Excerpted from Endgame by Derrick Jensen / Featured image: River Grass by Max Wilbert
If you’ve gotten this far in this book—or if you’re simply anything other than entirely insensate—we probably agree that civilization is going to crash, whether or not we help bring this about. If you don’t agree with this, we probably have nothing to say to each other (How ‘bout them Cubbies!). We probably also agree that this crash will be messy. We agree further that since industrial civilization is systematically dismantling the ecological infrastructure of the planet, the sooner civilization comes down (whether or not we help it crash) the more life will remain afterwards to support both humans and nonhumans.
If you agree with all this, and if you don’t want to dirty your spirituality and conscience with the physical work of helping to bring down civilization, and if your primary concern really is for the well-being of those (humans) who will be alive during and immediately after the crash (as opposed to simply raising this issue because you’re too scared to talk about the crash or to allow anyone else to do so either), then, given, and I repeat this point to emphasize it, that civilization is going to come down anyway, you need to start preparing people for the crash. Instead of attacking me for stating the obvious, go rip up asphalt in vacant parking lots to convert them to neighborhood gardens, go teach people how to identify local edible plants, even in the city (especially in the city) so these people won’t starve when the proverbial shit hits the fan and they can no longer head off to Albertson’s for groceries. Set up committees to eliminate or if appropriate channel the (additional) violence that might break out.
We need it all. We need people to take out dams, and we need people to knock out electrical infrastructures. We need people to protest and to chain themselves to trees. We also need people working to ensure that as many people as possible are equipped to deal with the fall-out when the collapse comes. We need people working to teach others what wild plants to eat, what plants are natural antibiotics. We need people teaching others how to purify water, how to build shelters. All of this can look like supporting traditional, local knowledge, it can look like starting roof-top gardens, it can look like planting local varieties of medicinal herbs, and it can look like teaching people how to sing.
The truth is that although I do not believe that designing groovy eco-villages will help bring down civilization, when the crash comes, I’m sure to be first in line knocking on their doors asking for food.
People taking out dams do not have a responsibility to ensure that people in homes previously powered by hydro know how to cook over a fire. They do however have a responsibility to support the people doing that work.
Similarly, those people growing medicinal plants (in preparation for the end of civilization) do not have a responsibility to take out dams. They do however have a responsibility at the very least to not condemn those people who have chosen that work. In fact they have a responsibility to support them. They especially have a responsibility to not report them to the cops.
It’s the same old story: the good thing about everything being so fucked up is that no matter where you look, there is great work to be done. Do what you love. Do what you can. Do what best serves your landbase. We need it all.
This doesn’t mean that everyone taking out dams and everyone working to cultivate medicinal plants are working toward the same goals. It does mean that if they are, each should see the importance of the other’s work.
Further, resistance needs to be global. Acts of resistance are more effective when they’re large-scale and coordinated. The infrastructure is monolithic and centralized, so common tools and techniques can be used to dismantle it in many different places, simultaneously if possible.
By contrast, the work of renewal must be local. To be truly effective (and to avoid reproducing the industrial infrastructure) acts of survival and livelihood need to grow from particular landbases where they will thrive. People need to enter into conversation with each piece of earth and all its (human and nonhuman) inhabitants. This doesn’t mean of course that we can’t share ideas, or that one water purification technique won’t be useful in many different locations. It does mean that people in those places need to decide for themselves what will work. Most important of all, the water in each place needs to be asked and allowed to decide for itself.
I’ve been thinking a lot again about the cell phone tower behind Safeway, and I see now how these different approaches manifest in this one small place. The cell phone tower needs to come down. It is contiguous on two sides with abandoned parking lots. Those lots need to come up. Gardens can bloom in their place. We can even do our work side by side.
By Boris Forkel / Deep Green Resistance Germany
I want to tell you a story. A story about permaculture, food chains, friendship, love and death. People are storytellers. We transport information through stories, or narratives, to use the more sophisticated term.
Actually I wanted to go with my good friend Cengiz to a political event, a meeting of the initiative aufstehen (stand up) about the resistance of the yellow vests in France. However, Cengiz decided to spend the evening with his newly hatched chicks, his cats and a good friend whom he looks after because she has addiction problems. He is one of the finest characters I have ever met. I taught him how to kill. We have already taken the lives of a many proud roosters together. At the same time, I have never met a person who cares more about his animal friends than he does.
Without him, I had no desire to go to the event. I wanted to spend such a wonderful spring evening in the garden. That was a good thing, because I think I learned much more there.
I heard voices all around me. It was the voices of the toads that migrated from the forest into my garden to perform their ecstatic mating rituals. The three ponds I have built over the last few years were suddenly full of toads, talking loudly to each other. I consider it a great honor that they lay their eggs in my ponds.
Derrick Jensen says “So many indigenous people have said to me that the fundamental difference between Western and indigenous ways of being is that even the most open-minded westerners generally view listening to the natural world as a metaphor, as opposed to the way the world really is.”
Listen. In medieval fairy tales, toads are a symbol of wisdom. In many tales there is the hero who suddenly understands the language of the animals after a magical initiation event. Medieval people still had a relationship to the natural world and an understanding of the wonders of life. What the toads tell me is that whether we call ourselves quite immodest Homo sapiens sapiens, the wisest of wise, wolves, bears, bison, toads or any of a thousand other names, we are all sitting on the same boat.
The world speaks. They all speak. The chicks who are calling for food. The toads with their mating cries. Trees communicate with each other and certainly with us. If we had not forgotten how to listen and if, as members of this culture, we had not largely given up our empathy, we could never allow this mass murder to happen.
It was not right to exterminate the wolves. The only way we can all permanently exist together is to recognize the needs and lives of others, as as important as our own lives and needs. Moreover, life is sacred. All life.
This is, in my understanding, the core statement of permaculture and the only way for us and all other species to survive. We can fantasize all we want about colonizing Mars or other planets. All this is pure technocratic ideology. It has never worked. We are still all on the same boat.
The toads are much smaller than the ones I saw 10 years ago. Through the war of our culture against insects, we are depriving them of food. Insects are the animal basis of the food chain. To exterminate them is an abysmal stupidity and will cost us dearly.
Last year I wanted to participate in the toad rescue operations that environmentalists carry out every spring. The toads have to cross roads on their way to their spawning grounds; the toad rescuers collect them in buckets and carry them safely across the road. Last year, the toad rescue was canceled because there were too few toads. They live in warlike conditions, but life wants to live. They still migrate, sing, mate and lay their eggs.
I had to think of the film Life is a Miracle by Serbian director Emir Kusturica, which takes place during the Bosnian War. The protagonist wants to commit suicide after his son was taken prisoner of war. But then the Serbian Militz hands him a young Muslim woman as hostage, with whom he falls in love. They sleep together while bombs fall in the background.
Life wants to live.
Recently, I killed two quails. It was hard. I cut their heads off with sharp poultry scissors. The eyes and beak opened a few more times in shock. The little body twitched in my left hand in agony. I cried. Then I plucked them, gutted them and ate them. It was the best meal I’ve had in months.
If you are a self-sufficient chicken farmer, you usually only have to perform the ritual of slaughter once a year. In autumn you kill the surplus roosters and the hens that no longer lay.
Since all my wonderful chickens, turkeys and also my young peacock were massacred this winter by a hungry marten, I have given up breeding chickens for the time being and now try quails.
Quails are smaller, but they are much more efficient feed converters and have a better ratio of body size to egg size. All processes are much faster in quails than in chickens, which means for me that I will have more meat more often, which in turn means that I will have to kill much more often.
I breed them in my incubator, I raise them, I feed them. Like all children, they are always hungry. They always want to eat and grow so fast that I can almost watch them getting bigger. With big intelligent eyes they look at me and shout “Feed us, feed us”, as little chicks all over the world call out to their parents. They scream for life. I love these little, sweet, intelligent birds and I love raising them. Most of them I will slaughter and eat one day.
I often feel like a cannibal eating his own children. But so is the harsh reality, adult knowledge, true wisdom: As long as we live on this earth, we consume the lives of others. Even the great Homo sapiens sapiens is, biologically, nothing but an animal. And as such we are part of the archaic food chain that we in the West destroy so diligently.
The whole history of the world is the history of eating and being eaten. One can explain the whole world in food chains, and understanding food chains means understanding the world. The real world, not the artificial structure of civilization that we have created from ideologies, slavery and exploitation. Civilized people think they can cross any natural boundaries, including food chains. A fatal error.
I consider vegetarianism and especially the extreme form, veganism, to be fundamentally wrong. I myself grew up mostly as a vegetarian, fortunately only from an age of about 8 years. I understand the moral arguments very well, but my body always said something different. I always had a ravenous appetite for meat and stuffed it into myself wherever opportunity presented itself. I think I might have grown bigger and stronger, if I had consumed more meat as a child.
Vegetarianism and veganism are modern phenomena with a religious character. The way our culture is treating our fellow creatures is a sin, without any doubt. But the vegan is pulling out of the affair, washes his or her hands in innocence, and often tries to convert others with religious zeal and a moral club.
Never before has a human society existed that could do without animal products. The Inuit, who consume almost exclusively raw meat and fish, have the best results in blood panels ever measured in humans. A friend of mine and her daughter, both of whom have been vegetarians for several years, have very poor blood panel results. The doctor explained two options: either eat meat or take a handful of vitamin supplements every morning. The 21 year old daughter chose the latter for moral reasons. Her pale skin and glassy eyes speak of malnutrition.
One last argument: Does any of you know a second generation vegetarian or vegan? I met one once. A 3 year old girl, whose mother was a very dogmatic vegan. Even her shoes featured the inscription “VEGAN” in big letters. Her little daughter was severely physically and mentally handicapped, could hardly speak, had glassy squinting eyes and such weak bones that her legs had grown crooked and she could not walk.
On my stove the bones of the slaughtered quails simmer slowly and for a long time, to later feed my own as nutritious broth.
I think that this woman will never free herself from the vegan ideology, because if she had to admit what she did to her daughter, she would have to spend the rest of her life in the hell of immeasurable guilt.
We all have to eat.
I can’t imagine a more intimate relationship than eating someone else. Your flesh becomes mine. We unite. This must be seen as a sacred act.
The least I have to do is to give my quails the best possible living conditions. And I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to worship them with rituals as holy animals. Haven’t indigenous people always done this, with salmon, bison, and many other animals that were their food source, before the Europeans exterminated them (the salmon, the bison, and the native humans…)?
When I take someone else’s life to eat or otherwise utilize him or her, I am responsible for the wellbeing of that species. Both for moral reasons and for pure self-interest. I want to continue eating in the future.
Seriously, I think that a hunter-gatherer culture is the most respectful way of dealing with our fellow creatures. Stable natural communities, from which healthy, strong, wild animals can be hunted when needed, to which appropriate respect is shown in cult and ritual. I would like to hunt, and in a healthy culture I would certainly be a hunter. But the completely degraded ecosystems no longer allow this. Animal husbandry is therefore a necessary compromise.
From a permaculture perspective, the final solution of a reasonable culture would be a large-scale and worldwide ecological restoration, solely for reasons of morality and justice. The restoration of habitats and the transition to a respectful, strictly taboo- and ritual-regulated extraction by hunting as source for meat.
If, for example, the American prairies, with their 100 million murdered bison were restored, one could have a considerable amount of high-quality bison meat every year, without the enormous ethical problems and environmental hazards of factory farming.
Currently, the United States spend about 69 million dollars per hour to finance its gigantic military apparatus. In Germany, this sum amounts to a paltry 5,023 thousand dollars per hour, and rising. If we would spend these gigantic sums not for imperialism, war, murder and destruction, but for ecological restoration and thus for the future of our children, projects like the vital cleaning and regeneration of the oceans and the regeneration of healthy, game rich forests, meadows and prairies would appear quite feasible.
Unfortunately, our culture seems to strive for the apocalypse as the final solution.
Preventing it from destroying the food chains and ultimately all life on the planet must be our common and most sacred duty. For moral reasons, for reasons of justice and for pure self-interest. Because we all have to eat. Now and in the future.
Image credit: Truthout / Lance Page
by Liam Campbell
“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” ― Carl Sagan
David Spratt, research director of the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Australia, recently warned us that “no political, social, or military system can cope” with the outcomes of climate collapse. The consequences are almost too extreme to process: global crop failures, water shortages, extreme natural disasters, dying ecosystems, and unstoppable climate feedback systems. These increasingly chaotic variables can lead to crippling uncertainty; should you dedicate all of your energy to fighting against greenhouse gas emissions and ecological destruction? Should you balance your time between resistance and preparing for adaptation? What are the skills and resources needed to survive? This article is the first in a series designed to help frame and answer those questions.
I grew up in the wilderness and was a stranger to civilization until my mid teens. Outside my childhood home I could have walked for weeks or months without encountering another human, and I often spent extended periods of time doing just that. It was a difficult environment to survive in because the summers were searing hot, the winters were far below freezing, there was little water, and vegetation was sprase. My classroom was the natural world, my teachers were the native species, and some of my tests were high stakes. I learned how to quickly build shelters, how to find clean water from miles away, and how to find enough food to survive. It was a perfect childhood, despite many challenges and hardships.
When I moved into the town I was around 14 years old. I found the endless, often arbitrary, rules perplexing and frequently amusing. The “city people” were alien to me. I was utterly convinced that they would die of dehydration if they couldn’t get water from a tap, and that if they were told to walk off a cliff by someone wearing an adequately authoritative costume, they would do so. My amusement with this alternative reality soon turned into frustration. City cultures were full of people whose minds had been filled with often useless information by school curricula that insisted knowing the names and birthdays of bygone presidents was more important that knowing how to grow your own food, purify your own water, or build your own home. I was disturbed by this culture which had stripped people of their ancestral knowledge, of their independence.
Several decades later, my frustration has given way to activism. The brutal reality is that most of us, at least among the English speakers, have no clue how to survive without industrial civilization; which makes us the slaves and victims of that dominant culture. With climate collapse rapidly approaching, one of the most radical things we can do is restore our ancestral knowledge and rebuild the self sufficiency of our families and immediate communities.
Food and Water Security
Fast moving water is generally cleaner than slow or still water. Morning dew is often abundant. Conserving water is as important as collecting it. Sand, rocks, and charcoal purify still water. Trees and bushes transpire. Beaches produce freshwater. These are the lessons we used to learn as children and they provide us with security; indigenous cultures knew thousands of these variations, and specialized them for their local ecosystems over millennia. We need to restore this knowledge and disseminate it widely among our communities, both for our own individual security and also to maintain as much social stability as possible in the midst of collapse. There will be a day when your community attempts to turn on the tap for a glass of water to discover that it’s no longer working, and the ratio of infrastructure downtime will increase until we’re left to fend for ourselves. Communities with better developed skills will be better equipped to avoid desperation and violence.
Likewise, our food security needs to be addressed. Some ecosystems will soon become completely uninhabitable, others may remain habitable but become chaotic and prone to extreme weather events. Most of the food we eat today comes from industrial scale farming, which is entirely reliant on fossil fuels for pesticides, fertilizers, heavy equipment, refrigeration, and shipping. There will come a day, sooner than most people realize, when none of that infrastructure will work. This poses an immense challenge for communities whose farmers have forgotten how to produce crops without tractors and pesticides. Likewise, the average person has no idea how to grow or store their own food, and when the grocery store shelves go empty they’re going to become extremely desperate.
This is why we must prioritize local food and water security, which involves upskilling our communities and also leading efforts to build sustainable local systems. Every child needs to know the basic principles of permaculture, they need to know how to blend perennials and seasonals in regenerative rotations, they need to understand soil balance and which plants produce nitrogen, and they need to learn these things very quickly. Additionally, we need to replace lawns with gardens, ornamental plants with edibles for ourselves and pollinators, and we need to urgently protect the habitats of interdependent species and ecosystems. This starts by forming a group, knocking on your neighbours’ doors, and helping them build their first small garden.
Whether we like it or not, most of us are surrounded by larger communities of people. When people become too thirsty or too hungry their desperations leads to violence, which often ends up exacerbating their condition in a vicious cycle. For this reason, I think the worst possible place to be during climate collapse are cities. By nature of their design, city cultures are largely anonymous, callous, and unsustainable. The only way to feed the inhabitants of a city is to take food and other resources from the surrounding region, which will become increasingly difficult. Scarcity with lead cities to experience worsening class stratification, xenophobia, and misogyny; fear and poverty will also lead to reactionary movements and fascism, as it always does.
Communities will fare better when they’re small enough for the inhabitants to either know each other or recognize each other based on shared relations. I personally think populations between 2,000 and 5,000 are ideal because they’re large enough to significantly share resources and protect themselves, but small enough to be deeply integrated. In sufficiently rural or wilderness settings I would be inclined to live in even smaller populations.
The single most important thing you can do to maintain or prolong local stability is forge strong bonds with your neighbours, and to intentionally do so across preexisting divisions like class, race, and tribe. It’s important to foster a shared identity. One of the best ways to establish these bonds is to lead local permaculture, ecological, and economic adaptation efforts. If it can be at all avoided, never blame individuals in your local community for climate collapse or the worsening state of the world; even if it’s true, you’re now all in this together and those petty divisions can fester into dangerous conflicts as external tension builds.
Also focus on preparing today’s children. The next 10-20 years will be very difficult, but the following 50 years will be inconceivably difficult and we need to provide intensive training for the generation that will be attempting to survive it. Today’s 10 year old will probably be 25-30 years old when civilization as we know it collapses, those of us who are still alive will be relying on them to maintain order and potentially to help care for us as we age, experience illness, or become less independently capable. We will have great regrets if we fail to adequately prepare the next generation for what lies ahead.
Collapse will be most immediately horrific for people with serious health conditions. I relate deeply to this issue because my own medical condition, if left untreated, will probably significantly shorten my life and result in an unpleasant demise. It will be worse for people with conditions like kidney failure, who will be unable to receive dialysis treatments, or for cancer patients who will be unable to receive chemo therapy. Childbirth will also become increasingly dangerous. The good news is that we can mitigate some of these effects by connecting the dots between modern medical research and the active compounds found in various plants and fungi. Most of the world’s pharmaceuticals were initially derived from medicinal plants and fungi, and indigenous peoples have used those plants (often effectively) for countless generations. There will be increasing demand for local sources of medicine to treat things like infections, chronic pain, epilepsy, and even certain cancers. We need healthcare leaders in the future who are able to connect scientific medical research to processes which employ local plants and fungi.
We also need to improve our relationship with death because, unfortunately, there’s going to be a great deal more of it in the world. Most of our cultures have exacerbated our fear of death, in part because we have become so removed from it. For example, almost everyone eats meat, which obviously involves death, but how many people have slaughtered the animals themselves and processed through those complex emotions? Many of us have had loved ones die, but how many of us have been one of the primary caregivers, washed their body, and cremated/buried them ourselves? We have build entire economies around cultural desires to hide death behind layers of abstraction, and very few of us have learned to deal with it in healthy ways. The dominant culture prefers to pretend that death doesn’t exist; sometimes by ignoring our own mortality until the last minute, and sometimes even by denying mortality at all by propagating superstitions about eternal afterlife.
How we deal with death relates, in many ways, with my final point about healthcare: mental health. Our current frameworks for understanding and addressing mental health are deeply inadequate in the context of climate collapse. As our global and local situations progressively worsen, and as people realize that it will never return to their understanding of “normal” it will cause significant psychological trauma, persistent anxiety, and spiraling depression. I predict that suicide rates will increase dramatically, and I can’t blame those people. Likewise, it will become inceasingly difficult to deal with individuals whose mental health conditions may be significantly disruptive or even dangerous for other members of their communities. We will reach a point where we’re no longer able to access antipsychotic, antidepressant, antianxiety, bipolar, or any number of other mental health medications; this, combined with the intense psychological pressures of collapse will create great volatility among some of the most at risk members of our communities.
Part 1 Summary
This is first article is an overview of the scale of our challenges and some of the most essential priorities (food, water, community, and healthcare). As you can see, we have immense challenges ahead of us and it’s going to be a difficult road even for those of us living in the most temperature ecosystems. In the next article I’ll delve deeper into specific food and water systems, and provide detailed processes for organizing our communities toward those objectives. From a resistance perspective, it’s critical that we begin to address the details of how to resolve these issues. Our communities will be much more supportive of radical, direct action toward preventing global extinction if they feel like their most essential needs can be met in a post-collapse world. If we cannot provide and implement clear strategies for addressing these needs, people will retreat into denialism and delusions, eventually responding violently toward any group or information which threatens their fantasies. This is why we must take urgent action.
By Elisabeth Robson / Art for Culture Change
The catastrophic flooding across the midwest isn’t getting much coverage on the coasts, but it is a multibillion $ disaster for multiple states and indigenous nations.
Over a million wells may be contaminated.
Farmers will lose their farms.
The top soil is washing away.
The cattle losses have yet to be tallied but are likely to be huge.
8 EPA superfund sites have been inundated and no one knows what toxic nastiness is washing into the ground and water from those sites.
And of course all the little ways toxins make their way into the water from inundated septic systems, landfill sites, dumps, oil on the ground, and flooded energy infrastructure.
The flood waters are washing not just soil, but decades of accumulated synthetic fertilizers and many other toxins, into the Mississippi river, all of which will eventually flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The yearly “dead zone” in the Gulf is already notorious–agriculture runoff creates algae growth, which in turn creates hypoxic zones, and all marine life in those zones dies from lack of oxygen.
This year’s “dead zone” could be the largest ever.
This winter, we can expect high food prices throughout the country. The flooded region produces wheat, corn, and soy, used to feed millions of feed lot cattle, and produce our industrial food products (bread, cereals, etc.)
The fields have not only lost topsoil; many are now covered with sand and other debris. It will be years, decades, or more before these fields return to full production–of course, their “full production” now is based on industrial agriculture, so it’s highly unnatural, but it does feed much of this country, so it’s something to keep in mind.
And of course along with those losses, many farmers will now be out of work.
Once upon a time, long ago, before the rivers in this country were dammed and levied and corralled into submission, flooding like this used to bring nutrients to the prairies and regenerate the land. Once upon a time, floods like this were a temporary hardship for a long term gain in productivity for all the wild things of the vast prairies of the continent.
In our modern times, flooding like this is a disaster, one that will have decades of repercussions of poisoned soil and water, poverty, and misery.
Image by NOAA of 2019 Spring Flood Outlook for the USA.