Viable Solutions for Deplorable Problems: Continuing to Live in a Dying World
In the past one-hundred and fifty years, humans have wreaked more devastation on the environment than ever before in the history of mankind. This essay references modern day radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame and Walking on Water, in order to examine and explore some of the major factors behind the lack of social conservation efforts, as well as the economic and cultural viability of Jensen’s proposed solutions.
Derrick Jensen is best described as a preacher of anti-establishmentarianism who’s well known for his radical environmental views. In a brief span of six years he’s written over thirteen books, most of which invoke a serious awareness of the ‘apocalyptic’ environmental crisis we’re heading towards on a world wide level. When speaking of environmentalism, it’s difficult to overlook modern industrial advances as the major proponent of pollution. Looking to solve those problems of industrial pollution, we’re brought face to face with roaring economies backed and protected by powerful governments. What’s more frightening are the nations of people fueling these economies and empowering these governments. While ignorance may have been a valid excuse twenty years ago, when the environment’s impending doom was still something of a foreign construct, recently everyone is aware and has been affected in some way. Man’s current condition is a result of bondage that’s causing destruction to not only the world we live in, but ourselves. Our lives are a reflection of the lies we’ve swallowed, and like a slow acting euthanasia, we’re dying from the lack of truth.
Why don’t people distinguish the truth from lies? As a people we place a certain amount of faith in our government to carry out and protect our constitutional rights. Faithfully we’ve trusted that the equal protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will be upheld. Unfortunately this faith is partially blind. For these rights and protections, however, we’ve traded a certain amount of freedom. According to a world governed by laws, specifically the principle of cause and effect, order requires that a certain amount of energy be sacrificed and fed into the system in order to power and maintain it. These governments are fueled by the people sacrificing their hard work through tax dollars. The government has slowly gained strength as we rely on more faith for our basic rights. We strive to attain happiness by believing material goods will satisfy our desires. We’re told our lives are at risk as diseases take root, and liberty is at stake as terrorists threaten our freedom. We pay more taxes and work harder to preserve these cherished ideals, only to find that we’ve grown completely apathetic to the value of life itself. As we work harder and industries rise in power, we witness a degeneration taking place. We find ourselves part of a destructive machine, slowly causing our death and sapping our resources, only to discover we’re not happy or content. The root problem lies with the people of this nation who are being produced by a system in order to fuel this machine unquestionably. One by one they’re produced by public school system’s that deemphasize free thought and promotes long hours of hard work. We’re automatons, mere slaves, led to believe that happiness is something achievable through work hard and monetary accumulation. What we’re slowly realizing is that working hard isn’t making anyone happy. Working for the tangible rewards that seem so promising are nothing more than empty promises that falsely justify our expended energies. As we look around we see that our health is deteriorating as fast as the environment. We’re beginning to recognize the lies, but we’re not use to questioning the system. The irony of this is that the very energy we expend producing tangible goods is actually fueling the economy that’s destroying our world and our joy. According to Jensen, 90% of the country is unhappy with life and their jobs. Why is this?
Jensen’s book Walking on Water addresses the much larger issues of environmentalism from a place where most people find or neglect to find themselves: School. The apathy our nation is experiencing first starts in the formal education system at a very early age. The government funded system, organized and built to produce intelligent and hardworking industrial employees, produces very few free thinkers. Their certified curriculum places emphasis on analytical thinking, totally ignoring anyone’s desire to think outside the box and examine other information. The definition of analytical thinking is to strictly examine the specific parts of information within a given subject. This works perfectly with a system that relies on people to do jobs needed to power an industry according to the will of a few powerful influences. It’s beaten into a child early on that thinking anything contrary to what’s being taught is not following directions and results in bad grades. This generally causes a listless approach towards any sort of idiosyncratic and critical thinking. Students grow callous towards learning, lacking any faith or reason to reach their full potential. Jensen uses his book Walking on Water to advocate the need for students to find their passion, to reach deep down and find their voice. He encourages people to think for themselves, to approach their desires as real and viable matters, and explore ways to materialize those desires.
Once people acknowledge that it’s alright for them to think for themselves, they can make decisions about what’s really important. Once this occurs, they can take a look at what they have and start identifying real matters of importance. When they search for a more fulfilling life, they’ll inevitably think to their health. When they look to factors that contribute to this, they’re immediately led to the environment. The environment is where we live life, sustaining us as we gather food, seek shelter, breathe fresh air, drink clean water and appreciate the wonderful relationships of life flourishing all around us. When this is depleted, our physical existence is in peril.
Derrick Jensen uses very real and powerful messages about the earth’s decline to invoke attention. Instead of beating around the bush, he hits you straight with the facts: ninety percent of the fish in the large oceans are gone; one hundred and fifty dead zones blanket the world’s oceans, seas, and bays; cod are virtually extinct; passenger pigeons are gone forever; American chestnuts are nonexistence; seabird populations in the UK are disappearing; penguins have been eradicated in the northern hemisphere; American grizzly bears are gone; coral reefs all over the world are dying exponentially; global temperatures are rising to uninhabitable extremes… and the examples go on and on. What he’s doing is preventing people from giving any reason to put it off till later. Jensen doesn’t believe there will be a later if it’s put off any longer. If the civilization of man is wreaking this destruction, Jensen believes it should be brought down immediately. There is no time to passively approach the matter lightly when a catastrophic environmental collapse is happening right before our eyes.
Behind Derrick Jensen’s ideal turnarounds, however, there lies a variety of major obstacles in order to approach environmental conservation on a mass spectrum. He offers plenty of reasons why we need to amend our destructive habits, yet he lacks any clear explanation that offers an obvious direction toward change. Suggesting we end industrialization, removing ourselves from the harmful dependencies on corporations or oil, is a partial step in an extremely vague direction. His basic advocacy lies in the promotion of awareness and free thought in order to stop the destruction of our planet, but what obvious methods arise that we may dismantle these systems? Asking people to simply unite with one voice and no means may result in many ill-thought and irrational outcomes. The systems in place support a world population of six billion. Is he asking that people destroy the very civilizations that support them? While we may be saving the environment, we may be killing ourselves in the process, hurling us right back to the Stone Age. But then again, that’s the ideal condition in which Jensen believes man and nature can live together.
What’s interesting is the direct correlation of co-dependency industry has with civilization. One cannot survive without the other. America may be the worst culprit out of balance, seeking lifestyles of excess (ideals that have been implanted into our psyche through advert conditioning), but Americans are paying for it the most, both environmentally and physically. While this is alarming, Jensen isn’t the first to declare the obvious destruction we’re causing the planet. He’s only reminding everyone of the destructive relationship that’s seemingly impossible to escape. Jensen may see himself as a prophet, offering a hope that we can escape, but at this point his ideals cause huge implications. He often compares the relationships of battered women to that of people and their government or the environment and industry. The option, however, isn’t as much of a psychological obstacle as much as a physical obstacle of surviving. Is it a realistic option to simply discard our civilization in hopes of preserving the last remaining remnants of nature?
Jensen never tells people what actions they should take, though he encourages everyone to do something. Not sit around and wait for the next guy or generation to deal with the matter. First and foremost, he’s asking people simply to think. Once people begin to think about their actions and the implications they impose, they’re able gain the self-awareness needed to recognize that change needs to occur. This leads to a collective step towards betterment. Jensen voices that the earth is home to more than just man. That the life and animals that coexist here shouldn’t have to be killed off and struggle to survive because of our irresponsibility and selfish oversights. When people ask what they can possibly do to make the proper steps towards a better environment, Jensen asks them to do some introspection and examine their strengths. Jensen’s strength happens to be writing. He instills the thoughts needed to instigate a change. Following in the footsteps of other vocal radical environmentalists of their time such as Edward Abbey and Henry Thoreau, his aim is to spread awareness.
Using his suggestive ability, he indirectly suggests using whatever means necessary to get the job done. The use of electromagnetic bombs, blowing up damns, and many other militant measures are never a taboo for Derrick Jensen, who’s clearly expresses his critical views towards pacifism. Although he maintains a valiant stance for preserving the earth and the limitless gifts it has to offer, there is a slight luster of pollyanna in his sentiment.
Without even knowing it, Derrick Jensen may be a threat to freedom. By taking down democratic governments and instilling a unified awareness of our actions, he may be disabling the gift of freedom and free thought that allows democracy to function. Suggesting such polices may be setting the stage where a government oversees all economic policies to ensure they’re in line with set standards, which seemingly resonates qualities of socialism. He may be an advocate for a New World Order where everyone abides to the single dictation and regulation of one reigning government. When civilization is brought down, when all the corporations that employ and sustain the billions of people throughout the world crumble, where will that leave the current population of six billion? Will we start dying from famine? No doubt the economic dismantling that Jensen suggests will take an incredible amount of time, one has to entertain what it’ll look like when billions of people have abandoned cities for the expanses of nature in search of food and survival. What of the government? If we brought down the American economy and industrial infrastructure that provides the government with power and protection, will that leave us vulnerable against other countries? How will we defend ourselves?
Unfortunately, whether or not Derrick Jensen has the genuine best interest for the world, nothing will change until an unavoidable need is real and apparent. That’s how all revolutions begin. It’s just a matter of time before suffering and turmoil starts boiling within people as they look around at a dying world full of dying people. Hopeless and searching for answers, they will turn to leaders full of promises and change. From within them will emerge a voice that will offer the salvation they need. Until then, we will endure the misery, clench what remaining satisfactions we’re able to glean from life, and wait for a mean. In the meantime we must adopt the responsibility we owe to the essence of life and make the necessary steps towards conserving what little we have left.