Last week, I watched an online video talk in Google by Derrick Jensen. Jensen has written several books about civilization which sound quite interesting. They seem to extend themes discussed by Jared Diamond, Daniel Quinn and others.
What stuck with me from my viewing and note taking of Jensen's two-hour talk?
First of all, that our global culture may be unlikely to change its ways before destroying much of the planet. I've thought about myself, and it is clear to me that every year we destroy more and more. It may be the case that we can not stop the destruction, and can only do what we can to extricate ourselves from this system, and help others to do the same. What will stop us then? Running up against limits, peak oil being probably the nearest and most serious.
A second major theme of Jensen's is that talking is probably not enough to change our culture. Petitions, lawsuits, books, magazines, articles, green buying, etc. are all essentially talk, and do nothing to get at the root problem.
Jensen uses the example of a "first draft" of the original Star Wars movie so that the heroes were not soldiers but protectors. The Death Star comes to blow up a planet and instead of attacking the Death Star, the "rebels" lead protests, online petitions, sit-ins, write articles, attempt to summit with the Empire, etc. ending with the Death Star destroying the planet along with the rebels.
Is this the same situation that we are now facing? Is our culture like the Empire? Are our heroes, those trying to protect and save Earth, going about it in an ineffective way? Didn't the lessons of MLK, Ghandi, Jesus, Mandela teach that by peaceful, non-violent, non-cooperation that we could change the world?
Let's consider the Amazon rain forest. Right now, our culture is destroying it. Will protests, petitions, sit-ins, articles, and conferences end this destruction and start the restoration? If not, what is to be done to protect it? Do we throw up our hands in defeat, waste our time on ineffectual talking, or find another way? What are the other ways? Is the use of threat, intimidation, property damage & destruction, physical attack, violence, and war an option?
These questions must always arise when it becomes clear that talking is not achieving gains, and that while the talking is going on, the problem continues. With a world problem like our destruction of Earth, it would seem like laws might do something, but with hundreds of countries, laws are unlikely to ever apply to everyone everywhere, which means that while we may stop the destruction of a particular kind, in a particular area, there are other forms of destruction that will continue elsewhere.
A great example of this is carbon dioxide pollution. If the entire world agreed to reduce consumption of fossil fuels by 10% per year, but there was one country that broke the agreement, the USA or China for example, then the global problem would continue with the USA or China ramping up their use of fossil fuels. This is, of course, perhaps the greatest tragedy of the commons.
Is the United Nations capable of passing a law against the destruction of Earth? Could it be enforced? How? What are examples of such laws, if there are any?
Let's take a look at framework of Jensen's two-volume book, Endgame (Wikipedia summary).
Aaron Wissner is a teacher, educator, organizer and guest speaker. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with emphasis on mathematics, science, and education. Mr. Wissner has taught and consulted for sixteen years in public school, in areas ranging from mathematics, science, computers, to leadership and television news production. He is the founder and organizer of the grassroots Local Future Network, a non-profit educational outreach organization dedicated to saving Earth through culture change.