Every Ecological Crisis is Connected

Every Ecological Crisis is Connected

Today we share an excerpt of the book Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. This selection comes from Chapter 2: Civilization and other Hazards. In the preceding pages, various ecological crises were presented.

The media report on these crises as though they [ecological crises] are all separate issues. They are not. They are inextricably entangled with each other and with the culture that causes them. As such, all of these problems have important commonalities, with major implications for our strategy to resist them.

These problems are urgent, severe, and worsening, and the most worrisome hazards share certain characteristics:

1. They are progressive, not probabilistic.

These problems are getting worse. These problems are not hypothetical, projected, or “merely possible” like Y 2K, asteroid impacts, nuclear war, or super-volcanoes. These crises are not “possible” or “impending”-they are well underway and will continue to worsen. The only uncertainty is how fast, and thus how long our window of action is.

2. They are rapid, but not instant.

These crises arose rapidly, but often not so rapidly as to trigger a prompt response; people get used to them, a phenomenon called the “shifting baselines syndrome.” For example, wildlife populations are often compared to measures from fifty years ago, instead of measures from before civilization, which makes the damage seem much less severe than it actually is. Even trends which appear slow at first glance (like global warming) are extremely rapid when considered over longer timescales, such as the duration of the human race or even the duration of civilization.

3. They are nonlinear, and sometimes runaway or self-sustaining.

The hazards get worse over time, but often in unpredictable ways with sudden spikes or discontinuities. A 10 percent increase of greenhouse gases might produce 10 percent warming or it might cause far more. Also, the various crises interact to create cascading disasters far worse than any one alone.

Hurricanes (such as Katrina) may be worsened by global warming and by habitat destruction in their paths (Katrina’s impact was worsened by wetlands destruction). The human impact may then be worsened further by poverty and the use of the police, military, and hired mercenaries (like Blackwater) to impede the ability of those poor people to move freely or access basic and necessary supplies.

4. These crises have long lead or lag times.

The problems are often created long before they become a visible issue. They also grow or accelerate exponentially, such that action must be taken well in advance of the crisis to be effective. Although an alert minority is usually aware of the issue, the problem may have become very serious and entrenched before gaining the attention, let alone the action, of the majority.

Peak oil was predicted with a high degree of accuracy in 1956. The greenhouse effect was discovered in 1824, and industrially caused global warming was predicted by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius in 1867.

5. Hazards have deeply rooted momentum.

These crises are rooted in the most fundamental practices and infrastructure of civilization. Social convention, the concentration of power, and dominant economic systems all prevent the necessary changes. If I ran a corporation and tried to be genuinely sustainable, the company would soon be out-competed and go bankrupt.’ If I were a politician and I banned the majority of unsustainable practices, I would promptly be ejected from office (or more likely, assassinated).

6. They are industrially driven.

In virtually all cases, industry is the primary culprit, either because it consumes resources itself (e.g., oil and coal) or permits resource extraction and global trade that would otherwise be extremely difficult (e.g., bottom trawling) . Furthermore, industrial capitalism and industrial governments offer artificial subsidies for ecocidal practices that would not otherwise be economically tenable. Factors like overpopulation (as discussed shortly) are secondary or tertiary at best.

7. They provide benefits to the powerful and costs to the powerless.

The acts that cause these crises-all long-standing economic activities-offer short-term benefits to those who are already powerful. But these hazards are most dangerous and damaging to the people who are poorest and most powerless.

8. They facilitate temporary victories and permanent losses.

No successes we might have are guaranteed to last as long as industrial civilization stands. Conversely, most of our losses are effectively permanent. Extinct species cannot be resurrected. Overdrawn aquifers or clear-cut forests will not return to their original states on timescales meaningful to humans.

The destruction of land-based cultures, and the deliberate impoverishment of much of humanity, results in major loss and long-term social trauma. With sufficient action, it’s possible to solve many of the problems we face, but if that action doesn’t materialize in time, the effects are irreversible.

9. Proposed “solutions” often make things worse.

Because of all the qualities noted above, analysis of the hazards tends to be superficial and based on short-term thinking. Even though analysts who look at the big picture globally may use large amounts of data, they often refuse to ask deeper or more uncomfortable questions.

The hasty enthusiasm for industrial biofuels is one manifestation of this. Biofuels have been embraced by some as a perfect ecological replacement for petroleum. The problems with this are many, but chief among them is the simple fact that growing plants for vehicle fuel takes land the planet simply can’t spare. Soy, palm, and sugar cane plantations for oil and ethanol are now driving the destruction of tropical rainforest in the Amazon and Southeast Asia.

Critics like Jane Goodall and the Rainforest Action Network argue that the plantations on rainforest land destroy habitat and water cycles, worsen global warming, destroy and pollute the soil, and displace land-based peoples. This so-called solution to the catastrophe of petroleum ends up being just as bad-if not worse-than petroleum.

10. The hazards do not result from any single program.

They tend to result from the underlying structure and essential nature of civilization, not from any particular industry, technology, government, or social attitude. Even global warming, which is caused primarily by burning fossil fuels, is the result of many kinds of industries using many kinds of fossil fuels as well as deforestation and agriculture.

To learn more about the true environmental costs of renewable energy, read Bright Green Lies to be released in 2021.

Featured image depicts major floating garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean.

10 thoughts on “Every Ecological Crisis is Connected”

  1. The simplest way to explain the methodical destruction of the planet by people smart enough to know better is denial. When they hear the incontrovertible facts behind scientific predictions of doom, the brains of corporate executives, financiers, and politicians unconsciously switch into business survival mode. And without consciously recognizing it, they rationalize as follows:

    “My actions can’t possibly be causing this destruction, because my business is profitable, and profit is responsible for a lifestyle unimaginable to ancient kings. And besides, I’ll be dead before any of those apocalyptic dates arrive. And the next generation will surely think of some magical fix, just as our generation and our fathers’ and grandfathers’ generations thought of miracles like cars, airplanes, diesel, air conditioning, air travel, heart transplants, and antibiotics. We’re geniuses! In fact, we’re gods!”

    As for incrementalism making it impossible for civilization to see that we’re committing collective suicide, I keep hammering away at numbers from the present and recent past, which aren’t projections, but hard, cold facts: In 1900, 1.6 billion people used 7 billion tons of natural resources. By 2000, almost 6 billion were using 60 billion tons. And today, almost 8 billion are using 80 billion tons, with non-renewable resources going from roughly 1/3 to 2/3 of the use, in barely a century.

    Thus population, total use, per capita use, and non-renewable use aren’t all just growing, but have been growing exponentially. And the only reason the exponential factor is slowing down a bit is that we’re running into the inedcapable fact that perpetual growth on a finite planet has limits. And as those limits are approached, exponential growth slows to merely catastrophic growth.

    My only disagreement with the DGR thesis outlined above is the escapist rationalization that “factors like overpopulation are secondary or tertiary, at best.” To the contrary, they are primary and inextricable elements of the equation. The root problem is an economy dependent on perpetual growth, which is the mechanism of cancer. And the economy can’t grow unless the population grows in lockstep. Therefore, both industrial capitalism and human population growth are cancer of the world. And the presence of the two means that the cancer is metastatic.

    DGR seems to have a morbid fear of admitting that in such a situation, the right to determine how many children we have has ceased to be a personal right. We have simply reached the point where having one child or none is part of the solution, having two is treading water, and having three or more is an attack on the rights of others — human and non-human — to survive on earth.

    That most of the excess children born today are not white isn’t racist. It’s just a fact, driven by various forms of ignorance. The most obvious forms of that ignorance are the systematic repression of women and girls in many societies, and the persistence of religious myths that predate the so-called “Dark Age,” when Christianity and Islam were colonizing the world.

    But overbreeding certainly is not color-coded. Though the highest rates are in Africa, they are almost as excessive among the white populations of Southwest Asia. The highest population growth rates in the world, in fact, are on the West Bank of the Jordan, where white colonial settlers (primarily from the U.S. and Europe) are locked in a race to the death with indigenous Palestinians, to see who can have the most babies, and thus constitute the majority, in a semi-desert that long ago outstripped its resources.

    But back to those industrial tycoons and politicians who are, in effect, both the coaches and the cheerleaders in this “Growth Is Good” game of death: As conscious and deliberate destroyers of the planetary habitat, they are global home invaders, rapists, and murderers. And under Natural Law, any earth-dweller may shoot them on sight, under the inherent right of self-defense.

  2. Yes dude your obsession with population growth in the third world specifically, given that the consumption of the top 10% richer is about half of the total and of the 50% poorer is about 10% of the total, *is* racist, whether or not you want to admit it. Anyone who isn’t a white first-worlder can see it.

  3. Pay attention, “I.” I’ve condemned overconsumption countless times, and it isn’t color-coded, either. The sad fact is that the developing nations are rushing at warp speed to consume just as much as we do. And the reason they won’t all get there is that global population will destroy the resource base first.

    Mass consumption is the whole point of capitalism, and is a goal shared enthusiastically by all races. Look at the Arab world, which now boasts the world’s tallest skyscrapers — or China, whose exploding middle class is why it has passed the U.S. as the world’s top polluter, and is the leading reason why the number of cars in the world has quadrupled in 50 years.

    Look at the skylines and streets of any Third World capital, and tell me their objective isn’t to consume just as much as Japan, Australia, North America, and Europe. Talk to the government leaders of Thailand, Iran, Egypt, or Nigeria, and you’ll hear the same gibberish about the wonders of growth and industry that you’ll hear from the leaders of South Korea, France, or Canada.

    The few exceptions to the growth mania aren’t color-coded, either. Apart from a handful of small nations like Bhutan (where profit is considered an alien concept) and Suriname (where indigenous cultures control the land base), the more conservation-minded countries are as racially diverse as Ethiopia, New Zealand, and Belize. And all of them still share the delusion of succeeding as green capitalists. (They also have specific reasons why their brands of capitalism aren’t as dependent on extraction and manufacturing, but find ways to profit from tourism, and less overtly destructive industries.) But capitalism and the growth psychosis are the dominant mindset across the world.

    My focus on population is that it’s something that could be controlled at the individual level, if it weren’t such a sacred cow. Nothing but tradition and ignorance stand in the way of white Turks, brown Filipinos, and black Nigerians realizing that insane population growth is destroying their hopes for the future.

  4. I’ve been raised in a “third world capital” and don’t need the lecture. There’s an inverse correlation between wealth and family size. Poorer people tend to have more children because they know they can’t count on social security as they age. My mother would, today, be living in poverty if she didn’t have four children to maintain her.

    Family sizes tend to decrease naturally when 1) poverty is alleviated and 2) women gain more education. That’s why my grandmother had eight children and I have none. So before pontificating about third world people having babies, ask yourself why the third world is poor.

  5. “The media report on these crises as though they [ecological crises] are all separate issues. They are not.”

    The next sentence should have been, “Therefore, we need to identify and fix the roots of these problems in addition to dealing with the myriad of symptoms as they occur. The physical roots are overpopulation and individual overconsumption, including consuming things that we should not be. The deeper root is humans’ attitude toward the Earth and the life on it, which causes human obsession with intellect, ego, and very harmful & unnatural manipulation of the physical/natural world instead of focusing in wisdom, empathy, and expanding our consciousness.”

    “In virtually all cases, industry is the primary culprit, either because it consumes resources itself (e.g., oil and coal) or permits resource extraction and global trade that would otherwise be extremely difficult (e.g., bottom trawling) . Furthermore, industrial capitalism and industrial governments offer artificial subsidies for ecocidal practices that would not otherwise be economically tenable. Factors like overpopulation (as discussed shortly) are secondary or tertiary at best.”

    This could not be more wrong, backward, and myopic. Industrial society would not even be able to exist without human overpopulation. Overpopulation began 10,000 years ago when people artificially circumvented the natural population control of food availability by using agriculture. By the time we got to things like industrial society and capitalism, humans were already grossly overpopulated and had already done immense damage to the natural world and everything living there. Civilization, which DGR supposedly opposes, began about 7,000 years ago, thousands of years before industrialism and capitalism. It’s totally inconsistent that DGR rails against civilization on one hand and its essays like this decry attacking symptoms instead of causes, but then DGR makes statements like this that do exactly that, attacking symptoms instead of causes. Industrial society and capitalism are mere symptoms, not root causes.

    It seems that DGR’s reluctance to admit that overpopulation is a root cause of all environmental and ecological problems (the other root cause is overconsumption) causes it to take totally self-contradictory and temporally backward positions like this. Denying overpopulation as a major problem and root cause is no better than denying global warming/climate change. This anthropocentric aversion to admitting that humans are grossly overpopulated and that it’s a root cause of our problems should really be analyzed and discussed. DGR needs to really think about this and consider your anthropocentric attitude on this issue.

  6. @I.
    You’re the one who’s obsessed, not Mark. Not only is he correct that overpopulation is a fundamental and huge issue, but he also said explicitly that overpopulation “is not color-coded.” But because you fanatically deny the existence of overpopulation and the facts surrounding it and because you’re a dogmatic ideologue, you ignored his comment and had to post your usual diatribe anyway.

    And BTW, you’re also wrong about family size corresponding to wealth. It’s been shown quite clearly that societies have fewer children when girls & women are educated and empowered, not when they’re wealthy. Kerala, India lowered its birthrate from the highest in India to the lowest by educating most women with PhDs, even while it remained poor. Women in rich societies have a lot of children if they are not educated and empowered. The wealth-to-children connection was disproved decades ago, and is now just leftist BS.

    You have never explained why you post on this site or even read it. You’re clearly not concerned with the natural world, restoration of which is one of the fundamental precepts of DGR. I really wish you’d stop trolling here and go to a website where you at least agree with the fundamental principles.

  7. I won’t reply to the first paragraph because it doesn’t correspond at all to what I said, so I’ll leave you to argue with yourself.

    One study in one city does not “disprove” anything. Much to the contrary – of course poverty and women’s rights are connected issues. Poor women can’t typically get PhDs. Patriarchy also contributes to women’s poverty in a number of ways that often generate a cascade effect, and not only in the third world – the US are still the only rich country where women don’t have a right to paid maternity leave, not to mention abortion rights being rolled back in a number of states. Curiously, when I said on this site that patriarchy contributed to human overpopulation by reducing women’s social role to reproductive vessels, you dismissed it, probably because it amounts to “leftist BS” in your mind.

    A lot of the things you accuse people of on this site are projections. For example you’re much more of a “troll” on this site than I am. You’ve been explicitly told by DGR that their approach to environmental issues is fundamentally different from yours, yet for some reason you think anyone should care about *your* opinions on who should or should not post comments on *their* site. DGR are not your redneck friends from Earth First, yet you insist on behaving as if they were. This comment section is not your (or anyone’s) personal echo chamber, nor should it be.

  8. @I.
    This will be the last time I engage with you because you are detached from reality. Suffice to say that you have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to the overpopulation issue as that relates to the natural environment or to population increase itself. For example, I never said that there was only one study showing that education & empowerment of women lowers birthrates, I just gave a glaring example of that, along with stating that wealthy women have a lot of kids if they’re not educated & empowered (Middle East for example). And you either don’t know or don’t care that there are so many people on Earth that other species are becoming extinct (not the only reason for the mass extinction catastrophe, but the main one).

    And why do you think the group is called Deep GREEN Resistance? Have you ever heard or read Derrick Jensen? While he does discuss other things, he mainly talks about how civilization by definition means overpopulation, which causes wars for resources, and how civilization is very destructive to the natural world. But yeah, I’m a troll here because I think that DGR should drop the other issues and focus solely on the natural environment.


  9. Jeff: “have you ever heard or read Derrick Jensen?”

    Also Jeff, to DGR: “I haven’t read your book and have no desire to do so.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *