Featured image: 15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden realized at a young age the enormous gap between what climate experts were warning and the actions society was taking. The difference was so drastic in her opinion that she decided to take matters into her own hands. (Photo: Youtube/Screenshot/TEDxStockholm)
As youth climate campaigners in the U.S. city of Brooklyn on Wednesday plan to continue a climate strike at least partly inspired by the ongoing vigil begun by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden earlier this year, a new TEDx Talk released this week reveals that what inspired the Swedish teenager to take action was as simple as it was profound: she fell into sadness as she saw the leaders of the world—even those who admitted human-caused global warming was an “existential crisis”—continue to act and make policy decisions as though no emergency existed.
Everyone keeps saying, Thunberg declares in the 11-minute talk, that climate “is the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on as before. I don’t understand that. Because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t. We have to change.”
As a key part of the talk, Thunberg describes how at the age of eleven, several years after learning about the concept of climate change for the first time, she fell into a depression and became ill. “I stopped talking. I stopped eating,” she explains. “In two months, I lost about ten kilos of weight. Later on I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, OCD, and selective mutism—that basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary.”
After a short pause, she adds, “Now is one of those moments.”
Watch the full talk:
“For those of us on the spectrum,” Thunberg explains to the audience, “almost everything is black or white. We aren’t very good at lying and we usually don’t enjoy participating in the social game as the rest of you seem so fond of. I think in many ways we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange—especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis.”
Towards the conclusion of her talk, Thunberg says that “this is when people usually start talking about hope—solar panels, wind power, circular economy, and so on—but I’m not going to do that.”
And continues, “We’ve had thirty years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. And I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now—they haven’t.”
Finally, she says: “Yes, we do need hope—of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”
Editor’s Note: Taking the context of Maryland’s forests, the following piece analyses how the mainstream environmental movement and pro-industry management actors have used deliberately misinterpreting to outright creation of information to justify commercial activities at the expense of forests. Industrial deforestation is harmful for the forests and the planet. The fact that this obvious piece of information should even be stated to educated adults affirms the successful (and deceitful) framing of biomass as an environmentally friendly way out of climate crisis. The same goes for deep sea mining.
Most would agree that we live in an age of multiple compounding catastrophes, planetary in scale. There is controversy, however, regarding their interrelationships as well as their causes. That controversy is largely manufactured. In the following pages I will describe the state of “forestry” in the state of Maryland, USA, and connect that to regional, national, and international stirrings of which we should all be aware. I will continue to examine connections between international conservation organizations, the co-optation of the environmental movement, the youth climate movement, and the financialization of nature. Full disclosure. I am writing this to human beings on behalf of all the non-human beings and those yet unborn who are recognized as objects to be converted to capital or otherwise used by the dominant culture. I am not a capitalist. I am a human being. I occupy unceded land of unrecognized peoples which is characterized by poisoned air, water and soil, devastated forest ecosystems, decapitated mountains, and collapsing biodiversity. I am of this earth. It is to the land, water and all of life that I direct my affection and gratitude as well as my loyalty.
Last winter, amid deep concerns about the present mass extinction and an unshakeable feeling of helplessness, I began to search for answers and ecological allies. I compiled a running list of local, regional, national, and international organizations that seemed to have at least some interest in the environment. The list quickly swelled to hundreds of entries. I attempted to assess the organizations based upon their mission, values, goals, publications and other such things. I hoped that the best of the best of these groups could be brought together around ecological restoration and the long-term benefits of clean air, water, healthy soil supporting vigorous growth of food and medicine, and rebounding biodiversity throughout our Appalachian homeland. Progress was and continues to be slow. Along the way, I encountered an open stakeholder consultation (survey) regarding a risk assessment of Maryland’s forests. As an ethnobotanist with special interests in forest ecology and stewardship, Indigenous societies and their traditional ecological knowledge, symbiotic relationships, and intergenerational sustainability, I realize that my unique perspectives could be helpful to the team conducting the assessment. I proceeded to submit thought provoking responses to each question. Because the consultation period was exceedingly brief and outreach to stakeholders was weak at best, and because the wording of the questions felt out of alignment with the purported purpose of the survey, I sensed that something was awry. So I saved my answers and resolved to stay abreast of developments.
Summer came around, I became busy, and the risk assessment survey faded from my mind until a friend recently emailed me a draft of the document along with notice of a second stakeholder consultation and the question: should we respond? This friend happens to own land registered in the Maryland Tree Farm Program. The selective outreach to forest landowners with large acreage was an indication as to who is and who is not considered a “stakeholder” by the committee.
After reviewing the Consultation Draft: A Sustainability Risk Assessment of Maryland’s Forests I felt sick. Low to Negligible was the risk assignment for every single criteria. I re-read the document – section by section – noting the ambiguity, legalese and industry jargon, lack of definitions, contradictory statements, false claims, poorly referenced and questionable sources, and more. Have you heard of greenwashing? Every tactic was represented in the 82 page document. Naturally, then, I tracked down and reviewed many of the referenced materials and I then investigated the contributors and funders of the report.
Noting, furthemore, that on the Advisory Committee sits a member of the Maryland Forests Association (MFA). On their website they state: “We are proud to represent forest product businesses, forest landowners, loggers and anyone with an interest in Maryland’s forests…” They also state: “Currently, Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard uses a limiting definition of qualifying biomass that makes it difficult for wood to compete against other forms of renewable energy,” oh yes, and this extraordinarily deceptive bit from a recent publication, There’s More to our Forests than Trees:
When the tree dies, it decays and releases carbon dioxide and methane back into the atmosphere. However, we can postpone this process and extend the duration of carbon storage. If we harvest the tree and build a house or even make a chair with the wood, the carbon remains stored in these products for far longer than the life of the tree itself! This has tremendous implications for addressing the growing levels of carbon dioxide, which lead to increased warming of the earth’s atmosphere. It means harvesting trees for long-term uses helps mitigate climate change. We can even take advantage of the fact that trees sequester carbon at different rates throughout their lifespan to maximize the carbon storage potential. Trees are more active in sequestering carbon when they are younger. As forests age, growth slows down and so does their ability to store carbon. At some point, a stand of trees reaches an equilibrium where the growth and carbon-storing ability equals the trees that die and release carbon each year. Thus, a younger, more vigorous stand of trees stores carbon at a much higher rate than an older one.
Just in case you were convinced by that last bit, my studies in botany and forest ecology support the following finding:
“In 2014, a study published in Nature by an international team of researchers led by Nathan Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the United States Geographical Survey, found that a typical tree’s growth continues to accelerate (emphasis mine) throughout its lifetime, which in the coastal temperate rainforest can be 800 years or more.
Stephenson and his team compiled growth measurements of 673,046 trees belonging to 403 tree species from tropical, subtropical and temperate regions across six continents. They found that the growth rate for most species “increased continuously” as they aged.
Al Goertzl, president of Seneca Creek (a shadowy corporation with a benign name that has no website and pumps out reports justifying the exploitation of forests) who is featured in MFA’s Faces of Forestry, wouldn’t know the difference, he identifies as a forest economist. In another publication marketing North American Forests he is credited with the statements: “There exists a low risk that U.S. hardwoods are produced from controversial sources as defined in the Chain of Custody standard of the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).” and “The U.S. hardwood-producing region can be considered low risk for illegal and non-sustainable hardwood sourcing as a result of public and private regulatory and non-regulatory programs.” The report then closes with this shocker: “SUSTAINABILITY MEANS USING NORTH AMERICAN HARDWOODS.”
Why are forest-pimps conducting the risk assessment upon which future decisions critical to the long-term survival of our native ecosystem will be based? What is really going on here?
“Europe’s largest single source of renewable energy is sustainable biomass, which is a cornerstone of the EU’s low-carbon energy transition […] For the last decade, forest resources in the US South have helped to meet these goals—as they will in the future. This heavily forested region exported over <7 million metric tons of sustainable wood pellets in 2021 – primarily to the EU and UK – and is on pace to exceed that number in 2022 (emphasis mine) due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has pinched trade flows of industrial wood pellets from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.”
Sustainability means using North American hardwoods.
If it has not yet become clear, the stakeholder consultation for the forest sustainability risk assessment document which inspired this piece was but a small, local, component of an elaborate sham enabling the world to burn and otherwise consume the forests of entire continents – in comfort and with the guilt-neutralizing reassurance that: carbon is captured, rivers are purified, forests are healthy and expanding, biodiversity is thriving and protected, and “the rights of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples are upheld” as a result of our consumption. (FSC-NRA-USA, p71) That is the first phase of the plan – manufacturing / feigning consent. Next the regulatory hurdles must be eliminated or circumvented. Cue the Landscape Management Plan (LMP).
“Taken together, the actions taken by AFF [American Forest Foundation] over the implementation period have effectively set the stage for the implementation of a future DBC project to promote and expand SDE+1 qualifying certification systems for family landowners in the Southeast US and North America, generally.”
“As outlined in our proposal, research by AFF and others has demonstrated that the chief barrier for most landowners to participating in forest certification is the requirement to have a forest management plan. To address this significant challenge, AFF has developed an innovative tool, the Landscape Management Plan (LMP). An LMP is a document produced through a multi-stakeholder process that identifies, based on an analysis of geospatial data and existing regional conservation plans, forest conservation priorities at a landscape scale and management actions that can be applied at a parcel scale. This approach also utilizes publicly available datasets on a range of forest resources, including forest types, soils, threatened and endangered species, cultural resources and others, as well as social data regarding landowner motivations and practices. As a document, it meets all of the requirements for ATFS certification and is fully supported by PEFC and could be used in support of other programs such as other certification systems, alongside ATFS. Once an LMP has been developed for a region, and once foresters are trained in its use, the LMP allows landowners to use the landscape plan and derive a customized set of conservation practices to implement on their properties. This eliminates the need for a forester to write a complete individualized plan, saving the forester time and the landowner money. The forester is able to devote the time he or she would have spent writing the plan interacting with the landowner and making specific management recommendations, and / or visiting additional landowners.
With DBC support, AFF sought to leverage two existing LMPs in Alabama and Florida and successfully expanded certification in those states. In addition, AFF combined DBC funds with pre-existing commitments to contract with forestry consultants to design new LMPs in Arkansas and Louisiana. DBC grant funds were used to cover LMP activities between July 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018 for these states, namely stakeholder engagement, two stakeholder workshops (one in each state Arkansas and Louisiana) and staffing.” (American Forest Foundation, 2, 7).
It is clear that global interests / morally bankrupt humans have been busy ignoring the advice of scientists, altering definitions, removing barriers to standardization / certification, and manufacturing consent; thus enabling the widespread burning of wood / biomass (read: earth’s remaining forests) to be recognized as renewable, clean, green-energy. Imagine: mining forests as the solution to deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution, climate change, and economic stagnation. Meanwhile, mountains are scalped, rivers are poisoned, forests are gutted, biological diversity is annihilated, and the future of all life on earth is sold under the guise of sustainability.
Sustainability means USING North American hardwoods!
The perpetual mining of forests is merely one “natural climate solution” promising diminishing returns for Life on earth. While the rush is on to secure the necessary public consent (but not of the free, prior, and informed variety) to convert the forests of the world into clean energy (sawdust pellets) and novel materials, halfway around the planet and 5 kilometers below the surface of the Pacific another “nature based solution” that will utterly devastate marine ecosystems and further endanger life on earth – deep sea mining (DSM) – is employing the same strategy. Like the numerous other institutions that are formally entrusted with the protection of forests, water, air, biodiversity, and human rights, deep sea mining is overseen by an institution which has contradictory directives – to protect and to exploit. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has already issued 17 exploration contracts and will begin issuing 30-year exploitation contracts across the 1.7 million square mile Clarion-Clipperton zone by 2024 – despite widespread calls for a ban / moratorium and fears of apocalyptic planetary repercussions. After decades of environmental protection measures enacted by thousands of agencies and institutions throwing countless billions at the “problems,” every indicator of planetary health that I am aware of has declined. It follows, then, that these institutions are incapable of exercising caution, acting ethically, protecting ecosystems, biodiversity or indigenous peoples, holding thieves, murderers and polluters accountable, or even respecting their own regulatory processes. Haeckel sums up industry regulation nicely in a recent nature article regarding the nascent DSM industry:
“…Amid this dearth of data, the ISA is pushing to finish its regulations next year. Its council met this month in Kingston, Jamaica, to work through a draft of the mining code, which covers all aspects — environmental, administrative and financial — of how the industry will operate. The ISA says that it is listening to scientists and incorporating their advice as it develops the regulations. “This is the most preparation that we’ve ever done for any industrial activity,” says Michael Lodge, the ISA’s secretary-general, who sees the mining code as giving general guidance, with room to develop more progressive standards over time.
Of course, this “New Deal for Nature” requires “decarbonization” while producing billions of new electric cars, solar panels, wind mills, and hydroelectric dams. The metals for all the new batteries and techno-solutions have to come from somewhere, right? According to Global Sea Mineral Resources:
“Sustainable development, the growth of urban infrastructure and clean energy transition are combining to put enormous pressure on metal supplies.
Over the next 30 years the global population is set to expand by two billion people. That’s double the current populations of North, Central and South America combined. By 2050, 66 percent of us will live in cities. To support this swelling urban population, a city the size of Dubai will need to be built every month until the end of the century. This is a staggering statistic. At the same time, there is the urgent need to decarbonise the planet’s energy and transport systems. To achieve this, the world needs millions more wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicle batteries.
Urban infrastructure and clean energy technologies are extremely metal intensive and extracting metal from our planet comes at a cost. Often rainforests have to be cleared, mountains flattened, communities displaced and huge amounts of waste – much of it toxic – generated.
That is why we are looking at the deep sea as a potential alternative source of metals.”
Did you notice how there is scarcely room to imagine other possibilities (such as reducing our material and energy consumption, reorganizing our societies within the context of our ecosystems, voluntarily decreasing our reproductive rate, and sharing resources) within that narrative?
Do you still wonder why the processes of approving seabed mining in international waters and certifying an entire continent’s forests industry to be sustainable seem so similar? They are elements of the same scheme: a strategy to accumulate record profits through the valuation and exploitation of nature – aided and abetted by the non-profit industrial complex.
“The non-profit industrial complex (or the NPIC) is a system of relationships between: the State (or local and federal governments), the owning classes, foundations, and non-profit/NGO social service & social justice organizations that results in the surveillance, control, derailment, and everyday management of political movements.
The state uses non-profits to: monitor and control social justice movements; divert public monies into private hands through foundations; manage and control dissent in order to make the world safe for capitalism; redirect activist energies into career-based modes of organizing instead of mass-based organizing capable of actually transforming society; allow corporations to mask their exploitative and colonial work practices through “philanthropic” work; and encourage social movements to model themselves after capitalist structures rather than to challenge them.” (Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex | INCITE!).
The emergence of the NPIC has profoundly influenced the trajectory of global capitalism largely by inventing new conservation and the youth climate movement –
“What’s infuriating about manipulations by the Non Profit Industrial Complex is that they harvest the goodwill of the people, especially young people. They target those who were not given the skills and knowledge to truly think for themselves by institutions which are designed to serve the ruling class. Capitalism operates systematically and structurally like a cage to raise domesticated animals. Those organizations and their projects which operate under false slogans of humanity in order to prop up the hierarchy of money and violence are fast becoming some of the most crucial elements of the invisible cage of corporatism, colonialism and militarism.” (THE MANUFACTURING OF GRETA THUNBERG – FOR CONSENT: THE GREEN NEW DEAL IS THE TROJAN HORSE FOR THE FINANCIALIZATION OF NATURE [ACT V]).
We must understand that the false solutions proposed by these institutions will suck the remaining life out of this planet before you can say fourth industrial revolution.
An important point must never get lost amongst the swirling jargon, human-supremacy and unbridled greed: If we do not drastically reduce our material and energy consumption – rapidly – then We (that is, all living beings on the planet including humans) have no future.
In summary, decades of social engineering have set the stage for the blitzkrieg underway against our life-giving and sustaining mother planet in the name of sustainability industrial civilization. The success of the present assault requires the systematic division, distraction, discouragement, detention, and demonization (reinforced by powerful disinformation) and ultimately the destruction of all those who would resist. Remember also: capital, religion, race, gender, class, ideology, occupation, private property, and so forth, these are weapons of oppression wielded against us by the dominant patriarchal, colonizing, ecocidal, empire. That is not who We are. Our causes, our struggles, and our futures are one. Unless we refuse to play by their rules and coordinate our efforts, We will soon lose all that can be lost.
Learn more about deep sea mining (here); sign the Blue Planet Society petition (here) and the Pacific Blue Line statement (here). Tell the forest products industry that they do not have our consent and that you and hundreds of scientists see through their lies (here); divest from all extractive industry, and invest in its resistance instead (here). Inform yourself, talk to your loved-ones and community members and ask yourselves: what can we do to stop the destruction?
All flourishing is mutual. The inverse is also true.
“…future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed. The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms—including humanity—is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts […] this dire situation places an extraordinary responsibility on scientists to speak out candidly and accurately when engaging with government, business, and the public.” – Top Scientists: We Face “A Ghastly Future”
—Austin is an ecocentric Appalachian ethnobotanist, gardener, forager, and seed saver. He acknowledges kinship with and responsibility to protect all life, land, water, and future generations—
Editor’s Note: Due to their early adoption of renewables, Germany has been hailed as an example by mainstream environmentalists. The myth that Germany is cutting back on fossil fuel has already been debunked in Bright Green Lies. With their main supplier of fossil fuel going to war with Ukraine, Germany is facing a crisis. They are vying for alternate sources, which they have found under their own soil in Lützerath. They are trying to evacuate a hundred villages to get coal under their ground. In a brave attempt to defend their land, the people are putting up a fight against the German state.
Today’s post consists of three separate pieces. The first is a Common Dreams piece covering police brutality against the local communities. The second is a firsthand account of one of those many protestors who joined the local villagers in fighting the German state. This account explores the need for training and militant resistance to industrial civilization. The post finally culminates in an excerpt from Derrick Jensen’s Endgame.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deep Green Resistance, the News Service or its staff.
Police Evict Last Anti-Coal Protesters From German Village Slated for Destruction
“The most affected people are clear, the science is clear, we need to keep the carbon in the ground,” said Greta Thunberg at the protest.
The way was cleared for the complete demolition of the German village of Lützerath and the expansion of a coal mine on Monday after the last two anti-coal campaigners taking part in a dayslong standoff with authorities left the protest site.
The two activists—identified in media reports by their nicknames, “Pinky” and “Brain”—spent several days in a tunnel they’d dug themselves as thousands of people rallied in the rain over the weekend and hundreds occupied the village, which has been depopulated over the last decade following a constitutional court ruling in favor of expanding a nearby coal mine owned by energy firm RWE.
As Pinky and Brain left the 13-foot deep tunnel, which police in recent days have warned could collapse on them contrary to assessments by experts, other campaigners chainedthemselves to a digger and suspended themselves from a bridge to block access to Lützerath, but those demonstrations were also halted after several hours.
Protesters and their supporters have condemned the actions of law enforcement authorities in the past week as police have violently removed people from the site, including an encampment where about 100 campaigners have lived for more than two years to protest the expansion of RWE’s Garzweiler coal mine.
The vast majority of protesters were peaceful during the occupation. German Interior Minister Nancy Fraeser said Monday that claims of police violence would be investigated while also threatening demonstrators with prosecution if they were found to have attacked officers.
“If the allegations are confirmed then there must be consequences,” said Fraeser.
Fridays for Future leader Greta Thunberg joined the demonstrators last week, condemning the government deal with RWE that allowed the destruction of Lützerath as “shameful” before she was also forcibly removed from the site on Sunday.
“Germany is really embarrassing itself right now,” Thunberg said Saturday of the plan to move forward with the demolition of the village, as thousands of people joined the demonstration. “I think it’s absolutely absurd that this is happening the year 2023. The most affected people are clear, the science is clear, we need to keep the carbon in the ground.”
“When governments and corporations are acting like this, are actively destroying the environment, putting countless of people at risk, the people step up,” she added.
"Germany is really embarrassing itself right now."@GretaThunberg has joined climate activists in Germany who are resisting the demolition of the Luetzerath village for a coal mine expansion. pic.twitter.com/yEmjWtycVP
Campaigners have warned that the expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine will make it impossible for Germany to meet its obligation to reduce carbon emissions and have condemned the government, including the Green Party, for its agreement with RWE. Under the deal, the deadline for coal extraction in Germany was set at 2030.
RWE’s mine currently produces 25 million tonnes of lignite, also known as brown coal, per year.
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators in the Netherlands said last week that the protest in the village “is not so much about preserving Lützerath itself.”
“It symbolizes resistance to everything that has to make way for fossil energy while humanity is already on the edge of the abyss due to CO2 emissions,” said the group.
“The people in power will not disappear voluntarily; giving flowers to the cops just isn’t going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower pot from a high window.” — William S. Burroughs
By Agent Eagle
Thousands of people storming a village occupied by police. It was not the revolution, but it was close.
A demonstration had been announced for January 14, a Saturday, in Keyenberg, which is next to Lützerath, Germany. Underneath the villages and their fertile loess soil lies lignite. The German government, the world’s number one lignite miner with 140 million tons extracted a year, dispossessed the residents of approximately 100 villages around the strip mine Garzweiler 2 utilizing laws from Nazi Germany. The police occupy and defend the area that is now in the possession of the energy firm RWE from the people.
Despite attempts at forced evacuation, a couple of activists were still holding out in Lützerath, underground or in the trees. However, since the police had disbanded their community kitchen and thrown out all paramedics, their time was running out.
Therefore, on Saturday, we knew we would make a last attempt at reoccupying the village.
The weather was stormy, which was an advantage in the end because it disabled armored water cannon trucks. The mud was sticky. The rain was heavy. There were police around the entire village, police along the horizon, police as far as the eye can see. Yet thousands of people marched to Lützerath despite the police doing everything they could to prevent us from doing so by using tear gas, batons, riot shields, dogs, horses, anti-riot water cannons, a helicopter and military tactics. It was a siege that began when one of the people organizing the legal demo told us to ignore the police and go for the village.
A group of hooded activists in black marched right through the police lines, throwing smoke bombs and shooting fireworks. Of around 35,000 people, approximately 5,000-10,000 joined in, but we progressively kept losing more on the way to Lützerath. We advanced by taking land and by breaking through police lines, for example by distracting the police, so we could push through elsewhere. Then the police rearranged and it all began anew. It took 6-7 hours to even get to the village.
By then it was almost dawn. Most of the people were deciding to turn around.
The police managed to surround the entire village. They had erected two special fences around the village and the surrounding woods. They had also built a road through the strip mine, so they could bring in ordnance while they prevented all of our vehicles from getting through.
Lützerath leaves an impression. A mark on the consciousness of the people. Some are confronted with the violence of the machine for the very first time. The lifeless bodies of protestants being dragged through the mud by policemen. Running and panicked screams. A heavily armed policeman coming at you, swinging his baton, bellowing, hitting you in the face, despite you raising your arms. In such a moment you become fully conscious of the absurdity and brutality of a system that does not protect you but the interests of a company tearing the life from this very earth. You notice you do not have a weapon because somebody told you that you were prohibited from carrying one. But he does, and he is using it.
You also see the people coming together to lift a woman in a wheelchair over an earth wall. You see the crowd forming a protective circle, shouting and pulling on a policeman who is pushing a screaming woman. I felt something very special that is hard to describe. A solidarity that does not need words.
Over a hundred people were hurt, some severely. The police won, the area was evacuated and flattened in the cruelest way possible. Landmarks that were supposed to go to museums were destroyed. Still, some people are holding out to slow down the monstrous rotary excavator. If RWE manages to mine just one quarter of the amount of lignite it plans to mine, if Lützerath falls, the earth will warm more than 1.5°.
The reason we failed in the end was not hunger. Nor exhaustion. Nor lack of equipment. The reason we failed was morale. Morale was, of course, low from hours of wading through mud and static battles with the police, but people can push through hardships and overcome fear. For this, they need motivation. That could look like a leader giving them a goal and pointing them in the right direction, or knowing that reinforcement is on the way.
What we would have needed was a detailed plan, experience and more structure. A tighter, more responsive form of organization led by people with an iron will. Numbers can only do so much. If he has a weapon, and is willing to use it, and you do not have a weapon and you are not willing to take risks, then he wins. More militant activists led the push, and most of them were carried off by police fairly early on.
I believe the “activisti,” as they are called here, would have profited from training. For example, many people were too timid to effectively advance, so what would have helped is a kind of military structure with leaders and strategically positioned militant activists.
If we could do it again, I would make sure we would have brought the right equipment along and that the people who knew how to carry and use it were protected until arriving at the fence. In Germany, you are not allowed to bring “protective weapons” to demonstrations, meaning any kind of armor to protect you from police violence. I would have disregarded that. In the deciding moment of this battle, right before the fence, I would have given people shields and armor that a group would have carried up until then and I would have told them to shield the people breaking into the fence.
I would have brought smoke grenades, balloons and water guns filled with colorful paint and pepper spray and maybe even a truck with a hose mounted on top to send the police into chaos. We could have made a coordinated effort to storm into their rows and to disarm them, put bags over their heads, use the pepper spray, colors and flash grenades to blind them and tie them up.
We could have notified people of our plans without alerting police via messenger groups.
We could have driven a truck into the outer fence, maybe put wooden planks over the gap between the fences and climbed over it.
We could have used drones to scout and carrier drones to bring supplies.
We could have stormed the perimeter and disabled or even taken over the water cannon truck.
In the ensuing confusion we could have brought in material for barricades. The fences would have worked to our advantage: we would have barricaded ourselves inside and around it. At night, we would have laid down bricks and spikes to keep the police from bringing in reinforcements. We could have sabotaged the police cars that were already there — it is easy to pop their tires. Or we could have taken them, crashed them and used them for the barricades. People in the very densely populated Ruhrgebiet could have sabotaged police stations and laid fires the whole night to keep the police busy. We could have held our position until morning.
For all of this, we would have needed high amounts of coordination and structure and also morale to keep it coming. Everyone would have needed to lose their fear of state violence and to fight till the bitter end.
Agent Eagle is a German radical feminist and an environmental activist.
“Some failures to act at the right time with the right tactic (violent or nonviolent) may set movements back or move them forward. The trick is knowing when and how to act. Well, that’s the first trick. The real trick is kicking aside our fear and acting on what we already know (because, truly, we depend on those around us, and they are dying because they depend on us, too).
I asked a friend what he thought is meant by the phrase, ‘Every act of violence sets back the movement ten years.’
He responded, ‘More often than not, before I say anything radical or militant at all in any sort of public forum, I wonder who is taking in my words. And I wonder what will be the consequences if I say something that may threaten the worldview of those in power.’
He paused, then continued, ‘I think identity has a lot to do with resistance to violent acts. It’s pretty apparent to us all at a very early age that you’re absolutely forbidden by the master to use the ‘tools of the master to destroy the master’s house.’ Imagine a child who is routinely beaten with a two-by-four, who one day picks it up and fights back. Imagine especially what happens to this child if he’s not yet big enough to effectively fight back, to win. Not good. On the larger scale I don’t think many people are willing to identify themselves with these types of acts or with anyone willing to commit these types of acts simply because it is forbidden by those in power and therefore to be feared.’
Another short pause, and then he concluded, ‘The way I see it, the phrase about setting the movement back is coming from a place of fear. It surely can’t be coming from the perspective of successful pacifist resistance to the machine. If it did, we wouldn’t be here discussing how to stop the atrocities committed by this culture.’
Near the end of our book Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control, George Draffan and I wrote, ‘A high-ranking security chief from South Africa’s apartheid regime later told an interviewer what had been his greatest fear about the rebel group African National Congress (ANC). He had not so much feared the ANC’s acts of sabotage or violence — even when these were costly to the rulers — as he had feared that the ANC would convince too many of the oppressed majority of Africans to disregard ‘law and order.’ Even the most powerful and highly trained ‘security forces’ in the world would not, he said, have been able to stem that threat.’
As soon as we come to see that the edicts of those in power are no more than the edicts of those in power, that they carry no inherent moral or ethical weight, we become the free human beings we were born to be, capable of saying yes and capable of saying no.”
Editor’s note: Today we share an online fundraiser created by dissident author and journalist Christopher Ketcham. Ketchum is fundraising to meet with and complete his book about a Texas man who sabotaged electrical infrastructure across the American West “in defense of mother earth,” to use his own words.
We support strategic and moral acts of sabotage against industrial infrastructure that is destroying our planet, and look forward to reading Ketchum’s book when it is released.
What it means when you turn your rifle against techno-industrial civilization
Since 2016 I have been working on a book about a 62-year-old Texas man who was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison, charged with being an “ecoterrorist” for acts of industrial sabotage “in defense of mother earth,” as he put it. He is now in the last months of his sentence, due to be released in August of 2022, a few weeks from now. If I can raise the money, I’d like to be there when he gets out.
The idea is that we take a trip together upon his release to visit some of the places he sabotaged. For that I need your help: $1,000 is my fundraising goal.
My protagonist, who I will call Saboteur (his name will remain undisclosed for now), traveled the American West taking out various parts of our civilization’s fossil fuel infrastructure. In the course of getting to know him – through letters, phone calls, and our many meetings in various jails and prisons since 2016 – I came to see his strange tortured tale of environmental vengeance as a vehicle for discussing the big questions that define our fraught moment.
For Saboteur, there was no doubt in his mind that the beauty of the world would be doomed by the continued march of technoindustrial civilization – a civilization addicted to technology, crazed in its obsession with material wealth, anthropocentric to the point of ecological insanity, totally dysfunctional in its relationship with the natural world. “This is a crackhead,” Saboteur told me. “The crackhead will keep on smoking until the last of the drug.” Until the world, he said, is “turned to ash.”
He declared himself, by contrast, a “madly matriarchal, dirt worshipping, tree-hugging, godless feminist with a gun,” “a worshipper of Gaia.” “We have to destroy the existing order,” he is recorded saying on an FBI surveillance tape. “I have a political agenda to destroy industrial capitalism. I can shut down coal-fired power plants, costing millions of dollars, all by myself. God damn it! You really want me to tell you, or you wanna go see? I’m serious as a fuckin’ heart attack. And I’m willing to die for what I believe.”
In my book about him I seek to understand the psychological forces behind both the refusal to act and the turn toward violent disruption. Why did Saboteur finally pick up his weapons? What has inspired other ecosaboteurs? Given the bleak future of a depauperate earth that business-as-usual promises, what shape does direct action take and how extreme should that action be? In what circumstances is sabotage justified, if ever? If Greta Thunberg’s “fairy tale of eternal economic growth” condemns future generations to apocalyptic suffering, what duty do we have to oppose that noxious and ultimately homicidal economic system? What kind of sacrifice will that entail, now, today? What are we willing to risk for the safety and security of the generations of tomorrow?
All subjects to be explored, questions to be answered, in my story about Saboteur. Any help you can give to facilitate my book about him is most appreciated!
Below is one in a series of letters to an ecosaboteur, declared by our government an “ecoterrorist,” who is serving 96 months in federal prison. In his most recent email, this individual, who I will call Saboteur, wrote: “Anatole France came close to the theme that Sartre was later to exploit: the tragic solitude of the thinker in a hostile community……….. Prison is the most hostile of all communities…” The subject line of his email was “alone.” He had written previously that he felt now, at the tail end of his sentence, that he was losing his mind.
His inspiration to act – he destroyed fossil fuel infrastructure – was his love of the natural world, wild places, wild flora and fauna. My reply to Saboteur, who turned 62 this year, was an attempt to cheer him up:
I’m sorry I missed your last few calls. I was out taking my 10-yr-old daughter backpacking. And since she asks questions about you often enough (as I talk about you so often), I told her that you spent a good part (the best part?) of your 40s and 50s taking nieces and nephews into the wild with backpack, on foot and free and easy. To assuage your loneliness, forthwith some random notes on my trip with Josie up Plateau Mountain in the Catskill range.
Now the Catskills, mind you, is not a range at all, not orogenic, formed by tectonic folding of the earth’s crust, but is in fact an eroded plateau, an uplift dissected into pieces much like the Colorado Plateau has been dissected. Except this violent erosive process was made gentle with the help of glaciers, the most significant of which was the Wisconsonan Glacier, which lasted 75,000 to roughly 11,000 years ago. This last glaciation rounded the edges of the high points of the plateau, carved rolling valleys and cirques, created shallow river corridors with fast run-off, and, where there might have been impossibly walled canyons in a plateau of the American West, fashioned instead narrow notches where the cols of the “peaks” gloomily come together. The major peaks of the Catskills plateau ascend to a relatively uniform height, between 3500 and 4000 feet, and at a distance they have the table aspect of mesas. What distinguishes them most clearly from the plateau country of the West is the rich rushing green: the deciduous oaks, beeches, birches, and the evergreen conifers, the Eastern white pine, balsam fir, spruce.
Plateau Mountain, as its name suggests, is the most canyon-country-like of these peaks. The climb to the top of Plateau is from a v-shaped col called Stony Clove Notch, also called the Devil’s Notch. The trail from Stony Clove Notch rises nearly 2000 feet in the space of 1.3 miles. A difficult climb — especially for a ten-year-old girl shouldering a 15-pound pack.
It is of course as green as the ancient English mythic forests where the Green Man lives, he who peaks behind ferns in the woods, who might kill you, but is mostly loving. A few years back, when she was six or maybe seven, Josie and I were planting seeds, building our vegetable garden, and I told her bedtime stories about the Green Man who leapt from the forest and could eat a fallen man, woman, or child who it saw as flesh to rejuvenate. Human beings as compost. Which we are.
There has been terrific heat over the last month in the lowlands around the Catskills: ninety degree highs, day after day of unbroken sun and blue sky, rarely seen here, probably a new weather regime of climate warming. But in the higher reaches of the mountains this heat softens, takes on a delightful aspect, libertine and easeful, with silken zephyrs, and bringing, most importantly, the chance to travel in the backcountry with barely any weight. A normal Catskills in summer is sunny for a minute, then rainy, foggy, dismal, doomy, blowing a gale, or still as death and full of bugs and humidity — and all these strange troubled faces of the mountains can show in the space of days. Which means preparation and a lot of equipment.
Now that a hot calm clear-blue-eyed weather had stabilized, Josie and I traveled light on our ascent of Plateau Mountain, starting the climb late in the day, around 6 pm, with sunset not two and half hours away, and the long tail of twilight until 9:30 pm or a little later.
The trail was very steep. We toiled and sweated. Josie complained not one bit. She rallied me to her side when I slowed. The air was still. The insects were quiet. No brooks or streams or rills ran off the peak; we’ve had little rain lately, and the land is in the early stages of drought. I worried about our water. I had brought a gallon for the both of us, taken from the tap at home, and a water filter in case we found something running. A few springs burble in wet years on the high Catskill peaks, but for the most part these are dry places. We got thirsty. Husbanded the water. Lots of sweat and groans, the good and happy kind, as everywhere along the trail there were ledges and boulders and cobbles and minor difficulties galore. I worried about the water, and I worried about the time — it was dusk now and we were hardly nearer the rim of the mountain (for Plateau is one of those “peaks” in the Catskills that really does form a mesa rim).
At about 3,000 feet of elevation, relief: a breeze picked up, the satiny zephyrs of which I spoke. We were both of us soaked in sweat, wet to the skin, wet down to our wool socks (for even in summer on the trail I’ve taught Josie to wear only wool socks). The stirring air drove through our soaked clothes, acted with the effect of evaporative cooling, the same action of what they call a swamp cooler in the aridlands.
Still we climbed. The trail faced west and now there was a sunset of marvelous red-pink-purple immensity that we caught sight of through the rustling leaves of the silver birches and the paper birches. Soon, the full dark, moonless, time for headlamps. Josie was afraid. Bears, she said. I had a pistol strapped to me, and showed her the gun to allay her fears, clearing the chamber and handing it to her. “Looks like a blaster!” she said, being a Star Wars fan. She held and weighed it without judgment, as one might any other tool, and correctly did not place her finger in the trigger guard while doing so.
For the most part you don’t need a gun out here, not for bears or anyone else. Subjective risk and objective risk are two explicitly competing worlds – often comically at odds – and the subjective risk, Josie’s perception of it, was allayed a bit (meaninglessly) with the knowledge that ol’ backpacker dad carried a gun to deal with an almost non-existent objective risk. I told her the greatest risk on this wondrous mountain was that we might happen on another Homo sapiens playing music on a portable IJoy Beachbomb sound system. Blind and deaf hominids as they hike deep in wilderness need to get terribly lost and never be able to recharge their Beachbombs.
We climbed and climbed, the trail narrowed now to the cone of light from our headlamps, the breeze blew stronger and warmer, all the living world on the steep mountainside shook and danced and hushed. With our lamps we groped up the final stretch along a series of ledges, and at the top, where the wind blew fiercest, we looked for a place to lay our sleeping bags, found one in the duff of high country firs and pines, and hugged. We hugged! And did a little dance, celebration of finding a place to sleep that was so endearing, so lovely. The perfume of the balsam fir filled the air. Here was the revealed edge of the world, here was a small taste of immensity.
Let it never be said, however, that such glory is because of conquest. It is not glorious by the measures of the deranged creature called the Competitive Man, who keeps by his side the sick concubine Competitive Woman-who-Wants-to-Be-Man. It is not glorious by the measure of some inane clown-mimicry of a climb up K2, Kilimanjaro, fastest ascent (fastest masturbation), fastest descent, etc. etc., ad absurdum.
The glory is when the mere walker in the woods, the animal Homo sapiens, is at the still point of the turning world: “Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered….Except for the point, the still point.”
A small creature, a silly creature, a stupid and contemptible creature given the industrial culture he’s created, but also, free of that culture, a loving and sweet and gentle creature who needs only to find the still point.
And on the rim of Plateau Mountain, two creatures, father and daughter, now lay down at their camp to sleep.
Author’s Note: Since 2016 I have been working on a book about a 62-year-old Texas man who was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison, charged with being an “ecoterrorist” for acts of industrial sabotage “in defense of mother earth,” as he put it. He is now in the last months of his sentence, due to be released in August of 2022, a few weeks from now. If I can raise the money, I’d like to be there when he gets out. The idea is that we take a trip together upon his release to visit some of the places he sabotaged. For that I need your help: $1,000.00 is my fundraising goal.
A ravenous, yet decrepit cyborg – part machine, part zombie – lurches onward as it is programmed to do. Its hunger is so insatiable that it eats its own flesh; it eats its offspring; and it eats the future. The catabolic effects are inescapable and its death rattle reverberates for miles. An entire city lives inside this beast. Yet in this late hour, inhabitants put their heads down and carry-on as usual, for they are all dependent upon this monster for their very own food, water, and shelter. No one dares utter a stray word, until the day one brave soul holds up a mirror that reveals who they have become.
A decade ago, I attended a series of contentious activist meetings with Rio Tinto, the mega-mining corporation that owns the massive Kennecott copper pit in the Salt Lake Valley. Rio Tinto planned to expand the mine, and activists were pushing back. The meetings foundered and collapsed upon the lack of viable possibilities for avoiding local impacts and for making operations more sustainable. Activists’ proposals were considered impractical and unprofitable. Ultimately, Kennecott got its expansion and activists got nothing.
Jean Arnold, Civilization, 2012, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 inches. An early Egyptian pyramid is seen with the gaping hole of the Kennecott copper pit. As civilization builds up monuments to itself, it must tear down into Earth for her treasures.
As a visual artist, I took my angst to the studio and captured eviscerated earth in a series of paintings and drawings, depicting large-scale mining operations that are rarely seen or considered by the public. What better way to reveal our civilization’s insatiable hunger for resources?
I realized that the mining industry cannot be greened, intrinsically by its very nature. Mining casts a long shadow: habitat loss, land theft, worker exploitation, local health impacts, and groundwater contamination, to name just a few issues. Without mining and other forms of extraction, Industrial Civilization could not exist. Yet we rarely ponder our Wonder-World’s material basis and its extraction costs.
Turns out I’m not the only one working in this vein – far from it.
This year a broad panoply of photographers, painters, poets, and printmakers are raising a ruckus in a four-continent constellation of almost sixty exhibits, installations, performances, and events under the rubric “EXTRACTION: Art on the Edge of the Abyss.” When EXTRACTION originator Peter Koch announced the project, it took off like wildfire. Creators are shining lights on all forms of the omnivorous extractive industry, “from mining and drilling to the reckless plundering and exploitation of fresh water, fertile soil, timber, marine life, and innumerable other resources across the globe.” The project’s broad definition begs the questions: In our civilization, what isn’t based on extraction? What isn’t affected by extraction?
The Algonquin word “wetiko” reveals extraction as a symptom of the culture-wide soul-sickness driven by domination, greed, and consumptive excess. It blinds humans from seeing ourselves as part of an interdependent whole, in communion with all of life. It is through this toxic mindset that the world is divided up and consumed for profit.
Extraction is an uncomfortable topic: it confronts us with our system’s voracious appetite for taking Earth’s riches without reciprocity – the very epitome of wetiko. Sure, we can point at capitalism, corporations and elite interests, but as participants in this wetiko culture we are all infected by this mind virus.
Far beyond a “problem” – extraction and its consequences pose a predicament without escape. Humanity is hitting planetary limits: declining resources, excess CO2 in the atmosphere, and plastic choking our oceans. Many of the proposed “solutions,” are just new iterations of the same paradigm, bringing more extraction. For example, see our blog “We are Strip-Mining Life While We Drink ‘Bright Green Lies’” as to why “green” tech will never save us. Humanity has dug itself deep into a hole from which few of us may emerge.
Since stories create meaning, the “wetikonomy” seeks to maintain itself through a tight control over its own narratives. In our situation, the system rewards those that uphold its delusions: endless growth, techno-magic, fulfillment through consumption, and superiority over nature. We are told there is no alternative and things are getting better all the time.
Stephen Braun, The Hoarder, 2009, raku ceramics, 24 x 30 x 8 inches. Clinging to the same mentality at the root cause of the crises.
The pressure to act according to these grand-yet-contradictory narratives is pervasive, which means compliance is near-universal. Witness the charades played by world leaders and diplomats at decades of climate conferences, giving lip service to fossil fuel phase-out while maintaining the techno-growth-extraction paradigm – essentially mocking the stated climate goals by clinging to the same mentality at the root cause of the crisis. Does anyone think this year’s climate conference, COP26 in Glasgow will play out differently?
Why are people so willing to surrender their agency? Society is captivated by a grand bargain described by social critic Lewis Mumford in his 1964 essay “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics”:
The bargain … takes the form of a magnificent bribe … each member of the community may claim every material advantage … food, housing, swift transportation, instantaneous communication, medical care, entertainment, education. But on one condition: that one must not merely ask for nothing that the system does not provide, but likewise agree to take everything offered … Once one opts for the system no further choice remains.
In other words, the bribe offers everyone a share in the largess, that is, the cornucopia of material goods unleashed by this industrial economy — as long as one does not question the costs to others, to ecosystems, or to the future.
The wetiko-spirit hates to be seen and named, as this begins to dissolve its parasitic power over its host. Dissent against the existing paradigm is ignored, penalized, or co-opted – that is, absorbed into the hegemony. Until it’s not. The time comes when costs become unbearable, limits are reached, and opposition finally boils over.
Thus, the last thing the power structure wants is a cultural spotlight on extraction, which exposes the core of our malady. And certainly not through art, which has a visceral, soul-level power – a power that scientific reports, statistics, and warnings do not have. Art can play a prophetic role: bearing witness to unsettling matters and grabbing attention before we can turn away. It can portray possibilities previously unconsidered, vitally needed at this time.
Jos Sances, Or, the Whale, 2108-2109, scratchboard, 14 x 51 feet This very large scratchboard drawing was inspired by Moby Dick and the history of whaling in America. The whale’s skin is embedded with a history of capitalism in America—images of human and environmental exploitation and destruction since 1850.
EXTRACTION co-founder Edwin Dobb (now deceased) posed the question of our time: Can we break the spell? A growing chorus on the periphery – Greta Thunberg, poets, painters, performance artists, Extinction Rebellion – is revealing the sociopathic end-game holding us in its grip and unraveling slowly in real time. Learning to see wetiko within ourselves and our culture can begin to break its spell. Can we come to see our own hubris?Contraction is coming whether we like it or not – how can we deal with this if we are spellbound? We have no individual or collective roadmap for the coming post-extraction Reality.
The EXTRACTION project’s exhibits and events are winding down, although organizers hope for continuation in some form. Only a few more venues are scheduled to open, yet its effects will continue rippling outwards. The project has legitimized the extraction art movement and showcased some of today’s most potent work. It has broadened my own definition of extraction-inspired art, which helps me see new possibilities. The project will live on in the evolving work of extraction artists and in others forging authentic responses to our global predicaments. Art is all-too-often wed to money and societal embrace, compromising its own power and obscuring rather than illuminating Reality. Artmaking on the margins is not easy, so supporting this work is necessary.
Chris Boyer, Atlantic Salmon Pens, Welshpool, New Brunswick, Canada (44.885980°, -66.959243°), 2018.
Art that challenges the wetiko-extraction paradigm will become even more relevant, as extraction’s impacts widen. Extraction art is not going away, until extraction itself goes away. While industrial-scale extraction has “only” been with us for four hundred years, art has been with us for thousands of generations, since our early ancestors rendered images inside caves.
EXTRACTION megazine (648 pages): download for free or purchase a printed copy for $25 + $7 shipping.
Partly a group catalog of extraction-related artwork, each artist or creator’s individual contribution documents their own personal investigations into the extraction question. The project is by no means limited to the visual arts—in these pages you will also find poetry, critical writings, philosophical treatises, manifestos, musical scores, conversations, historical or found photographs, and much more.