(TFC) – Many of Earth’s crucial systems are collapsing. Despite what Climate Change Deniers and even many environmentalist organizations tell us, it is probably too late to do much more than deal with the consequences at this point. Over the last year, I’ve spoken with many thinkers about what can we do about our current predicament. Some have laid out ideas for how to work against it, others have simply given their thoughts on it. So here is a varied group of responses about the earth in crisis.
John Paul Wright (1970 – ) is a husband, father, locomotive engineer, community organizer, union organizer, labor singer and djembe player.
John Carico: What are your thoughts on Near Term Human Extinction v. Industrialization?
John Paul Wright: Humans need to see computers as a tool and put them away when they are finished using them. The industrial economy is violent and produces market control and domination. Fukushima is still leaking and we are at War with Terror? I can get pretty scared if I think about all the things that humans are doing on this planet. Sun Ra, the great thinker and Jazz musician said, “the history of the people of the planet earth is a bad truth.” To me, that is the real threat to human existence.
Unfortunately, humans have always fallen prey to their desires. So as a person who has studied Sufism, we are going to have to continue to fight to be human. Especially now as the computerized industrial / Military complex will be able to wage war for commodities and resources. I drive freight trains that are almost to the point of total computerization. We have ports that are being computerized and Google cars and trucks and drones. Humans need to gain control of the innovation. Hopefully in a way that will also allow us to not kill each other in the process.
Brenton Christopher Lengel is an anarchist, playwright, and an Appalachian Trail 2000-Miler. He is one of the last Yippies and a founding member of the Anarchist arts company Autonomous Collective. He has also spent significant time as a journalist, political commentator, talk radio host, and was present for much of Occupy Wall Street in NYC. Brent has been a guest panelist on Huffpost Live, and is a regular contributor to The Ed Tyll Show.
Brent also ranInsurrection with Brenton Lengel, a weekly anarchist-themed radio show which featured interviews and commentary from many prominent figures in the activist world including George “Rithm” Martinez, Captain Ray Lewis, andAndy Stephanian.
John Carico: How do we prevent near term human extinction?
Brenton Lengel: Long term? I think it will require an overthrow of global capitalism and a total cultural shift in how we think about and interact with our environment. In the short term? Heavy environmental regulation coupled with massive conservation efforts and direct actions against organizations that pose a clear and present danger. I recently read The Monkeywrench Gang and while I’m not ready to sign up with Earth First and think most “eco-terrorism” does more harm than good, the earth is being destroyed and those who are doing the most of it do indeed have names and addresses. I think there need to be efforts both to reach out to them and hopefully persuade them to change their ways, and if they cannot be persuaded then defensive measures need to be undertaken, again by any means both just and necessary.
Eric Schechter describes himself as an eco-anarcho-communist. He was a professor of mathematics at Vanderbilt University for 30+ years. He is now retired and devotes his time to reading and writing about political philosophy and economics. Mainstream economics uses a great deal of math, but Schechter says it’s irrelevant, because the mainstream economists make crucial mistakes in their basic assumptions before they even start applying the math. The one piece of math that he still talks about is this: The feedback loops in global warming can be expected to cause exponential acceleration, which starts off slowly but will soon pick up a lot of speed. Schechter is proud of the fact that he never “served” in the military, even though he was of draft age back when there was a draft. You can find Schechter’s essays and videos here.
John Carico: Talk to us a little bit about your views in the current Eco crisis.
Eric Schechter: Well, I’m more extreme even than most people in the climate movement, in a couple of ways. First, we are in dire straits, more than they realize. I taught calculus for 35 years, so I understand better than most people how feedback loops cause exponential growth, and what that means. A feedback loop is a process, some of whose consequences are also causes.
For instance, warming is killing trees in a variety of ways; so there are fewer trees to suck up excess carbon dioxide; so more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; so warming happens even faster. Another example: Warming melts the polar ice. So the white ice is replaced by dark water. So less sunlight is reflected into outer space. So warming happens even faster. Round and round it goes. It’s not just self-perpetuating — it’s accelerating. And it’s not just trees and ice — we’ve actually triggered over two dozen different feedback loops. You can read about that in Guy McPherson’s blog. His fans sometimes call him “Doctor Doom.” And feedback causes exponential growth, because the bigger it gets, the faster it grows.
For those people who know calculus, here is the equation: p’(t) = kp(t) ==> p(t) = p(0)exp(kt).
But if you don’t know calculus, don’t worry about it, I’ll tell you in nontechnical terms what the result is. Exponential growth starts off so small that you can’t see it without special equipment, and that makes it very easy to deny. But it’s still there, growing very slowly. Eventually it grows large enough to be visible, and by then it’s picking up speed. Soon after that it’s enormous and it’s growing explosively.
Well, global warming entered the visible stage in 2012, with super-hurricane Sandy and some big crop failures. Anyone still denying it has their eyes tightly shut. It’s going to get worse, and it’s going to get worse faster. It’s going to be like falling over a cliff.
A lot of climatologists didn’t attach enough importance to feedback. They keep revising their models upward, but climate change keeps outpacing their models anyway. That’s because they keep using linear models. Climatologists keep revising their models upward, but global warming keeps outpacing their models anyway. That’s because a lot of them tried to use linear models, because feedback is rare in our everyday experiences.
In the last year or two, climatologists have finally begun switching to the exponential model. And some people are saying people will adapt. It’s true that humans are very adaptable, but the plants and animals we depend on are not nearly so adaptable. They’re going extinct very rapidly, and so the ecosystem is becoming less diverse and more fragile, and at some point it may simply collapse. If it does, we humans will all starve.
I don’t think we’re all doomed yet. I think we might still avoid extinction if we phase out fossil fuels very quickly, and plant a trillion trees, and maybe do some other things that we haven’t figured out yet. Maybe we need some new technology, but this time it’s got to be technology that works with nature instead of against her. But I don’t think that those remedies will happen without huge fundamental changes in our socioeconomic system.
And that’s the other way that I differ from most of the climate movement. Organizations like 350.org are still petitioning the ruling class. I hope that their efforts will have a side effect of waking up some of the proletariat, but I don’t believe their efforts will have any influence on the ruling class.
The ruling class is insane. Perhaps the clearest evidence of that is their attitude about the Arctic. After being frozen for millions of years, the Arctic is now melting very rapidly, bringing us closer to extinction. We should react by quickly phasing out fossil fuels. But instead our ruling class says, “oh goody, now it will be so much easier to extract fossil fuels from the Arctic!”
They’re going to make lots of money, but on what planet will they spend it? In general, the reason that our ecosystem is dying is because the commons has been privatized, plundered, and carelessly poisoned. It’s externalized cost, inevitable in a market economy.
If the world had a single secret ruler, the Chairman of the Illuminati, then he’d say to himself “I own this planet, so I’d better not destroy it.” But the ecosystem is being destroyed, so evidently we don’t have a single secret ruler. Instead we are ruled by a few thousand very rich people, all compelled by the market to compete against each other in offering quick profits to investors, which means ignoring the future. If any of them walks away from the system, he’ll instantly be replaced by others. The only way to fix this mess is to get everyone on board at the same time. That’s a huge cultural change.
Reverend Doctor Jarrod Cochran is a writer, a speaker, and an activist for peace, justice, and social change.
Jarrod is an ordained priest within the Progressive Episcopal Church and servesat the Church in the Wild in Canton, Georgia. Jarrod has also served as pastor for several churches and as chaplain for a local Atlanta fire department as well as an organization that assists the homeless and poverty-stricken. Jarrod has also worked alongside such champions of social justice as Rev. C.T. Vivian, John K. Stoner, and Rabbi Michael Lerner. He is a member, writer, and listed speaker for several organizations which include Every Church a Peace Church, CrossLeft, Social Redemption, and the National Religious Leaders Conference.
Jarrod currently holds many positions. He is the Spiritual Advisor of the Leadership Council of the Progressive Christian Alliance, Contributor for Jesus Radicals, Media Contact for PFLAG, a member of the Clergy Cabinet, a featured writer for the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, and is a Fellow with the Political Studies Association focusing on the intersection between Anarchism and Christianity. Additionally, Jarrod serves as a priest within The Progressive Episcopal Church’s Diocese of the South.
John Carico: What do you see as the most effective way to prevent near term human extinctions given; all the alternatives promoted by capitalism require unsustainable measures on the front end, we haven’t begun to make any real effort toward environmental restitution and haven’t even begun to stem the ecocide destroying natural resources, without which none of our movements can see fruition?
Jarrod Reid: I’m honestly not sure. I wish I had a better answer than that. While I’m hopeful, I think we are honestly past the point of no return when it comes to mass extinctions due to climate change and the environmental degradation done through capitalistic systems. While I would be thrilled to watch the whole corrupt system to crash to the ground, I have to take a cue from Christian anarchist, Dorothy Day. Day realized that while the current system is wicked and perpetuates innumerable atrocities, it is necessary to build the new world within the shell of the old. I’m not suggesting gradual change towards progress, but that when we reveal that another world is possible, we also have to make sure we are there to care for those who are helplessly tied up in the current system: the elderly and ill, who are dependent on medications, among many other groups.
I feel in some small ways that we are beginning to wake up, however slowly. With the younger generations looking to elect leaders that are more left-of-center. Look at how Senator Bernie Sanders in our country, a professed democratic socialist, has energized the younger generation to start concerning themselves with climate change, racial justice, and wage inequality. While Sanders is still far from the ideal, (anyone that wants to hold a position of power over another should remain suspect), I feel these could be the catalysts that cause the masses to realize that the current system of rampant capitalism and oligarchy cannot sustain itself or the environment. This, in turn, could could move younger generations to plot points even farther left in the political sphere, working towards actual socialist societies and communities.
But again, this all appears moot to many who have already conceded that we are on the path towards irreversible extinction. I, however, offer another position:
What if this is our last “hurrah”? If this is in fact when and how our species goes out, what if we went out finally “getting it”? What if we not just admitted to our past mistakes of excess and destruction but worked towards making this world better before we leave it? I think whether you believe in a divine being or not, this is a worthy cause.
Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik is an American political activist for the Socialist Party USA. He has been nominated to be the party’s candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 election.
John Carico: What are your concerns, thoughts, and ideas for solutions toward preventing near term human extinction?
Mimi Solystik: I just don’t see any hope for the planet if the system continues. The planet just simply doesn’t have the carrying capacity, and it can not handle reformed versions of the capitalist system. There is most certainly an urgency we’re facing. One of the goals of our campaign is to draw as many folks into this conversation as we possibly can, helping folks to make connections whenever and wherever possible, putting them in touch with folks involved with movement work. We’re constantly trying to figure out new ways to reach folks with our messaging. Part of this involves calming fears folks have when they consider involvement with this type of work. If we are going to find a way forward, it’s because the people will be leading the way.
Beth Payne is an anarchist organizer living in so-called Phoenix, Arizona, on occupied O’odham land. She helped found Carpe Locus Collective, Phoenix ABC, the Phoenix Anti-Capitalist Conference, and a radical community center/anarchist infoshop called the Sp(a)ce. She is a proponent of social anarchism who puts her energy into building long-term sustainable radical infrastructure and community survival projects. Payne has a special interest in ensuring that anarchism is informed by its accessibility through mutual aid and education. She has two children with her co-parent.
John Carico: How can we start rewilding and being more sustainable while avoiding the greenwashing so prevalent in our culture?
Beth Payne: Hmm, that’s a loaded question. I feel like sustainability means a lot of different things to different people, but it often excludes the human impact of the way our society is structured. For instance, the concept of ‘rewilding’ carries a lot of colonial implications, for a lot of people it’s a romantic form of escapism from culpability and complicity with the damage done to the environment. But escape to where? In most parts of the world, and definitely in the US, rewilding means escaping to wild areas where native folks have already been forcibly removed over generations of colonialism. Settling in those wild areas just perpetuates centuries of colonialism, and ignores the fact that indigenous folks are still forcibly resettled on lands that typically have less natural resources, and many of them are living in extreme poverty. It’s not enough to focus on a reconciliation with the environment and put our energy into reducing our impact on that alone. We have to put equal or greater focus on addressing our ongoing complicity in the generational violence that has spilled blood on this land.
Guy McPherson is an energetic speaker and talented moderator. He has appeared before countless audiences to speak about the two primary consequences of our fossil-fuel addiction: global climate change and energy decline. Most recently, McPherson has become known as the primary messenger with respect to near-term human extinction.
Guy is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for twenty award-winning years. His scholarly work, which has for many years focused on conservation of biological diversity, has produced more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles. He lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house in a rural area of southern New Mexico.
John Carico: Do you believe civilization and agriculture were the beginnings of our unsustainable practices?
Guy Mcpherson: Yes, I believe civilization is the root of our myriad predicaments. Civilization is characterized by the ability and willingness to grow of food that can be stored (e.g., grains). Controlling food allows the control of people. Storing food allows human-population overshoot.
John Carico: What would you say to those who say the only way out of civilization is to kill millions if not billions of people and no one should get to decide that?
Guy Mcpherson: Civilization is killing every aspect of the living planet, including habitat for humans. Maintaining industrial civilization means maintaining a death cult. We go deeper into human-population overshoot every day, yet terminating civilization is viewed as immoral. Civilization enables dirtying the waters, fouling the air, and eroding soil into the oceans, yet civilization is viewed as unimpeachably good by nearly every participant.
When civilization fails — as all civilizations do — many people will die. Had industrial civilization collapsed 40 years ago, the loss of human life would have been much lower than if industrial civilization collapses tomorrow. The same holds for 40 years from now. Sustaining this unsustainable set of living arrangements is impossible.
Derrick Jensen is long-term Grassroots Environmental Activist and writer. He has written around 20 books, and his main focus is trying to stop this culture from killing the planet. He has written a lot about domestic violence, misogyny, racism, environmental destruction, and how they result from the destructive urges of our dominant culture.
John Carico: Will Potter’s “Green Is the New Red” talks about the crackdown against Green movements. Do you have any advice to people who want to speak openly about resistance but are afraid of the repercussions? Where is the line between security culture and the need for movement building? The Invisible Committee says we need to tie the actions that have been done into a narrative. Is the problem that the media never covers the actions of those who, for instance, did direct action against fracking in New Jersey, and that any direct action the media does cover seems to follow the horrible lone wolf narratives? Do you think this stifles our movement?
Derrick Jensen: I think what you say makes a lot of sense. I mean, really, I’m not trying to turn this question into a let’s praise DGR thing, but, really, that’s what we are trying to do. Same with the North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office. You have to have those who are completely Above Ground who can publicize, so, often, there are those who are environmental activists, who are also active below ground, and they got arrested, in part, because they’re doing dual service. We need a firewall, we need a group that’s able to publish the narrative, and another group which is separate, to actually do it. And, both of these roles are really critical.
As far as security culture… (And, I realize this isn’t so much a successful revolutionary movement as a successful social movement) I think, sometimes, about the whole marijuana legalization movement, because they’ve done a good job of pushing an agenda that would have been unthinkable thirty years ago. They’ve done this by being below ground with the growers and above ground with NORML. So, they have used this model, which I think is pretty good. We can say the same thing about the IRA.
That’s one thing you have to do when you live in a security state. And, one thing I think we have to remember about living in a security state is, yeah, surveillance is everywhere but we need to recognize that, although they pretend they are God, those sitting at the top are not actually omniscient. Once again, living in northern California, where the pot economy basically runs the entire economy, helped distill a healthy understanding that the Panopticon is not as all seeing as it wants to be. And, once again, I know there is a difference between growing marijuana, when probably x percent of cops smoke marijuana, and (are) on some level sympathetic, and B, ending capitalism, which would freak out all the cops.
The green scare did not happen because of great police work; it happened because Jake Ferguson was an abuser, junkie and a snitch. So, it was not started by the Panopticon; it was solved by good old-fashioned stoolie. I used to teach at Pelican Bay, a super Max. I’m very naïve about some things, including Drug Culture. And, I used to go to concerts and I’d see someone calling acid or something, and others would say if you drop them anywhere, they could find drugs in 15 minutes. And, I was like, I can’t even find a bathroom in 15 minutes! And, what that means is that underground economy is surviving the Panopticon very well. So, we need to understand that there is a panopticon but that it isn’t omniscient.
Charles Rae is a writer, artist, photographer and social justice theorist. Rae’s first publications were for the bilingual feminist collective ‘Wham-Bam-Thankyou-Ma’am’ back in 2010, where she illustrated narratives about the female orgasm and poetry about abusive relationships. Rae wrote a centerfold column about apathy for University of Connecticut’s Free Press in 2012. She has worked as an art director for a couple of local political campaigns, one resulting in the election of Durham, NC’s first openly gay elected official in 2014. She has photographed events for organizations such as ActionNC, Environment North Carolina, and Organize 2020. She published an underground poetry book called The Frozen Lake I Live In, and a quotes collection called Quotes for Activists, last year.
After being deeply affected photo-journaling the 2014 Ferguson protests, Rae went back to college to complete her Associate in Fine Arts and become serious about function of art in the modern world. Rae completed her studies in August 2015 and is currently showing a collection of work called The Edge of a Paradigm, which uses expressionism, collage, sculpture and poetry to express dissent towards current systems of control, and offer viable scientific solutions to those problems.
John Carico: What are your thoughts on our near term extinction and how it relates to patriarchy?
Charlie Rae: Extinction is the rule, not the exception, of life in this universe. Having said that, I’ve truly become exhausted with the extent to which patriarchy has corroded humanity. I feel like I’m taking up the position that has been forced upon women when I try and think of all the ways in which we should be fixing the world, nurturing and caring for everyone who is broken, expected to love our enemies. We’re trying to force issues with little power leverage. I teach women about leveraging power in their personal lives so they can push back directly on control systems, but it’s an uphill battle during an avalanche. I suppose, though, if men actually extinct the human race, it will be the ultimate irony that they will have taken themselves, their precious legacies, last names, and ivory towers down with them.
Kevin Tucker is an anarcho-primitivist writer based out of rural Pennsylvania. His focus is on a critique of civilization, domestication and technology through a comprehensive understanding of how power and oppression arise within societies, how humans have become mediated from wildness, and how, through rewilding, humans can reconnect with the wild and resist the forces of civilization. He is the author of For Wildness and Anarchy (Black and Green Press, 2010), co-founder of the Black and Green Network, editor of Species Traitor Journal, and currently founding editor of Black and Green Review.
John Carico: What do you say to those who think that actions of an anticiv variety will, at this point, only bring about totalitarianism; That we don’t have enough numbers to mount an effective resistance and/or that if we just wait technology may save us?
Kevin Tucker: I’m not really sure how bringing down civilization will bring about totalitarianism. Frankly that’s pretty illogical to me.
Here’s the thing, when we’re talking about civilization: we’re not talking about taking over the steering wheel, we’re talking about cutting the gas line. Political power functions solely because it has the electrical power to back it up. We fall in line because we believe that we have no other options in the matter. We treat money and power like they have innate value because we are taught that they do.
As soon as power stops flowing, that entire facade crumbles.
But that’s just part of the narrative. I suppose this question might also be leaning towards thinking that the collapse of civilization will bring about some kind of Mad Max dystopia. We believe that kind of thing because we believe that power is a universal, a given. The reason we have police isn’t because we can’t be trusted around each other, it’s because we believe the lie that police are there to keep us safe from each other. Never mind that civilization is doing all of the breaking here and creating the social tensions that lead to large-scale violence.
All of this harks back to Hobbes’ proclamation that humans in the “state of nature” live nasty, brutish and short lives. We know that this isn’t true. The myth is still prevalent because it is necessary, that’s part of that narrative of domestication that feeds back into our lives on a daily basis. It’s a lie.
What we see in instances of disasters or of functioning communities isn’t wanton violence, but cooperation. That is what is within us. No species would have made it as long as we have if it was as bloodthirsty as the civilized human has become. We breed the conditions under which we become insatiably violent. Warfare is an unknown amongst immediate return hunter-gatherers (nomadic hunter gatherer bands without stored food). Violence is a part of our emotions as an animal, but organized violence is not. Nomadic hunter-gatherer life is built around diffusing possible tensions before they arise.
We transpose our anxiety and tensions onto life without civilization. But think about it; we live in a society of strangers, we almost universally don’t chose our neighbors, hell most likely we don’t even talk to them or know their names. There are no strangers in the world of grounded peoples. There are millions of lines of connections. Everyone knows someone else or their relatives. So all this random violence that we see and fear, that simply doesn’t exist. You can act within a city in horrifically violent ways and there’s a good chance that you’ll never be caught or face repercussions. Or worse, you can have a badge and your violence comes with its own justifications.
When you remove power, you remove that veneer: we are forced to become responsible for our subsistence and our actions. As great of a grip that power has on our lives, that reality is a very thin line.
Will there be holdouts? Will there be crazed rednecks with generators and guns? No doubt, but I’m not sure how long that survivalist mentality can really last. And nothing is stopping extreme violence from happening in this society. Yet when we’re talking about ending civilization, we’re talking about removing the means by which all of those avenues of power arise and sustain themselves.
There’s also a flip side to this question though. This kind of question can only be asked from a position of First World privilege: we’re assuming that life is less violent now than it could be. The reality of that is that we have sadly accepted that things like school shooting and mass shootings are just an accepted part of life. We are the only nation in the world where this is happening every week and there’s seemingly a threshold of bodies before that even makes the news.
That’s not to overlook the insane reality of rape. The recorded number of women who have been physically and/or sexually assaulted in the US is one in three. We know that number is far from complete. But how do we live with that? How do we defend a system in which the nation that proclaims being the benchmark of freedom has had one third of its women assaulted? That’s vile. There’s no other way to put it.
Even putting that aside, we have to consider that this First World notion that our lives have been improved by civilization applies to a fraction of the current human population. To the indigenous nations of the world, civilization is genocide. Ecocide is genocide. This is violence. Our want for resources and rare earth minerals for a technological gadget with a built in shelf life of one year is systemic violence.
Think about a 14-year-old child in Afghanistan, a child who has only ever known war. That child has learned that if they want to go outside and play, the only time that they can do it is on a cloudy day because drone cameras can’t see and they don’t fly. Think about all the family members that this child has seen. Think about the impacts of depleted uranium in this and all other countries.
Think about the children who are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea as they attempt to flee Syria: a nation torn by war that comes on the back of climate change induced droughts and longer standing water right feuds.
Think about the fact that if we don’t make drastic changes immediately in terms of emissions (think down to zero), that we could see human extinction within less than 100 years.
Think about the workers crushed in the Rana Plaza sweatshop collapse in Bangladesh. Over 1,000 people who died simply so that largely First World consumers could buy slightly cheaper clothes for the season.
This isn’t a hypothetical. We will not die without oil. We simply don’t need it, but this system does. And yet every single drop of oil, of redirected water, of dioxin, of glyphosate, of diamonds, of copper ore, every little piece of every little thing that we possess or taut as a sign of our achievements is covered in death and destruction.
If we believe for a single second that our way of life is less violent than whatever comes after the power shuts off, it’s solely because we’re privileged enough to take part in the deadliest delusion that this world has ever seen. That we’ve internalized the failings of this culture as our own failure to achieve within their dreams. That we believe that stuff has meaning.
I don’t know what will happen when the lights finally go out. I simply don’t. But we have millions of years of cooperation guiding our minds. We have thousands of years of examples of the collapse of civilizations not being the end of every inhabitant. Given the choice, we have so much more to embody than the promises of machines. I look at the world around me, I look at the news or go out in public, there’s little reason to have hope that we can turn the madness off, but we can never heal a wound that is still being inflicted.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it can’t be worse than this.
I don’t take claims that “technology will save us” seriously at all. Even within the timeline of civilization, technological change represents such a tiny fraction and electrified civilization is even less than that. We’re just plowing through resources and all the “great ideas” about “sustainable” energy are built upon increasingly rare minerals. Even in Ray Kurzweil’s ridiculous ideas about the coming Singularity, his much beloved predictions are slacking in terms of what machines “should” be doing by now and his only response to resource depletion is that one day we’ll build a smart enough machine that can figure the whole mess out.
And if you cross Kurzweil’s timeline with the current climate predictions? If we get that far, there likely won’t be a human left on this planet to applaud the ingenuity of the machines that his distorted dreams hope to see outlive us.
Adam Gnade’s work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and continue each other’s plotlines in an attempt to document a personal history of America. He has recorded his self-described “talking-songs” with members of Gang of Four, Youthmovies, Modest Mouse, 65DaysofStatic, Granddaddy, Brunch, Jonquil, Menomena, Damon Moon, Chad Valley, Pet Moon, Solid Gold Dragons, Under White Pines, Castanets, and Ohioan. Recent releases have included two EPs (AMERICANS on the Blessing Force label and Greater Mythology Blues on Punch Drunk Press) as well as his first nonfiction book, The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad, which has been Powell’s Books small press best-seller for the past two years. His novel Caveworld is out now via Pioneers Press and Punch Drunk Press. Adam Gnade lives and works on a farm in the rural Midwest.
John Carico: We’re pretty desperate situation! What do you think in your studies you’ve seen to be the most promising answer toward a non exploitative sustainable world?
Adam Gnade: I wish I knew! I wish more people knew. Capitalism is destroying the world. We’re de-stroying the world, and ourselves. We need to act kindly to each other and not take more than our share but how? I don’t know. There are too many people for not enough space and, even more so, not enough resources. That’s our main problem. We’re all like scared, greedy dogs. Which is a shame because people start off life so sweet and kind. The world fucks us up. At some point “real life” smashes us down. Staying away from the hardness should be everyone’s goal. I’m still figuring that shit out. I’m as clueless as anyone.
Noam Chomsky has been a dedicated opponent of war and injustice for more than half a century. He has written dozens of books and published in innumerable journals. His prolific output has made him one of the best-known radical voices in the U.S,. and around the world. His arguments and teachings have contributed to the commitment of activists, and helped shaping the thinking of countless people worldwide.
John Carico. Should radical activists concerned with the environment, continue to work in solidarity with labor movements within industries that destroy natural habitat?
Noam Chomsky. We should certainly not be perpetuating further harm to others or to the environment. Suppose that workers at ExxonMobil are trying to unionize. We have two choices: to help them improve their lives, or to keep away so that their lives will be worse. Neither choice has any effect on use of fossil fuels. So radical organizers can both help them unionize and improve their lives, and convince them to find a different way to survive and work for ending the use of fossil fuels.The alternative is just the latter, while making their lives worse, with no effect on fossil fuel use. Radical activists can’t ignore the fact that we live in this world, like it or not, and have to make difficult decisions about which paths are the best – or sometimes, the least harmful. There are no abstract formulas. Have to think through each case on its own.
Mark Mason offers analyses of United States domestic and foreign policies for the international news media. He was trained as a biological anthropologist educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and recently engaged in the Occupy and bioregional green and peace social movements. Due to a commitment to direct dialogue on important international policy issues, Mark has appeared on Al-Etejah TV, Russia Today,Voice of Russia radio, as well as on Life News Russia, AcTVism Munich News, Nuestra Tele Noticias NTN24 Colombia, The Real News Network, and Radio 786 Capetown, South Africa, and KQED Forum in San Francisco, California.
John Carico: How do you find your studies specifically in the field of anthropology, have influenced your views on current events? What problems do we face that we can look to history for in terms of solutions? And what problems do you see that we will have to come up with all new solutions in order to alleviate?
Mark Mason: I was trained in the science of paleoanthropology, the study of the evidence for human and primate evolution. I conducted research on 30-million-year-old extinct primates. The message from the past is clear: we modern humans should take care to examine what it is we are doing to the planet because if we don’t, extinction is a possibility. With the current human population at more than seven billion, it’s hard to imagine the human population going to zero, but that’s precisely what could happen if we disturb the relationship we have with the other living organisms on spaceship Earth. The atmosphere is us; we are inseparable from the air, the water, and the rocks around us, as we are inseparable from nematodes and bees. We’re all in this together, and the “all” extends far beyond the nation-state to everything on the planet. Studying primates that once were around but are now long gone offers some perspective on how we alter the planet. What we do matters, so we should consider the possible unintended consequences of losing the Western Black Rhino to extinction. We lose a little chunk of ourselves when we lose Earth partners. As for solutions to the crucial problems we face—and these problems are unprecedented in the six-million-year history of the human evolutionary tree. Warfare against other humans is now at universally-recognized danger. Warfare against the planet in terms of attacking the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and attacking forests with chainsaws are equally dangerous as they are exponential increases in the scale at which we chop down trees. The differences among people, their cultures, their customs and their beliefs were until recently, a matter of local concern. We lived in relative isolation and in small groups such that conflicts between groups were relatively small-scale. Today, we recognize that we no longer have the luxury of accommodating the great variety of human cultural systems because of increased populations and increases in global trade and militarism. What the Mayans did affected the Mayans, but didn’t have an impact on life in Thailand. Today, what the US does affects almost everyone on the planet. The notion of live-and-let-live was based on cultural isolation and the relative limited scope of warfare. The fix for the two elements of warfare: against other peoples, and against the biosphere (actually, against the lithosphere, ecocide) cannot be fixed without restructuring to end the state system. Both forms of warfare are extensions of the state, the corporate-state capitalist socio-econo-political system. The historical record shows us that with the invention of agriculture, we shifted to living in very large, sedentary groups. Much of what is manifested as the warfare problem stems from our failure to adjust to living in large communities. The large-scale systems of cultural management are dysfunctional, deadly to humans and the planet. We know from history that our problems are systemic: can we find ways to relate and function in large groups without resorting to centralized state power? We don’t know the answer to this question. The answer may be no; living in large groups, attempting to manage our human affairs through centralized authorities has been a long history of brutal failures. That’s our core problem today. Can we experiment with various socio-economic-political systems in the quest to discover more humane and more sustainable lifeways? As it is now, we have elites with the power to stop us from experimenting on large scales. We could be experimenting in Detroit now, with radical Monday.
Michael Gilliland is a restaurant manager/ coffee roaster in Chattanooga, TN. He is Board Chair of Chattanooga Organized for Action, a locally-focused nonprofit dedicated to community organizing towards social (racial, economic, gender, environmental, housing) justice.
John Carico:What are your views on deep ecology?
Michael Gilliland: Depends on what you’re talking about. The basic belief that our environment has a value more important than its “usefulness?” Absolutely. We have to make sure that ecological problems are informing us, and act with that knowledge in mind. I don’t want to wade into the philosophical debates around what this means for populations and production, like those between social ecologists and deep ecologists. Ecology is probably the most general context in which we are all working, with climate change and environmental destruction severely limiting our possibilities for the future. Every aspect of social justice work–from anti-gentrification to feminism to the labor movement—is going to need to develop not only a consciousness around the environment, but action steps about how to proceed. We are nowhere near this.
A Christian anarchist, Brian Merritt is an evangelist for Mercy Junction Ministries in Chattanooga. He worked as chaplain at Occupy DC and takes part in International Peace projects.
John Carico: Do you have any views on deep ecology as it related to spirituality?
Brian Merrit: Yes, I was telling one of the people in my worship community that ecology is actually the moral area that I find the deepest emotional connection with at the present moment. In working the soil almost daily I find it impossible to as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me to ever be separated from the earth in which I am connected. We are physically connected to the earth, land and plants by gravity, it amazes me that we scar it so terribly.
I am mostly vegan out of a troubled moral understanding of the capitalism in our food system and the exploitation of animals in that system. One merely needs to drive by the chicken processing plant in Chattanooga to become troubled in how desensitized our society has become to the violence brought on by living creatures.
Charles Eisenstein is an important thinker for our times. He has written several books, in which hediscusses alternatives to our current economical system and new ways of thinking. His books include The Ascent of Humanity (2007), Sacred Economics (2011), and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (2013). Earlier this year, I had the chance to speak directly with him on a number of topics.
John Carico: You’ve said humanity is entering an adult phase, and we are falling in love with earth ending our infinite growth cycle. Do we have time?
Charles Eisenstein: According to what most people understand to be practical and realistic, no, we don‘t have enough time. To take one of many examples, consider climate change. What is politically feasible is nowhere near what is needed. Technologically though, we could quite easily heal our biosphere, without sacrificing anything that contributes to authentic well-being. There are no technical obstacles to converting all suburban lawns to permaculture gardens, to implementing across-the-board zero-waste manufacturing, to ceasing arms manufacture, and so on. Such things are, politically speaking, impossibly far off; my point is that no technological miracle is needed, but only a shift in consciousness, perception, and narrative. Yes, the window within which currently recognized technologies will be enough is shrinking, but imagine what would be possible if we shifted the focus of our science and technology away from weaponry, exploitation of mineral wealth and fossil fuels, and so forth toward renewable energy, reforestation, toxic waste remediation, ecological restoration, etc. In fact, there are already people on the margins doing near-miraculous things — Paul Stamets, for example.
Vermin Supreme is best known as a fringe political candidate espousing the issues of zombie preparedness, time travel research, mandatory tooth brushing laws, and free ponies for all Americans.
John Carico: On a Serious Note, Many are calling for revolution and we have seen a mass awakening springing up around issues such as wage slavery and ecocide.
What voices and groups do you feel have impacted your views about transforming society, past and present?
Vermin Supreme: Wage slavery and ecocide are just a part of the unstoppable march of capitalism IMHO. Historically the Luddites could see the writing on the wall. Wobblies understood workplace exploitation very well. The anarchist labor movements of the past, and the struggle for the 8 hour day , the 5 day workweek, their use of wildcat strikes an d factory sit ins were exciting innovations. In my own times, you know I love those Occupy Wall Street kid s taking back the public square and all. It was truly a joy to see another spasm of generational awakening. I loved my anti globalization kids of the 90’s and 00’s . I loved me the Clam Shell Alliance late 70’s early 80’s and their fights against Seabrook. The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament of 1986 came and swept me out of Baltimore. I worked with the Seeds of Peace Collective in their early years of providing logistic support for peace marches and such. We worked with the American Peace Test at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site coordinating some of the largest civil disobedience against nuclear weapons. As far as ecocide awareness ,the Earth Firs t! and later the Earth Liberation Front and even the 7 0’s GreenPeace caught my young eye.
John Jacobi is a conservationist and student at UNC Chapel Hill. He founded and edited the student magazine The Wildernist for two years, and now he edits the newsletter Hunter/Gatherer, outlining the eco-radical philosophy of “wildism.””
John Carico: What are your thoughts on preventing near term human extinction and ecocide?
John Jacobi: I’m not sure if “preventing” is the right word in reference to “ecocide.” Depending on what you mean by that, ecocide is already happening. Scientists have pointed out that we are living in the sixth mass extinction in geological history and the first one caused by humans. There may be a way to end it, but we’re past the point of preventing it.
To answer your question: I write about this extensively in “The Foundations of Wildist Ethics” and “The Question of Revolution,” and the best response to our current ecological problems is to remove industry from the equation. Forget about feasibility for a second, which is always the next question and which I will address in a moment. The extinction crisis, carbon emissions, and so on are all directly caused or exacerbated by the industrial mode of production. Other modes of production, even the agricultural one, contain hard limits to the amount of domination that humans could possibly hold over nature, so ending industry, even if it does not solve all environmental problems or reach any ideals, would be a major step forward. Since it is possible, and since the ecological crisis is so great, and we who value nature are obligated to do as much as we can to conserve and rewild it, we ought to work toward the end of industry.
Furthermore, people need to understand that physical environmental damage is a problem, but it is not the root of the problem. The root of the problem is human and technical control, or a loss of wildness. The physical degradation that results is just an indication and result of the loss of wildness and also possibly a reason to value wildness. But the very act of human domination over nature is what is in question. The reasons for this are many, but they essentially have to do with the trap that this catapults societies into. Once humans attempt to engage in control over nature through agriculture, for instance, they must then devise states, police forces, etc. This is because we humans attempt to replace a wild process with an artificial one, we then need to support that artificial process with our own labor and technologies in order to maintain it.
To give a humorous example: if we poop in a forest in the wild, the natural processes deal with the poop. But if we want a toilet, we then need a state to manage resources, plumbing infrastructure to manage waste, transportation infrastructure for production, divisions of labor, police forces to enforce and protect all of this. We need artificial energy input to “fill in the gaps” that nature can no longer fill. There’s no way out of this except through simplification, and historically technical simplification happens through decline and collapse.
And at the very least it is possible on regional scales. Consider Hurricane Katrina, which caused enough turmoil that if an anti-civ group had actually spent time beforehand gaining some strength or legitimacy, then the actual events that transpired would have paved the way for a potentially successful Reaction. And the organization that would be required to make something like that happen has historically already been achieved. The Bolsheviks had only 8,000 members when they took over all of Russia during the second revolution, for instance. With such weak and fragile infrastructure as we currently rely on to sustain our industrial way of life, this is possible.
It just requires courage.
Professor Mark Corske
Mark Corske calls himself “a homegrown anarchist political philosopher.” Born in 1951, he studied mathematics and physics at the University of Colorado and taught those subjects for 35 years. He is the author of Engines of Domination: Political Power and the Human Emergency, an original argument for anarchism. With filmmaker Justin Jezewski, he produced a documentary summarizing the book’s essential ideas (Mark Corske’s ENGINES OF DOMINATION).
Mark Corkse from Engines Of Domination (P. 25): The Human Emergency threatens us with many catastrophes. Some are already taking place: nuclear contamination, ecological destruction, global climate change. Others are highly probable: nuclear war, famines, pandemics. No one can calculate the probabilities, but that’s beside the point. The point is a simple moral principle that can’t be stressed too strongly. No risk of avoidable catastrophe is acceptable, let alone a risk of extermination. You don’t let a child run out into traffic because she might not be hit by a car, or because if she is hit, she might survive.
Craig LaCasse : Even if human survival becomes a unifying goal, civilization still consists largely of xenophobic and warlike behaviors. The emergence of bioregional cultures similar, say, to the indigenous peoples of North America before European colonization, seems impossible. The idea that civilization is inherently wise is not easily understood as fallacy when the alternative is a much less convenient way of life. Additionally, a plethora of horrors will likely result from the sudden, radical transformation into societies that can withstand the detriment of human interference with nature; but they would be preferred over human extinction as the likely alternative. That interference is compounding and threatens the viability of civilization anyway, even within the current century.
Kris Dingus is a no-coast anarchist organizing mutual aid projects with Any Means Necessary Collective in so called Kansas City, Missouri. The AMN Collective is a loose group of individuals who join together to help the necessary work along in Kansas City; utilizing direct action and mutual aid to support those most affected by capitalism in our communities and offer education and outreach about anarchist action, history, and theory. Kris finds affinity with terms such as ex-worker, vegan. He has been and continues to be involved in a variety of projects in North-Western Missouri.
John Carico. How do we prevent near term human extinction?
Kris Dingus: I honestly don’t know that we can at this point, but I can think of some steps in the right direction that would be worthwhile even if we can’t. This all can be centered on a very simple praxis I generally follow; nurture actions and projects that create a world that you would want to live in and ruthlessly destroy anything that steps in the way of that. Another way to phrase it would be to take the actions necessary for both survival and the fulfillment of desire to flourish and to engage in self defense against any force that aggresses upon either. Something that absolutely has to be dismantled is the way mass amounts of people consume commodities. I have survived for years off of other people’s waste. We need to distribute resources rather than throw them away we need to stop purchasing things as a replacement for authentic experiences. We need to influence culture until it is no longer normal to cause mass extinctions so that we can have endless supplies of tennis balls and pez dispensers. Personal lifestyles are not the primary cause of this destruction but I feel it is important to discuss when so many aren’t even willing to do something so simple and with such a large impact as going vegan. We’ve known for a long time that the earth was being killed its entirely up to each of us what we do with that information.