William Falk: We’re Finished. Now What?

By William Falk / Deep Green Resistance

I don’t know how to write this, but it looks like humanity is finished.

Many of us know it in our hearts. We watch as civilization marches us to the edge of the cliff. We look around to find most governments refusing to implement the radical shifts needed to save us. We hear screams as governments kill those who fight back. We are searching for the serious resistance movement we have needed for the last sixty years while nothing materializes. Even though we have invented a million reasons why we’ll be saved like the belief in technology or a faith in economics, we know what is happening.

Of course, this culture is suspicious of the implications of any easily observable phenomenon that is not stamped with the approval of the currently dominating priesthood – I mean – scientific community. And, even the scientists have known our doom for decades.

University of Arizona Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology Guy McPherson predicts human extinction by 2030 and keeps an up-to-date climate change summary on his website Nature Bats Last. McPherson keeps track of positively reinforcing feedback loops set into motion by climate change. These feedback loops are the great multipliers of climate change. Once in motion, they are virtually impossible to stop and they all lead to a planet that cannot support human life. The first feedback loop was observed in 2010 and in just four years McPherson’s list has grown to include 30 self-reinforcing feedback loops.

Brilliant Australian biologist Frank Fenner says the writing is on the wall. [1]

And John Davies, writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, says we’re at the beginning of a run-away greenhouse event that will kill off humans by 2040.

In short, we’re fucked.

These words have been beating at the box of denial I built inside myself for too long. The bruises that have come from too much silence are too uncomfortable for me to maintain my silence any longer.

Let the knowledge sink in. Let it weigh on your shoulders. Let it pull you to the ground for a second and rub your face in the dirt of reality. Let it kick you in the gut and double you over with plain truth. Let it boil the acid in your stomach until you’re sick with honest anxiety.

Think about what happens when a loved one dies. Think about the emotional and spiritual energy it takes to overcome the tragedy. Think about the sleepless nights, the numb feeling at the funeral, and the horrible dreams that follow you for years after their death.

Now, think about what will happen when all your loved ones die.

These are the dark times we live in. Everywhere I go people tell me that the truth is just too depressing. Many don’t disagree with me, but they say it’s all too much to face.

There are plenty of people who will deny the truth. Frankly, it’s too late for them. There are people who will accept the truth, then throw up their arms, and opt to party their remaining days away. I cannot understand this. I cannot understand how even if there only exists the tiniest of chances to succeed we wouldn’t use all our power to try to succeed.

I am not writing to the truth-deniers or the partiers. I am writing to those of you who still possess enough empathy to defend what you love, but who may be caught in the grips of depression.

I am intimately familiar with the overwhelming paralysis of depression.

I began my professional career as a young public defender determined to combat the destructive forces in the so-called criminal justice system. I came face to face with institutional racism and colonial violence.

I set as many cases for trial as I could. I pushed the envelope with unorthodox arguments whenever I thought it wouldn’t hurt my clients. I argued with my boss about office-wide tactics. I beat my head against the wall. I pushed Sisyphus’ rock up the hill. Just as Audre Lorde pointed out when she said “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” it quickly became apparent that nothing I did working with the state-sanctioned tools made available to me as a public defender would be effective in combating the state’s oppression.

Eventually, I developed a severe case of depression. One day, after I spent several weeks preparing for a trial only to have the judge ignore my speedy trial demand because the prosecutor showed up unprepared resulting in my client having to sit in jail for another 60 days on misdemeanor charges he still was not convicted of, the depression overcame me.

I came home from dinner with friends. I ground up a couple sleeping pills with the butt of a kitchen knife and snorted them to dull the pain inhering to what I was about to do next.

I filled up a glass of water, thinking about how good water tastes and briefly looking at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Then, I downed the entire bottle of sleeping pills.

I’ve been recovering for the last year and on a path of self-discovery more intense than I could have imagined.

What have I learned? Two things.

First, depression, no matter how bad it hurts, on its own is just a feeling and feelings cannot kill you.

Don’t get me wrong. You can kill you. You can take too many pills and die. You can develop cancer from pollutants introduced into the air, the water, or the soil by corporations hell-bent on turning the world into a profit and die. You can stand in the way of a police officer when he comes to remove you from your home when you can’t pay rent, be shot, and die.

But, in each of these examples it will ultimately be physical and material forces that produce your death. It will not be a feeling or emotional state.

Which brings me to the second thing I’ve learned and that is there really is only one medicine for depression: Action. Action that changes material conditions.

No matter how many therapists I talk to, no matter how many psychiatrists I see, and no matter how many anti-depressants I take, the only way to push through the grey fog of depression is to act.  To get out of the grey fog of depression, you have to stand up and blow the fog away or travel to a new locale where there is no fog.

Put another way, you have to do something.

Action is particularly effective against depression when your actions can literally change the conditions producing the depression. If an abusive relationship is causing depression, leaving it works best. If a bad job is causing depression, finding a new one works best. If the destruction of the world is causing depression, stopping the destruction works best.

I understand that there are some situations producing depression that we have no control over. No matter how we act, we will not bring a dead child back to life. No matter how we act, we cannot erase an act of violence done to us in the past. Action, however, is still helpful. The path to recovery for a parent who loses a child might involve counseling other parents who have lost children. The victim of violence might find the strength to beat depression in advocating for other victims.

We started with the fact that humans are probably going extinct and it is causing widespread depression.

Do we or do we not have control over the extinction of humans? Are there actions we can take that will stop the extinction?

I do not know. I want to think that if we could topple civilization right now, if we could knock down the dams, stop the mining, tear up the pipelines, and blow up the power stations, we still might have a fighting chance.

But, there’s a sense that the question doesn’t matter. I asked you earlier to let the feeling of our desperate situation wash over you. I asked you to consider the deaths of your loved ones. The truth is the problem is even scarier than the death of our loved ones. The problem is the destruction of a livable planet. The problem is the destruction of everything, because without a livable planet we have nothing.

So, I ask: Who among us can sit idly by while our loved ones are doomed to death – while everything is doomed to death – and not act with every ounce of our power?

Action is still possible. And once you start, you’ll begin to feel better. I promise.

From San Diego Free Press: http://sandiegofreepress.org/2014/03/were-finished-now-what/


26 thoughts on “William Falk: We’re Finished. Now What?”

  1. Reblogged this on The Familographer and commented:
    Let’s say Mr. Falk is overstating his case by 90% (which he’s not), how much beyond 2030 (one estimate of date after which humanity becomes extinct) what would be your best guess as to an extinction date? Facts are facts, after all. Governments aren’t even close to taking the drastic actions needed if it is to be prevented.

  2. Thank you for your heartfelt and inspiring post. I support your arguments and your method (action with purpose) for maintaining inspiration and motivation, while accepting what may be inevitable. Of course we do not know that it is inevitable and I don’t believe it is. We do have options and we should explore what we can do to make our lives useful, valuable and enjoyable, however lengthy or to what end.

  3. Forcing governments? How about creating community instead. How about loving each other AND loving mother earth. How about living peace instead of “fighting” for it. We are all one. “You may say I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only one….”

    1. Right on Matty. I’m going to die, I might be dying with a whole lot of people at the same time. Joy, plant based diet, community, coops, play, sex, reason to live and enbody a way of living that harms no one. That’s my plan.

    2. I think “living peace” means ignoring the violence done to natural communities and oppressed peoples. I can’t live in peace when war is being waged around the world, when I live on stolen land, when the very air we breathe is being poisoned.

  4. Extinction? No way. Perhaps a steady descent into squalor and deprivation as trillions of dollars of real-estate vanishes into the sea and we have to start working to manually do what a healthier ecosystem did for free, like make enough oxygen perhaps. But even that isn’t a foregone conclusion. It’s important to never give up. We can’t know the future. It is only if we give up that we can know for sure what the future will bring. Until we give up, there is hope, and that is where we must rationally focus ourselves, because small odds are better than no odds.

  5. Good to see someone talking about what is underneath the denial of global crisis–the emotional reaction to it–which, including the depression to which he skillfully refers–has been relegated to yet deeper levels of denial.
    If it were only so easy a problem as global warming, at least we wouldn’t be looking at extinction of alot of the life on earth, including humans-just a relatively few other species. But I haven’t seen many looking at radiation. Nuclear war is, or course, a real threat, but has not happened. At least not on a planet-wide mass-extinction scale. We actually CAN do something to prevent it, if we so chose. What I’m referring to, primairly, is the hundreds of high level nuclear waste, staying cool under water, kept from melting down by one and only one thing–water. That is, water pumps. We see what has/is happening in Fukushima when the pumps go–and it doesn’t take much–they just have to run out of fuel. And this is only one of hundreds of reactors worldwide, the large majority of which are already full to overflowing with this stuff that no one can or will go near. So, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is nothing that can be done to prevent the eventual meltdown of these, which like global warming, is already a done deal, (it just takes time to melt that much ice, as it takes time for the pumps to stop and more time for radiation to disperse and do damage). And, by the way, let us not forget that nuclear is part of the global warming equation. So, in my view, an honest evaluation of the situation means we’re virtually assured to go extinct from the multiple effects of that much radiation on the planet in a small number of generations. Unfortunately, many, many other species, too, none of which seem to have been consulted on the question of their own extinction. But we still can do something to make our ramaining time useful and something to be hopeful about.

  6. Brilliant. I suffer from depression and the writer describes it well. I recycle, I am vegetarian, I buy ‘green’ products, and try not to pillage my beloved planet. I have only been on an aeroplane twice in 23 years ( once there once back), I try not to use a car unnecessarily, but live in a rural area with a poor infrastructure, I have planted 3 trees in my tiny front garden, fruit trees to feed us without shops. I grow some vegetables, I do everything I can possibly do as a thinking person. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. My friends and acquaintances are bored with me banging on and never change their ways. WHAT CAN I DO????

    1. Fiona, thank you for the actions you are taking and thank you trying to live as simply as possible. I can’t tell you what to do because I don’t know you, your talents, or your heart. But, I think the best thing all of us can do is listen to our hearts and then have the courage to follow the path our hearts set out for us.

  7. I agree – that it is hopeless. And I too have sat with the fact that we are at the end of history. I have struggled with whether it is worthwhile sharing detail about one of those feedback loops that I am aware of. It seems unfair to contaminate the blissful ignorance of those close to me, just because I know them. I think your argument for action and a comment regarding community are both strong and true. The analogy for me is of a smoker who is told he has 6 months to live. S/he could spend those months raging against the inevitable or in denial or it could be, potentially, be the best time of his/her life. Why not work to leave this life with happiness and lightness? Don’t allow others to diminish the seriousness of the end to come but remind everyone that there is no longer time for small-mindedness and regrets. For whatever reason, as always, we are in this together. Celebrate the time we have left and work and live in a community that supports action, not to stop the inevitable but to bring accountability, transparency and awareness. We, humans, have shared a tremendous opportunity. It will be wasted so totally if we go quietly or we slip away individually. Think global, act local is now, think global act personally. First and always, we must look after our own spiritual and mental health. Despite the sad truth we know or suspect, we must continue to laugh, to smile to be part of our families and communities. For me, meditation, for others, prayer, is sooooo important. And then, from this base, this centre of peace, we need to not be ignorant, broken or depressed. We are witnesses and actors in a key time in human history. We need compassion for ourselves. Know that there are many of us who are aware of the futility and we are still here, struggling with our awareness maybe but all part of this miracle or accident (depending on your beliefs) that is conscious, human life on planet earth. You are not alone 🙂

    1. Thanks Steve. Meditation has been a foundation for me, so glad I found it.
      Time for me to plant a garden, bike, and feel the sun on my skin.

  8. > they all lead to a planet that cannot support human life…
    Sorry, but this is just wrong. Tell me what planet you’re expecting that can’t support humans at all. (A Venus scenario, yes, but that’s still considered unlikely.) The Earth can get a lot hotter, and a lot drier, and still support many humans – however, nowhere near the number we have now. I just don’t think it helps to talk about extinction when it’s not in the cards. (Or, if it is, it’s because we kill each other, and the risk of that is significant, but hard to predict – and a plausible possibility even without climate change.)

    1. not in the cards, if writing a comment that say that human extinction is simply “not in the cards” you might wanna provde your own proof as to why Guy Mcphersons data is wrong or any of the growing numbers of scientists all over the world.. Even UN a week ago made a report that the oil that is left in the ground should stay there, which would mean if we did that it would be the end of industrial living as we know it right there. This is not a hoax, this is serious issues.
      The biological collapse that is under way on this planet is due to industrial civilisation. It’s not the sun, stars or any mumbo jumbo pseudo science project (unless you want to call the mainstream science that has helped to pave way for this destructive pattern pseudo science)
      It’s not about “us killing each other” either.. I’m not killing anyone. I know not a single human being that has killed any other human either. I would say the vast majority of the worlds human population is not murderers.

  9. William. So let me take a crack at this. First off, this despair is justified and has a high probability of coming true. The next question is: So What? I say that not in jest, but you and I know that you can’t go around with a gunny sack on saying the world is going to end. Even if it is. The real question is what any of us can do about it. Violence is not a solution, and rarely has been, though of course the USA and France were created out of violent revolution. The more likely scenario is that deep change only seems to happen when things come to a head. 1968 was one such point, and 1848 was another. The end of WWII was another. The reality is that other ways include organizing and joining a political party. Each of those require a special person, who is adapt at those skills. We could also use some rich environmentalists to continue to spend money educating the sleeping populations, especially those asleep in Canada. The US is bad, but Canada is on track to become a Nigeria North. Canada needs good people to engage now.

    All politics is local though. I can’t help Fiji stay above water or my air to be breathable if I’m not willing to ask my local community to take steps to act. I may lose a lot of battles, but it’s the best way of working, for me. Younger people, more rootless should seriously look at the centers of power and how they can work from there to get change to happen. That is where the action is for the big global efforts. But there’s plenty to do locally.

    While we assume that the planet cannot continue to supply us with air and clean water much past this century, if not before, does not mean we give up. One can. But many of us can’t. Humans have one thing that most animals don’t, a way of rapidly adapting to change and using it to our advantage. There is an answer waiting for us to discover it out there, but I for one am unable to see it. I do sense it just out of reach. Go show us what it is.

  10. I swear on my childrens lives that I just had this “inner conversation”, realization, feeling about a week or so ago!!! Just shook my head when I started reading! Uncanny…? To say the least. I was planning the bumper stickers and everything. The difference with my conversation is that I have also realized that Mother Earth is alive in ways we don’t even grasp. And she will ALWAYS recycle/come back. And there will ALWAYS be a remnant that starts over. NOTHING will change things until human hearts change…. and you can’t MAKE that happen. True enough, cataclysmic events can strip the bullshit of a whole lifetime out of a heart in about a second flat! And I feel like THAT is where we’re all at.
    Check out the articles (blogs) I wrote… I relate brother… And I admire the hell out of the fact that you just spit the truth straight out! Fucked. The end… I know it in my bones, its too late to stop this. Now what, (was gonna be the title of my next blog…! LOL)

  11. I can understand why you feel this way, but how can we possibly give up hope, when we have only tried 5% of the solutions?

    That’s like giving up in the first period of a hockey game, when you’re 2-0 down.

    If we all take this attitude, we will create a self-fulfilling prophecy; but that’s not the game. Despair is for observers, who are not actively engaged in working to make a difference.

    I know the climate data all too well, since I’ve written two major books on it, and I also know the ecological and population data; but none of it says that humans are going to go extinct by 2030, 2040, even by 2100. There just isn’t a plausible mechanism, except perhaps an asteroid, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

    I repeat – we have only tried 5% of the available solutions so far, so how can we give up hope? Kind wishes, Guy Dauncey, Victoria, Canada. http://www.earthfuture.com

    1. Thanks I needed to read this. I took to my futon when I realized we/me needs to reduce my emissions by 80% by 2030. Me I can handle that country scared me.
      After bleeding ulcers and despair my emotions bounced back and I’ve decided to set up a pollinator garden and find local community gardens.
      I’m also out biking again after this hard, long winter, and feeling better.
      Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall center in Manchester UK mentioned diesel cars/vans/trucks for a quick easy reduction of 30-40% from transportation emissions.


      and efficiency is a no brainer, so doable to reduce 50-60% pretty easy. Just saying no research or development needed. Just doing it.

      Thanks so much for writing. To feel the sun, ride my bike, having sex, how can I despair completely.

  12. For anyone seeking a plan for action, I highly recommend reading the Deep Green Resistance strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare, at http://deepgreenresistance.org/deep-green-resistance-strategy/decisive-ecological-warfare

    And then read the whole Deep Green Resistance book for a lot more grounding in what has and hasn’t worked in resistance movements in the past, and for ideas on what we need to create a viable culture of resistance for the upcoming decades. It’s helped me a lot to have an organized direction to put my energy.

  13. 40 year lag from emissions to effects means were only experiencing our emissions from up to the mid 1970s. Since that time we have emitted as much CO2 as we did for the first 235 years of the industrial revolution. Also, every other breath we take comes courtesy of the oceans. Acidification is increasing at an alarming rate and that alone could wipe out most life. Human are very adaptable to temperature swings, but our crops are not.

  14. Recent article in NYTimes Magazine It’s the end of the world as we know it http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html?ref=magazine&_r=1

    I’ve been working on climate change activism through writing, producing blogathons, reporting from COPs. After COP16, I felt devastated … but after Warsaw I felt totally numbed.

    I’ve dealt with depression my whole life. Nothing prepared me for this one! I am trying to act. I know I will act again soon.

    Thank you.

  15. I’d more likely give us 6-8 generations. What angers me the most is not the prospect of human extinction in and of itself, but the crime of taking so many other species with us. Really does not meet my need for justice. My predidction is that the clincher is likely to be radiation. Be that as it may, and as discouraging as that can be, I have found, too, that action is the best medicine. Have some reason to get out of bed in the morning, even if you can’t see beyond today. No one really knows for sure what the future will bring except your own death. So, I find it very useful to contemplate my own death daily. In short, cultivating the attitude that it is a good day to die. It follows, then, that today is likewise a good day to live, as death and birth are equal. With that as a daily affirmation, I live as warrior. And warriors don’t sit around doing nothing.

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