[THS] !!!!! Chris Hedges: A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction
vignes at wanadoo.fr
Tue Oct 20 00:15:19 CEST 2009
A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction
By Chris Hedges
October 19, 2009 "Truthdig" -- We can join Bill McKibben on Oct. 24 in nationwide
protests over rising carbon emissions. We can cut our consumption of fossil fuels. We
can use less water. We can banish plastic bags. We can install compact fluorescent
light bulbs. We can compost in our backyard. But unless we dismantle the corporate
state, all those actions will be just as ineffective as the Ghost Dance shirts donned by
native American warriors to protect themselves from the bullets of white soldiers at
If we all wait for the great, glorious revolution there wont be anything left, author
and environmental activist Derrick Jensen told me when I interviewed him in a phone
call to his home in California. If all we do is reform work, this culture will grind away.
This work is necessary, but not sufficient. We need to use whatever means are
necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet. We need to target and take
down the industrial infrastructure that is systematically dismembering the planet.
Industrial civilization is functionally incompatible with life on the planet, and is
murdering the planet. We need to do whatever is necessary to stop this.
The oil and natural gas industry, the coal industry, arms and weapons
manufacturers, industrial farms, deforestation industries, the automotive industry and
chemical plants will not willingly accept their own extinction. They are indifferent to
the looming human catastrophe. We will not significantly reduce carbon emissions by
drying our laundry in the backyard and naively trusting the power elite. The
corporations will continue to cannibalize the planet for the sake of money. They must
be halted by organized and militant forms of resistance. The crisis of global heating is
a social problem. It requires a social response.
The United States, after rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, went on to increase its carbon
emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels. The European Union countries during the
same period reduced their emissions by 2 percent. But the recent climate
negotiations in Bangkok, designed to lead to a deal in Copenhagen in December,
have scuttled even the tepid response of Kyoto. Kyoto is dead. The EU, like the
United States, will no longer abide by binding targets for emission reductions.
Countries will unilaterally decide how much to cut. They will submit their plans to
international monitoring. And while Kyoto put the burden of responsibility on the
industrialized nations that created the climate crisis, the new plan treats all countries
the same. It is a huge step backward.
All of the so-called solutions to global warming take industrial capitalism as a given,
said Jensen, who wrote Endgame and The Culture of Make Believe. The natural
world is supposed to conform to industrial capitalism. This is insane. It is out of touch
with physical reality. Whats real is real. Any social systemit does not matter if we
are talking about industrial capitalism or an indigenous Tolowa peopletheir way of
life, is dependent upon a real, physical world. Without a real, physical world you
dont have anything. When you separate yourself from the real world you start to
hallucinate. You believe the machines are more real than real life. How many
machines are within 10 feet of you and how many wild animals are within a hundred
yards? How many machines do you have a daily relationship with? We have forgotten
what is real.
The latest studies show polar ice caps are melting at a record rate and that within a
decade the Arctic will be an open sea during summers. This does not give us much
time. White ice and snow reflect 80 percent of sunlight back to space, while dark
water reflects only 20 percent, absorbing a much larger heat load. Scientists warn
that the loss of the ice will dramatically change winds and sea currents around the
world. And the rapidly melting permafrost is unleashing methane chimneys from the
ocean floor along the Russian coastline. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more
toxic than carbon dioxide, and some scientists have speculated that the release of
huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere could asphyxiate the human
species. The rising sea levels, which will swallow countries such as Bangladesh and
the Marshall Islands and turn cities like New Orleans into a new Atlantis, will combine
with severe droughts, horrific storms and flooding to eventually dislocate over a billion
people. The effects will be suffering, disease and death on a scale unseen in human
We can save groves of trees, protect endangered species and clean up rivers, all of
which is good, but to leave the corporations unchallenged would mean our efforts
would be wasted. These personal adjustments and environmental crusades can too
easily become a badge of moral purity, an excuse for inaction. They can absolve us
from the harder task of confronting the power of corporations.
The damage to the environment by human households is minuscule next to the
damage done by corporations. Municipalities and individuals use 10 percent of the
nations water while the other 90 percent is consumed by agriculture and industry.
Individual consumption of energy accounts for about a quarter of all energy
consumption; the other 75 percent is consumed by corporations. Municipal waste
accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States. We can,
and should, live more simply, but it will not be enough if we do not radically
transform the economic structure of the industrial world.
If your food comes from the grocery store and your water from a tap you will
defend to the death the system that brings these to you because your life depends
on it, said Jensen, who is holding workshops around the country called Deep Green
Resistance [click here and here] to build a militant resistance movement. If your
food comes from a land base and if your water comes from a river you will defend to
the death these systems. In any abusive system, whether we are talking about an
abusive man against his partner or the larger abusive system, you force your victims
to become dependent upon you. We believe that industrial capitalism is more
important than life.
Those who run our corporate state have fought environmental regulation as
tenaciously as they have fought financial regulation. They are responsible for our
personal impoverishment as well as the impoverishment of our ecosystem. We remain
addicted, courtesy of the oil, gas and automobile industries and a corporate-
controlled government, to fossil fuels. Species are vanishing. Fish stocks are depleted.
The great human migration from coastlines and deserts has begun. And as
temperatures continue to rise, huge parts of the globe will become uninhabitable.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen has demonstrated that any concentration of
carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible
with maintenance of the biosphere on the planet on which civilization developed and
to which life on earth is adapted. He has determined that the world must stop
burning coal by 2030and the industrialized world well before thatif we are to
have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number. Coal
supplies half of our electricity in the United States.
We need to separate ourselves from the corporate government that is killing the
planet, Jensen said. We need to get really serious. We are talking about life on the
planet. We need to shut down the oil infrastructure. I dont care, and the trees dont
care, if we do this through lawsuits, mass boycotts or sabotage. I asked Dahr Jamail
how long a bridge would last in Iraq that was not defended. He said probably six to
12 hours. We need to make the economic system, which is the engine for so much
destruction, unmanageable. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
has been able to reduce Nigerian oil output by 20 percent. We need to stop the oil
The reason the ecosystem is dying is not because we still have a dryer in our
basement. It is because corporations look at everything, from human beings to the
natural environment, as exploitable commodities. It is because consumption is the
engine of corporate profits. We have allowed the corporate state to sell the
environmental crisis as a matter of personal choice when actually there is a need for
profound social and economic reform. We are left powerless.
Alexander Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of Russian anarchists working
to topple the czar, reminded his followers that they were not there to rescue the
We think we are the doctors, Herzen said. We are the disease.
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