There’s still time.  Let’s seize it.

De-coupling our wagons from the locomotive of global capitalism

There is a clear spectrum of response to the urgency of the environmental and economic challenges that face us.

On the one end is the Deep Green Resistance movement, calling for a complete take-down of industrialized civilization, violently if necessary (and it would be necessary, of course–industrial civilization won’t go down without a fight, unless it’s wiped out by natural disasters).

On the other end are those who believe we will be able to find our way into a sustainable world order via technology, ie, renewable energy sources that will keep the capitalist engines burning bright.

On this spectrum, I would have to locate myself somewhere in the middle.  While I see the necessity of deindustrialization, I don’t really want to live through the violent havoc a strong de-civ movement would cause.

But I know things can’t go on as they have been.  We must shift from an economic model built on endless growth to one that seeks to maintain a steady state, both for human societies and for the natural world (as if there were a separation between these two).

We must also shift from the capitalist system of accumulated wealth for the few based on the commodified labor of the masses, to a system in which people’s labor is more directly connected to their well-being, and wealth is not allowed to concentrate in a few disproportionately powerful, distant hands.

The only movement I’ve found so far that is actively working to accomplish a vision similar to what I’ve sketched out above is the Transition Town movement.  The brainchild of UK visionary activist Rob Hopkins, the movement describes itself as follows:

“The Transition Movement is comprised of vibrant, grassroots community initiatives that seek to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis.

“Transition Initiatives differentiate themselves from other sustainability and “environmental” groups by seeking to mitigate these converging global crises by engaging their communities in home-grown, citizen-led education, action, and multi-stakeholder planning to increase local self reliance and resilience.

“They succeed by regeneratively using their local assets, innovating, networking, collaborating, replicating proven strategies, and respecting the deep patterns of nature and diverse cultures in their place.

“Transition Initiatives work with deliberation and good cheer to create a fulfilling and inspiring local way of life that can withstand the shocks of rapidly shifting global systems.”

What appeals to me about the Transition Town movement as a strategy for change is that it’s locally based and collaborative.  The first step is getting to know your neighbors, finding out what skills you can share, and taking stock of how you can prepare intelligently to cope with whatever environmental and economic shocks may lie ahead in our future.  It doesn’t dictate a one-size-fits-all model, but rather gives communities credit for being smart enough to figure out their own, locally adapted solutions.

As a society, America seems to be in collective denial about the reality of climate change.  We don’t want to hear that if we continue down the path of capitalist growth based on fossil fuels, the planet will heat up past the point where we could expect life as we know it to continue.  We don’t want to put the pieces together, because if we do, we will be forced to face the fact that we need to change. 

If we could accept this fact, we could begin to talk seriously about directions to take to make that change happen.  It would be nice if we could count on our world leaders to step up and face the challenge squarely, in a concerted effort.  But given the reality of global politics, still based on competition and armed power struggles, it seems very unlikely that we can look to the United Nations, or individual national governments, for the kind of decisive leadership we need now.

So we need to turn to each other, on the local level, and begin asking, as the Transition Town movement envisions, what can we do right here, together, to become more resilient?  What resources do we have, right here, that are not dependent on current systems of international or long-distance national trade?  How can we plan together for a sustainable future?

In a way, it’s an effort to de-couple our personal wagons from the locomotive of capitalist growth, which is proving so destructive to everything in its path, and seems to be on the verge of careening out of control.

I’ve been hearing a fair amount of fear expressed about “going backwards.” When people imagine stepping down from the capitalist growth model, they picture having to give up modern conveniences like advanced medical technologies, ready access to electricity, indoor plumbing, etc.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  We have to work on developing new ways of generating those conveniences, that are less destructive to the planet (the technological fix) and also work swiftly to dismantle those features of industrial civilization that are throwing our whole ecological system out of balance (de-industrialization).

The Transition Town movement calls this “the great re-skilling” approach.  We need to remember older, more sustainable ways of doing things, while also keeping the best of new technologies and learning how to apply them in smarter, more efficient and ecologically sound ways.

There are over 100 full-fledged Transition Town initiatives in the U.S., and hundreds more worldwide, along with many start-up groups forming all the time.  Although all of us seem to have so much to do, and so little time these days, this is really a movement we need to be focusing on now to prepare for the decade ahead.

Given the lack of effective top-down leadership, should we really be wasting our time worrying about national elections, for example?  Or bothering to go to international conferences on climate change?

Or is the smarter thing to do to begin, quietly and with determination and hopeful good cheer, to make our own preparations for a very different sort of future, in our own transition towns?

Resisting the Energy Vultures

Today’s New York Times Sunday Review piece by White House correspondent Mark Landler, “A New Era of Gunboat Diplomacy,” gives disturbing insight into the mindset not only of the men and women who preside over national foreign policies, but also into the media lapdogs who cover them.

Landler reports that China and the U.S., along with practically every other country in possession of a serviceable Navy fleet, are entering into “a new type of maritime conflict — one that is playing out from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean, where fuel-hungry economic powers, newly accessible undersea energy riches and even changes in the earth’s climate are conspiring to create a 21st-century contest for the seas.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of Landler’s sources, explains blandly that “This hunt for resources is going to consume large bodies of water around the world for at least the next couple of decades.”

Clinton has got the right metaphor there.  What Landler describes all too flippantly as “a watery Great Game” could well indeed “consume large bodies of water around the world.”

What neither Clinton nor anyone else interviewed for Landler’s article bring up is the cardinal question:  When the game is over, what will be left of the living beings that used to populate those waters in unimaginably vast numbers?

Landler describes the navies and drill ships of countries from China and the U.S. to Turkey and Israel jockeying for control of huge troves of oil and natural gas deposits that have been discovered beneath the sea.

Of especial interest to these circling energy vultures are the deposits beneath the Arctic ice.  Landler reports that “melting ice has opened up the fabled Northwest Passage,” making resource extraction in the Arctic more viable than before.

This offhand and veiled reference to climate change provides a window into the sociopathic mindsets of the men who rule the Energy Kingdoms.  The cowboys of global fossil fuel extraction are essentially warlords, relying on the national armies of their nominal countries of origin to clear the way of opposition to their reckless drilling.

From their warped point of view, global warming can be seen as a bonus.

If the Arctic ice melts, so much the better–it’ll make it easier to get those billions of barrels of oil out of the sea and into the global market.

No matter that deep sea drilling has been proven to be highly risky and lethal to the environment.  Hello, does anyone remember BP in the Gulf of Mexico?

Imagine a spill like that going on in frigid northern waters.

Imagine billions of barrels worth of oil or gas gushing into the Arctic Ocean, to be picked up by the currents and spread all over the world.

Imagine the destruction of marine wildlife, and indeed the entire marine food chain, that this would entail.

NY Times reporter Landler doesn’t waste time contemplating such grim scenarios.  The focus of his article is “gunboat diplomacy,” a glamorous new competition among national navies to dominate the oceans, seen strictly in utilitarian terms.  His only mention of fish, or indeed any maritime creature, is a brief aside that icebreakers are being sent into the Arctic circle by countries like China and Korea, “to explore weather patterns and fish migration.”

Landler’s article, which is billed as “news analysis,” reveals the extent to which the chillingly disturbing values of the Energy Kings have permeated not only the governments who are supposed to be regulating their industry and safeguarding the natural world, but also the media “watchdogs,” who are obviously sitting cozily in the laps of Big Oil.

Questions of environmental sustainability and health are simply outside the picture for these folks.  It’s not relevant to them whether or not the polar bears survive.  They don’t care about the coral reefs, or the plankton.  They don’t care about whales.  Their only concern is the bottom line.

What is the most effective opposition to such monomania?

Trying to think of persuasive strategies gives me a touch of hysteria.  We could appeal to their love of seafood!  Wouldn’t they miss their caviar and oysters?

They will figure out how to grow these in tanks.

We could appeal to them as property owners: what’s going to happen to their beachfront homes, not to mention their office towers in coastal cities around the world, when the waters begin to rise?

They will have armies of lawyers figuring out ways to make the taxpayers bear the burden of their lost properties.

We could appeal to their brand image.  Does Exxon-Mobil really want to go down in history as the biggest perpetrator of maritime omnicide in world history?

They will throw this back at us, and rightly so: they were just doing their job of giving the consumer what she wants, a steady supply of affordable energy.

It’s true that we all share the blame for this tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes. It’s also true that we have the power to stop it.

How? We need to demand that the rights of the denizens of the natural world be respected.  A new Declaration of the Rights of Nature has been written–it needs to be circulated, popularized and upheld.

We need to insist that our politicians report to the people, the taxpayers, not to the corporations. Yes, people want energy; we want cars, we want electricity.  But we want to direct our tax dollars into R&D of renewable sources of energy–solar, geothermal, wind–not into dangerous oil and gas extraction or nuclear fission, and not into dirty coal mining either.

We need to call the mainstream media on its dereliction of duty when it presents one-sided reports like Landler’s industry white paper today.

Extracting those billions of barrels of oil buried below the earth’s surface miles beneath the sea would not just be a death sentence for marine life.  It would drive the nails on the human coffin as well, along with all the other species on this planet who will not be able to adapt to the erratic climate extremes of floods, droughts and storms that will inevitably ramp up once the planet heats beyond the point of no return.

Under these circumstances, if the governments won’t listen, radical action may prove a necessity.  The French Resistance to the Nazis were considered criminals in their own time and place, but look like heroes to us today, with the power of hindsight.

We are in the midst of a new, much larger Holocaust now, one that threatens not just one group of people, but all of us, and our natural world as well.

Each of us has a choice to make.  You can go along with the crowd, watching impassively as the train leaves the station for the gas chambers, or you can dare to raise your voice in opposition, and maybe even to throw a wrench in the gears of power.

Each of us is going to die sooner or later.  Wouldn’t you rather die knowing you had done your utmost to make a difference, to safeguard the world for your children and all life on this planet?

An older form of Deep Green Resistance rises from the rainforest. Euramericans, ignore this at your peril.

If you want to see something really inspiring, watch and listen to Patricia Gualinga, an Achuar woman from the Ecuadorian rainforest, talking about how her people are standing firm on the frontlines of the siege of the forest by multinational oil extraction companies.

Listening to this indigenous activist, you see shades of all the millions of indigenous peoples around the world who lived in harmony with their environment, respecting and sustainably stewarding their lands.

To say that this balance was altered when the Europeans began their voyages around the world is not to blame or guilt-trip.  It is simply to speak the truth.

To say that the European Enlightenment period, which gave us Manifest Destiny, “I think therefore I am,” the closing off of the commons and the capitalist drive to resource exploitation, was actually a time of deepening darkness, is simply to pronounce the self-evident.

While we contemporary heirs to this 500-year history may be individually blameless, collectively we have been bystanders who have followed the paths of least resistance and allowed the destruction of our planet to proceed apace.

The Pachamama Alliance, on whose behalf Patricia Gualinga spoke last week, is an unusual partnership between Euramericans and these South American indigenous survivors, warriors who are defending the great Amazonian rainforest, the dynamic lungs of the Southern Hemisphere, against rapacious encroachers.

We need another alliance like this between the peoples of the far North and those Euramericans who know that destroying the Canadian boreal forests would be equally catastrophic.

The Pachamama Alliance has developed a powerful model of collaboration across the boundaries of nationality and race in the service of a higher vision of earth-based spiritual activism.

This is a vision that needs to grow exponentially in the coming years.

For too long we have been held captive by the media-induced trance of relentless growth and consumerism.  It’s time to break the spell and allow the pendulum of human evolution on this planet to swing back to balance.

To do this, we need to listen to new voices, heed new calls.  We Euramericans have had our shot at leading the world our way.  It has been a disaster.

It’s time to cede the stage to our indigenous sisters and brothers, and try following their lead for a change.  This is a whole new level of Deep Green Resistance, based on creation rather than destruction.

 It’s time to co-create a new story with the indigenous peoples of the planet, who still know how to live harmoniously with the natural world.

Listen to the Pachamama story, and then it’s up to you–what comes next?  What role will YOU play?

Calling all Occupiers: Join the Deep Green Resistance of the Earth, before it’s too late

Occupy the Machine – Stop the 1%, Literally | Deep Green Resistance.

I had a feeling that the Deep Green Resistance movement would have something interesting to say about the Occupy movement, and I wasn’t disappointed.

As might be expected from a radical environmental group, they are envisioning a massive escalation of the movement, swelling the numbers and multiplying the targets so as to overwhelm the police who will be called in to maintain order.

DGR is imagining an occupation at the sites of worst destruction of the environment, like the boreal forest of Alberta, known to the energy mafia as the tar sands; the coal-burning power plants; the pipelines and the shipping routes.

I might add factory farms to the list, like the beef and hog farms out West that generate the toxic runoff that is poisoning the ocean for miles around the outlet of the Mississippi River.

Naming targets is one thing, but what’s really important is being clear on what the occupations are for. I don’t think the Occupy movement is especially focused on the environment.  It seems to be focused on social inequality–excessive wealth that has destabilized our economy, and the lack of jobs for the middle class.

These are all worthy issues.  But as I’ve said before, it won’t matter a rat’s ass if you have a job–or if you’re dripping in gold or starving and naked–if the climate changes decisively due to global warming.

To turn global warming around will require a movement like the Occupy movement, filled with idealistic, dedicated, thoughtful people who are willing to give it their all.  This struggle has to be linked with a critical rethinking of the industrial capitalist economic model of ruthless extraction and production in the name of profit.

That is the model that has driven our planet to the brink of systemic correction.

Not collapse.  The planet will be fine, she will regenerate.  She has time.  But to do it she will need to effect a serious correction of a species gone haywire, the human species, which in a very short time has altered the planetary environment to such an extent that millions of other species have gone extinct, and supplies of the basic life support systems like oxygen and water are threatened.

The Earth has survived such challenges before, and she will survive this time again.  But human beings, and most of the countless other beautiful life forms that share the planet with us at this time, will be doomed if industrial civilization is not rebooted and recreated as an ecologically sustainable system.

That is where the pressure of the Occupy movement needs to be applied.

Will the Occupiers step up to such an enormous challenge, much bigger than the one they initially envisioned?  Hard to say.  But at the moment they seem to be the best hope of deep change of our society and our terribly destructive economic system.

It’s in the Liberty Parks all across the world that the conversations are beginning that might have the potential to lead to real change.

All the money in the world is not going to buy safety or plenty once the Earth herself begins her own form of Deep Green Resistance.

But what can we DO?

It’s not enough to simply lament the disappearance of species, or the poisoning of the air, water and soil of the planet.  The urgent question of our time is WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?  How can any of us–how can I–act to staunch the hemorrhage and resuscitate this dying patient, our planet, before it’s too late?

Let’s review the options.

There is political reform, through various channels: appealing to our duly elected representatives and/or supporting environmental groups that lobby these politicians and try to pressure the relevant federal and state agencies charged with protecting the “natural resources” of our country.

I have to say that I am quite skeptical of this approach, which doesn’t seem to have worked at all in the 40 years or so since I first became a Ranger Rick reader and aware of the environmental movement.

Things have gotten much worse for the natural world in my lifetime, despite all the efforts of big, well-funded groups like the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, or even Greenpeace, the most radical of them all. Greenpeace is the most willing to go out on a limb to protect species and habitat, but its actions have failed to make the kind of global difference we need.

There is international peer pressure to do the right thing–conventions, treaties and protocols.  Even as I type these words, I inwardly despair.  From Kyoto onward, the U.S. has been the bully who refused to play nice in the community of nations whenever it’s come to putting the common good before the holy Free Market.

There is actually going around the blowing up the worst aspects of civilization, like dams, power plants, cell towers and chemical plants, as the proponents of Deep Green Resistance advocate.  Eco-terrorism, anyone?

Or there’s crowd power of the Occupy Wall Street variety, which certainly seems right now to hold the most promise.  ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” Margaret Mead said.

But how to convince those crowds that the fate of seals, bees and goldfinches–not to mention the oceans and the boreal forests of North America–is actually more important than the injustices of economic inequality here in the U.S.?

Of course, it’s all important.  I have several friends who are on unemployment now and having serious trouble finding jobs.  If the Tea Party had their way, unemployment itself would be a thing of the past, a quaint relic of the old New Deal.  We can’t let these radical conservatives shred our social safety net, and we do need to start creating jobs again–green jobs, of course.

But there is no single issue more urgent than climate and environmental health, because if our climate goes haywire and our life support systems here on Earth fail, folks, we are all going down with the ship.

How to convey this to the crowds who are willing to turn out to protest economic injustice, but give it a miss when the issue is global warming?  How to convince people that what we should be demanding as we flood the squares and Main Streets of our country are well- subsidized options to reduce our energy consumption?

Doesn’t sound very glamorous, but the truth is that there’s nothing more important to be fighting for right now than subsidies to install solar roof tiles, like they’ve been doing in Europe for a decade already; and solar hot water heaters; and geothermal ducts for large buildings; and affordable green tech cars.

As Mark Hertsgaard and others have been saying, it’s not enough to make individual green lifestyle decisions, like recycling or composting or turning out the lights when you leave the room.  These individual actions are all well and good, but they’re not going to make the dramatic change we need to get our climate back into shape.

For the kind of change that will save the polar bears and the walruses and the coral, we need our government to step up and protect the interests of its people.  Not the interests of the corporations which have collectively driven our planet to the brink of ruin with their shortsighted greedy ethos of extraction and exploitation.

Government by the people, for the people.  And for the environment that sustains these people in a web of life that includes all living beings on this planet.

How to say this in a way that will light up the imaginations of the 99% and ignite an unstoppable movement for change?

I will keep trying.  What more can I do?

California Black-out: Eco-terrorist Strike? Wake-up Call?

Last night, while all the pundits and news editors were focused on President Obama’s jobs speech to Congress, a small news item at the bottom of the page caught my eye: blackout in southern California.  1.4 million without power, from Arizona to Baja California, including San Diego and Tijuana. No explanation.

This morning, the blackout is still on, and there is still no explanation.

With a strange blend of fear and hope, I find myself wondering whether it could possibly be the result of a Deep Green Resistance strike.  According to the DGR website, the mission of the underground resistance movement is to “dismantle the strategic infrastructure of power” that has brought our planet to “the brink of complete biotic collapse.”

What could be more critical to the continued functioning of industrial civilization than electricity?

Really, folks, all of this dithering about tax cuts, monetary policy and jobs creation would instantly be totally beside the point if the energy that fuels our society were to sputter and die.  To say this is not to be alarmist, it’s simply to be real.

As anyone who has had to go through a power blackout of more than a few hours knows, we 20th-21st century Americans are uber-dependent on our electric juice.  We are so addicted that we no longer know how to live without it, in a literal sense: our food and water supplies are almost completely reliant on fossil fuel-based energy.

No gas, no ATMs, no refrigeration, no supermarkets, no water pumps, and for many of us, no heat in the winter, never mind AC in the summer.  Oh, and did I mention no internet?  No video games?  No email, voice mail or cell service?

Science fiction has tried to imagine what the collapse of civilization as we know it would look like.  We have all seen films like The Day After Tomorrow, or read books like Margaret Atwood’s chilling Handmaid’s Tale.  Mostly, our imagination of this kind of future seems pretty grim.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just as there is already a guerilla movement bent on taking down industrial civilization, there is also an aboveground movement looking to put in place the building blocks for a new, sustainable civilization.  It’s called the Transition Town movement.  It started in the UK, and is now gathering steam in the US as well as around the world.

While the Deep Green Resistance folks seek an aggressive approach to dismantling what is, the Transition Town movement is more about working with what is to create something better.

It’s a bit tamer, but will be far more digestible to the majority of Americans.  It has a role for everyone, and a focus on the positive: on what can be done if we work together in the service of a strong vision of positive change to a sustainable future.

There is no doubt that the climate crisis is upon us.  The signs are apparent on a daily basis.  Wildfires out of control in Texas; flooding in the Northeast; blackouts in California; droughts in the Midwest.

Fear, panic or depression will get us nowhere.  Anger is useless unless channelled into positive action.

The most important thing you can do to prepare for what’s coming is to strengthen your relationships with your local friends, neighbors and community.  We are going to need each other in the months and years ahead.  We’re going to need all the love, resilience and solidarity we can muster.

The time to start is now.

 

 

Eco-terrorist? Or freedom fighter?

Well, as President Clinton famously put it, it depends what you mean by “eco-terrorist.”

One man’s “terrorist” is another’s “freedom fighter,” after all.

I didn’t need Derrick Jensen, Aric McBay and Lierre Keith to tell me that our planet was in trouble. As someone who has always been tuned into the natural world, I noticed when the dawn chorus of songbirds diminished to a few lone, defiant voices.  I noticed when the summer clouds of butterflies were reduced to single wanderers, here and there.  I noticed when the tree frogs stopped singing, and there were no longer any toads hiding in the damp leaves of the garden.

I noticed.

But I did not react.  Or if anything, I reacted with a kind of sad resignation.  I blamed some kind of faceless “Progress” for the loss of these dearly beloved fellow travelers on the planet; I did not take any kind of personal responsibility for their disappearance, and I did not see anything I might do to slow “Progress” or change its impact on the environment.

Giving money to environmental groups did not seem to make any difference.  Petitioning Congress–ditto.  And so there was just that kind of paralyzed melancholy, a sense of inexorable doom, that only increased as the full scale of our climate change crisis became apparent.

And then I started reading  Deep Green Resistance.  It was hardly my first foray into environmental manifestoes–I’d started with Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, years ago, and kept up with Bill McKibben, Wangari Maathai, Julia Butterfly and many others.

But this book is different.  It is not only a call to action, but a manual for how to accomplish change–whether you are a middle-aged armchair activist like me, or a stalwart young guerilla resistance fighter.  There is a role for all of us, and it’s spelled out more clearly in this book than I have ever seen it done before.

What inspires me most about this vision of resistance is that it springs most profoundly from love.

“Whatever work you are called to do, the world can wait no longer,” Lierre Keith writes in the conclusion to the book.  “Power in all its versions–the arrogant, the sadistic, the stupid–is poised to kill every last living being.  If we falter, it will win.  Gather your heart and all its courage; fletch love into an arrow that will not bend; and take aim” (515).

“The carbon is swelling; the heat is rising; the rivers are fading and somewhere a black tern is giving up in exhaustion.  The same noose that took Ken Saro-Wiwo is tightening, and there is only time for one last breath.  Will you close your eyes and let the earth fall, with a sickening snap of species and forests and rivers?  Or will you fight?

“Whatever you love, it is under assault.  Love is a verb.  So take that final breath and fight” (495).

The question is, what form will my fighting take?

I don’t see myself as someone who blows up power plants or takes out dams.  Nor am I a computer hacker.

In DGR terms, I am an aboveground activist.  What I want to do more than anything is to awaken “my people,” that is, the privileged ones, the denizens of Park Avenue and Westchester County and Long Island, the ones whose grandparents and great-grands came to this country around the turn of the century and found a land of peace and plenty, and have ridden the 20th century wave of “Progress” to a life of luxury and comfort.

These are the people who need to understand that this lifestyle we have all enjoyed so much IS NO LONGER SUSTAINABLE.  In fact, it is what is driving our entire planet into climate ruin, from which, for us as a species at least, there will be no return.

It is frightening to think about going “back” to the kind of “primitive” lifestyle that we human beings lived for all those thousands of years before the advent of the industrial revolution.  We don’t want to go back to the time before antibiotics, before computers, before hot showers, before TV, before cars, before supermarkets.

But we have to think seriously about what all these “modern conveniences” and “advances” have really given us.  We have to weigh the pros and cons.

I want to believe I come from reasonable people.  I want to believe if the case is made for them in a reasonable way, they will be able to understand.

Understanding is not action, but it is a necessary first step.

Will you take that step with me?

Eco-terrorist from Park Avenue?

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches…

the fateful year of 2012 is on the horizon…

a hurricane rips up the East Coast, leaving 5 million without power, and billions of dollars worth of damage in its wake;

riots in London are quelled by force;

and dictators who have held sway for 30 years or more in the Middle East are run out of town.

As the debt crisis of the Western world continues, Exxon Mobil opens up new drilling potential in the Russian Arctic worth 500 billion dollars, of which almost nothing will be taxed, while schools lay off teachers, states lay off workers, and municipalities have trouble paying for basic services like road maintenance.

At least we have our iPads and iPhones!

For those able to connect the dots, it is no accident that a major hurricane hit the East Coast this week–given that the ocean is hotter than it’s ever been, thanks to global warming.  More storms like that, and worse, are on the way!  The question is, WILL WE CONNECT THE DOTS????

And more: Can we have a world in which we continue to enjoy our luxuries–a hot shower in the morning, easy internet access, refrigeration and supermarkets full of food–without having to pay any price?

Like anyone of my generation (I was born in 1962) I want to believe that the world I’ve always known will always be here for me.

But I am not so blind as to see that the very luxuries I have taken for granted as necessities are what has driven our entire ecosystem to its current precarious state.

I know this.

What am I going to do about it?

Mark Hertsgaard and others have said very clearly that individual sacrifice or change is not the answer for the planet.  The planet needs us to stand up and agitate for her, to take risks, to be bold.

Getting arrested in front of the White House is not a bad idea.

Lately I’ve been reading about even more radical steps one might take.  Our government might call these steps eco-terrorism.  I might call them standing up for what is right.

In Deep Green Resistance, Aric McBay, Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith outline a full spectrum of productive resistance to the planet-killing powers that be, from “propaganda”–ie, what I’m doing now–to actually going out and blowing up dams or cell towers.  

I am reading on, taking it in.  Do I have it in me to become an eco-terrorist?  Me, a sheltered girl from Park Avenue?

We’ll see!  Tune in next week…..

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