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Radical Environmentalism


At Alternet, Tara Lohan has a really interesting long interview with radical environmentalists Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Aric McBay, who have published a new book where they call for the end to industrial civilization by any means necessary in order to save the planet.

I’m mixed on this kind of thing. On one hand, we really need people saying these things. As within the labor movement and in all social movements for that matter, we need environmentalists speaking truth to power. And with environmentalism, speaking truth to power is not recycling, is not solar panels, and is not wind turbines. It’s that modern civilization is literally destroying the planet and needs to end.

The message is harsh. Everything we have accomplished as an industrial civilization has to end. No more TV. No more computers. No more, well, anything. That is the only solution to saving the planet.

I want to condemn this out of hand. I can’t do that though. They are, by and large, right.

The central problem with radical environmentalism though is that this message is inherently anti-human. Jensen, Keith, and McBay don’t get into the fact (at least in the interview) of how many people can live on the planet in this back-to-the-land idea they have. When you are getting to the point where you are criticizing anything more than the most rudimentary agriculture, you are telling people they can’t live on the planet. And I don’t see how this can be politically successful. With the labor movement, you are looking at a more equitable distribution of resources. With racial or women’s movements, it is to end inequality and discrimination. These can all take on more or less radical forms, but they are obtainable by the actions of humans.

With this kind of environmentalism, the best human action is to die off.

And even though the authors are basically right, what am I supposed to do with that?

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