Bright Green Lies book launch with Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert

Bright Green Lies book launch with Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert

Our Dear Readers are invited to join the launch of the new book “Bright Green Lies” by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert.

There are two events happening today, Tuesday 16th, 2021:

The first one you can join via Zoom. It will start 4pm Pacific Time (Los Angeles):

Register for the meeting here: (map)

Derrick Jensen returns to The Stoa, along with Lierre Keith and Max Wilbert, his co-authors of the new book: Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It (Politics of the Living).

This event caps our meta-crisis symposium and it also serves as a book launch party.

The second event will start right after the first at 5pm Pacific Time (Los Angeles) and will be hosted on Facebook:

Event by Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and Monkfish Book Publishing Company

The authors of the book “Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It” are  hosting a virtual launch party. The event will feature the authors Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen, and Max Wilbert.
WHAT: You are invited to an online event with Facebook Live
DATE: Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 5 PM Pacific Time
COST: Free
You can use this link to find the facebook page.
Public Anyone on or off Facebook
Review of the Film Bright Green Lies

Review of the Film Bright Green Lies

Editor’s note: Civilization is in free fall, and most people do not accept that. Humans will have to use a lot less energy. That future is hard for people to grasp. They will need to adjust their expectations of how reality is going to look. This will require going through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining(excuses), depression, and acceptance. We can still create social relations that can improve the world through policy and interactions. Remember the win is always in the movements struggling together with others toward those victories, the fighting against the fascism of industrial civilization.


By Paul Mobbs, The ‘Meta-Blog’, issue no.14, 7th May 2020


Being ‘well known’ in eco-circles, you sometimes get strange, often unsolicited stuff arriving in your inbox. This, however, was something I’d been hoping for: A chance to view, and thus review, ‘Bright Green Lies’ – Julia Barnes’ new documentary about the environmental movement and its support for renewable energy.

‘Planet of the Humans’ (PotH) was entertaining. At a general level, it was factual, albeit a polemic expression of those points. But its protracted period of production meant that it lacked coherence, and thus left itself open to easy criticism.
Those criticisms when they came, however, fell directly into the lap of the central argument of the film: That mainstream environmentalists distort facts to promote an erroneous vision of the measures necessary to ‘save the planet’.

It wasn’t just Josh Fox, backed by green entrepreneurs, engaging in a cavalier reshaping of facts and quotations to blacken the name of the film. Our own George Monbiot engaged in his own well-honed distortion of fact and quotation via The Guardian (symbolic of a number of their recent failures) in order to try and prevent people from watching the film on this side of the pond.

‘Bright Green Lies’ is very different: Like PotH, once again it presents the personal viewpoint of the director, Julia Barnes. Unlike PotH, though, it has a very different tone, building upon the immediacy and well-researched content of the eponymous book by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert – all of whom appear in the film.

You get the core of the film’s argument over the first five minutes, as the four main protagonists set out their respective take on the ‘bright green’ position [time index in the film is shown in brackets]:

 Barnes: “People rarely question the solutions they are taught to embrace, but with all the world at stake we must start asking the right questions. There is a push for a 100% renewable world, and after the research I’ve done for this documentary, I want no part of it. I did not become an environmentalist to protect my way of life or the civilization in which I live. I did it because I am in love with life on this planet and because the world I love is under assault. This film is for those whose allegiance is with the living world. Those who would do whatever it takes to defend it.”[02:26]


 Jensen: “You will have hundreds of thousands of people marching in the streets of Washington, or New York, or Paris; and, if you ask those individuals ‘why are you marching?’, they will say, ‘we wanna save the planet’. And if you ask them for their demands they will say, ‘We want subsidies for the wind and solar industry’. That’s extraordinary. I can’t think of any time in history when any mass movement has been so completely captured and turned into lobbyists for an industry.”[03:49]

 Keith: “The environmental movement used to be a very impassioned group of people who cared very deeply about the places we loved and the creatures we loved. What happened, though, in my lifetime, was that this movement which was so honorable and impassioned, it turned into something completely different. And now it’s about protecting a destructive way of life, while it destroys the creatures and the places we love. It’s all become, ‘how do we continue to fuel this destruction?’ as if the only problem was that we were using oil and gas.”[03:16]

 Wilbert: “The natural world isn’t really part of the conversation anymore. Kumi Naidoo, the former head of Greenpeace, I was watching him being interviewed the other day. He was saying, ‘The planet’s going to survive, the oceans are going to survive, the forests are going to survive, it’s really about can we save ourselves or not’. And I just saw that and I’m thinking, what the hell are you saying? … This is someone who’s considered to be one of the top environmentalists in the world and he’s say- ing we don’t have to worry about the forests or the oceans? I mean, that just betrays a complete lack of empathy and connection to the natural world. I don’t know how you could possibly say that when we’re in the midst of the Sixth Great Mass Extinction, and it’s being caused by industrial culture. It’s being caused by the same institutions, the same economies, the same systems, the same raw materials, the same extractive mindset, that is being used for these renewable energy technologies.”[04:36]


Environmentalism is a ‘class’ issue

My introduction to ‘environmentalism’ started before I’d seriously heard the word; growing up in a semi-rural working-class family who grew their own food, kept chickens, and foraged. Likewise, coming into contact with ‘mainstream’ environmentalism in the mid-1980s introduced me to the concept of ‘bright green’ before I’d heard that term either.

If there’s one general criticism I have (in part because the book, too, glosses over it), it is the failure to explore the class bias of environmentalism. It is dominated by the middle class (and in the UK, led by the upper-middle class); and so the economically ‘aspirational’ middle-class values suffuse its agenda. That’s overlooked in the film.

That this movement should innately favor individualist materialist values, over communal or spiritual ones, should therefore be of no surprise. That does not condemn these groups, or render them incapable of change. What it makes them do is reflect a narrow focus on both concerns and solutions. More importantly, in a mass political society, it makes it difficult for them to have empathy with a large majority of the public – and that hampers their ability to make change.

That bias towards affluence informs their ideological values, which in turn have come to dominate contemporary environmentalism. As said in the film:


“Bright Green Environmentalism is founded on the notion that technology will solve environmental problems; and that you can, through 100% recycling, through wind and solar power, have an industrial economy that does not harm the planet. Deep ecology is the belief that we need to radically change the way society functions in order to be sustainable.”[05:30]

The spectre of this early ideological differentiation has haunted the movement. Just as Keith outlines, for me it became evident around 1988 to 1990. Figures such as Jonathon Porritt and Sara Parkin sought to divest the movement of its ‘hairshirt’ image and put it on a ‘professional’ footing. As a self-acknowledged ‘fundo’ (the pejorative term used for deep green ‘fundamentalists’ in the Green Party at that time) that didn’t enthuse me one bit.

That ‘professionalised’ approach (for which, read compromise with neoliberal values) would slowly percolate through the movement over the next decade. And with it, the compromise that has stalled more radical responses to ecological issues ever since. That failure has, in part, only escalated these historic internal tensions – tensions that this film, almost certainly, will inflame.

First ‘green consumerism’, and then ‘sustainability’, foundered on the reality that the movement’s role as a ‘stakeholder’ in government and industry programs produced little change. Today, the issue at the heart of this internecine contention is renewable energy – and whether it is a realistic response to the Climate Emergency or just another distracting ruse.

I think this film is a good contribution to that contemporary debate. If only to make many people aware that this debate exists, and so cause people to look at the academic research in more detail.

As Barnes succinctly put it: “We are told that we can have our cake and eat it too.”[01:59] And yes, this really is all about cutting the ‘cake’ of affluence. But the film’s criticism of consumerism was couched in a generic “we”, and therein lies its failing.


When it comes to consumption it is not an issue of ‘we’. It is about how an extremely narrow social and economic elite exploit the majority by giving them the ‘illusion of affluence’. Albeit one that is today precariously founded upon deepening debt and doubtful economics (a ‘deep’ issue in-and-of itself).

By not making the case that it is a highly privileged minority causing/benefiting from ecological destruction (see graph below), the film and book miss the opportunity to state arguments such as:


  • The most affluent 10% of the global population (OK, that’s mostly us!) cause half the pollution;
  • But even within these most affluent states, national inequality means wealthy households emit far more pollution than the poorest;
  • Hence pollution is absolutely associated with economic inequality and consumption; and,
  • That this skew means the most affluent states must reduce consumption by perhaps 90%!
In a situation where – both globally but also in the most polluting states – it is a minority which is causing these problems, that redefines its political ‘reality’ in different terms. To be fair, Barnes strays into this issue at points:

“The ocean is the foundation of life on this planet. The fact that we’re losing it at the rate we are is alarming. I think part of the reason we’re failing is that we ask what is politically possible more often than we ask what is necessary.”[41:37]

Simple logic demands that this minority urgently change their lifestyle, lest the majority, threatened by ecological breakdown, seek to rest it from them. It is how they do this which is another live issue. Frankly, that’s not going too well right now:


Currently, Western states are seeking to repress protests against the climate emergency, to forestall calls for more radical change; While at the same time, billionaires create bunkers in remote locations to survive any future backlash from the dispossessed majority. This creates a powerful incentive for the ‘impoverished majority’ to rest control away from the economic elite driving ecological breakdown. The reality is, though, neither Greenpeace, WWF, nor even Extinction Rebellion, are likely to pick up that banner any time soon. Their failure to recognise affluence as a driver for ecological destruction negates their ability to act to stop it. Instead tokenis- tic measures, like renewable energy, supplant calls for meaningful systemic change.

Economics versus ecological limits

About halfway through, Max Wilbert elucidates a truth that doesn’t get nearly enough exposure:

“When people talk about 100% renewable energy transition to save the planet, to save civilization, what they’re actually talking about is sustaining modern high-energy ways of life, at the expense of the natural world.”[26:38]

I’m sure a number will recognise that from many of my previous workshops. In fact, I’ve just had a Facebook post blocked for, ‘violating community standards’. The offense? It linked to a summary of the research making this same point, and it’s not the first time that’s happened. It’s a touchy subject!

In 2005, my own book, ‘Energy Beyond Oil’, visited many of the issues explored in the film/book. In far less detail though, as there was nowhere near the quantity of research evidence available back then. What that also highlights, though, is how over the interim: ‘Bright green’ environmentalism has been unable to comprehend the message from this new research; while at the same time deliberately deflecting people’s attention towards points of view which have a questionable basis for support.

On that point, I think Max Wilbert gives a most eloquent view for how mainstream environmental- ism sold itself on the altar of green consumerism:

“They want us to believe that consumer choices are the only way we can change things. But if we accept that then it means that they’ve won because we’re defining ourselves as consumers…I have to buy things within this culture to survive, and that is not something that defines me or my power as an actor in this world. I would say much more fundamentally I am an animal. I have hands. I have feet. And I can walk places. And I can do things. And I have a voice. And I have the ability to speak with people and build a relationship with people. And I have the ability to organise. And I have the ability to fight if need be. These are all much more important than my ability to buy or not buy something.”[48:28]


Since ‘Planet of the Humans’, many on the ‘bright green’ side of the aisle have learned a lesson. Their hysterical condemnation of the film, to the point of calling for it to be banned, only served to feed it greater publicity, ensuring more would see it.

Their lack of response this time is perhaps also due to how well the film exposes the fragility of their arguments. One of the bright points in the film was the way in which ‘deep green’ criticisms were dove-tailed alongside interviews with those they criticised – amplifying the substance of the disagreement be- tween each side.

I think my favorite was the segment on Richard York’s research, showing that growing renewable energy actually displaces a very minimal level of fossil fuels. When York’s point was put to David Suzuki, his reply, which I too have often received, was, ”So what is the conclusion from an analysis like that, we shouldn’t do anything?”[24:08]

The film brilliantly explodes this false dilemma. When pushed, about needing to tackle things systemically rather than just trying to influence behavior, Suzuki’s response was, “Yeah, there’s no question our major impact on the planet now, not just in terms of energy, is consumption. And that was a deliberate program…”[24:26]

When it comes to the ‘liberal’ solutions to the climate crisis generally, I think Lierre Keith gives the most perceptive criticism of the simplistic, ‘bright green’ arguments for change[1:03:23]:

“[Capitalism] takes living communities, it converts those into dead commodities, and then those dead commodities are turned into private wealth. And a lot of people think, well, if we just make that into public wealth, we all could get an equal piece of the pie, that’s the solution. The problem is that’s not go- ing to be a solution because you’ve still got the first two parts of that equation. Why are we taking the living planet and turning it into dead commodities? That’s the problem…It’s the fact that rivers, and grasslands, and forests, and fish, have been turned into those dead commodities, that’s the problem.”

Jensen then bookends Keith’s point with another, straightforward invalidation of the basic premise of the bright green approach[1:04:33]:

“What do all the so-called, ‘solutions’, to global warming have in common? They all take industrial capitalism as a given, and so conform to industrial capitalism. They’ve switched the dependent and the independent variables. The world has to be primary, and the health of the world has to be primary because without a world you don’t have any economy whatsoever. And the bright greens are very explicit about this. What they’re trying to save is industrial capitalism, industrial civilization. And that’s my fundamental beef because what I’m trying to save is the real world.”

Climate inequality meets decolonialism

Jensen makes an interesting observation towards the end of the film:

“The thing that blows me away is the lengths that people will go to avoid looking at the problem. That they will create all these extraordinary fantasies in order to do something that’s not going to help the planet so they can avoid looking at the real issue. Which is that industrial civilization itself is what’s killing the planet.”[59:40]

Likewise, Barnes astutely characterises the basic block to progress toward the near end:

“Bright green environmentalism has gained popularity because it tells a lot of people what they want to hear. That you can have industrial civilization and a planet too. It allows people to feel good about maintaining this destructive way of living and to avoid asking hard questions about the depth of what must be changed.”[1:05:04]

For me, though, it was Keith’s discussion about what it is ‘civilization’ is based upon[1:00:02] which brought a long overdue argument into circulation: Criticism of the ‘resource island’ model for the modern city, and its inherent link to the global expropriation and exploitation of land. Driven by the wealthiest ‘city’ state’s need to maintain consumption, the inherent ‘neocolonial’ aspects of international climate negotiations are something the climate lobby too often overlook. Especially in relation to issues such as carbon offsets, the global allocation of carbon budgets, and their inherent global inequality.

At some point environmental groups must call ‘bullshit’ on these whole neocolonial proceedings, and start giving equal value to all humans, irrespective of their present-day privilege. More importantly, we have to give ecological capacity, currently occupied by human societies, back to natural organisms to allow them sufficient space to live too.

Before ‘Bright Green Lies’ turned up, I had just seen Raoul Peck’s excellent, ‘Exterminate All The Brutes’. Coming to the end of ‘Bright Green Lies’, what startled me was how the two films arrived at a very similar place. Both showed similar blocks toward acceptance of the radical change required, around both ecological change and decolonialism.

To understand Peck’s film it helps to have read, ‘Heart of Darkness’. In structuring the film around the characters in that book, and contrasting it to The Holocaust, Peck shows how indifference to European and US colonialism enabled The Holocaust to take place [Episode 4, 46:57 to 54:11]:

“It is not knowledge that is lacking… The educated general public has always largely known what atrocities have been committed and are being committed in the name of progress, civilization, socialism, democracy, and the market…At all times, it has also been profitable to deny or suppress such knowledge… And when what had been done in the heart of darkness was repeated in the heart of Europe, no one recognized it. No one wished to admit what everyone knew.


Everywhere in the world, this knowledge is being suppressed. Knowledge that, if it were made known, would shatter our image of the world and force us to question ourselves. Everywhere there, Heart of Darkness is being enacted…Black Elk, holy man of the Oglala Lakota people, said after the Wounded Knee Massacre, ‘I didn’t know then how much was ended… A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. The nation’s circle is broken and scattered. There is no centre any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.’”

There are uncomfortable parallels between Peck’s insights into Holocaust denial, the denial of the crimes of colonialism, and the everyday denial of the damage that affluence and material consumption are causing to the entire planet. From the horrors of resource mining to the devastation of the oceans by plastics, such evidence represents a constant ‘background noise’ in the modern media. A noise people have learned to ignore, in order to keep functioning amidst the cognitive dissonance of their everyday, disconnected lives.

As Peck says, “It is not knowledge that is lacking”. People are aware. The fact that they will not engage with the issue, as outlined in ‘Bright Green Lies’, is that people innately know the extent of their own complicity. To do so, ‘would shatter our image of the world and force us to question ourselves’.

We do not need more ‘evidence’. The block to ecological change is not simply a lack of ‘knowledge’. It is that many all too well understand the reality of what stopping the ecological crisis would entail. Trapped by their subconscious fear of what that would mean personally, they cannot see a solution to the psychological dependency engendered by consumerism and industrial society.


Mainstream environmentalism, as the film outlines, is its own worst enemy. In advocating ephemeral, consumer-based solutions to tackling ecological breakdown, it creates its own certain failure. Unfortunately, unless the counter-point to that, the ‘deep green’ argument, is able to give people the confidence to accept and let go of industrial society, it will not make progress either. I think this film almost gets there; but we need to focus far more on the workable, existing examples of people living outside of that system to give people the confidence to make that internal, ‘leap of faith’. For those who want to follow this road, and perhaps provide those examples, this film is a good starting point to build from.


Released under the Creative Commons ‘BY-NC-SA’ 4.0 International License

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deep Green Resistance, the News Service, or its staff.


Biomass Firms Tell Bright Green Lies

Biomass Firms Tell Bright Green Lies

Editor’s Note: Saplings cannot replace mature forests, with their hundreds of years of biodiversity and carbon sequestration. The biomass industry is destroying mature forests with a promise of planting saplings. Even if it had come from “waste wood,” huge amounts of energy is still involved in cutting, chipping, transporting and manufacturing of biomass pellets. Adding to that is the emissions involved in the actual burning. Biomass manufacturing is not green, clean or renewable. The sooner we stop doing it, the better.

By Justin Catanoso / Mongabay

  • On December 5, 2022, Mongabay featured a story by journalist Justin Catanoso in which the first ever biomass industry insider came forward as a whistleblower and discredited the green sustainability claims made by Enviva — the world’s largest maker of wood pellets for energy.
  • On December 15, citing that article and recent scientific evidence that Enviva contributes to deforestation in the U.S. Southeast, The Netherlands decided it will stop paying subsidies to any biomass company found to be untruthful in its wood pellet production methods. The Netherlands currently offers sizable subsidies to Enviva.
  • Precisely how The Netherlands decision will impact biomass subsidies in the long run is unclear. Nor is it known how this decision may impact the EU’s Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) certification process, which critics say is inherently weak and unreliable.
  • Also in December, Australia became the first major nation to reverse its designation of forest biomass as a renewable energy source, raising questions about how parties to the UN Paris agreement can support opposing renewable energy policies, especially regarding biomass — a problem for COP28 negotiators to resolve in 2023.

Prompted by exclusive reporting from Mongabay, the House of Representatives in The Netherlands’s Parliament has approved a motion that compels its government to stop paying subsidies to wood-pellet manufacturers found to be untruthful in their wood-harvesting practices.

On December 14, the Dutch House, by a 150-114 vote, approved a motion introduced by Rep. Lammert van Raan of Amsterdam, a member of the progressive Party for the Animals. In his motion, van Raan noted that up to €9.5 billion ($10 billion) have been reserved by the government through 2032 to subsidize the purchase of domestic and foreign-produced wood pellets for energy and heat generation.

“The risk of fraud with sustainability certification of biomass is significant,” van Raan wrote. Then, in reference to a Mongabay story published December 5, he added: “A whistleblower who worked at Enviva, the biggest maker of wood pellets, has reported that all of Enviva’s green claims are incorrect [and] according to an important recent scientific study… Enviva contributes to deforestation in the southeastern U.S.”

Van Raan concluded his motion by writing that the House “calls on the government to ensure that all subsidies do not end up at parties that cheat with sustainability certification.”

The approved motion requires the Dutch government to seek a higher level of proof under the third-party Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) certification process. Enviva already participates in the SBP, but critics note that the certification process is inherently weak and unreliable, especially regarding the climate and biodiversity impacts of tree harvesting.

Van Raan’s motion seeks to address such problems as the SBP standards used by the European Union are not seen as adequately holding pellet manufacturers accountable for their harvest practices. NGOs and journalists have shown, for example, that clear cutting of native, biodiverse forests are common industry practices, yet such harvests are still certified as sustainable. The Netherlands’ challenge is to make the SBP process more rigorous and transparent. And if those higher standards aren’t met, pellet makers like Enviva could lose millions in subsidies.

Whistleblower speaks out

The Mongabay story that precipitated the Dutch motion featured the first employee from within the multibillion-dollar global wood pellet manufacturing industry to ever speak out publicly. The whistleblower, a high-ranking Enviva plant official who declined to be named, told Mongabay that Enviva’s claims of using mostly treetops, limbs and wood waste to produce pellets were false, as were other sustainable policy claims.

“We take giant, whole trees. We don’t care where they come from,” said the whistleblower, who no longer works for Enviva. “The notion of sustainably managed forests is nonsense. We can’t get wood into the mills fast enough.”

Mongabay confirmed many of the whistleblower’s allegations in November when this reporter observed firsthand a forest clearcut in eastern North Carolina where nearly half the trees from a 52-acre industrial site were chipped and transported to an Enviva pellet-making plant. Also, a recent study by the Southern Environmental Law Center illustrated how Enviva’s tree harvesting since opening its first plant in 2011 in North Carolina is contributing to net deforestation in coastal North Carolina and southern Virginia.

In response, Enviva told Mongabay it stood by its public assertions regarding the sustainability of its wood-harvesting practices. The company also said it believed the whistleblower was not credible in his allegations.

Global doubts over biomass as a renewable energy source

In April, The Netherlands voted to stop subsidizing wood pellets for about 50 new heat-generating, wood-burning plants. But existing plants (200 for heat, and four for energy that co-fire with wood pellets and coal) still receive subsidies of nearly €600 million annually ($635 million). In 2021, The Netherlands imported 1.2 million metric tons of wood pellets from the southeastern U.S., much of that coming from Enviva.

The move by the Dutch to hold pellet makers accountable for their sustainable harvest claims — a first in the European Union — comes at the same time the biomass industry suffered its first global setback. On December 15, Australia amended its renewable energy policy to exclude woody biomass from native forests as a renewable energy source. That decision essentially blocks the biomass industry, which has no presence in Australia, from getting started there.

More trouble may lie ahead for Enviva. A Seattle-based law firm, Hagens Berman, is seeking plaintiffs in a possible class-action lawsuit against the Maryland-based public company.

The law firm is recruiting Enviva investors who believe they have been harmed financially by what the attorneys call greenwashing — appealing to investors because of Enviva’s ESG (Environment Social Governance) credentials, when in fact the company is allegedly harming the environment and contributing to climate change.

Enviva denies these allegations as well. Hagens Berman has set a January 3, 2023 deadline for plaintiffs to come forward.

The growing unease of governments toward biomass as a subsidized renewable energy source comes after years of pressure from scientists and forest advocates who have presented evidence and argued that burning forests to make energy is dirtier than coal, while also harming ecosystems and reducing forest carbon storage capacity — even as the climate and biodiversity crises intensify.

Mongabay has reported on biomass since 2014 with more than 60 articles, while other media outlets have increasingly brought attention to the topic.

Activists have pressed hard for years to put a biomass discussion on the agenda at annual UN climate summits, to no avail, but are encouraged by events in The Netherlands and Australia. They say they remain hopeful that actions by policymakers will soon match growing public opposition to using forest wood for energy in a climate crisis.

Justin Catanoso is a regular contributor to Mongabay and a professor of journalism at Wake Forest University in the United States.

Featured image Ameresco Biomass Cogeneration Facility at SRS by Savannah River Site is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Book Review of “Bright Green Lies”

Book Review of “Bright Green Lies”

Editor’s note: We are very thankful to George Price for his wonderful review of the book Bright Green Lies.

Book Review: Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It
By Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert

By George Price, originally published on his blog learningearthways.

This book, Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It, by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert, will probably be the most important book published anywhere in 2021, on the most important issue facing all Life on Earth—why we must end the prevailing human economic and industrial practices and the anthropocentric cultural worldviews. It will probably also be the most reviled, attacked, suppressed, censored, dismissed, misrepresented, and slandered book published this year, as well, for some of the same reasons that many people virulently attacked and censored the documentary film, “Planet of the Humans,” last year. Why?

The authors answer the question of why these facts are so difficult to hear, and why they are also so difficult for many of us reluctant messengers to tell, at many points throughout their book, including this passage from the chapter on green energy storage:

“We are being sold a story, and we are buying it because we like it. We want it to be true. We want to believe that our lives can go on with all the ease and comfort we accept as our due. How painless to believe that a simple switch of wind for oil and solar for coal and we can go on with our air conditioning and cell phones and suburbs. Every time we hit a trip wire of unsettling facts or basic math, we soothe ourselves with our faith in technology. If all that stands between us and the end of the world is a battery that can store 46 MJ/kg, surely someone is working on it.”

Most modern humans have been taught all of their lives, by most of the voices of their culture, that their own comfort, pleasure, purpose, social standing, legacy, avoidance of pain, and continued survival depend upon the perpetuation of, and their conformity to, western industrial technological capitalist civilization. That teaching has been reinforced within their psyches by a long series of painful and pleasurable personal experiences. Therefore, they do not want to hear convincing, factual arguments which clearly demonstrate that nearly everything that they have been taught to value and have devoted their lives to is intertwined within a path toward the imminent destruction, collapse, and extinction of not only their so-called “way of life,” but also the real, natural world upon which all biological life on Earth depends. Besides that, most humans of this culture and era do not want to hear that there is no viable and actually existing technological “fix” for this predicament—which the authors of Bright Green Lies make painfully clear—and many do not want anybody else to hear or declare that either. In addition to all of that, most modern, capitalist, technophile humans are not (yet) prepared to engage with the solutions offered in this book: ending most industrial technological activities and allowing Nature and the few humans who still have such knowledge to teach us how to live without those destructive entities, by her truly sustainable laws and systems, (like we did for 97% of the time of our species’ existence), thus enabling all that remains of natural Life to heal and continue. Bright Green Lies also asks its readers—especially those who identify themselves as “environmentalists” or “environmental activists”—to face up to the fact that they must choose whether they value and seek to protect what the authors refer to as the “real world” (the natural, life-giving, life-sustaining world), or, instead, protect the human-made civilizations that order and constrain their lives, because, with what the world has now come to, we cannot save both. Is such a potentially life-shattering choice more than most people can deal with, even when presented with an overwhelming preponderance of factual evidence persuading them that the choice is unavoidable?

Putting aside (for now) the human tendencies toward acting on faith, auto-conformity, or the herd mentality, and assuming that when making the most serious, life or death, joy-or-perpetual-misery types of decisions, most people will still place some value in actual facts and bother to do a little research, we should expect such people to proceed with such appropriate caution when determining how to answer the challenges presented in this book. Knowing that, and being acutely familiar with the reactions of many politically moderate/liberal, save-civilization-first (before the natural world) people to their previous publications and to similar publications by others, such as Ozzie Zehner’s Green Illusionsback in 2012, and to Jeff Gibbs’ Planet of the Humans documentary, the authors of Bright Green Lies obviously “did their homework,” while drawing also from their decades of expertise on these topics. Nearly every one of the 478 pages in this illuminating volume contain several footnotes citing a variety of relevant and reliable sources for the multitude of little-known, seldom-mentioned facts about the extent of toxic destruction and ecocide that are routine impacts from our commonly-engaged industrial technologies, as well as from the production of solar panels, wind turbines, lithium batteries and other products that are alleged to be “green” and even “100% renewable!” Beginning with solar power, and moving on from there to wind turbines, “green energy” storage (especially lithium), “efficiency,” recycling, “green” cities, “green” electric grids, hydropower, carbon capture, geoengineering, and several other false and misrepresented “solutions,” Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert repeatedly and clearly assist us in the difficult process of discerning and untangling truth from lies.

Here is a summary outline of some of the more potent revelations (for the not-yet-informed) brought forth in this book:

  • Promoters of solar, wind and other allegedly “green” technologies have repeatedly and misleadingly conflated the words “energy” and “electricity” when making their claims. The reason that is significant is that electric grid production, which is what solar, wind, hydropower and biofuels are primarily used for, makes up only about 20% (in Germany, the “green” energy technology advocates’ favorite showcase, 15% in the U.S., and ranging between 12 and 35 % elsewhere) of the actual total energy used to power the machinery of modern industrial society. So when they give a figure for how much of Germany’s “energy” is provided by “green renewables,” that figure has to be reduced by 80%–and that still might be too high, due to other falsehoods.


  • Of the 20% of energy use that goes to electricity (in Germany), only about 14.8% comes from “green renewables,” with wind accounting for 3.5 % and 1.6 % for solar, for a total of 5.1 % between them. (These are 2019 statistics, the most recent available when the book went to press.) Biomass (including logged forests) provides 7.6 % of Germany’s electricity; waste products incinerated along with the biomass provide another 1%; 0.5% comes from geothermal heat pumps; and 0.6% comes from hydro power. In addition to those “renewables,” Germany gets 6.4 % of its electricity from nuclear power. Those are the actual figures for the “green showcase” nation, and the renewable electricity figures are generally lower for the rest of the world. Solar and wind enthusiasts have sometimes claimed that Germany gets as much as 75% of its “energy” from renewables.


  • Elon Musk, multi-billionaire producer of the Tesla electric car, admitted to a broadcast journalist in July of 2020 that he supported the coup that overthrew Bolivian President Evo Morales in November of 2019. The Tesla car runs on rechargeable lithium batteries and Bolivia has one of the largest lithium deposits on the planet, which many industrialists, including Musk, hope to mine under terms favorable to their interests. Morales is a socialist whose interest is in what is best for his people and their homeland, and who led an international conference in 2010 that produced the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth. Musk told the journalist, “We’ll coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” (TeleSUR English, July 25, 2020 )


  • Lithium mining is just one of scores of very toxic industrial activities described in gory detail in this book, along with the names of the chemicals involved in these processes and the various harms and damages that they inflict upon many species of life, human and non-human. The processes involved in producing so-called “green energy” devices, including mining the raw materials, transporting them to factories, refining and forming the materials into more machines and consumable products, transporting it all over the world, clearing the land of the living beings who already live where the devices are to be installed, operation, maintenance, removal after expiration, and replacement, are all just as destructive to Life on Earth as most other modern industrial activities. None of that activity is truly “green” or beneficial to natural ecosystems or living organisms.


  • Biofuel, a renewable energy source that is much more widely in use than wind turbines or solar panels, depends mostly on deforestation and the creation of vast monoculture tree farms that replace biodiverse natural habitat, causing death, misery and extinction for many species of life, just to grow trees that will be burned for fuel. And what are they fueling? Very often it is energy for industrial factories that will produce more machines to make more toxic and unnecessary consumer products. All “green” energy devices will continue to contribute energy to the rest of the industrial infrastructure, by the dictates and customs of the current economic system and culture.


  • In their chapter questioning the value to life on Earth of “efficiency,” the authors clearly demonstrate how and why efficiency is no incentive for the reduction of CO2 and other harmful by-products of modern industrialism, when carried out within an economic system devoted to unlimited growth and competition (capitalism) and a culture devoted to maximizing convenience and consumption. Using examples based on Jevon’s paradox (basically that efficiency in manufacture and/or use tends to increase the production and consumption of that thing, rather than providing us more time to do other things besides producing and consuming) and on the facts regarding what has actually occurred with the gradual increases in renewable energy devices—not replacing, but, instead, accompanying continued increases in fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions—their point is made clear, as seen in the following chart:

(If you look for charts like this on the internet, you will have a hard time finding ones that end at 2019. Instead, you will see many charts that project beyond, usually up to 2050, showing that somehow the dismal reality portrayed above will magically explode into a dramatic increase in the use of solar and wind technology, even with industrial capitalism remaining intact. They do concede, though, that fossil fuel use—and, of course, CO2 emissions—will still be a considerable part of the picture by then, because of the energy “needs” of industrial capitalism that renewables just cannot provide. That is a difficult fact to admit, but the main reason that it must be faced is found in a combination of basic physics and the capitalist imperative for the maximization of profit. The physics can be summed up in the fact that the average energy density for fossil fuels is 46 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) and “the best lithium battery can only store 1 MJ/kg.” The authors also report that “a diesel semi-tractor can haul 60,000 pounds of freight 600 miles before refueling. To get a similar range [with an imaginary, not-yet-invented electric semi-truck], that tractor would have to have about 55,000 pounds of batteries.” So, which truck would any capitalist distributor of products who wants to maximize efficiency and profit prefer to use? In addition to all that, many climate scientists now say that still using fossil fuels past 2030 means unstoppable bio-system collapse. But people have to have something they can believe in, right? And they cannot be allowed to believe in an end to capitalism or replacing that system with many local, truly democratic, community economic systems that are based in cooperation with Earth ecosystems and Nature’s laws.)

  • One of the grandest forms of deception, exposed repeatedly in several parts of Bright Green Lies, especially the chapter titled, “The Green City Lie,” revolves around a practice called “pollution outsourcing” or “carbon footprint outsourcing.” When measuring a country or city’s pollution or CO2 output, it is common practice to only count what is emitted locally, within the city or nation’s boundaries, omitting completely the emissions made in other countries around the world (typically in relatively poor countries outside of Europe and the U.S.) by citizens and corporations residing in the nation or city being measured. Examples include the facts that the U.S. “annually imports about $500 billion worth of products from China,” and Seattle (considered by many to be possibly the “greenest” city in the U.S.) imports “more than 60% of its food” from countries outside the U.S. After describing the horrific amount of pollution and CO2 emissions created by shipping, trucking and train transport, the authors report that when we do “account for imported products and services, cities are responsible for 60 percent higher carbon emissions than previously thought.” The failure to measure the impacts to other ecosystems of this kind of outsourcing, “allows a city to exist without its occupants coming into contact with the land they depend on, building, in essence, a ‘phantom carrying capacity’ based on the consumption of soil, forests, grasslands, water, and so on from other locations.”


  • The last example of “bright green lying” given in this book that I will mention here (although there are so many more!) involves the horrific potential impacts to life on Earth from attempting to implement green energy technologies at the scale required to run this ever-expanding, long-ago-overshot, capitalist industrial economic system, replacing the use of fossil fuels. The necessary infrastructure creation for that alone is not only mind-boggling and physically impossible, but also clearly ecocidal. For example, “12 percent of the continental United States would have to be covered in windfarms to meet current electricity demands. But electricity is only one-sixth of the nation’s energy consumption. To provide for the U.S.A.’s total energy consumption, fully 72 percent of the continent would have to be devoted to wind farms.” A slightly more conservative estimate is given in a recent report by a pro-green-energy team of researchers, stating that, if we combined wind farms and solar panel installations to replace all fossil fuel electricity production, we would only have to cover 10 % of the surface of the U.S. (The Race to Zero: can America reach net-zero emissions by 2050?, by Oliver Milman, Alvin Chang and Rashida Kamal, The Guardian, March 15, 2021) That figure does not take into account the amount of additional land surface (and habitat destruction) required for all of the necessary increase in transmission lines, which the authors of the Race to Zero… report estimate would be “enough new transmission lines to wrap around Earth 19 times.” (and that’s just for the U.S.!) To put that amount of Earth surface destruction into some familiar perspective, currently about 2% of the surface of the U.S. is covered with asphalt and concrete pavement. We all have some sense of what that much pavement (on roads, sidewalks, parking lots, freeways, etc.) looks like. Imagine then, 10 to 70 times that much ground covered with wind turbines and solar panels, and much more land than that converted to accommodate new power transmission lines. Do you need any more material than that for new nightmares to keep you awake at night? And I didn’t mention all of the resulting dead birds, tortoises, trees and other wildlife, which Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert also describe in painful detail. Who needs horror movies when we have these kinds of visions springing up all around us? Would such a repulsive scenario be worth submitting ourselves to just to preserve a so-called “way of life” for just a little while longer? It would not last long with most of the natural ecosystems and species of life that keep us all alive destroyed or extinct.

I cannot end this book review without mentioning the love for all inter-connected natural Life that is a continual thread throughout its pages and is clearly the supreme motivating force behind the book’s creation. Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert are what I would call “old school” environmentalists—people who put Earth and all of her interconnected Life first, and have no fondness for any human system or culture that must continually harm and even destroy our living world in order to exist. I also appreciate the authors’ acknowledgement, in their “Real Solutions” chapter, that traditional Indigenous peoples have known the answers to our predicament all along. By following the first ways and the guidance of our natural Earth relatives (of all species), we can help the living world to heal all of our interrelated beings. I will close here with a few top quotes from the book:

“So many indigenous people have said that the first and most important thing we must do is decolonize our hearts and minds. We must grow, they’ve told me, to see the dominant culture for what it is: not as the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to human beings, but instead as a way of life that provides conveniences—luxuries—to one set of humans at the expense of everyone else—human and non-human.”

“Because the earth is the source of all life, the health of the earth must be the primary consideration in our decision-making processes.”

“Often people are so shocked by the idea of their lifestyle disappearing completely that they honestly can’t imagine what could come next. They care deeply about the planet, but what they want to know is: ‘Can’t we find a solution that leaves our way of life intact?’”

“’How can we continue to harvest industrial quantities of energy without causing harm?’ is the wrong question. The correct question is: What can we do to help the earth repair the damage caused by this culture?”

“The truth is that we can debunk each and every piece of bright green technology, and ultimately it won’t make a bit of difference to bright greens or anyone else whose loyalty is not to the earth but to the economic and social system that is dismantling the earth.”

“The best way to prepare for this [systemic collapse] is also the best way to prepare to bring about just human societies after collapse: not by leaning even more into industry, but by building communities based on self-sufficiency, biological integrity, and human rights. This is work anyone can support.”

Book Review of “Bright Green Lies”

“May the truth be your armor” [Excerpts from Bright Green Lies]

This prologue is the first of a series of excerpts we will publish from the new book Bright Green Lies.


By Lierre Keith

We are in peril. Like all animals, we need a home: a blanket of air, a cradle of soil, and a vast assemblage of creatures who make both. We can’t create oxygen, but others can–from tiny plankton to towering redwoods. We can’t build soil, but the slow circling of bacteria, bison, and sweetgrass do.

But all of these beings are bleeding out, species by species, like Noah and the Ark in reverse, while the carbon swells and the fires burn on. Five decades of environmental activism haven’t stopped this. We haven’t even slowed it. In those same five decades, humans have killed 60 percent of the earth’s animals. And that’s but one wretched number among so many others.

That’s the horror that brings readers to a book like this, with whatever mixture of hope and despair. But we don’t have good news for you. To state it bluntly, something has gone terribly wrong with the environmental movement.

Once, we were the people who defended wild creatures and wild places. We loved our kin, we loved our home, and we fought for our beloved. Collectively, we formed a movement to protect our planet. Along the way, many of us searched for the reasons. Why were humans doing this? What could possibly compel the wanton sadism laying waste to the world? Was it our nature or were only some humans culpable? That analysis is crucial, of course. Without a proper diagnosis, correct treatment is impossible. This book lays out the best answers that we, the authors, have found. We wrote this book because something has happened to our movement. The beings and biomes who were once at the center of our concern have been disappeared. In their place now stands the very system that is destroying them. The goal has been transformed:

We’re supposed to save our way of life, not fight for the living planet; instead, we are to rally behind the “machines making machines making machines” that are devouring what’s left of our home.

Committed activists have brought the emergency of climate change into broad consciousness, and that’s a huge win as the glaciers melt and the tundra burns. But they are solving for the wrong variable. Our way of life doesn’t need to be saved. The planet needs to be saved from our way of life.

There’s a name for members of this rising movement: bright green environmentalists. They believe that technology and design can render industrial civilization sustainable. The mechanism to drive the creation of these new technologies is consumerism. Thus, bright greens “treat consumerism as a salient green practice.”1

Indeed, they “embrace consumerism” as the path to prosperity for all.2 Of course, whatever prosperity we might achieve by consuming is strictly time limited, what with the planet being finite. But the only way to build the bright green narrative is to erase every awareness of the creatures and communities being consumed. They simply don’t matter. What matters is technology. Accept technology as our savior, the bright greens promise, and our current way of life is possible for everyone and forever. With the excised species gone from consciousness, the only problem left for the bright greens to solve is how to power the shiny, new machines.

It doesn’t matter how the magic trick was done. Even the critically endangered have been struck from regard. Now you see them, now you don’t: from the Florida yew (whose home is a single 15-mile stretch, now under threat from biomass production) to the Scottish wildcat (who number a grim 35, all at risk from a proposed wind installation). As if humans can somehow survive on a planet that’s been flayed of its species and bled out to a dead rock. Once we fought for the living. Now we are told to fight for their deaths, as the wind turbines come for the mountains and solar panels conquer the deserts.

“May the truth be your armor” urged Marcus Aurelius. The truths in this book are hard, but you will need them to defend your beloved. The first truth is that our current way of life requires industrial levels of energy. That’s what it takes to fuel the wholesale conversion of living communities into dead commodities. That conversion is the problem “if,” to borrow from Australian anti-nuclear advocate Dr. Helen Caldicott, “you love this planet.” The task before us is not how to continue to fuel that conversion. It’s how to stop it.

The second truth is that fossil fuel–especially oil–is functionally irreplaceable. The proposed alternatives–like solar, wind, hydro, and biomass–will never scale up to power an industrial economy.

Third, those technologies are in their own right assaults against the living world. From beginning to end, they require industrial-scale devastation: open-pit mining, deforestation, soil toxification that’s permanent on anything but a geologic timescale, the extirpation and extinction of vulnerable species, and, oh yes, fossil fuels. These technologies will not save the earth. They will only hasten its demise.

And finally, there are real solutions. Simply put, we have to stop destroying the planet and let natural life come back. There are people everywhere doing exactly that, and nature is responding, some times miraculously. The wounded are healed, the missing reappear, and the exiled return. It’s not too late.

I’m sitting in my meadow, looking for hope. Swathes of purple needlegrass, silent and steady, are swelling with seeds–66 million years of evolution preparing for one more. All I had to do was let the grasses grow back, and a cascade of life followed. The tall grass made a home for rabbits. The rabbits brought the foxes. And now the cry of a fledgling hawk pierces the sky, wild and urgent. I know this cry, and yet I don’t. Me, but not me. The love and the aching distance. What I am sure of is that life wants to live. The hawk’s parents will feed her, teach her, and let her go. She will take her turn–then her children, theirs.

Every stranger who comes here says the same thing: “I’ve never seen so many dragonflies.” They say it in wonder, almost in awe, and always in delight. And there, too, is my hope. Despite everything, people still love this planet and all our kin. They can’t stop themselves. That love is a part of us, as surely as our blood and bones.

Somewhere close by there are mountain lions. I’ve heard a female calling for a mate, her need fierce and absolute. Here, in the last, final scraps of wilderness, life keeps trying. How can I do less?

There’s no time for despair. The mountain lions and the dragonflies, the fledgling hawks and the needlegrass seeds all need us now. We have to take back our movement and defend our beloved. How can we do less? And with all of life on our side, how can we lose?

1. Julie Newman, Green Ethics and Philosophy: An A-to-Z Guide (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2011), p. 40.

2. Ibid, p. 39