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

War Is A Result of Competition for Land

By Elisabeth Robson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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