War Is a Result of Competition for Land – Letter to Editor

War Is a Result of Competition for Land – Letter to Editor

Editor’s Note: The following is a response we got on our recent article Ways to Fight Reliance on the Violent War Economy. We believe that discourses and discussions are important to further our analysis. In order to encourage that, we encourage our readers to participate in comments at the end of the article. You could also send us written responses to us. If you want to submit responses to any of our published pieces, please mail it to newsservice@deepgreenresistance.org putting “Letter to Editor” as a subject.


War Is A Result of Competition for Land

By Elisabeth Robson

The article “Ways to Fight Reliance on the Violent War Economy” is superficially a feel-good take about promoting peace instead of war, promoting community and collaboration instead of competition. The author correctly identifies how the global human supremacy culture (although she doesn’t call it that) we all live within rewards a belief that we are somehow separate from the natural world, rather than human animals living as part of and utterly dependent on the natural world; a belief that results in a war economy—a culture and economy that is at war with the natural world, and with the living beings, including humans, who live on Earth. 

However, many of the author’s suggestions for cultivating a peace economy fall short. I’ll highlight just a few of the problems I see with the article.

The author suggests we move into a culture of peace by beginning with ourselves. “We begin to break our war economy habits… we purposefully invest ourselves at the local level in what is often called the peace economy—the caring, sharing, supportive economies that already exist all around us.”

I completely agree that all efforts to end industrial civilization must begin with ourselves—we must, after all, understand deep in our own hearts that industrial civilization is a war on nature and thus a war on each of us as individuals—but we cannot stop there. We know that personal change does not equal political or social change. We must go beyond personal change if we have any hope of dismantling this ecocidal way of life. 

We all live in local communities to one degree or another. Some of us are invested in these local communities more than others; some participate by supporting local farmers and buying local goods and services rather than from big international conglomerates; others participate by offering services to help families in need or by volunteering in their communities. I am lucky to live in a community where people are heavily invested in these ways. But it should be obvious that participating in our local communities does very little to stop the global industrial Machine. It makes us feel good. It helps some local people. It fosters community spirit and resilience that will be vital once this insane way of life collapses. 

But it’s not enough. To stop the Machine, we must do more. We must actively fight against it, either as above ground activists building campaigns against mines, against development, against logging, and so on, or as underground activists working to dismantle the industrial Machine with direct action.

I don’t want to suggest that encouraging people to participate in a “peace economy” is a waste of time; it isn’t. But we must always understand that it is not enough. We must be willing to fight back in this war on nature.

In addition, while many of the author’s concrete suggestions might sound good on the surface, some encourage and contribute to the “war economy” the author is purportedly advocating against. 

Here are just a few notes I made while reading the author’s suggestions.

In one of the points, the author suggests that “Creative cooperatives are reclaiming real estate and … shaping the culture of cities across the U.S.” and that this can help build a “peace economy”. In a later point, the author notes the “free-food fridges stocked in cities around the world” to help people get through the initial phase of the ongoing Covid pandemic. 

While providing better access to housing, community spaces, and food to underserved communities in cities is certainly a good thing, the author fails to note that cities themselves are incredibly destructive, requiring the support of often 100 times or more land than the city itself takes up, thus taking land away from the natural world in order to support the large populations of cities. This is not “peace”; this is war on nature. Cities are an integral part of the “war economy” and our goal should be to eliminate them, not make them incrementally better.

In another point, the author suggests that dam removal on the Klamath River is the result of “Indigenous-led community activism.” While I certainly support everyone opposing dams and advocating that dams be removed from rivers, unfortunately the Klamath River Dams coming down has little to do with Native American activism, and everything to do with economics. The cost of building mandated fish ladders would have been much more than removing the dams, and the dams produced less than 2% of one utility’s electricity supply. It simply made economic sense to remove the dams.

Economics is usually the reason projects destructive to the environment fail or are cancelled, despite the efforts of activists. The reason is that the law in the United States (and in most countries) does not protect the environment; indeed, the law actively and directly supports and encourages development and extraction. A prime example of this is the 1872 U.S. mining law which says that extraction is the highest use of U.S. public land. Not even the minerals below the surface in our National Parks are exempt from the right, by law, of corporations to extract those minerals if it’s economical. It is essentially illegal to refuse corporations access to these minerals for extraction. 

Rather than make a feel-good but erroneous point about indigenous-led activism and the Klamath River dams, the author might have better made her point by discussing community efforts to pass Rights of Nature legislation, or by pointing out the futility of fighting corporations and states via the law and encouraging communities to band together and take direct action instead.

The author writes that “Fire recovery efforts in Oregon and California have largely been community-led, and networks have formed among neighbors to create resilience and support—including grief spaces like those created in Ashland, Oregon, which provide a space for people to share their experiences of loss.” While I agree that it is wonderful communities have come together to support one another after losing their homes in fires across Oregon and California, the truth is that many of the homes and towns lost to fire in these states were built where they should never have been built—in areas particularly susceptible to fire (natural or otherwise). These houses and towns were likely built on the dead bodies of the natural communities these areas previously supported. As these states become more and more populated, developments expand into more fire-prone areas that inevitably burn. Rebuilding these developments might sound good on the surface, but look more closely and we see that this simply perpetuates the idea that humans can use the environment however we want, rather than respecting limits of population and development, and the right of nature to exist and flourish.

The last point I’ll mention is about the author’s suggestion that “People are reimagining safety through alternatives to policing.” I will be the first to acknowledge that police have become militarized in recent years and this is dangerous and counter-productive. However, we also know that most underserved city communities want more police, not fewer. This has been stated so many times now, the idea that “alternatives to policing” in cities is actually desirable should have been put to rest. 

When we shove hundreds of thousands or millions of people together in a city–an unnatural habitat for humans evolved to live in tribes of 150 or so with lots of space in between–police are an unfortunate requirement in order to keep the peace because the “rats in the cage” so-to-speak (with apologies to rats) will fight each other to the death in these unnatural and cruel conditions.

I believe war is primarily the result of disputes over land, resources, and ideology–all related to ecological overshoot and civilization. One of the primary drivers of ecological overshoot is population, and it seems obvious that the more population increases, so too will disputes over land, resources, and ideology. Those who wish to foster a “peace economy” must surely recognize this. I’m surprised that “Educating women” and “Addressing over-population” are not mentioned in the article, because educating women is the primary way we can humanely reduce the human population on Earth and bring it below carrying capacity once again, resulting in far fewer reasons to war with one another.

Another glaring omission from this article is a biocentric view, one that centers the natural world. It is lovely to recognize and highlight where people are being kind to one another and attempting to reduce our impacts on the environment. But until we truly and deeply understand that we are human animals, and that the Machine—the war economy, as the author describes it—we have put in motion is completely at odds with the natural world and thus with ourselves, these paltry efforts at a peace economy will fail to make significant change in the war economy. 

Ultimately, I find this article depressing. Not only does it spin unpeaceful things like cities and industrially-supported agriculture to try to sound positive, it is a reminder of how we grasp at ridiculously tiny straws to find anything even remotely positive to discuss in a world the Machine is rapidly destroying, with greater speed each and every day.

Yes, we should recognize the good things humans do to help each other. And, I believe, we should always describe the broader context of the culture in which these good things happen—the war on the natural world, which spawns countless wars against each other. Until we stop the war on the natural world, these wars we fight against each other will never end.

Why Are We Not Talking About Ecological Overshoot?

Why Are We Not Talking About Ecological Overshoot?

Editor’s Note: We cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Something that should be a part of common sense is somehow lost in meaning among policymakers. In this piece, Elisabeth Robson explains the concept of overshoot to explain just that. She also delves into how the major policy makers have ignored it in favor of focusing on climate change and proposing “solutions” of renewable energy. Finally, she ends with three presentations on the same topic.


By Elisabeth Robson / Medium
overshoot
Ecological Overshoot

Bill Rees spent a good part of his career developing a tool called the ecological footprint analysis — a measurement of our collective footprint in terms of the natural resources humans use each year and the waste products we put back into the environment. His analysis showed that humanity is well into overshoot — meaning, we are using far more resources than can be regenerated by Earth, and producing far more waste than the Earth can assimilate.

Overshoot is like having a checking account and a savings account and using not only all the money in our checking account each year, but also drawing down our savings account. Everyone knows if we spend down our savings account, eventually we’ll run out of money. In ecological terms, eventually we’ll run out of easily-extractable resources and do so much damage from the pollution we’ve created, life-as-we-know-it will cease to exist.

I don’t like using the word “resources” to describe the natural world, but it is a handy word to describe all the stuff we humans use from the natural world to keep ourselves alive and to maintain industrial civilization: whether that’s oil, trees, water, broccoli, cows, lithium, phosphorus, or the countless other materials and living beings we kill, extract, process, refine, and consume to get through each and every day and keep the global economy humming. Please know that I wince each time I write “resources” to represent living beings, ecosystems, and natural communities.

Whatever we call the stuff that fuels 8+ billion humans and the great big hungry beast that is industrial civilization, Bill’s analysis estimates our collective ecological footprint is currently running at about 1.75 Earth’s worth of it. Of course that use is unevenly distributed; as a North American, I am ashamed to say that I and my many neighbors on this continent have an ecological footprint 15–20 times bigger than the Earth could sustain if everyone lived like us. Many people on Earth still have ecological footprints far below what the Earth could sustain if everyone lived like them, so it all averages out to 1.75 Earths.

But wait! you might be saying; how can we be using more than one Earth’s worth of resources? Because we are drawing down those resources, like drawing down our savings account. Each year less is regenerated — fewer salmon and fewer trees for instance —  more materials are gone forever, more toxic waste is polluting the environment. Eventually the savings account will be empty, and that’s when life-as-we-know-it ends for good.

A companion yardstick for measuring human overshoot of Earth’s carrying capacity is the planetary boundaries framework. This framework identifies nine processes that are critical for maintaining the stability and resilience of the Earth system as a whole. The framework tracks by how much we’ve transgressed beyond a safe operating space for the nine processes: climate change, biosphere integrity, land system change, freshwater change, biogeochemical flows, ocean acidification, atmospheric aerosol loading, stratospheric ozone depletion, and novel entities such as micro plastics, endocrine disruptors, and organic pollutants.

Planetary Boundaries Framework, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Six of the nine boundaries are transgressed, and of those, five are in the high risk zone. By far the boundary we’ve transgressed furthest is biosphere integrity — much more so than climate change. This is perhaps not surprising given that humans and our livestock make up 96% of the weight of land mammals and wildlife a mere 4%, and that the accumulated weight of all human stuff on the planet now weighs more than all living beings — flora and fauna combined — on Earth.

I’m writing this as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) 28 is wrapping up in Dubai, UAE. There was a lot of talk about climate change and fossil fuels — mostly whether we will “phase down” or “phase out” our use of fossil fuels — and about so-called “renewables.” The conference ended with a global goal to “triple renewables and double energy efficiency.”

“We acted, we delivered,” claimed COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, as if building more industrial technologies, like wind turbines and solar panels, and making more energy efficient buildings and cars will somehow restore biosphere integrity; unpollute the water, land and air; regrow all the old-growth forests; unpave the wetlands; and reverse the 1000x-faster-than-normal rate we exterminating species on Earth.

The global focus on climate change, cemented by almost 30 years of UNFCCC conferences, has blinded the world to our true predicament — that is, ecological overshoot — of which climate change is just one of many symptoms. Organizations, governments, corporations, the media are all talking and talking about climate change and the supposed “solutions” of renewables and energy efficiency, while essentially ignoring the ongoing destruction of the natural world. I sometimes imagine them sitting around the large conference tables at the COP with their fingers in their ears singing la-la-la-la-la so as to tune out the natural world as she begs for mercy while they plan “green growth” and scheme to make sure none of the agreements will put a dent in any of their bank accounts.

Likewise, local governments, including the one where I live, are also entirely focused on climate change. Recent meetings, reports, policies, and plans in the county where I live reflect the carbon tunnel vision that is legislated from on high, including state laws mandating net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and “clean electricity” by 2045, and enforcing a market-based program to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

These state laws and others, as well as federal incentives such as the Infrastructure Law of 2021 and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, put the focus squarely on carbon emissions. No other symptom of ecological overshoot has such clear cut, goal-oriented legislation as carbon emissions.

Carbon tunnel vision

Carbon tunnel vision means other problems get short shrift. And the “solutions” that corporations are selling us in order to meet the goals set by federal and state law will actually make many of the other symptoms of ecological overshoot worse. Far worse.

Imagine the hockey-stick shaped graph of growth over the past 250 years or so. It doesn’t really matter what growth you’re measuring — population, the economy, average income, fertilizer use, nitrogen runoff, copper extraction— that graph is going steeply up.

The Great Acceleration

My county’s planning documents assume that growth line will continue going up. Everywhere’s planning documents assume the same — that the economy, population, extraction, development, and consumption will continue growing. Indeed, an economy based on debt requires it for life-as-we-know-it to continue.

But this is simply not possible on a finite planet with finite resources and ecosystems already shattering under pressure. Basic laws of ecology tell us that when a species overshoots the regenerative capacity of its environment, that species will collapse. This is true for humans too. Our city, county, state, and federal policies do not reflect this reality in any way. This is shortsighted at best; a catastrophe at worst.

So why are most scientists, organizations, and governments so focused on climate change and carbon emissions? In part, because it’s relatively easy to measure. We’ve been measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958, and many other greenhouse gases almost as long. We can see the average annual parts per million increase every year. It’s much easier to measure CO2 ppm in the atmosphere than it is to count every last frog of a given species, or detect toxic pollutants in ground water, or track the decline of top soil, or do long term studies on the impacts of pesticides and herbicides.

Another answer to that question is that corporations have created technologies and industries they can sell to the world as “solutions” to climate change. These “solutions” allow corporations and the governments they influence to believe we can continue business-as-usual. The pervasive propaganda about these “solutions” allows us regular folk to believe we can continue life-as-we-know-it without having to worry too much because “someone’s doing something about climate change.”

Unlike the “solutions” to climate change that corporations are constantly trying to sell us, there is no profitable technology that will eliminate habitat loss, species extinctions, pollution, and deforestation. And so what we hear from organizations, governments, corporations, and the media is all climate change all the time, because someone’s making bank.

To try to break through the wall of all climate change all the time, I recently hosted a series of events on ecological overshoot. I invited everyone I could think of in my county who might have influence on county policy and planning in hopes of sparking the kinds of broader conversations I wish we were having. Few of those people showed up, perhaps unsurprisingly, so it seems unlikely those conversations will happen.

However, the three presentations — by Bill Rees, Jeremy Jiménez, and Max Wilbert — are excellent and well worth sharing with the broader community of people who are trying their best to start conversations about ecological overshoot.

I hope you enjoy these presentations as much as I did, and have better luck than I have at broaching these topics with people where you live.

Bill Rees

Jeremy Jiménez

Max Wilbert


Elisabeth Robson is an organizer in Deep Green Resistance. She is also actively engaged in the Protect Thacker Pass campaign.

We Are Deep Green Environmentalists

We Are Deep Green Environmentalists

Editor’s Note: The following piece is an argument for deep green environmentalism and attempts to answer the questions: What is deep green environmentalism? How have other forms of environmentalism (particularly bright green and technological) failed to save nature? Why do we need deep green environmentalism?


We Are Deep Green Environmentalists

By Elisabeth Robson/Medium

In recent years the media has noticed that the incessant calls of “climate emergency” followed by no action that is making any material difference to the climate change crisis has lead to people feeling depressed about the future. Of course, being the media, they report on this as if it’s a simple story of a world split into three categories of people: climate activists, climate deniers, and climate doomers. But this is too simple a story, as we will see.

This essay was prompted by a March 24, 2023 Washington Post article about “climate doomers”. The article describes these doomers as a group of people who “believe that the climate problem cannot, or will not, be solved in time to prevent all-out societal collapse.”

This article comes shortly after the IPCC’s AR6 Synthesis report Summary for Policymakers was published mid-March. The report states that global warming has reached 1.1C above the 1850–1900 baseline, that greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase despite thirty-plus years of warnings about climate change and global conferences to address the issue, and that global warming has contributed to “widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people.” It goes on to say that despite these thirty years of meetings and reports and hand-wringing, it is “likely that warming will exceed 1.5C” and that “every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards.”

Is it any wonder that many reading this report and the news stories about it might believe climate change will not be solved? We can see with our own eyes that at 1.1C warming, already extreme weather events linked to climate change are connected with conflict, food and water shortages, natural disasters, and even war. Is it any wonder that we might think “likely” warming of 1.5C — 2.0C might cause societal collapse? Especially when one looks at the graph of primary energy consumption, which shows a relentless upward climb of the world’s consumption of coal, oil, and gas (with recent minor dips correlating only with the massive recession in 2008 and with a global shutdown for Covid in 2020).

Global direct primary energy consumption by Our World in Data

It is obvious to anyone who has eyes that energy use increases with economic growth. It is obvious to anyone who understands the rudimentary basics of how the global economy works that the only time energy use dips is when recession or pandemics hit and cause a whole lot of economic pain for people without sustained government bailouts. While the energy share of so-called renewables increases in minuscule amounts each year, its share is tiny in comparison to that of fossil fuels, and with the timelines outlined in recent IPCC reports, it’s obvious to most observers that, even if renewables worked as promised, there is no way fossil fuels will be replaced anytime soon. Thus, the conclusion that “the climate problem cannot, or will not, be solved in time to prevent all-out societal collapse” starts to look a bit like a realistic outlook. Do these realists deserve to be called “doomers”?

The Washington Post article goes on to talk about the worry that “doom” can cause paralysis, and admonishes us that we must maintain hope if we are to be effective climate change activists. The main protagonist of the story is a young activist worried about human extinction. The story ends on a hopeful note with the same young activist focused instead on engaging in his community by “showing there is support for the solutions.” Unfortunately, the article doesn’t discuss what those solutions are.

The world the mainstream media seems to see when it’s reporting on climate change is one focused almost entirely on carbon: burning too much of it, the people who deny that burning it is bad, the people who are trying to get the world to burn less of it, and the people who are categorized as doomers because they realistically assess the situation and begin to lose hope.

A climate change-centric view of the world

However, this perspective is missing the bigger picture. Occasionally, the media will report on other crises — the pollution crisis (plastic pollution is popular in the media, and “forever chemicals” have recently made the news a few times) and the biodiversity crisis (although the UN meetings about biodiversity bring far fewer participants, and far less press coverage) have made the mainstream news a few times in the past year.

How often do you hear about “ecological overshoot” in the mainstream media? If you say “never” then you’d be right. How often do you see any mainstream media articles about a serious plan for reducing human consumption, for changing the global economic system, or (shudder) addressing overpopulation? If you think that any journalist attempting to write about these topics might be fired, I’d agree.

Most people have never heard of “The Great Acceleration” or the “Planetary Boundaries Project” outside certain activist circles. These projects aim to show how human impact is increasing exponentially across many domains, and that the planet has thresholds beyond which the Earth systems that support us begin to fail.

Fewer still have engaged with the idea of “ecological overshoot”, a concept familiar to ecologists studying species, but not so to the general public. One of my favorite resources for understanding ecological overshoot is a 1977 video of Donnella Meadows explaining overshoot and collapse at Dartmouth College. Meadows is one of the authors of the 1972 report Limits to Growth, which used a computer simulation to illustrate the consequences of unchecked human growth (population, consumption, pollution) on the ecosystems that support us, and the loss of carrying capacity that overshoot creates. Another excellent resource about ecological overshoot is William Catton’s 1980 book, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Needless to say, if the world had more seriously contemplated the concept of ecological overshoot back when Meadow’s Limits to Growth and Catton’s Overshoot were published, we might not be in the predicament we find ourselves in today.

Limits To Growth World Model showing overshoot

The 80’s almost entirely erased whatever concern these books might have created. The decade of “greed is good” accelerated economic growth around the world, and cemented society’s trajectory of hyper consumption and its attendant destruction of the natural world.

Just because most people ignored ecological overshoot doesn’t mean it went away; in fact the overshoot worsened considerably and exponentially in the subsequent decades, and continues to do so today. Indeed, due to 3% average growth (as measured by GWP, gross world product), we’ve burned half of all the fossil fuels ever burned by humans and used as many extracted materials in the past 35 years as we did in the prior 10,000 years. This is the power of exponential growth. Along with exponential growth and destruction comes accelerating loss of carrying capacity, as outlined by Limits to Growth in 1972.

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” — Albert Bartlett.

Ecological overshoot of the carrying capacity of one’s environment can have many causes. In her 1977 video, Donnella Meadows describes how removing the predators of a deer population causes a huge spike in deer numbers, which causes the larger numbers of deer to eat all the food available to them, which creates a loss of carrying capacity as the ecosystem is over-grazed and degraded, which then causes a collapse in the deer population below its original level. This is standard behavior for a species in ecological overshoot.

We humans are a species in ecological overshoot. That means we are currently consuming more than the ecosystems we rely on for life can support, and polluting our environment with more waste and toxics than it can absorb. Why hasn’t human population collapsed yet? Because we are still on the upside of the spike.

Where the human species is in overshoot

This spike can’t last for long; as with all species in overshoot, our population will collapse too. Just as the deer ate too much food and lowered the carrying capacity of their environment, we are consuming too much and polluting too much, and as a result we too are lowering the carrying capacity of our environment — which in our case, is most of the planet.

The big picture that mainstream media, like the Washington Post, is missing is that climate change is just one of many symptoms of our species in ecological overshoot. When you step back and look at the big picture, what you see is this:

The inter-related symptoms of ecological overshoot

As a species, we rely on flourishing ecosystems all over the globe to support us and provide the basics for human life on planet Earth: food, water, shelter, and community.

If the ice melts in the Arctic, that affects weather systems the world over. If the Amazon rainforest is cut down, that, too, affects weather systems the world over. More extreme weather impacts our ability to grow food; it causes floods in some areas and droughts in others, affects the availability of clean water, and damages ecosystems.

If we degrade the soil with industrial agriculture, we cause top soil loss, which means we can grow less food, and we have to use a lot more fertilizer (which is made from fossil fuels and causes pollution) to get the same food output.

If we pollute the land with toxic chemicals, we pollute our own food, either directly by polluting crops, or by polluting the animals we eat for food.

If we pollute the fresh water, we reduce the availability of water to drink and contaminate and harm the other species we depend on for life. If we pollute the oceans, we contaminate and harm marine life, contaminate and harm ourselves when eat marine animals, and degrade the carrying capacity of the oceans.

Like the deer in Donnella Meadows’ lecture, our numbers have grown too large; we are consuming too much of everything in our ecosystems (food, trees, soil, wildlife, metals, minerals, fossil fuels, etc.) and degrading the carrying capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems to support us. Our population will crash, and badly. Whatever number of humans was sustainable before the invention of agriculture, before the industrial revolution — before we began degrading topsoils, before we began using fossil fuels to exponentially speed up extraction from and destruction of the natural world — that number will no longer be possible because the carrying capacity of the Earth will be much lower.

This is true not just for humans. Our species’ loss of carrying capacity affects other species too. There are the many species we are driving extinct (at 1000 times the natural extinction rate). We have caused almost total pollution and degradation of natural habitats, meaning far fewer and less healthy and diverse flora and fauna can live in what’s left of these habitats. We are destroying the carrying capacity of the planet for everyone, not just ourselves.

The relentless focus on climate change in the past few years — by governments, by the media, and now by corporations that take advantage of our climate concerns to sell us a whole new assortment of products — has blinded many of us to the bigger picture of ecological overshoot.

Why the focus on climate change, out of all the possible symptoms of ecological overshoot? Because corporations could see how to monetize climate change, and they’ve done so, quite effectively. Of the many symptoms of ecological overshoot, climate change is the only one that can be solved (or so we are told) by new technologies. “Innovations” as corporate PR firms, the World Economic Forum, and government policy makers like to call them. Technologies that will generate “carbon free” electricity (if you ignore all the fossil fuels used to mine the materials to make these technologies, and manufacture the components, and the carbon released from the ground when it’s destroyed to install these technologies); technologies that provide the illusion we can keep living like we’re living, with electric cars, hydrogen fueled planes, and plastic made with carbon from plants instead of carbon from fossil fuels (never mind the thousands of toxic chemicals required to mix with the carbon to actually make the plastic).

For fifty years, corporations have been perfecting their public relations and greenwashing savvy. They’ve stolen from us an environmental movement that cared about life on planet Earth, and replaced it with an environmental movement that cares only about carbon and technology. Young people marching for “climate justice” demand solar panels and wind turbines; calls to protect the rainforest are nowhere to be heard these days.

Mainstream media and certain climate scientists refer to those of us who prefer to see the whole picture of ecological overshoot as “doomers” too. They lump us in with those concerned about climate change who really have given up hope, whether by realistic assessment of the situation we’re in or because they get sucked in by charismatic people who peddle conspiracy theories, as the Washington Post article describes.

Why do we get lumped in with the “climate doomers”? Because we don’t believe that so-called renewable technologies are a solution to climate change, and because we don’t agree with the now-mainstream view that continued extraction of non-renewable materials to keep this hyper consuming, hyper polluting way of life going is a good idea.

If the media was willing to delve deeper, and understand the bigger picture, they might see the climate-centric view of the world is too simplistic a view. There are many of us out here who do not fall into the “climate doomer” category, despite our push back on the relentless drive for renewables in the media. There are many of us out here who are concerned with the health and flourishing of Earth’s ecosystems, who are desperately concerned with all the symptoms of ecological overshoot, who see more extraction in the name of “technology” as worsening the situation, not improving it, and most importantly, who are working hard to protect the natural world.

The bigger picture — an ecology-centric view

We are the deep green environmentalists — the ones who understand that the natural world is primary, for without it, human animals will not have food, water, shelter, and community. We are the ones who don’t want to live in a world paved over with concrete and poisoned with chemicals and with no old growth forests left and no tall grass prairies left, with no Northern Right whales in the oceans, and no sage-grouse booming in the sagebrush steppe.

We see climate change as just one of many problems we face, and see solutions in understanding that we are human animals, rather than in more technology. We see ourselves not at the top of some imagined hierarchy but as part of a web of life; not as separate from or more important than the connected natural communities of the world, but completely dependent on these communities and their flourishing.

Remember the title of William Catton’s book? Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. “Revolutionary” means “involving or causing a complete or dramatic change.” We deep greens are the ones who are fighting for revolutionary change. We are fighting to save the planet — really save it, not just pretend we can save it with technology to reduce carbon. Does that sound “doomer” to you? Granted there are some who likely have given up, and I included a circle for them too — the “deep green doomers”. But I’ve never met one. Never. Every deep green environmentalist I know is an activist working for revolutionary change. Every single one.

The mainstream media never talks about us deep green environmentalists. With corporate masters to serve, thousands of young people marching in the streets demanding solar panels and wind turbines is what writes the headlines. Extremes sell, so reporting on “climate doomers” grabs the eyeballs.

What doesn’t work is reporting on the slow, painstaking work of saving a species of tiny frog from a geothermal development, or the tedious late nights it takes to file lawsuits to protect sage-grouse habitat and organize people to prevent timber sales or stand in front of bulldozers. But this is what it takes to actually save the planet. Not greenwash it, not replace overconsumption of one non-renewable material extracted from the Earth with overconsumption of another in a desperate attempt to keep this way of life going when it’s obvious to anyone who is paying attention that’s impossible.

What really doesn’t work is suggesting, even the tiniest little bit, that the dominant paradigm of infinite economic growth on a finite planet is a recipe for failure, as illustrated in the graph of ecological overshoot. The editors at mainstream media outlets in the pockets of corporate masters and government policy makers would never let an article like that get published, would they?


Elisabeth Robson is an organizer in Deep Green Resistance. She is also actively engaged in the Protect Thacker Pass campaign.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Ox Sam Camp Raided, Land Defenders Arrested

Ox Sam Camp Raided, Land Defenders Arrested

Editor’s Note: The following are two press releases by Ox Sam Camp. As communities get more radical against corporations, corporations use their power against them. This is not the first time that this has happened and it will not be the last. As activists, it is necessary for us to understand the risk associated with any action against the system. The earlier we understand this, the better we can strategize.

The article is followed by a short reflection piece by Elisabeth Robson on the need for the environmental movement to put our allegiance with the natural world, as is demonstrated in this fight to protect Thacker Pass.


 

Ox Sam Camp Raided by Police at Thacker Pass

One Arrested as Prayer Tipis Are Dismantled and Ceremonial Items Confiscated

6/8/23

Contact: Ox Sam Camp
OxSam.org

THACKER PASS, NV — On Wednesday morning, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation, raided the Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun (Ox Sam Indigenous Women’s Camp), destroying the two ceremonial tipi lodges, mishandling and confiscating ceremonial instruments and objects, and extinguishing the sacred fire that has been lit since May 11th when the Paiute/Shoshone Grandma-led prayer action began.

One arrest took place on Wednesday at the direction of Lithium Nevada security. During breakfast, law enforcement arrived. Almost immediately without warning, a young Diné female water protector was singled out by Lithium Nevada security and arrested, not given the option to leave the camp. Two non-natives were allowed to “move” in order to avoid arrest. The Diné woman was quickly handcuffed and subsequently loaded into a sheriff’s SUV for transport to Winnemucca for processing.

While on the highway, again without warning or explanation, she was transferred into a windowless, pitch-black holding box in the back of a pickup truck. “I was really scared for my life,” the woman said. “I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I know that MMIW is a real thing, and I didn’t want to be the next one.” She was transported to Humboldt County Jail, where she was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, then released on bail.

Just hours before the raid, Ox Sam water protectors could be seen for the second time this week bravely standing in the way of large excavation equipment and shutting down construction at the base of Sentinel Rock.

Ox Sam

To many Paiute and Shoshone, Sentinel Rock is a “center of the universe,” integral to many Nevada Tribes’ way of life and ceremony, as well as a site for traditional medicines, tools, and food supply for thousands of years. Thacker Pass is also the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The remains of the massacred ancestors have remained unidentified and unburied since 1865, and are now being bulldozed and crushed by Lithium Nevada for the mineral known as “the new white gold.”

Since May 11th, despite numerous requests by Lithium Nevada workers, the Humboldt County Sheriff Department has been reticent and even unwilling to arrest members of the prayer camp, even after issuing three warnings for blocking Pole Creek Road access to Lithium Nevada workers and sub-contractors, while allowing the public to pass through.

“We absolutely respect your guys’ right to peacefully protest,” explained Humboldt County Sheriff Sean Wilkin on May 12th. “We have zero issues with [the tipi] whatsoever… We respect your right to be out here.”

On March 19th the Sheriff arrived again, serving individual fourteen-day Temporary Protection Orders against several individuals at camp. The protection orders were granted by the Humboldt County Court on behalf of Lithium Nevada based on sworn statements loaded with misrepresentations, false claims, and, according to those targeted, outright false accusations by their employees. Still, Ox Sam Camp continued for another week. The tipis, the sacred fire, and the prayers remained unchallenged for a total of twenty-seven days of ceremony and resistance.

The scene at Thacker Pass this week looked like Standing Rock, Line 3, or Oak Flat. As Lithium Nevada’s workers and heavy equipment tried to bulldoze and trench their way through the ceremonial grounds surrounding the tipi at Sentinel Rock, the water protectors put their bodies in the way of the destruction, forcing work stoppage on two occasions.

Lithium Nevada’s ownership and control of Thacker Pass only exists because of the flawed permitting and questionable administrative approvals issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM officials have refused to acknowledge that Peehee Mu’huh is a sacred site to regional Tribal Nations and have continued to downplay and question the significance of the double massacre through two years of court battles.

Three tribes — the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, and Burns Paiute Tribe — remain locked in litigation with the Federal Government, challenging the BLM’s permit process from the beginning. The tribes filed their latest response to the BLM’s Motion to Dismiss on Monday. BLM is part of the Department of the Interior, which is led by Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).

On Wednesday, at least five Sheriff’s vehicles, several Lithium Nevada worker vehicles, and two security trucks arrived at the original tipi site that contained the ceremonial fire, immediately adjacent to Pole Creek Road. The one native water protector was arrested without warning, while others were issued with trespass warnings and allowed to leave the area. Once the main camp was secured, law enforcement then moved up to secure and dismantle the tipi site at Sentinel Rock, a mile away.

There is a proper way to take down a tipi and ceremonial camp, and then there is the way Humboldt County Sheriffs proceeded on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation. Tipis were knocked down, tipi poles were snapped, and ceremonial objects and instruments were rummaged through, mishandled, and impounded. Empty tents were approached and secured in classic SWAT-raid fashion. One car was towed. As is often the case when lost profits lead to government assaults on peaceful water protectors, Lithium Nevada Corporation and the Humboldt County Sheriffs have begun to claim that the raid was done for the safety of the camp members and for public health.

Josephine Dick (Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone), who is a descendent of Ox Sam and one of the matriarchs of Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun, made the following statement in response to the raid:

“As Vice Chair of the Native American Indian Church of the State of Nevada, and as a Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Nation elder and member, I am requesting the immediate access to and release of my ceremonial instruments and objects, including my Eagle Feathers and staff which have held the prayers of my ancestors and now those of Ox Sam camp since the beginning. There was also a ceremonial hand drum and medicines such as cedar and tobacco, which are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

In addition, my understanding is that Humboldt County Sherriff Department along with Lithium Nevada security desecrated two ceremonial tipi lodges, which include canvasses, poles, and ropes. The Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun has been conducting prayers and ceremony in these tipis, also protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. When our ceremonial belongings are brought together around the sacred fire, this is our Church. Our Native American Church is a sacred ceremony. I am demanding the immediate access to our prayer site at Peehee Mu’huh and the return of our confiscated ceremonial objects.

The desecration that Humboldt County Sherriffs and Lithium Nevada conducted by knocking the tipis down and rummaging through sacred objects is equivalent to destroying a bible, breaking The Cross, knocking down a cathedral, disrespecting the sacrament, and denying deacons and pastors access to their places of worship. It is in direct violation of my American Indian Religious Freedom rights. This violation of access to our ceremonial church and the ground on which it sits is a violation of Presidential Executive Order 13007.

The location of the tipi lodge that was pushed over and destroyed is at the base of Sentinel Rock, a place our Paiute-Shoshone have been praying since time immemorial. After two years of our people explaining that Peehee Mu’huh is sacred, BLM Winnemucca finally acknowledged that Thacker Pass is a Traditional Cultural District, but they are still allowing it to be destroyed.”

Josephine and others plan to make a statement on live stream outside the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in Winnemucca on the afternoon of Friday, June 9th around 1pm.

Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th which led to Lithium Nevada shutting down construction for a day, and returned on May 11th to pray over the new sacred fire as Ox Sam camp was established.

“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”

Land Defenders Arrested, Camp Raided After Blocking Excavator

First arrests are underway and camp is being raided after land defenders halted an excavator this morning at Thacker Pass.

6/7/23

OROVADA, NV — This morning, a group of Native American water protectors and allies used their bodies to non-violently block construction of the controversial Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, turning back bulldozers and heavy equipment.

The dramatic scene unfolded this morning as workers attempting to dig trenches near Sentinel Rock were turned back by land defenders who ran and put their bodies between heavy equipment and the land.

Now they are being arrested and camp is being raided.

Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone people consider Thacker Pass to be sacred. So when they learned that the area was slated to become the biggest open-pit lithium mine in North America, they filed lawsuits, organized rallies, spoke at regulatory hearings, and organized in the community. But despite all efforts over the last three years, construction of the mine began in March.

That’s what led Native American elders, friends and family, water protectors, and their allies to establish what they call a “prayer camp and ceremonial fire” at Thacker Pass on May 11th, when they setup a tipi at dawn blocking construction of a water pipeline for the mine. A second tipi was erected several days later two miles east, where Lithium Nevada’s construction is defacing Sentinel Rock, one of their most important sacred sites.

Sentinel Rock is integral to many Nevada Tribes’ worldview and ceremony. The area was the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The first was an inter-tribal conflict that gave the area it’s Paiute name: Peehee Mu’huh, or rotten moon. The second was a surprise attack by the US Cavalry on September 12th, 1865, during which the US Army slaughtered dozens. One of the only survivors of the attack was a man named Ox Sam. It is some of Ox Sam’s descendants, the Grandmas, that formed Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokotun (Indigenous Women’s Camp) to protect this sacred land for the unborn, to honor and protect the remains of their ancestors, and to conduct ceremonies. Water protectors have been on-site in prayer for nearly a month.

On Monday, Lithium Nevada Corporation also attempted to breach the space occupied by the water protectors. As workers maneuvered trenching equipment into a valley between the two tipis, water protectors approached the attempted work site and peacefully forced workers and their excavator to back up and leave the area. According to one anonymous land defender, Lithium Nevada’s action was “an attempted show of force to fully do away with our tipi and prayer camp around Sentinel Rock.”

Ranchers, recreationists, and members of the public have been allowed to pass without incident and water protectors maintain friendly relationships with locals. Opposition to the mine is widespread in the area, and despite repeated warnings from the local Sheriff, there have been no arrests. Four people, including Dorece Sam Antonio of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe (an Ox sam descendant) and Max Wilbert of Protect Thacker Pass, have been targeted by court orders barring them from the area. They await a court hearing in Humboldt County Justice Court.

“Lithium Nevada is fencing around the sacred site Sentinel Rock to disrupt our access and yesterday was an escalation to justify removal of our peaceful prayer camps,” said one anonymous water protector at Ox Sam Camp. “Lithium Nevada intends to desecrate and bulldoze the remains of the ancestors here. We are calling out to all water protectors, land defenders, attorneys, human rights experts, and representatives of Tribal Nations to come and stand with us.”

“I’m being threatened with arrest for protecting the graves of my ancestors,” says Dorece Sam Antonio. “My great-great Grandfather Ox Sam was one of the survivors of the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre that took place here. His family was killed right here as they ran away from the U.S. Army. They were never buried. They’re still here. And now these bulldozers are tearing up this place.”

Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese, a spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th (shutting down construction for a day) and returned on May 11th.

“I’m asking people to come to Peehee Mu’huh,” Barlese said. “We need more prayerful people. I’m here because I have connections to these places. My great-great-great grandfathers fought and shed blood in these lands. We’re defending the sacred. Water is sacred. Without water, there is no life. And one day, you’ll find out you can’t eat money.”

The 1865 Thacker Pass massacre is well documented in historical sources, books, newspapers, and oral histories. Despite the evidence but unsurprisingly, the Federal Government has not protected Thacker Pass or even slowed construction of the mine to allow for consultation to take place with Tribes. In late February, the Federal Government recognized tribal arguments that Thacker Pass is a “Traditional Cultural District” eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. But that didn’t stop construction from commencing.

“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”

For more, go to Ox Sam Camp.


Hug Trees Not Pylons

By Elizabeth Robson


In the past couple of weeks both The Economist and Mother Jones have published covers showing people embracing industrial objects and exhorting “environmentalists” to get on board with the green building boom.

The Economist cover shows a man hugging a massive steel electric grid pylon and says “Hug Pylons Not Trees: The Growth Environmentalism Needs.” The Mother Jones cover shows a woman hugging an excavator, and says “Yes in Our Backyards: It’s time for progressives to fall in love with the green building boom.”

The latter is made even worse by the fact that it is Bill McKibben saying this. We expect relentless pro-industry, pro-growth propaganda from The Economist. But Mother Jones? Bill McKibben? McKibben begins his article in Mother Jones, Getting to Yes, by saying “I’m an environmentalist” and then proceeds to spend multiple pages telling us exactly how he is not an environmentalist but rather a pro-technology industrialist. To solve our “biggest problems” he pleads with us to “say yes” to “solar panels, wind turbines, and factories to make batteries and mines to extract lithium.”

Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass, climbed on top of an excavator on April 25, 2023 to protest the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, currently being constructed in northern Nevada by Lithium Nevada Corporation. He was there with about 25 other people including Northern Paiute Native Americans Dorece Sam and Dean Barlese, who spent the day blocking mine construction and saying prayers to this land considered sacred by their people.

In Max’s book, Bright Green Lies, he describes “environmentalists” like McKibben as “bright greens”. These “environmentalists” understand that environmental problems exist and are serious, but believe that green technology and consumerism will allow us to continue our current lifestyles indefinitely. As Max writes: “The bright greens’ attitude amounts to: ‘It’s less about nature, and more about us.’”

In his Mother Jones article, McKibben illustrates how he’s less about nature, and all about us (meaning humans, our technologies, and our lifestyles). “Emergencies demand urgency,” he writes, and what he urges us is not to stop destroying nature, the source of all life on planet Earth, but rather to destroy more of it, by building more industry and mining more, for “electrons… a crop we badly need.”

McKibben acknowledges that “repeating the mistakes of our history” by building “a lithium mine on sacred territory in Nevada” is “truly unforgivable,” but then immediately dismisses the concerns of regional tribes by saying that “if we can’t make a quick energy transition, then the impact of that will be felt most by the poorest.” Does he not understand that for many traditional cultures and traditional spiritual practitioners, everywhere is sacred? Does he not understand that everywhere not already destroyed by industry is home to someone — sage-grouse, pronghorn, endangered spring snails, swallows, endangered trout, old growth sagebrush, and so many more? Apparently he does not, or perhaps he doesn’t care, because his article is all about promoting industry, nature be damned.

“So there’s one general rule you could derive: If something makes climate change worse, then we shouldn’t do it,” McKibben writes. I agree. Does McKibben think the 150,000 tons of CO2 the Thacker Pass lithium mine will emit per year don’t count? Clearly those emissions will make climate change worse. Does he think that the carbon emissions caused by digging up thousands of acres of ancient soil at Thacker Pass don’t count either? And what about the 700,000 tons per year of molten sulfur trucked into Thacker Pass from oil refineries; where will that molten sulfur come from if it doesn’t come from oil refineries, and do those oil refineries and their CO2 emissions not count? If we use McKibben’s rule, then clearly the Thacker Pass lithium mine should not be built, and yet he urges us to support more lithium mining.

McKibben and those pursuing the “electrify everything” agenda promoted by The Economist and Mother Jones are stuck in blinders about climate change. McKibben exposes these blinders when he writes: “slowing down lithium mining likely means extending the years we keep on mining coal.” He believes that this is our choice: lithium mining and batteries and electric vehicles, or coal and CO2 emissions. To him and the “electrify everything” crowd those are the only two options.

But there is another option: we can resist industrial culture and work to end it. We can block construction equipment rather than embracing it. We can dramatically lower our profligate energy use — no matter how it’s powered. We can protect the land and the natural communities, including human communities, that depend on unspoiled land, unpolluted soil, clean air, and clean water. We can be real environmentalists, deep green environmentalists, who understand that we must live within the limits of the natural world, and work to transform ourselves, our culture, our economy and our politics to put the health and well-being of the natural world first.

We can be more like Max and Dorece and Dean and the other activists who stood their ground to protect the land at Thacker Pass. We can block excavators, not hug them. Our very lives depend on it.

Declaring Climate Emergency – What Does It Really Mean?

Declaring Climate Emergency – What Does It Really Mean?

Editor’s note: Mainstream environmentalists have been demanding that countries across the world declare a “climate emergency.” But what does a climate emergency mean? What will the consequences be? Is there a possibility that it will be more detrimental to the environment? In this piece, Elisabeth Robson argues how declaring a climate emergency can be worse for the environment.


By Elisabeth Robson/Protect Thacker Pass

“Climate emergency”. We hear these words regularly these days, whenever there is a wild fire, a flood, or an extreme weather event of any kind. We hear these words at the annual Conference of Parties (COPs) on climate change held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including at the COP27 meeting happening right now in Egypt. And we hear these words regularly from organizations petitioning the U.S. government to “declare a climate emergency”, and from Senators requesting the same.

Most recently, here in the U.S., we heard these words on October 4, 2022 when a group of US Senators led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) urged President Biden to “build on the inflation reduction act” and “declare a climate emergency”, writing: “Declaring a climate emergency could unlock the broad powers of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Stafford Act*, allowing you to immediately pursue an array of regulatory and administrative actions to slash emissions, protect public health, support national and energy security, and improve our air and water quality.”

The requests by these Senators include two related specifically to electric vehicles:

* Maximize the adoption of electric vehicles, push states to reduce their transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and support the electrification of our mass transit;

* Transition the Department of Defense non-tactical vehicle fleet to electric and zero-emission vehicles, install solar panels on military housing, and take other aggressive steps to decrease its environmental impact.

The Senators continue, “The climate crisis is one of the biggest emergencies that our country has ever faced and time is running out. We need to build off the momentum from the IRA and make sure that we achieve the ambition this crisis requires, and what we have promised the world.  We urge you to act boldly, declare this crisis the national emergency that it is, and embark upon significant regulatory and administrative action.”

What the Senators are requesting is that President Biden invoke the National Emergencies Act (NEA) to go above and beyond what the Biden Administration has already done to take action in this “climate emergency” by invoking the Defense Production Act and passing the Inflation Reduction Act. This is not the first time a US president has been asked to declare a climate emergency by members of Congress, but it is the most recent.

Invoking the Defense Production Act, as the administration did in April, 2022, allows the administration to support domestic mining for critical minerals (including lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, which readers of this blog will recognize as essential ingredients in batteries for EVs and energy storage) with federal funding and incentives in the name of national security.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August, 2022, codified into law support for domestic mining of 50 “critical minerals” to supply renewables and battery manufacturing. This law directly supports EV manufacturing by offering tax credits to car companies that use domestic supplies of metals and minerals above a certain threshold (40% to start).

We’ve already seen how the Biden Administration is using its powers under these two acts (the Defense Production Act (DPA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)) to encourage more domestic mining for “critical minerals” and the expansion of electric vehicles and charging stations. Mining companies are “celebrating”, as one journalist wrote, including Lithium Americas Corporation (LAC) whose CEO said of the IRA “We’re delighted with it.” Car companies getting support from the government to expand manufacturing, companies getting support for building out the EV charging networks, battery-making companies, and the Department of Defense must also be celebrating the infusion of government cash and the tax incentives coming their way.

The administration would have even more power to fund and incentivize mining, manufacturing, development and industry with the National Emergencies Act, or NEA. The NEA empowers the President to activate special powers during a crisis. These powers could include loan guarantees, fast tracking permits, and even suspending existing laws that protect the environment, such as the Clean Air Act, if the administration believes these laws get in the way of mining, manufacturing, and other industrial development required for addressing the climate emergency.

As described in the Brennan Center’s Guide to Emergency Powers and Their Use, in the event a national emergency is declared, such as a climate emergency, the “President may authorize an agency to guarantee loans by private institutions in order to finance products and services essential to the national defense without regard to normal procedural and substantive requirements for such loan guarantees” [emphasis added]. This authorization could occur, as stated in the NEA, “during a period of national emergency declared by Congress or the President” or “upon a determination by the President, on a nondelegable basis, that a specific guarantee is necessary to avert an industrial resource or critical technology item shortfall that would severely impair national defense capability.”

Included in the long list of requirements for a Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantee, the loan applicant must supply “A report containing an analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project that will enable DoE to:

(i) Assess whether the proposed project will comply with all applicable environmental requirements; and

(ii) Undertake and complete any necessary reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.”

In the event a climate emergency is declared, could the administration then be able to “authorize an agency to guarantee loans” to a corporation “without regard” for these requirements? If so, then a corporation could potentially skip the NEPA process currently required for a new mining project, and not bother to do an assessment about whether their project would comply with all applicable environmental requirements (e.g. requirements under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act).

In other words, a corporation could proceed with their project, such as a lithium mine, with little to no environmental oversight if the Administration believes the resulting products are “essential to national defense.”

We already know that the Biden Administration believes that lithium production is essential to national defense: they have explicitly stated this in their invocation of the Defense Production Act and in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Declaring a “climate emergency” would give the administration free rein to allow corporations to sidestep environmental procedures that are normally required during the process of permitting a project like a mine, resulting in more harm to the environment.

Aside from these technical details about the implications of declaring a climate emergency, we know that most organizations, including those participating in COP27 and the 1,100 organizations that signed a February 2022 letter to President Biden urging him to declare a climate emergency, are demanding actions that would further harm the environment, such as “maximiz[ing] the adoption of electric vehicles” and “transition[ing] the Department of Defense…to electric and zero-emission vehicles” as demanded in the Senators’ October 4 letter to President Biden.

While these actions may reduce some greenhouse gas emissions, neither of these actions will reduce other harms to the environment, because these actions require more extraction and more development. And neither of these actions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a scope large enough to solve the climate crisis. What the activists, organizations, and Senators crying out for the President to declare a climate emergency seemingly fail to understand is that the climate emergency isn’t the only emergency we face.

Industrial development, and more specifically, industrial agriculture, has caused a 70% reduction in wildlife numbers just since 1970. This is an emergency inextricably linked with and just as dire as the climate crisis, yet the Senators and organizations calling for a climate emergency don’t demand a reduction in overall industrial development, only a reduction in fossil fuels development.

Each year, 24 billion tons of topsoil are lost, due primarily to industrial agriculture practices and deforestation. In 2014, the UN estimated that if current degradation rates continue, all the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years. This too is an emergency inextricably linked with and just as dire as the climate crisis, yet again, the Senators and organizations calling for a climate emergency don’t demand actions to rebuild and restore soil.

Industry, including the military-industrial complex, has polluted the entire planet with toxic levels of mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxins, forever chemicals such as PFAS chemicals, and micro- and nano-plastics. These toxics are in the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe—“we” being, of course, not just humans but all wildlife on the planet. Again, this is an emergency just as dire as the climate emergency.

More than 50 million gallons of wastewater contaminated with arsenic, lead, and other toxic metals flows daily from some of the most contaminated mining sites in the U.S. into groundwater, rivers, and ponds. Mining waste that is captured must be stored and/or treated indefinitely “for perhaps thousands of years,” as the Associated Press wrote memorably in a 2019 article on mining waste. Replicate this kind of mining waste pollution around the world, and obviously, this too is an emergency just as dire as the climate emergency.

There are many such emergencies. Humans, our industry, and our developments have destroyed half of the land on Earth, and one third of all Earth’s forests. 60% of all mammals on Earth are now human livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, and 70% of all birds are now farmed poultry. This along with the staggering loss of wild beings due to human development and the destruction of habitat has resulted in the sixth mass extinction of life in Earth’s history—the only one caused by us.

All of these emergencies are related to climate change, of course. The more our societies develop, the more harm we do to the natural world, including the atmosphere.

“Development” is really global technological escalation by industry to extract more materials more efficiently, destroying more of the planet in its relentless theft of “resources.” The more our societies develop, the less habitat for life is left, and the more we overshoot the ability of the Earth to sustain us and the rest of the species on Earth.

We ignore these other emergencies at our peril. Indeed, ignoring them in favor of the climate emergency often exacerbates these emergencies. When the organizations mentioned above demand increases in electric vehicles, increases in batteries, increases in renewables, and increases in climate mitigation and adaptation (building sea walls, retrofitting and improving roads and bridges, moving entire cities), what they are demanding is more development, not less, which means more harm, not less, to the natural world. For instance, we know that the materials required to supply the projected battery demand in 2035 will require 384 new mines. That’s to supply the materials just for batteries.

Ultimately, what most organizations that support declaring a climate emergency want is not to protect life on this planet, but rather, to protect this way of life: the one we’re living now, the one that’s killing the planet. These organizations believe that we can simply replace CO2-emitting fossil fuels with EVs and so-called renewables, and keep living these ecocidal lifestyles we have become accustomed to.

We know this to be true, because we can see it directly in the actions already taken by the Biden administration, actions that will dramatically increase mining in the U.S. Mining increases the destruction of the natural world, meaning MORE habitat loss, not less. Mining increases toxic pollution. Mining increases deforestation. Mining increases top soil loss. In other words, these actions will significantly worsen all the emergencies we, and all life on the planet, face.

Rather than demand governments around the world declare a “climate emergency,” we could instead demand governments around the world declare an “ecological overshoot emergency.” In place of demands to increase industry, increase mining, and build new cars and new energy infrastructure, we could instead demand governments reduce industry, end mining, help wean us completely away from cars, and dramatically reduce energy extraction, production, and consumption. In place of demands to continue a way of life that cannot possibly continue much longer, with its relentless destruction of the natural world, we could instead demand that all societies around the world center what makes life possible on this planet: flourishing and fecund natural communities, of which we could be a thriving part, rather than dominate and destroy.

Join us and help Protect Thacker Pass, or work to defend the wild places you love. We can’t save the planet by destroying the planet in the name of a “climate emergency.”

~~~

* In their October 4 letter to President Biden, the Senators mention how invoking the NEA could “unlock the broad powers of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Stafford Act.” The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) authorizes the president to regulate international commerce after declaring a national emergency, for instance by blocking transactions with corporations based in foreign countries, or by limiting trade with those foreign countries. This would, like the IRA, incentivize building domestic supply chains and manufacturing capabilities. The Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act encourages states to develop disaster preparedness plans, and provides federal assistance programs in the event of disaster. In the event of an emergency, such as a declared climate emergency, the President could direct any federal agency (e.g. FEMA) to use its resources to aid a state or local government in emergency assistance efforts, and to help states prepare for anticipated hazards. In the event of a declared climate emergency, this would unleash federal funds and other incentive programs to states to build and harden infrastructure that is vulnerable to wildfire, floods, severe storms, ocean acidification, and other effects of climate change.


Featured Image: Climate emergency – Melbourne #MarchforScience on #Earthday by Takver from Australia. Via Wikemedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

 

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