The Cult of Civilization

The Cult of Civilization

Editor’s Note: The following article compares civilization to a cult, by questioning some of the basic assumptions of civilization. Civilization, particularly industrial civilization, is fundamentally unsustainable. The solutions proposed to make it more sustainable, i.e. technological advancements, miss the root cause of the problem, i.e. overconsumption by a species to the detriment of all life forms on Earth. (more…)

Ecocide in Greece

Ecocide in Greece

Editor’s Note: DGR does not support solar and wind “alternatives”. They are not alternatives to the energy and ecological crisis, but rather a part of it.. They do not “replace” natural gas and fossil fuels, not only because the so called renewable energy are not as potent an energy source as fossil fuel, but also because they rely on fossil fuel for basic operation. They contribute to the abuse, exploitation and plunder of nature. There are mountains of resources to support this. More dangerously, they lead us to false solutions, putting our much needed revolutionary energies into projects which only contribute to the problem. We are firmly opposed to these technologies.

The value of this article lies in exposing how these “green” technologies are being introduced in reality. Despite the bright green lies in this article, it is important to gain understanding on how these technologies are wrecking havoc across the globe. The beauty of nature is defended strongly in this article. The “violent mechanization of [the] daily view of the natural world” is acknowledged to be a deep concern, indeed it is “extremely disturbing”. In the spirit of solidarity and internationalism, we call for coalitions to ask important questions on these “green” and “alternative” technologies, and to continue the ecological resistance to protect the wild.


 

My Greek friends in the large island of Euboea and Boeotia (Central Greece) are telling me — and the world — that a “hurricane” of solar and wind technologies are wrecking their lives and the countryside.

I am all for solar and wind alternatives to the Earth-warming fossil fuels. The faster they replace dangerous petroleum, natural gas, and coal, the better. The world is in real danger from anthropogenic climate chaos. Climate nemesis is hanging over the planet like the sword of Damokles.

Nevertheless, Greece has been abusing solar and wind energy. Instead of placing solar panels on the roofs of houses and buildings, the local Greek municipal governments and the Ministry of the Environment are licensing private companies to install solar panel arrays on archaeological sites, wetlands, valleys, and mountains.

The situation with wind turbines, some of which are gigantic and 200 meters tall, is worse. Private companies flatten mountain tops, clear cut forests, dig up valleys and mountain sides for the construction of large cement foundations for their monster wind turbines. They act like the ruthless coal companies in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Euboea

In Central Euboea, there’s an exquisite wetland named Kolobrextis. This wetland supports a number of threatened and endangered species. It is close to an archaeological site. And yet both the archaeological service and the Ministry of the Environment permitted the installation of numerous solar panels in the region of Kolobrextis. Local citizens appealed these illegal decisions, but without success.

They said:

“We consider the wetland our natural inheritance, which cannot be sacrificed on the altar of the interests and profits of a corrupt and unethical market.”

On July 17, 2022, Evi Sarantea, an artist and environmentalist from Euboea, sent the following letter to her friends:

“[Government authorities licensing windfarms] intend to destroy the last dense fir forest left in Central Evia [Euboea]… They already destroyed Southern Evia. They authorized the placement of more than 800 wind turbines in an extensive archaeological site. Some of those wind turbines were about 185 meters tall. And this happened after Northern Evia was incinerated last year. Don’t let this HUBRIS win. ALL the Municipalities and 150 agencies of the island [of Euboea] are 100 percent opposed to the installation of these monsters – with a life span of only 20 years. They will irreversibly and tragically destroy the ecosystem and the formation of the soil which is several tens of millions of years old.”

Boeotia

Boeotia is a prosperous region with rich mythology and history. Its poleis (city-states) Orchomenos and Thebes date from the Bronze Age. Thebes gave Greece god Dionysos and the superhero Herakles and the great lyric poet Pindar.

In July 2022, however, citizens in Central Greece spoke about widespread vandalism and ecological and cultural destruction of mountains sacred in Bronze Age Greece and classical times: Parnassos, Helicon, Cithaeron, and Parnetha.

Hesiod, born in Ascra, a village of Boeotia and second poet only to Homer, was inspired to write his epics on the birth of the gods and rural life by the Muses, goddesses of learning. The inspiration took place on Mt. Helicon.

Sowing wind turbines

And now, in 2022, more than three thousand years after Hesiod, the Greek government serving its debt masters in the European Union and the United States, especially Germany, is blowing up sacred nature in order to dig the giant wind towers from Germany very deeply into fertile land and mountains.

This fast-paced degrading of archaeological sites, and destruction of the natural world in Greece (mountains, forests, wetlands, and land) is socking the Greek people. They don’t know or suspect the reasons behind the vandalism. The government is promising cheap energy prices for their cooperation. But the prices of energy keep increasing.

The citizens are accusing their government of corruption. It allows profiteers and an immoral and unchecked market to undermine and destroy the natural world. This new ugly mechanical and shining solar icons will be throwing people in doubt about climate change and the means of fighting it. They will remember petroleum and coal with nostalgia and pleasure. In essence, this unchecked and nature-deforming energy development will be giving a bad name to solar and wind energy.

The citizens of Boeotia mentioned “the permitting of 38 large wind and solar parks consisting of hundreds of wind turbines and thousands of solar panels.”

Spoiling beauty – and much more

This prospect of the violent mechanization of their daily view of the natural world is extremely disturbing. The citizens of Boeotia complain that,

“Probably all the mountains and forests of Boeotia are slated for attacks from the energy industry. This would transform the natural world beyond recognition. Beekeeping would be abandoned; cattle raising outside of animal farms would also come to an end; cultivating the land for food, tourism, and relaxation in the countryside will be undermined, and eventually abandoned. Trees, bushes, wild animals, and birds are in immediate danger. Wind turbines on the top of mountains will decimate eagles, falcons, and other birds of prey, already under stress of extinction.”

This unnecessary tragedy adds considerably to the unhappiness and debt misery of the Greeks. They are bound to see the finger of Germany behind this onslaught on their few surviving pleasures: walking to the woods in the mountains and forests and valleys; seeing the rare birds of wetlands; and paying their respects to the quiet and beauty spread above the ruins in archaeological sites.

Stop this madness

My advice to the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would be to break with the humiliations of the debt. Stop paying the illegal  and odious debt. Return to the drachma. And reindustrialize your country. Stop using the German wind behemoths. Build your own wind-electricity generating machines to fit the country’s ecological and climate needs. Indeed, design and build all technologies at home.

Greece used to worship the Sun god Helios and Aiolos, the god of the winds. Yes, Greece needs to stop using fossil fuels, but it also needs to use solar panels only on the rooftops of houses and buildings. And should there be a need for windfarms, always plan and act in the context of ecology, biodiversity, and culture. If the windfarms cannot be used without harm, forget about them. Don’t use them in Greece.

 

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.


 

Ship of Stars
they abducted the stars
got masses of people
to believe in separate Gods
this went on and on
for millennia
till masses of people
forgot that the star-beings
are pulsating with lights
how the stars literally
guide us, birds at night,
us in our dreams, astral travel
forgetting the star-beings,
masses of people
became mis-guided
embroiled in dis-asters
dis- and ster-
“away from the stars”
if i could find a statistic
that shows dis-asters have increased
in modern times as the masses became less
aware of, conscious of, less guided by the stars
i would footnote that
so instead
you’ll have to step outside or
look out a window or
find the lights within
and then you’ll remember
who star-beings are
           and
what star-beings do
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is a verbiage experiencer, in other words, he’s into etymology, writes about his experiences and to encourage people to learn from direct experiences, not just head knowledge; you know, actions and feelings speak louder than words. He’s also a publisher and enjoys gardening, talking, listening, looking… His recent book is Moving Through The Empty Gate Forest: inside looking out. Find out more at his website: www.allbook-books.com
The Techno-Fix Won’t Save Us

The Techno-Fix Won’t Save Us

Editor’s Note: Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture, and one of the central authorities in the dominant, globalizing culture is that technological progress is an unmitigated good. We call this “the lie of the techno-fix.”

The lie of the techno-fix is extremely convincing, with good reason. The propaganda promoting this idea is incessant and nearly subliminal, with billions of dollars pouring out of non-profit offices, New York PR firms, and Hollywood production companies annually to inculcate young people into the cult of technology. In policy, technology is rarely (if ever) subjected to any democratic controls; if it can be profitably made, it will be. And damn the consequences. There is money to be made.

Critics of technology and the techno-elite, such as Lewis Mumford, Rachel Carson, Langdon Winner, Derrick Jensen, and many others, have spoken out for decades on these issues. Technological “development,” they warn us, is perhaps better understood as technological “escalation,” since modern industrial technologies typically represent a war on the planet and the poor.

In this article, Helena Norberg-Hodge asks us to consider what values are important to us: progress, or well-being? Breakneck speed, or balance? She articulates a vision of technology as subordinate to ecology and non-human and human communities alike based on her experiences in the remote Himalayan region of Ladakh.


By Helena Norberg-Hodge

The most recent topic explored by the thinkers and activists who make up the Great Transition Network was “Technology and the Future”. As writer after writer posted their thoughts, it was heartening to see that almost all recognize that technology cannot provide real solutions to the many crises we face. I was also happy that Professor William Robinson, author of a number of books on the global economy, highlighted the clear connection between computer technologies and the further entrenchment of globalization today.

As anyone who has followed my work will know, globalization is of particular interest to me: for more than 40 years I’ve been studying its impacts on different cultures and societies around the world. From Ladakh and Bhutan to Sweden and Australia, a clear pattern has emerged: as people are pushed into deepening dependence on large-scale, technological systems, ecological and social crises escalate.

I’m not the only one to have seen this. In the International Forum on Globalization – a network I co-founded in 1992 – I worked with forty writers, journalists, academics and social and environmental leaders from around the world to inform the public about the ways in which “free-trade” treaties, the principal drivers of globalization, have eroded democracy, destroyed livelihoods, and accelerated resource extraction. In countries as disparate as Sweden and India, I have seen how globalization intensifies competition for jobs and resources, leading to dramatic social breakdown – including not only ethnic and religious conflict, but also depression, alcoholism and suicide.

Techno-Fix Failure

Professor Robinson wrote that we are “at the brink of another round of restructuring and transformation based on a much more advanced digitalization of entire global economy”. This is true, but the link between globalization and technological expansion began well before the computer era. Large-scale, technological apparatuses can be understood as the arms and legs of centralized profit-making. And while 5G networks, satellites, mass data-harvesting, artificial intelligence and virtual reality will allow the colonization of still more physical, economic and mental space by multinational corporations, technologies like fossil fuels, global trading infrastructures, and television have already helped to impose a corporate-run consumer-based economy in almost every corner of the globe.

For reasons that are increasingly evident, an acceleration of this process is the last thing we need in a time of serious social and environmental crises. What’s more, the technologies themselves – from the sensors to the satellites – all rely heavily on scarce resources, not least rare earth minerals. Some of the world’s richest corporations are now racing each other to extract these minerals from the deepest seabeds and from the surface of Mars. It has been estimated that the internet alone – with its largely invisible data warehouses (much of it manned by exploited labor in the “developing” world) – will use up a fifth of global electricity consumption by 2025.

Terminating Tradition

And for what? So that we can all spend more time immersed in and addicted to virtual worlds? So that we can automate agriculture, and drive more communities off the land into swelling urban slums? So that drones can deliver our online purchases without an iota of face-to-face contact?

When thinking about technology from within an already high-tech, urban context, we can easily forget that nearly half the global population still lives in villages, still connected to the land. This is not to say that their way of life is not under threat – far from it. Ladakh, the Himalayan region where I lived and worked for several decades, was unconnected to the outside world by even a road until the 1960s. But today you can find processed corporate food, smartphones, mountains of plastic waste, traffic jams and other signs of ‘modernity’ in the capital, Leh. The first steps on this path were taken in the mid-1970s when, in the name of ‘development’, massive resources went into building up the energy, communications and transport infrastructures needed to tie Ladakh to the global economy. Another step involved pulling Ladakhi children out of their villages into western-style schools, where they learned none of the place-based skills that supported Ladakh’s culture for centuries, and instead were trained into the technological-modernist paradigm. Together, these forces are pushing the traditional way of life to the brink of extinction.

While that process began relatively recently in Ladakh, in the west it has been going on far longer, with deeper impacts. But even here, more and more people are becoming aware that the technologization of their personal lives has led to increasing stress, isolation, and mental health struggles. During the pandemic people have been forced to do more online than ever before – from classes to conversations with friends and family – and most have discovered how limited and empty online life can be. There is a clear cultural turning, visible now even in the mainstream, that goes beyond a desire to spend less time on screens. People are also beginning to reject the posturing of the consumer culture and its work-and-spend treadmill, wanting instead to slow down, to cultivate deeper relationships and to engage in more community-oriented and nature-based activities.

Returning Ecology

I see young people all over the world choosing to leave their screen-based jobs to become farmers. (This return to the land is happening in Ladakh, as well, which I find truly inspiring.) Informal networks of mutual aid are arising. Friends are gardening, cooking and baking bread together; families are choosing to live on the land and developing relationships with the animals and plants around them. We are seeing increased respect for indigenous wisdom, for women and for the feminine, and a growing appreciation for wild nature and for all things vernacular, handmade, artisanal and local. There is also an emergence of alternative, ecological practices in every discipline: from natural medicine to natural building, from eco-psychology to ecological agriculture. Although these disciplines have often been the target of corporate co-optation and greenwashing, they have invariably emerged from bottom-up efforts to restore a healthier relationship with the Earth.

All of these are positive, meaningful trends that have been largely ignored by the media, and given no support by policymakers. At the moment, they are running uphill in a system that favors corporate-led technological development at every turn. They testify to enduring goodwill, to a deep human desire for connection.

When viewed from a big-picture perspective, the expansion of digital technologies – which are inherently centralized and centralizing – runs contrary to the emergence of a more humane, sustainable and genuinely connected future. Why should we accept an energy-and mineral-intensive technological infrastructure that is fundamentally about speeding life up, increasing our screen-time, automating our jobs, and tightening the grip of the 1%?

For a better future, we need to put technology back in its place, and favor democratically determined, diverse forms of development that are shaped by human and ecological priorities – not by the gimmicky fetishes of a handful of billionaires.


Helena Norberg-Hodge is founder and director of Local Futures. A pioneer of the “new economy” movement, she has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for over 40 years. She is the producer and co-director of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness, and is the author of Local is Our Future and Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. She was honored with the Right Livelihood Award for her groundbreaking work in Ladakh, and received the 2012 Goi Peace Prize for contributing to “the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.”

This article first appeared in Local Futures.

Banner image: road sign in Ladakh, via Unsplash.

Hydroelectric  Dams Are Not Green

Hydroelectric Dams Are Not Green

Editor’s note: Hydroelectric dams are not green energy, despite many claims that they are. Hydropower kills rivers, displaces millions of human beings, drives anadromous fish and other life dependent on free-flowing rivers extinct, and actually releases substantial greenhouse gasses. This post includes a short excerpt from Bright Green Lies as well as an article detailing a destructive dam proposal in Bolivia.


Dams are Not Green Energy

Excerpted from Chapter 11: The Hydropower Lie of Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert

Once upon a time, dams were recognized for the environmental atrocities they are. Human beings understood that dams kill rivers, from source to sea. They understood that dams kill forests, marsh- lands, grasslands.

In the 12th century, Richard the Lionhearted (King Richard I of England) put in place a law forbidding dams from preventing salmon passage. In the 14th century, Robert the Bruce did some- thing similar for Scotland. His descendant Robert the III went even further, declaring that three convictions for killing salmon out of season would be a capital offense.

Fast-forward to today, when dams are claimed to provide “clean” and “green” energy.

Where’s Robert the III when you need him?

As recently as three decades ago, at least environmentalists still consistently opposed dams. But the coup that turned so much environmentalism away from protecting the real world and into a lobbying arm of favored sectors of the industrial economy has rhetorically turned dams into environmental saviors. And climate change activists are among the most relentless missionaries for the gospel of the green dam.

This issue is urgent. While here in the United States, no new large dams have been built in many years (although many shovel-ready proposals are waiting for public funding), large hydropower dams are being built around the world as quickly as (in)humanly possible.

Once again, environmental engineer Mark Jacobson is an exam- ple, as he always seems to be, of someone working hard to kill the planet in order to save it. His 100 percent “renewable” transition plans—and remember, bright greens and many mainstream environmentalists love this guy—call for building about 270 new large hydroelectric dams globally, each at least the size of the Hoover or Glen Canyon dams.6 He also calls for major expansions to existing dams by adding new turbines. His models rely heavily on hydro because solar and wind facilities are by their nature intermittent and unreliable.


In Bolivia, Indigenous groups fear the worst from dam project on Beni River

By Translated by Maxwell Radwin

  • More than 5,000 Indigenous people would be impacted by flooding from the construction of two dams in Bolivia, according to Indigenous organizations and environmentalists.
  • Successive governments have mulled the Chepete-El Bala hydroelectric project for more than half a century, and the current administration of President Luis Acre has now revived it as a national priority.
  • While Indigenous groups have successfully rejected the plan in the past, this time a group of 10 Indigenous organizations have signed an agreement with the state energy company approving feasibility studies.
  • If completed, the reservoirs for the project would cover a combined area larger than Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, and inundate an area that’s home to thousands of plant and animal species.

The Bolivian government has revived a long-held plan to build a hydroelectric plant in a corner of the country’s western La Paz department, sparking concerns about the potential displacement of more than 5,000 Indigenous people from the area.

The affected communities live in two protected areas, Madidi National Park and Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands, parts of which would be flooded for the twin dams of the Chepete-El Bala hydroelectric project.

President Luis Arce, who served as minister of the economy in the earlier administration of Evo Morales, is following the same road map as his predecessor, who in July 2007 announced the original plans for the hydroelectric dams as a national priority.

Ruth Alipaz denuncia que más de 5000 indígenas de cinco naciones perderán sus territorios. Foto: Chema Formentí. dams are not green energy
Since 2018, there have been concerns that around 5,000 Indigenous people would be impacted by dam construction. Image courtesy of Chema Formentí.

The idea to generate hydropower in the Beni River Basin, specifically in El Bala Gorge, has been around for more than 50 years and given up on numerous times due to its economic unfeasibility and high environmental cost. The last time it was rejected by Indigenous communities was during the Hugo Banzer government in the late 1990s, before being nearly resurrected under Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president.

Since then, the issue had largely faded for the six Indigenous communities that live in the area: the Mosetén, Tsiman, Esse Ejja, Leco, Tacana and Uchupiamona. The groups are now speaking out against the hydropower project, saying it would “cut off” the three rivers vital to their existence: the Beni and two of its tributaries, the Tuichi and Quiquibey.

“This would mean forced displacement and that means taking away our territory. We would be forced to leave our space, our ancestral domain,” said Alex Villca, a member of the National Coordinator for the Defense of Indigenous Peasant Territories and Protected Areas (Contiocap) of Bolivia. “We would be giving up what is most important: without territory there are no Indigenous peoples. This would be accepting a silent death. Wherever they take us, it would never be the same.”

The Indigenous leader said the problem goes even further. He said that in the Chepete mountains, some Indigenous peoples live in voluntary isolation — believed to be Mosetén, although there aren’t many studies to confirm this — and that they would be “totally” affected if the dams were constructed in the area. “We know from our brothers that there exists, in the peaks of the Chepete, a community in voluntary isolation that must be unaware of all these plans. Imagine how that would affect them if this project comes to fruition,” Villca said.

Tenders resumed

In 2021, Bolivia’s National Electric Energy Company (Ende) resumed the commissioning of the Chepete-El Bala project, announcing tenders for geological and geotechnical studies. The state-owned company said that in the case of the Chepete plant, the planned reservoir area would flood 46 square kilometers (18 square miles) of the total area of 3,859 square kilometers (1,490 square miles) of the Pilón Lajas reserve. The reservoir at El Bala, meanwhile, would cover 94 km2 (36 mi2) of the 18,895-km2 (7,295-mi2) Madidi park.

reservoir in the tropics - dams are not green energy
El Bala Gorge on the Beni River. Image courtesy of Chema Formentí.

In August, the Office of Indigenous Peoples of La Paz (Cpilap) signed an agreement with Ende authorizing the final design studies for the Chepete-El Bala project.

The agreement establishes that Cpilap must “allow the entry of Ende Corporation and its contracted companies to the areas of direct and indirect influence in order to carry out research, information gathering, socialization and data collection that allows studies, the creation of projects, to finalize the design to implement electric power generation, transmission and distribution.”

Villca spoke out against the signing of the agreement. “What worries us is that the tenor of the agreement is that it not only allows for complementary studies but also, in the future, allows Ende to start construction of the Chepete and El Bala hydroelectric plants. This is much more serious.”

Cpilap is a regional organization that brings together 10 Indigenous organizations in La Paz department: the Indigenous Council of the Tacana Peoples, the Office of the Indigenous Leco de Apolo, the Leco Indigenous People and Larecaja Native Communities, the Mosetén Indigenous Peoples Organization, the Indigenous Peoples of de San José de Uchupiamonas, the Esse Ejja of Eiyoquibo Indigenous Community, the Regional Council of T-simane Mosetén of Pilón Lajas, the Native Agroecological Community of Palos Blancos, the Tacana II Indigenous Communities of Rio Madre de Dios, and the Captaincy of the Araona Indigenous People. All of these organizations, according to Villca, are connected to Arce and Morales’s ruling party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS).

Gonzalo Oliver Terrazas, president of Cpilap, said five of the six affected Indigenous communities agreed with the hydropower project. The sixth community are the Mosetén, who didn’t sign the agreement. “This agreement doesn’t mean that the dam will be built,” he said. “The goal is to determine the feasibility or infeasibility of the project. Another important aspect that the agreement has is the social component, which we have included so that there can be electricity and housing projects.”

The Association of Indigenous Communities of the Beni, Tuichi and Quiquibey Rivers, an organization started in 2001 to defend the ancestral territories of the six Indigenous communities impacted by the project, has demanded that a prior consultation be carried out with the communities to approve or reject the project. The communities met over one weekend and decided to reject the government initiative, demonstrating that there are leaders for and against conducting feasibility studies for the project.

The hills of El Bala near the town of Rurrenabaque. Image courtesy of Chema Formentí.

“We remind [the government] that in 2016 there was a 12-day vigil and the expulsion of the Geodata and Servicons companies that had started work and studies in the territory without fulfilling a free, prior and informed consent [FPIC] consultation in good faith so as to receive the consent of the communities,” said a document published by the association.

Terrazas said the signing of the agreement with Ende doesn’t mean there won’t be consultation with Indigenous communities. He said that if the feasibility of the project is approved, a consultation will be carried out with the communities to approve or reject the construction of the hydropower plants.

In January 2018, Ende returned the prefeasibility study to the Italian company Geodata Engineering for correction. Geodata recommended “to postpone the development of the El Bala 220 hydroelectric plant until the conditions in the Bolivian energy market and abroad indicate that it is convenient to start its implementation.”

City-size reservoir

The project, which would start after a public tender is launched, would flood at least 662 km2 (256 mi2) of land for the two dams, according to Indigenous groups. Combined, the two reservoirs would cover an area five times bigger than Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. And if the dried-out salt lake of Poopó, in the department of Oruro, doesn’t recover, Chepete-El Bala would be the second-biggest lake in Bolivia after Titicaca.

The project calls for building the first dam in the Beni River’s Chepete Gorge, 70 km (43 mi) upstream from the town of Rurrenabaque, in the department of Beni, and the second near El Bala Gorge, 13.5 km (8.3 mi) upstream of the same town.

dams are not green energy
The town of Rurrenabaque, which would have two dams upstream. Image courtesy of Chema Formentí.

The Chepete dam would raise the water level to 158 meters (518 feet), forming a lake that would be 400 m (1,312 ft) above sea level. The dam at El Bala would raise the water level by 20 m (65 ft) and its reservoir would be 220 m (721 ft) above sea level. Unlike the Chepete dam, which would be a concrete wall, the dam at El Bala would consist of gates and generators in the middle of the river.

Extinction and displacement

According to the Solón Foundation, an environmental NGO, a total of 5,164 people would be relocated for the project, the majority of them Indigenous. The area is also home to 424 plant species of plants, 201 land mammals, 652 birds, 483 amphibians and reptiles, and 515 fish species. It’s not clear which species are most likely to go locally extinct as a result of the flooding, or how many would be affected.

The main fear of the Indigenous communities in the area is that the construction of both dams would mean forcibly displacing more than 5,000 residents. The construction of the second reservoir at El Bala, according to the Solón Foundation and Indigenous organizations opposed to the project, would flood the entire community of San Miguel del Bala. There’s no official information on a displacement plan for the communities more than 1,000 residents.

And with the construction of the Chepete reservoir, a little more than 4,000 Indigenous people would be displaced. All the populated areas affected by the reservoir, according to Geodata, have collective titles belonging to the Tacanas, Lecos and Mosetén peoples. Additionally, development on the river could interfere with the livelihoods of many residents, who fish and farm and, in more recent years, oversee communal tourism activities.

Chepete Gorge on the Beni River would be dammed to power a hydroelectric plant. Image courtesy of Alex Villca. - dams are not green energy
Chepete Gorge on the Beni River would be dammed to power a hydroelectric plant. Image courtesy of Alex Villca.

Valentín Luna is an Indigenous Tacana leader and head of the San Miguel del Bala community. Currently, there are at least 20 eco-lodges that have been built in the Madidi and Pilón Lajas protected areas. Most of these initiatives are managed by the local communities. Four of these eco-lodges would be flooded by the dams, according to Luna: one in Chalalán overseen by the Uchupiamonas, one run by San Miguel del Bala residents, one in Villa Alcira, and one run by the Chimanes and Mosetén of Asunción del Quiquibey.

For the Indigenous people who don’t want the dams in their area, the main worry isn’t the end of tourism. They fear that the six Indigenous groups will disappear along with it.

This piece first appeared in Mongabay.


Banner image of Chepete Gorge on the Beni River, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) upstream of the village of Rurrenabaque. Image courtesy of Alex Villca.

Will Falk’s Life-Centered Writing

The Totalitarianism of Today — Part II

The Totalitarianism of Today — Part II

In this piece, Matej Kudláčik describes how a system that appears democratic, participatory, and free can actually conceal a profound totalitarianism.

His argument has similarities to Sheldon Wolin’s conception of “inverted totalitarianism,” which Wolin described as being “all politics all of the time but politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash.”

We’ve included a video in this post that discusses the concept of inverted totalitarianism in some detail. Part I of this essay can be found here.


By Matej Kudláčik

“The bargain we are being asked to ratify takes the form of a magnificent bribe. Under the democratic-authoritarian social contract, each member of the community may claim every material advantage, every intellectual and emotional stimulus he may desire, in quantities hardly available hitherto even for a restricted minority … Once one opts for the system no further choice remains.”Lewis Mumford

It is no great secret that freedom and capitalism are incompatible and that we’re dancing painfully on the line between complete societal insanity and dreadful mental slavery, the enslavement of consumerism. In other words, we are more dependent on the will of corporations than on our own. Therefore we’re in a state where no freedom is possible.¹

False well-being

Consumerism is based on tricking individuals into affirmation of pleasure, all while imposing a false image of the well-being of this world through apparent individual plenitude. This tool works against solidarity with the living and non-living. Solidarity requires a certain amount of renunciation of pleasure. It requires modesty and humility, so that the suffering of the world can be considered equal to the suffering of oneself. When one finds himself in constant “comfort” and no struggle², he hardly relates to the ones who are slowly dying. Without this realization, he lacks not only empathy and love, he lacks his humanity and he sees trenches and barricades in places where they are not.

He may ask: “And how does the extinct species concern us, if it is no use for us?”, because all of his material needs are fulfilled and thus, he’s unable to sympathize with horrors which don’t directly concern him and many times he does not even believe they really are. What he fails to see is that all life concerns him and what consumerism manages to do is to make him addicted to cheap pleasure which he will refuse to give up and may even defend; an addict won’t resist.

Consumerism makes us puppets of cheap pleasure

Yes, consumerism leads to pleasure but specifically only a certain amount of pleasure because this way, a person will always want more. As opposed to providing a person with a great amount of pleasure which would make the person realize the futility of such joy, similar to teasing a dog with a treat, systematically giving him services and trumperies so that he becomes obedient. A mere puppet of cheap pleasure. Overconsumption is a sickness of the spirit and ruthless spit in the face of nature and its resources.

Solidarity, reason, empathy, care and love can’t function solely on their own and each needs the help of others in order to thrive and create a human. Just as a symphony requires attendance of all the instruments and when only one violinist stops playing, the melody loses its magnificence. To an inexperienced ear, it may seem otherwise at first, but listen closely and the gap can’t be unheard. If you dismantle just one of these virtues, you dismantle a person, his humanity. For human isn’t a construction of temporal flesh. Unassailable parts of one’s humanity are his virtues and what’s beyond them. This exploitation of humanity makes capitalism a dehumanizing system. Socialism clearly exploited humanity in great extent, too, since freedom of artistic and intellectual expression are majestic human virtues and every system denying them deserves to die. The method and speed of this dehumanization differs, but both are vicious.

We could argue: it’s only exploitation when one allows his humanity to be exploited and it’s only manipulation when one allows himself to be manipulated — but here comes the problem of masses.

Opiates of the masses

Masses have and always will have a negative character – collective opinion is an error. The dismal reality of people gathering together is that they become subservient to prevalent trends, no matter how ridiculous and absurd they are. Moreover, masses love getting drunk by their leaders, masses enjoy being thrown around, for the majority finds comfort in sloth. Prevalent culture will always seem pleasing to them because it’s easier to be conforming and safer than to fight a hard fight. Because of this, only individuals and small groups are capable of making a difference and proper decisions. As an example, compare any great patriarchal civilization with any small matriarchal community. Furthermore, compare any true revolutionary and his impact with any democratic so-called change voted for by the majority. Or at any rate, compare the greatest true thinkers of history with countless followers of today’s popular world-views. The masses hold uncountable torches, yet never shine light:

The individual and small groups hold just one, yet are capable of enlightening; “Man is distinguished from other animals not only by the advantages which are commonly enumerated, but qualitatively by the fact that the individual is more than the species.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Ceasing from the masses and industrial civilization is the real solution to the catastrophes caused by man. No minor socio-political change as “regulated capitalism” or “socialism” can be sufficient to fix what is broken for this long. All political systems will fail and malevolent tendencies of man will always appear. Thus, the Big Brother has always been present, yet wore a different mask each time and acted with small modifications. Catholic Europe in Middle Ages, where the propaganda had been the word of God and every nonconformity led to burnt bodies at the stake. Stalinist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had gulags, concentration camps, propaganda, persecution. But the main thing that connects them is distortion of knowledge, truth, love, understanding and solidarity. It’s absurd to serve the interests of the government and leaders. These interests are not the interests of life. They oppose solidarity, they oppose love – it is their nature. And here we are again, wonderfully cloaked: utopistic flyers, posters, advertisement, and distortion of concepts as happiness, love and truth. You are welcome to define happiness as you wish but you are not likely to assume that it is equal to consuming and wealth. In fact, try all the pleasures of this world and see that nothing will make you happy;

“Happiness is not easy to find. It’s very difficult to find it in yourself — and impossible to find anywhere else.” – Nicolas Chamfort

The moral heart

Love is not limited to one species, rather it is a deep connection with all that is living. Implications are being made that economy stands above everything else, including life of animals and breath of trees.
So, to the ill minds, it seems that it doesn’t matter how many species go extinct as long as the financial gain keeps going. That might sound appealing to ill minds, but that’s not love, that’s self-centred greed.

“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

And how could a culture in which the lives of animals mean less than money be moral? Industrial civilization cannot coalesce with life, nor with humanity. Today, we witness similar totalitarian patterns, yet with a different face and more hidden: one of the points of every totalitarian regime is to infect the individual so that even the mind restricts itself, whether in speech, art, work, or even thoughts. Therefore, totalitarianism chains the mind, infects it and imposes such infection precisely when one cannot really defend oneself or overcome such a folly, usually during his childhood. Dependence on technology and consumerism chain the mind, numb it and since they’re imposed by the regime, they are totalitarian techniques. By regime, I don’t mean government, for the government is only a puppet of the richest. No law restricting the richest could be ever approved and everything the government does is constructed in a way in which the corporations don’t get harmed.³

Consumerism is a totalitarian technique, imposed in a way that it’s unnoticed, by the highest leaders, imposed at the most vulnerable period of one’s life. Distorting one’s perception of important concepts and exploiting his humanity.

Modern capitalism is totalitarianism perfected

Never have the malevolent and destructive tendencies been so hidden as in capitalism – to protect an unhealthy economy, we burn forests and let ourselves be dependent on over-consumption. Capitalism is the ultimate totalitarian regime, closest to perfection [editor’s note: see Sheldon Wolin’s Inverted Totalitarianism]. That’s because it managed to soothe and blind the population with so-called liberty and freedom so that it’s completely unaware of all mental exploitation and chains. Other totalitarian systems weren’t better, less cruel, or more humane. All of them deserve to be eradicated, dismantled, burned down. But capitalism managed to put a fancy theatre in front of its audience, that’s why it will be supported and praised even by its victims. That is why a revolutionary will have to fight the masses as well as the system. Even when the facts are too obvious. What a great screenplay!

To cease from industrial civilization is to cease from this enslavement. Of course, a man will struggle with himself anyway, and utopistic concepts such as a “just and free society” should not be considered as the absolute goal.⁴ This does not mean that a biophilic and loving society is pure fiction, rather that modern civilization cannot convert to biophilia. There cannot be any real freedom in this civilization, for it necessarily implies dependence on the will of another and that another is based on selfish greed and destructiveness. It’s clear that we have to be dependent on another in some extent and thus only a life spent in complete solitude can be called “truly free”. Being dependent on another is in itself not detrimental and is even required. However, it’s also clear that spending a life dependent on a destructive another is extremely similar to a prison cell. On another who burns, murders and enslaves even you.

The fact that industrial civilization cannot coalesce with life does not mean that you cannot coalesce with life. It does not matter as much that you have built a wall between the birds and trees and
yourself: what matters more is that you must destroy it. Coalesce with life once again. Preserve love by preserving what you love. By preserving what you love, you show that the screams of burning trees strike your heart and make it weep, thus you can’t just hear  but you must listen.


Notes

1 Purely in the context of society. So, this is not a place for denying the truthfulness of optimistic views as “an individual can reach freedom by finding it within himself and overcoming his environment” and neither
pessimistic views as “an individual can never be truly free, for he is jailed by his own desires and inner struggle”.

2 Which is impossible because all are struggling with something, but consumerism has the ability to blind an individual – apparent plenitude; “we have everything we need and even more, so what’s your problem with this system? Never have we been so rich!” Yes, but you can’t have both material wealth and spiritual wealth – these two are incompatible: that’s one of the main reasons why religions like Buddhism and Christianity (religions, not churches) and many great philosophical systems put renunciation of earthly pleasures in their core for the sake of spirit and intellect.

3 Look at the COVID-19 restrictions and see that the richest got even richer during lockdown, while small businessmen went out of business.

4 Post-Soviet countries can tell you why.


Banner Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.