Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dedicated

A lively debate has ensued at climate progress (the sort of passionate commentary that makes me love it) about the role of the younger generation in combatting climate change.  My thought was:

"Im sorry, but I think the notion that the kids should take to the streets is a cop-out. We in our 50’s and older can still hobble along, WE should take to the streets.
I was just on the receiving end of a lecture from an 80-year old friend last week, who was complaining that my daughter and her friends seem oblivious to the Gulf Oil spill and should have spent their summer helping to clean the beaches instead of taking a break between college and graduate school. Meanwhile he flies back and forth to India twice/year and has for decades, has no intention of stopping, and has never done a politically active thing to combat climate change.
To foist this problem off on young people who can almost certainly not bear to face the full horror of the world they are inheriting from us is cowardly and selfish, and shouldn’t be recommended by anybody who is still not in the streets themselves already, not making speeches and writing books."

Following is a particularly piercing comment, which I have interspersed with photos of leaves from the past few days.  These leaves are from a variety of species of trees and shrubs, which nevertheless uniformly exhibit the exact sort of damage from exposure to the toxic ozone that results from emissions of burning fuel, and if that is something unfamiliar, check out the Basic Premise page at the top of the blog, and the list of links to scientific research!

  1. Bob Doublin says:
    http://www.earthatrisk.net/
    This event is Saturday at San Francisco State in SF.I wish I could attend.
    Opening Remarks of Derrick Jensen for
    Earth At Risk
    What is the problem?

    "There’s a sense—a very real and overwhelmingly devastating sense—in which you could say that the problem is that this culture is killing the planet. One hundred and twenty species were driven extinct today. Another 120 will be driven extinct tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. Ninety-seven percent of native forests are gone. Ninety-nine percent of native grasslands. Amphibian populations are collapsing, migratory songbird populations are collapsing, mollusk populations are collapsing, fish populations are collapsing, and so on."
    "Nearly all rivers in the US (and world) are dammed. Dams are the death of rivers. There are two million dams in the United States alone: with 60,000 dams over 13 feet tall and 70,000 dams over 6 and a half feet tall. If we took out one of those 70,000 dams every day it would take two hundred years to remove those dams. And the salmon don’t have that time. Sturgeon don’t have that time. Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. There is six to ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in much of the oceans. The oceans are being acidified. The oceans are being murdered."
    "Big cats are going. Great apes are going. Vertebrate evolution has effectively been ended by this culture. The world is being poisoned: there is dioxin (and many other carcinogens) in every (human and nonhuman) mother’s breast milk. More than half of the fish in many rivers are changing genders because of endocrine disrupting chemicals put out by this culture. And of course humans have grotesquely overshot carrying capacity, and are committing unparalleled drawdown."
    "And our response is utterly incommensurate with the multiple crises we face.
    There’s a sense, however, in which the fact that this culture is killing the planet isn’t so much the problem as it is the ultimate expression of this insane culture’s deeper problem, which is that it is omnicidal. It doesn’t “just” destroy every nonhuman community it encounters, but it also destroys other human cultures: human languages are being driven extinct at an even greater relative rate than nonhuman species. It dispossesses or otherwise destroys indigenous cultures. It harms women: the gold standard studies reveal that 25 percent of all women in this culture have been raped in their lifetimes, and another 19 percent have had to fend off rape attempts."
    A perfect example of graduated damage.  The lowest leaves on this tulip seedling are  brown, and the damage lessens with each succeding layer, as they are younger and experience less exposure; and as it is cooler - more ozone is formed in heat and UV-B radiation.
    "Not every culture has destroyed its landbase. The Tolowa Indians, on whose land I live, lived here for at least 12,500 years, if you believe the myths of science. If you believe the myths of the Tolowa, they lived here since the beginning of time. Likewise, not every culture has had such extraordinarily high rates of rape, in fact many cultures, prior to conquest by this culture, have had either extraordinarily low rates of rape, or have been rape free. The same is true for child abuse."

    "Why do members of this culture act as they do? Well, we can discuss (and I have in book after book) reason after reason, whether it is this culture’s system of social rewards (it generally socially rewards behaviors that benefit the individual at the expense of the group, rather than behaviors that benefit the group as a whole), which leads inevitably to competition, and ultimately to atrocious behavior; or whether it is that a way of life based on constant conquest gives that culture a short-term competitive advantage over other groups who are organized sustainably (if you cut down forests and mine mountains to make war machines, you will probably have a more well-equipped army than a group that does not do this: this is not a hypothetical example: the forests of North Africa, to provide one example among far too many, were felled to build the Phoenician and Egyptian navies), while of course leading to the collapse of landbase after landbase; or whether it is that a way of life based on the importation of resources can never be sustainable; or whether it is that a way of life that produces waste products that do not benefit the natural world can never be sustainable; or whether it is, as many indigenous peoples (for example, Jack Forbes, as in his wonderful book Columbus and Other Cannibals) suggest, that members of the dominant culture are insane, or suffer from a spiritual illness that turns them into types of vampires or zombies who need to consume the souls of others in order to survive."
    A leaf of redbud...and the rotting trunk with splitting bark.
    "All of those and other suggestions make some sense to me. But I guess for now I’ll just say that many indigenous peoples have said to me that the fundamental difference between western and indigenous ways of being is that most westerners perceive the world as consisting of resources to be exploited, as opposed to other beings to enter into relationship with. And this is crucial, because how you perceive the world affects how you behave in the world. There is a great line by a Canadian lumberman: when I look at trees I see dollar bills. If when you look at trees you see dollar bills, you will treat them one way. If when you look at trees you see trees, you will treat them differently. And if when you look at this particular tree you see this particular tree, you’ll treat it differently still. So part of the problem is that members of this culture perceive the world as consisting of resources. This is insanely narcissistic, indeed sociopathic. And of course it is destructive."
    "Which leads to the final thing I guess I want to say for now, which is that another part of the problem is, and this is of course in line with the narcissism and sociopathy, perceived entitlement. This culture as a whole perceives itself as entitled to take whatever it is it wants. And many of its members individually perceive themselves as entitled to take whatever it is they want. God gave man dominion over the earth, after all."
    "And it doesn’t much matter whether you believe God gave man dominion over the earth, or whether you believe, as one social change author puts it, that “We humans are Creation’s most daring experiment,” or whether you believe, as Richard Dawkins put it, that “Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command,” (which means that the very epistemology of this culture is based on enslaving others, on forcing them to jump through hoops on command), if you believe you are somehow superior to these others—and it doesn’t matter whether these others are nonhumans, women, children, the indigenous, members of other races or classes: anyone other than the “Chosen People”—then you can easily come to believe that it is acceptable for you to take what these others have, including their bodies, including their lives."
    "So I guess for now I’d say a significant part of the problem includes beliefs in male supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the atrocities of this rape culture; white supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the race-based atrocities we see, whether they are the horrors of the Middle Passage, or the current rates of incarceration of African-Americans in the United States; imperial supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the atrocities of colonialism; civilized supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the ongoing dispossession and extermination of land-based peoples the world over; and finally (for now) human supremacism, the belief that humans are separate from and superior to nonhumans, and the consequent belief that somehow it is acceptable to destroy nonhuman communities, which certainly leads to the ecocide we see around us at every turn."
    "I want to put this one more way, and I want to be very clear about this. If you asked ten thousand scientists if they believed that all of evolution has taken place so that humans could come into being, I’m sure the overwhelming majority would say no. They might even laugh at the absurdity of the question. But when they were finished laughing, and got back to work, what would they do? Most likely their work consists of in some way contributing to, as Dawkins put it, science’s “spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command.” So if you judge the answers not by what these scientists say—not by mere rhetoric—but by what they do—by their actions—the answer from an equally overwhelming majority would be a resounding yes: you cannot act as though the world consists of resources to be exploited unless you believe—deeply, oftentimes beyond conscious statement—the world was made (or evolved) for you. I recently got into an argument with a high school science teacher who believes this culture won’t collapse, because “we will find better and better ways to exploit our resources and maintain our way of living while still protecting our forests and oceans and the rest of our environment.” Leave aside the utter lack of historical or current evidence for this possibility, and leave aside that humans have grossly exceeded carrying capacity, meaning his statement is also physically impossible, and just focus on his language: exploit; our resources; our forests and oceans; our environment."
    Here is a common sight - the lower older leaves after longer exposure to ozone are shrunken compared to the newer leaves which shoot frantically at the tops of branches...and the leaves are stippled from stomates damaged from uptake of pollution.
    "I pointed out to him that forests and oceans are not ours but that they belong to themselves, and have lives and relationships all their own. I pointed out to him that resources do not exist, that perceiving a tree or fish or river as a resource means you are, as he stated, perceiving it as something to be “exploited” and not as something with its own life, own desires, independent of him, that was not put here for him. No matter how many times I explained it, he could not understand. Even though he does not believe in Christianity, and even though he does not believe God created the world for him, or that God created the world at all, his belief that the world was made for him to use remains such a deeply fundamentalist article of faith that it is entirely invisible to him: from his perspective it is not faith, but simply the way the world is, and it is utterly inconceivable to him that any other way of perceiving is possible, even when at least one other way has been laid out before him. I may as well have been quacking like a duck."
    "The fundamental religion of this culture is that of human dominion, and it does not matter so much whether one self-identifies as a Christian, a Capitalist, a Scientist, or just a regular member of this culture, one’s actions will be to promulgate this fundamentalist religion of unbridled entitlement and exploitation. This religion permeates every aspect of this culture. This is a big problem, a problem big enough that it is killing the planet."
    It is heartbreaking to see this sort of dwindling glory, and to know what a brief time we have to witness it.
Machine gun
Tearin' my body all apart
Evil man make me kill you
Evil man make you kill me
Evil man make me kill you
Even though we're only families apart
Well, I pick up my axe and fight like a farmer
But your bullets still knock me down to the ground

The same way you shoot me down, baby
You'll be goin' just the same
Three times the pain
And your own self to blame

I ain't afraid of your bullets no more, baby
I ain't afraid no more
After a while your cheap talk don't even cause me pain
So let your bullets fly like rain
'Cause I know all the time you wrong, baby
And you'll be going just the same

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