In this two part article Sarah describes her experiences of direct action, of insight into the harm caused to mother earth and offers the reader sharp analysis regarding the dominant culture. The second part will be published on the 14th February 2021
Featured image by Elisabeth Robson
My friend Tyler told me he was heading to Minnesota to join Indigenous Water Protectors protesting an oil Pipeline. I felt sad as I could not go. Tyler and I spent 4 months at Standing Rock. The Indigenous led resistance was strong, aiming to protect the sacred from the onslaught of destruction.
I took to Facebook to ask if anyone could go in my place. No one has volunteered (so far). I caught wind of another resistance camp. On January 15th, activists Max Wilbert and Will Falk stationed themselves on public land at Thacker Pass, Nevada, an area that is part of the Great Basin (the largest watershed in North America, spanning much of Nevada and into parts of Utah, Oregon, California, Idaho, Wyoming, and Mexico).
I always say that the alien invasion is already here because we live like homesick aliens visiting and trashing a foreign Planet with no respect for the local customs, not realizing that Earth is our estranged motherland!
For today’s installment of ‘Know the Goddamn Planet You Live On’
In a closed endorheic watershed, such as The Great Basin, water is retained within the area with no water flowing out to other external bodies of water, such as rivers and oceans. Instead the water drains to form seasonal and permanent lakes, ponds and swamps, and relies primarily on evaporation to keep moisture balance.
Max and Will are camped in Thacker Pass to protest the Lithium America’s right to develop a huge Lithium mine. Lithium is a lightweight metal used in the industrial manufacturing of everything from cell phones and laptop batteries to ceramics to high tech military equipment to prescription drugs. The Lithium stores at Thacker Pass, if mined, will mainly be used for making batteries for electric cars, all part of the plan to usher in the transition away from fossil fuels to ‘green energy’.
“Well what’s wrong with that?” you may ask, “Aren’t electric vehicles better for the environment?” “Better for the environment” may be a euphemism for “slightly less horrifically devastating for life on Earth but also may have unknown consequences that could end up being worse for the environment than the original thing that was supposed to be the worst thing ever”. THAT is hard to brand, so just stamp “SUSTAINABLE”!
It may be possible for one woman’s experience of rape to not be as horrific as another woman’s but it is still rape. The U.N. pass an international law saying nuclear weapons are illegal. The majority of nations sign up, but the nine countries known to have nuclear warheads of course did not. The U.S. and Russia are roughly tied with having the most weapons, somewhere around 125,000 between them. The other 7 countries with nuclear weapons have less than 2000 weapons between them. In any case, a small fraction of these weapons are enough to destroy all life on earth.
It is estimated that the amount of Life lost due to Industrial Civilization will already take Mother Earth millions of years to restore. The current trajectory due to industrial civilization could result in life being unable to be restored to full health.
In his article Activists Occupy Site of Proposed Lithium Mine in Nevada, Kollibri terre Sonnenblume writes that this Lithium mine….
“….would impact nearly 5700 acres—close to nine square miles—and which would include a giant open pit mine over two square miles in size, a sulfuric acid processing plant, and piles of tailings. The operation would use 850 million gallons of water annually and 26,000 gallons of diesel fuel per day. The ecological damage in this delicate, slow-to-heal landscape would be permanent, at least on the human scale. At risk are a number of animal and plant species including the threatened Greater Sage Grouse, Pygmy Rabbits, the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, a critically imperiled endemic snail species known as the King’s River Pyrg, old growth Big Sagebrush and Crosby’s Buckwheat, to name just those that are locally significant. Also present in the area are Golden Eagles, Pronghorn Antelope, and Bighorn Sheep.”
Sometimes you have to break eggs to make an omelet, right?
Right now all we have is a shit ton of broken eggs and no omelet, all for nothing! Well, except for making a handful of white men extraordinarily wealthy while they build their gigantic metal penises in the form of buildings and towers and missiles. In the process of breaking all these eggs we also broke many of the birds who were laying the eggs, the insects the birds relied on for food, the plants the insects eat, we broke the watersheds that fed the plants. We broke the water that fed the watersheds!!!!! That is right, people…we broke water!
We have been led to believe that when it comes to the environment being damaged the means justify the ends. We are approaching the end and I would challenge anyone to find even a crumb of justification. The “means” turned out to be pretty mean in the end.
- There are 3 billion less birds in North America than in 1970.
- Only 4% of land mammals are wild ones now (the other 96% are humans and domesticated animals like cows).
- 90% of large ocean predators are gone.
- 90% of old growth forests, population: Gonesville
- Just over 20 years ago there were over 1,200,000 Monarch butterflies counted in California. Last year, there were fewer than 2,000. Butterflies are considered by ecologists to be a strong indicator of ecological health. Rut Roh.
- It is estimated that a billion animals died in the Australian fires of 2019.
- We are losing species at a faster rate than when dinosaurs went extinct!
- 2020 was the worst Hurricane season and the worst West Coast wildfire season on record.
- 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record. All the hottest years have occurred since 2010.
- A new study says the Earth has not been this warm for 12,000 years and there hasn’t been this much CO2 in the air since before humans existed.
I wonder how much longer anyone will be around to record these things?
As Mother Earth’s body is ravaged, we make scientific notes on how she reacts. I think it is safe to say at this point that record keeping is not enough of a motivation to make us stop the torture. We do not realize we’re in the throes of THE END mainly because a false sense of security, being generated by the artificial life support systems we are on. Those who benefit the least from securities are busy surviving. Those who DO have the luxury to think about it need to step up NOW. We cannot keep using fossil fuels to run artificial life support systems nor keep the machines going. The natural life support systems are being destroyed at an increasing rate for short term profit and unnecessary luxuries.
It is time to pull the plug on artificial life support systems and see what happens. The fact is, the plug will be pulled one way or another. If we pull the plug TOGETHER the transition may be smoother as everything collapses. It is likely, we probably won’t voluntarily pull the plug, so get ready for a world of pain…one that lots of people (and non-human beings) are already experiencing.
While at Standing Rock, part of me had to overlook the narrative that stopping these fossil fuel projects included replacing them with “green, sustainable, and/or renewable” energy. I happen to disagree with this Buckminster Fuller quote:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
This quote speaks to the kind of logic driving the push to replace fossil fuels with green energy. The logic says we have to keep using “low carbon” fuels like fracked gas and Nuclear energy as a way to “transition” to the “good, pure, guilt-free, rainbow-powered” fuels. We have bought the false premise that green energy will make fossil fuels obsolete by using a better DIFFERENT model.
The ‘new model’ is an illusion.
Green Energy is a different WAY to power the existing model. Mother Earth is shouting “I can’t breathe!” as the weight of Industrial Civilization’s knee digs into Her back. Switching to “renewables” will still leave us in the same situation. A system that extracts without replenishing, exploits, destroys, creates inequality and degrading human hierarchies. The same system that strengthens patriarchy and reinforces human supremacy over nature, promotes competition and conflict instead of cooperation and peace, that keeps us separated from Earth, from one another and ourselves. This system categorizes us as either master, consumer, or slave.
A sentiment like the Buckminster Fuller one can only come out of a culture that is disconnected from reality, from intuition and our ancestral wisdom. We are no longer standing on the shoulders of our ancestors. We are paving over and trampling on their unmarked graves.
Nature is the model that works!
All this fanfare over Biden returning to the Paris Climate Deal (PCD) can fuck off, it is “too little too late”. It will not be anywhere near enough to make a difference. It does not matter if we return to the Paris Agreement or not. We need to return to the agreement we used to have with Mother Earth! She gave us Life. We promise not to take more than we need. We offer respect, thanks and praise. We need to return to the systems that She set up, systems we arrogantly think we can control/improve. Systems humans have lived within for over 90% of our existence as a species.
We must come to understand that it is not the way that cars are powered that is the problem. Cars are the problem. There is no “sustainable” number of cars. There is no such thing as “good” gas mileage. The reality is that cars are killers. Car culture makes killers out of us. There is no way to live with killers. They must be stopped. Using non-renewable resources in the current infrastructure while we wait for a better solution means we pollute and kill the Earth. There is no “better” to be had within the context of industrial civilization.
Why bother if it’s over?
You only say that because you have been trained to look in all the wrong places for all the wrong points. The solutions being proposed by the system to “save the planet” are moot points. We have just been disconnected from the truth. The point is both painfully obvious and mysteriously elusive.
The point is Mountain Heather.
The point is Puffins.
The point is spiders using electricity to magically fly through the air!
The point is the whimsical Maui dolphin, the smallest Dolphin in the world who never hurt anyone but SOMEHOW there are only about 50 left due to “overfishing”.
The point is that when a tree falls in the forest, other trees keep the stump alive in a process scientists call hydraulic coupling.
We must let go of doing what’s “better” for the environment. What it needed is to completely and immediately stop ALL means of production that is not necessary. This may not happen if we keep believing in money. I remember once seeing this headline in the fake parody newspaper ‘The Onion’ that read:
‘U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion’
We are facing our own death and the death of countless other beings and still, we refuse to face the reality. As Terrence McKenna says,
“The problem is not to find the answer, it’s to face the answer.”
Electric and hybrid cars are not the solution to our dying world, this ‘solution’ is not addressing the root problem.
It reminds me of that old children’s book ‘There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.’ Its grotesque imagery is a cautionary tale. To make even one more new car (electric or otherwise) at this point in the collapse of the biosphere is literally insane. The amount of resources, by-waste, and pollution involved in the PRODUCTION of a vehicle is so great that it will NEVER be able make up for the damage incurred by its production.
We must greatly reduce and then eliminate the need for cars by creating localization of every aspect of our lives. We must stop calling alternative sources of energy “renewables”! The lithium mine may result in the land needing hundreds of years to renew. I took some of these roadkill photos while walking from Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 after the BP Oil Spill. The dead animals from my Roadkill photo album did not care if they were killed by 100% renewable energy instead of by gas guzzlers. Walking all day long for 3 months drastically altered my perception of time and space.
I remember reading somewhere how there were some Native American tribes that were very resistant to adopting Horse travel, which was not part of their culture until the Spanish brought horses to the American continent in the 16th century. These tribes strongly believed humans were not meant to travel that fast and doing so would propel our body forward while leaving our spirit behind resulting in a fractured state of being.
I felt this the first time I rode in a car after my long walk had finished. It felt dangerous, I adapted.
Something essential and elemental is missing in environmental activism culture.
I will admit that I am afraid that something might be on the verge of being lost forever. Taking action can be a good way to re-activate what is left of the magic of the natural world and that same magic within us. There are still humans left who are the guardians of that magic, but they are greatly outnumbered. Industrial Civilization is closing in on them by the day. It can’t just be about stopping bad things and bad people, like pipelines and presidents. Western Environmental activism needs to evolve past this. Max and Will are embarked on that next chapter of activism evolution. This evolution must be centered around a brutal obliterating honesty, so sharp that it cuts straight through the fat of hope and the tendons of delusion and muscles of bargaining. Right down to the bone.
If we do not break free from the mental and emotional prisons of Industrial Civilization, we will not be able to get past false diagnosis and solutions. Green New Deal is bogus. We need is a ‘Get Real Deal’. It’s truth telling time. We must admit we don’t always know what the truth is. I used to think solar panels and wind turbines were the answer until I learned more and the truth changed.
The final permits for this lithium mine were fast tracked by Trump before he left office in a way that is more difficult to reverse through presidential orders. It is unlikely Biden would stop it, he already has a “save the environment” token, due to his executive order to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This will serve as a powerful pacifier for liberals. To highlight this point: we have a MLK Day so we do not need a Malcolm X or a Fred Hampton Day. Plus we would not want to offer a radical view now, would we?
Biden is being lauded for stopping Keystone XL.
This culture greatly praises men for doing the t simplest things. I am aware the Biden administration has suspended new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on U.S. lands and waters. But only for 60 days. Naomi Klein speaks of the tactic of “Shock and Awe” that the ruling elite uses as a means to wear us all down so we give up. The strategy of “Balk and Stall” (copyright, Sarah Baker) is where those in power make a big deal out of decreeing something to be bad to stall while they figure out how to get out of stopping the bad thing.
“FOR 60 DAYS” the permits will be suspended, says the Biden people. It is the fine print that we must see. The “Balk and Stall” I witnessed at Standing Rock, was impressive, after the Army Core of Engineers announced that the DAPL pipeline construction would have to stop until an environmental impact statement was conducted. The celebrations were so intoxicating that it was as if people could not see the continued construction. Similarly, Trump’s wall is still being built even though Biden said he would stop it! The Cleveland Indians announce they will consider changing the name of their team. I have a name for you: how about the Cleveland Colonizers. Their mascot can be a Smallpox infested Blanket.
I was going to post this essay on Inauguration Day but figured I’d wait until the tranquilizing effects of that patriotism packed lullaby for liberals started to wear off. I didn’t see the entire pageantry of that day, but what I did see was quite spew worthy. There was this overall sentiment of: “Shhhhhh, it’s ok, you just had a bad 4 year long nightmare but everything’s fine now, a Democrat is in charge again, so here’s a glass of water made from the joy filled tears of all the Latin American mothers who have been instantaneously reunited with their children at the border. Now let us get you tucked in so you can go back to sleep and dream about Impeachment hearings and Bernie memes.”
A longtime environmental activist, Sarah lives in Ohio US, she loves writing and refusing to mow her lawn. You can read her article published in the Washington Post here.