Do We Need a Militant Movement to Save the Planet (and Ourselves)?

By Tara Lohan

A new book called Deep Green Resistance, by Aric McBay, Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen, says that we likely won’t have enough people interested in saving the planet before we run out of time. So, they’re calling for a change in strategy.

Environmental groups are trying to build a critical mass around issues like global warming to inspire public action and encourage legislators to get their heads out of the sand. The Sierra Club is working to block new coal burning power plants, a new coalition is organizing actions against a tar sands pipeline, and folks in West Virginia are sitting in trees in an attempt to halt destructive strip mining. It’s great work, but what if it’s not enough? What if it’s too little, too late? What if we never get enough mass for it to ever reach that critical point?

You may know Jensen from his many books, including Endgame. McBay is the author of Peak Oil Survival: Preparing for Life After Gridcrash, and Keith is the author of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability. The three longtime activists have teamed up to offer a more radical approach to our environmental crisis.

They use words like “militant” and “resistance” a lot. And they critique the Left a lot. And they review the semantics of “violence.”

“I would urge the following distinctions,” writes Keith, “the violence of hierarchy vs. the violence of self-defense, violence against actual people vs. violence against property, and the violence as self-actualization vs. the violence of political resistance.”

And if you’re firmly in the nonviolence-is-the-answer camp, don’t get scared off (yet), because there is a ton of crucial information in this book. And just because they mention violence doesn’t mean it’s the best policy. You may not want to sign up to lead their underground army, but you should hear them out.

Because the planet is being destroyed. Each day 200 species go extinct, Jensen writes in the preface. And if you can’t wrap your head around that number, how about “90 percent of the large fish in the ocean are gone, there is ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in the oceans, 97 percent of native forests are destroyed, 98 percent of native grasslands are destroyed …” and Jensen continues with the bad news from there.

In a couple of decades, we may be looking at the end of life as we know it on this planet. “What is your personal carrying capacity for grief, rage, despair?” asks Keith in the first chapter. It’s not just global warming but a confluence of catastrophes that cannot be blamed on Republicans or climate deniers or rich people with their personal jets, but on all of us, together. The culprit is industrial civilization, say the writers. “This culture destroys landbases. That’s what it does,” writes Jensen. “And it won’t stop because we ask it nicely.”

And so how do we save the world (and along with it ourselves)? Well, naturally we take down industrial civilization, they say. Yeah, no small feat. Especially when so many of us actually live quite comfortably in this civilization — roofs over our heads, running water, flushing toilets, access to medical care, decent food to eat, cars to drive, electronics to play with, vacations to take. And, of course, the most powerful people live in a penthouse, far above relative standards of comfort and have zero desire to pack up and move out.

So this taking down of civilization will not be easy, of course. But according to Jensen, Keith and McBay, it is necessary because no other response out there even comes close to matching the scale of the problem we face. And we can no longer afford to simply make personal changes to bike more and eat local. And we can no longer afford to be grieved by polluted rivers or angered by short-sighted politicians without doing everything we can to stop it. So what do we do? Their 500-plus page book attempts to map out a strategy for their vision and also provide a critique of historical resistance movements — what works, what doesn’t work.

In a phone call with all three authors, I asked them more about whether or not they are advocating for militant action, what is involved in creating a culture of resistance, and what a post-industrial world would look like?

Tara Lohan: The book focuses on achieving a culture of resistance. What do you mean by that?

Lierre Keith: Right now on the Left what we have is an alternative culture, and I would say that is kind of a subculture where you can withdraw from the mainstream and hang out with people who think pretty much like you do and have a whole lot of alternative institutions, but none of your actions and none of your institutions pose a threat to the power structure. You can have a nice life that way and certainly keep your sanity by hanging out with people who agree with you. I think this is a place where a lot of political movements go to die. There are obvious reasons people do this — it is scary to fight back. It feels overwhelming, and I think most people just want comfort. But in the end, we are going to have to dismantle the power structure that is destroying the planet.

Read more at Alternet

14 responses to “Do We Need a Militant Movement to Save the Planet (and Ourselves)?

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  2. Because the planet is being destroyed. Each day 200 species go extinct, Jensen writes in the preface. And if you can’t wrap your head around that number, how about “90 percent of the large fish in the ocean are gone, there is ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in the oceans, 97 percent of native forests are destroyed, 98 percent of native grasslands are destroyed …” and Jensen continues with the bad news from there.===============
    I doubt those figures! as for the rest, well AGW and Carbon is a bankster and UN con,
    have a look at UNtampered temps and see theyre still falling, have been snce the 00;s not one island is sinking enough for evac, Tuuvalu is actually a tad higher lately.
    I’d rather remove Gore Mann and pachauri for starters.!
    sure we DO have idiots that overfish, that pollute real crap like ag chem and gm etc.
    Carbon DIoxide has 2 oxygen atoms too remember?
    we and plants need both, it is NOT a pollutant.
    as for shutting down coal power, well I hope whale oil in a lamp appeals? or kero? NO way can anything but nuke or gas supply the power we need.
    billions in wind and solar wated utterly!

    • I am no longer convinced that global warming is real, given the scandals emanating from the IPCC — the temperature lies, the financial conflicts of interest, etc. (And you can blame yourself for my slight change in position 🙂 for sending me all those news items)

      And I’ve always thought the carbon tax was nothing but a rich man’s scam.

      So, I’m not coming to this argument with a closed mind.

      However, long before Derrick Jensen there was Edward O. Wilson who wrote back in the early 1970s that 3 species an hour were going extinct. I can’t confirm that, but I can believe it because for all my years on the planet all I have seen is shopping centers and houses replacing trees and wetlands. The greatest cause of extinction is loss of habitat.

      Evidence of species loss is widespread, from a myriad of sources, and occurs all over the planet. I have no doubt Earth is experiencing a Great Dying.

      Laurel — even you have sent me links to articles about mass animal die-offs.

      As to fossil fuels, fuggedaboutit. Mining is the most ecocidal activity that humans engage in. There is absolutely no doubt about this. It leaves behind “brownfields” where nothing grows — and I have personally seen such places in Ohio.

      Drilling for oil? Really? You support that? Even after the Gulf of Mexico disaster?

      As to Big Energy’s crybaby talking point that we need fossil fuels or nuclear energy — what bunk! We need to use less energy. Period.

      Meanwhile, there are plenty of renewable sources that can supply our energy needs without destroying the planet.

  3. Sure, sustainable. Like bio-fuels replacing life-giving rainforests? The human population has to be reduced, and fast. No more laments about “the birth rate has dropped, who will pay our pensions, whine, whine.” Always thinking about ourselves, that’s how we got to this disaster.

    • okay, sure. first we cull all the rich people — since they got their wealth by destroying ecosystems, cultures and lives.

      The rich are the greatest threat to humanity and to the planet. Once we get rid of them, things will get better.

      Population reduction must start at the top. the top richest billion on the planet must be the first to go.

  4. hi rady,
    hard to reply with gaps so I am snip and answering.
    However, long before Derrick Jensen there was Edward O. Wilson who wrote back in the early 1970s that 3 species an hour were going extinct. I can’t confirm that, but I can believe it because for all my years on the planet all I have seen is shopping centers and houses replacing trees and wetlands. The greatest cause of extinction is loss of habitat. ======at least THAT figure is somewhat sane, though entire species? some of, maybe? a species. or maybe as they seem to find years later, the critters moved.
    for a really rather good item on species supposed declines
    see Willis Eisenbach at WUWT, Show me the Corpses article, in archives.
    if species didnt die off develop adapt wed either be over run, as with starlings sparrows noisy mynahs rabbits foxes or flying foxes here in aus spreading serious diseases, after being declared rare, they now number in many many thousands very fast.
    most development in aus at least is on prior open lands, ie plains and prefarmed areas. the crime is using the best AG land for housing.
    Laurel — even you have sent me links to articles about mass animal die-offs.==
    yup and many are natural, some are planned as starlings with poison, seriously not a bad thing, algal outbreaks, many are natural and occurred before we got into crapping in the water as well.
    and sure some are well and truly avoidble, but them the EPA would rather play silly buggers over CO2, than shut down monsanto or pharmas who poison water food and humans daily.
    thats a sloppy and corrupt govt issue, and maybe the Goreites need to consider that? carbon is NOT pollution and does NOT cause warming, whilke they push that dumb idea REAL problems get sidelined.
    when the antarctic ice pack moved and pengiuns were trapped from the seas, its sad its horrible, and its entirely normal eventwise.
    similar events have and will keep happening.
    entire herds of wild horses or other..panic and fall off cliffs for eg.
    we do NOT have the ability to save every life form, even JC couldnt do that:-)
    Mining is the most ecocidal activity that humans engage in. There is absolutely no doubt about this. It leaves behind “brownfields” where nothing grows — and I have personally seen such places in Ohio.=
    ok I dont like it either, but, if we dont use coal gas oil were stuffed.
    seriously, the supposed wind power? the capacity is NOT the actual output, they have to keep coal /gas turbines running idle to supply when the wind /solar drops. some 7k of wind is proposed for the uk.
    sounds all green and fuzzy, its idiocy, the cost of making -to the environment – thousands of kilos of rare earth minerals and ensuing poisoning of air water and soils in china for a start.and the seriously LOW output makes it a great cash cow for the so called green entrepreneurs, it jacks the consumer cost up manyfold.
    solar? well low output large areas to house it, and again a great tax dodge for the owners who set it up. the home use is marginally saner.but worked out the amount needed to run a gridge means Huge install costs, only the well off can do that.
    I sure dont think oil wells in super deep and risky places is smart.
    or frakking on prime farmland as is happening here in aus. but again the ultra green areas that have it are parks..and they cant be they go for the harder stuff
    usa BUYS something like 60% of its oil IN.
    dollar drops or goes bye bye as oil trade currency. , quite possible Russia and china etc are already trading in NON USA dollars among themselves, dont worry everyone WILL be using less, real soon. not a bad thing, un;less you want food? most of usa is transport food setup, ie farms buy in feed, if oil soars food soars.
    oh and in Aus they have to install all eco saving tech they can, and refill and revegetate mone sites, or no mine. its legislated and enforced.
    see ohbummer is likely to appro arctic oil again?

    Now I didnt read every word of the original cos I got to Pd off with the militant green saviour slant.
    because it is a clone of the UN desire for a GREEN POLICE, it uses the save the planet green eco line to enable totalitarian control by an accepted social conjob by far too many ie agw.
    its Hansen and Strongs wet dream.
    and once…seems a fair while ago now:-)
    I would have called myself green and a tree hugger.
    I probably still am, just not fooled by the conmen who have subverted sanity.
    my power fuel and everything else is already AT 1940s levels, and I am bloody angry at having to listen to assholes like gore hansen and the rest tell me I have to cut down and suffer. and the so serious young- who have never gone without have NO idea what theyre asking for, they really do not. theyve never been withoiut power, or experienced rolling shortages , or products simply unavailable.
    how many items in the average home now rely on electricity?
    do you have all hand tools for kitchen? a wood cooker , as backup? the ability to go get twigs and branches to cook on if it all falls over? no not many do, old kero lanterns candles. how long would that be novel or fun? a few homework times like that would change outlooks for kids..
    my mother was depression baby, I grew up with the after effects and many lectures:-)
    life was neither fun easy or enjoyable. and thats what the pro warm agitprop the articles writers are pushing when its considered.
    green has gone red.
    my state has the largest protected areas,43%+ is basically off limits to the public. and theres still masses of area theyre trying to grab, people need food, and space to live, spreading people out actually pollutes less, IF they stay put.
    in spite of being idiotically crowded like termites, in reality humans dont take up much of the planets surface even the industry, just enough to be able to create UHI effects , to then be used to create a scare..over warming, ha ha !
    this ECOtourism world travel, aimless global holidaying, Branson promotes his green agenda while adding thousands of planes to the airways, more people than ever going to once quiet spots for green tours isnt exactly what its meant to be about. thats also making money from nature, imposing walkways etc.but thats ok , its got a green tag?

    gore also flies and rants, so do the rest of the agw promoters, when they stay home and communicate via networks I may be more kindly disposed to em,(nah)

    another thought..the greencarbon crowd that want to stop Africans getting coal fired power, that stops health care water pumping etc etc, now -isnt allowing them to mine their own coal to raise their standards a better way to reduce population ,increase health and stop starvation?
    seems it is. but that is being blocked by the same Carbon lies.
    the same liars that promote GM as eco saving water saving better nutrition etc. all proven LIES!
    see Sir peter King Defra etc even the bloody Pope.under the guise of ???saving the planet.

  5. You know, population reduction is not an issue. If you’ve travelled the world you know this. It may be a topic at some point. The crisis is about corporate murder of the planet. Its about militarism, especially US militarism, that is a both a direct killer of populations AND a gigantic user of energy and fossil fuel. Not to mention the toxicity in places where they have bombed.

  6. I had to put the book down for awhile, because LK’s writing was as if she were shrieking at me, and it was so layered with hard-core feminist nonsense (please take this in context) that I couldn’t concentrate on her message. Now, having said that, all these discussions are very nice, but we are forgetting that the Earth is a SYSTEM, and a SYSTEM, given the opportunity, will make corrections for imbalance. All the things that are being defeneded by corporatist elitism and the Empires break into the system and take out one element. That in itself makes it very difficult for the system to read what is needed.

    As for the rant about species being overrun, there again, the system has been toyed with. If you take out the top of the food chain, then the prey species run rampant. BUt I have seen the System correct for that too, with disease and so forth. I am, sorry Amicus, but all I see in your rant is an apologia for the status quo paradigm.

  7. sorry Amicus, but all I see in your rant is an apologia for the status quo paradigm.======
    🙂 cant say I LIKE the way it is, but damned if I see any way what we call civil? society managing any other way.
    look what happens when the powers out for a short time.
    or flood fire etc disrupts the norm.
    we CAN stop the chem and gm on the land with luck, but to cut power resources would create mayhem beyond manageable
    in a place like aus where towns are a long way apart buses and bikes arent feasible for the masses. as an eg.
    i dont Like having to register and run a car, i have NO viable option.

    in aus the govt isnt quite so ruined by big biz controls, close, but not quite. the greens are close to screwing us up though.

    you want to effect sane changes- remove the industry from lobbying.
    or legislate and make them behave better, most of ours do.
    in the real long run earth will do as it wants and we are just along for a short ride.:-) we get proof pretty often

  8. Well, I am going to read the book. Jensen has agreed to send me a copy.

  9. Facts must be faced if anything is to be done. Global warming is now considered a scam. One more way for rich corp. and people to get richer is what many see it as. There is much to be done but it is held back by those that are too narrowly focused and elitist. In America almost all who care about the land support the Democrat Party. There is NO real difference in the merry-go-round that is the GOP/Democrat farce. Everyone needs to pick ONE thing that appeals to most people and can be proven. I would suggest GMOs and Monsatan. Then all of us do everything in our power together to change this one thing. Once we establish own power, and proof we are not just “weird tree-huggers”, we can build and target the next. Leave the secret corp. and ngo shills to claim whatever they want. Meanwhile, we can be doing some real good. Demanding the most unpopular and extreme things first will only lessen any chance we have.

  10. The culprit is money and greed with a few evil people through in so please Google resource based economy and the Zeitgeist Movement and the two movies that is about the resource based economy and the environment. They make good solutions.

    Also a US Candidate for the RBE for president.

  11. I was sent this as an email, its rather fitting.
    no we do not need more militants, we need some sense!
    In the line at the store, the cashier told an older
    woman that she should bring her own grocery bags
    because plastic bags weren’t good for the

    The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”
    The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

    He was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.
    Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and
    beer bottles to the store. The store sent them
    back to the plant to be washed and sterilized
    and refilled, so it could use the same bottles
    over and over. So they really were recycled.

    But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

    We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an
    escalator in every store and office building. We
    walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb
    into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had
    to go two blocks.

    But he was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.
    Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we
    didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried
    clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling
    machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar
    power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

    But that was right we didn’t have the green
    thing back in our day.

    Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the
    size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a
    screen the size of the state of Montana .

    In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand
    because we didn’t have electric machines to do
    everything for us.
    When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail,
    we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it,
    not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
    Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
    But he’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back

    We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty
    instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every
    time we had a drink of water.
    We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying
    a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a
    razor instead of throwing away the whole razor
    just because the blade got dull.

    But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

    Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.
    We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an
    entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

    But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how
    wasteful we old folks were just because we
    didn’t have the green thing back then?
    Please forward this on to another selfish old person
    who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person

    The Green Thing
    and I will add…
    and milk and bread were delivered, employing a horse, clean air and quiet too,( the regular presence of people, around/ in working peoples streets also kept crime down, entirely as a free accidental service:-)
    (everyone wanted the manure so the rds were clean)
    and the bread was real- and came in its crust or a scrap of paper at most.
    the milky even took the bottles back for you, no trip to the recyclers. or cluttered yard go.

  12. Pingback: Who speaks for the land? « stories of creative ecology

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