To paraphrase philosopher Slavoj Žižek, paradoxically, consensus of the solution to the failures of capitalism seems to be more capitalism. Runaway grow-baby-grow consumption at all costs is exemplified in our drill-baby-drill environmental policies.
After British Petroleum plastered the Gulf of Mexico with pollution through an ill-maintained oil rig, a temporary moratorium was placed on some deepwater drilling. Shortly thereafter that restriction was lifted. This year more permits for new wells have been issued than since 2007. The Obama Administration has taken it further by approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a transnational oil line to transport the most toxic oil imaginable from Canada’s tar-sands back to the very ecosystem so recently assaulted, and directly over precious natural aquifers. To top it off, [politicians want] to expand harmful drilling in Alaska’s park reserves, as well as expand the already 4,000 ticking time bombs in the Gulf.
These are not solutions to our crisis; they are band-aids to a gushing wound. They are ecocidal mania perpetuated by a global culture which does not understand that living 300% beyond sustainability is going to kill us all. None of these self-proclaimed solutions put at the forefront of our efforts that nothing can grow in perpetuity. We have grown too accustomed to the benefits of petrochemical economies, on growth for the sake of growth.
“Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”
…[F]ragile are the complex environmental conditions that make life — human and otherwise — possible. To recognize this fragility is to recognize our own fragility. Perhaps, in a technological sense, we have “outgrown” the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer. The ocean is no longer so vast that we can’t cross it in a few hours. But our ability to do so has come at a serious cost, environmentally and, perhaps, spiritually.
The largest economic and political institutions we have thus far created — nations, multinational corporations — regard climate change primarily as opportunity. Suddenly they have access to a previously hidden part of the planet, to drill, fish, mine and otherwise exploit.
In our pursuit of dominion over the seas and the heavens, have we lost the ability to love the planet that has sustained us? Do we love only our control over it?
Having long laid waste our own sanity, and having long forgotten what it feels like to be free, most of us too have no idea what it’s like to live in the real world. Seeing four salmon spawn causes me to burst into tears. I have never seen a river full of fish. I have never seen a sky darkened for days by a single flock of birds. (I have, however, seen skies perpetually darkened by smog.) As with freedom, so too the extraordinary beauty and fecundity of the world itself:
It’s hard to love something you’ve never known. It’s hard to convince yourself to fight for something you may not believe has ever existed.
Maybe the difference is not so great as it seems… Jefferson said his statement about the civilized destroying Indians, but if instead we invert his meaning so the statement describes the natural world destroying civilization, the statement becomes even more true than Jefferson ever intended: “In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.” If you wage war on the natural world, you may be able to kill the passenger pigeons, the tigers, the salmon, the frogs, but the natural world shall surely destroy all of you. Every last one. Civilization may have the power to destroy much of the natural world and many tribes of the wild nonhumans and humans, but the wild earth will ultimately destroy every last tank and gun and airplane, every last electrical wire, every last cell phone tower, every last rail line, every last factory trawler, every last logging truck, every last skyscraper, every last dam, every last civilized human being who opposes it. Don’t be against it.
Lately people have been asking me the “solution” or the “alternative” to industrial civilization—I say to them, and to you, ask someone who knows, someone who despite civilization’s great efforts has survived, for now—ask the Apache, the Lakota, the Cherokee, the Cheyenne, the Navajo, the Sioux, the Chickasaw, the Chippewa, the Seminole, the Yuman, the Choctaw, the Comanche or the Cree. Ask them if there is another way, and then do what you’ve never been good at doing, listen.
Q. I’ve recently been looking in to environmentalism and I was wondering if you had any good resources concerning it?
— Asked by Anonymous
A. These should help as a start:
I mean tons and tons of information is freely available on the internet and here on Tumblr. Just get started and look. I hope others will feel free to chime in and contribute. Before you start, or any of you for that matter, remember that it is vitally important to understand that ‘environmentalism’ is a term used that doesn’t put us in a vacuum of discussion just about our landbases, but one of broad scope that must help us to better understand our relationships between each other, those affluent and non-affluent by the resources the land provides each, our systems of economics and how those systems create hierarchies among us and nature, in addition to pushing us into new and reinstating old modes of sustainable living.
You can’t compartmentalize it and say you are just an animal rights activists, or an advocate of non-GMO farming, and not touch or understand how these issues impact poverty or the rights of men and women. These things are related and so environmentalism is just a vessel of a word that labels how existing information can help you realize those connections and how to act to effect them both positively and accordingly.