Excerpted from the book Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet — Chapter 15: Our Best Hope by Lierre Keith.
2. Deep Green Resistance embraces the necessity of political struggle.
DGR is not a liberal movement. Oppression is not a mistake, and changing individual hearts and minds is not a viable strategy. Political struggle must happen on every level and in every arena if we’re to avert the worst ecological disasters and create a culture worth the name. By political struggle, I mean specifically institutional change, whether by reform or replacement or both. It’s institutions that shape those hearts and minds. A project of individual change would take lifetimes, if it worked at all. The individual has never been the target of any liberation movement for the simple reason that it’s not a feasible strategy, as our previous chapters have explained.
Fighting injustice is never easy. History tells us that the weight of power will come down on any potential resistance, a weight of violence and sadism designed to crush the courageous and anyone who might consider joining them. This is what abusive men do when women in their control fight back. It’s what slave owners do to slaves. It’s what imperial armies do to the colonized, and what the civilized do to the indigenous. The fact that there will be retaliation is no reason to give up before we begin. It is a reality to be recognized so that we can prepare for it.
The necessity of political struggle especially means confronting and contradicting those on the left who say that resistance is futile. Such people have no place in a movement for justice. For actionists who choose to work aboveground, this confrontation with detractors—and some of these detractors reject the idea of resistance of any kind—is one of the small, constant actions you can take. Defend the possibility of resistance, insist on a moral imperative of fighting for this planet, and argue for direct action against perpetrators. Despite what much of the left has now embraced, we are not all equally responsible. There are a few corporations that have turned the planet into a dead commodity for their private wealth, destroying human cultures along with it.
As we have said, their infrastructures—political, economic, physical—are, in fact, immensely vulnerable. Perhaps the gold standard of resistance against industrial civilization is MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. The oil industry has earned literally hundreds of billions of dollars from taking Nigeria’s oil. The country currently takes in $3 billion a month from oil, which accounts for 40 percent of its GDP. The Niger Delta is the world’s largest wetland, but it could more readily be called a sludgeland now. The indigenous people used to be able to support themselves by fishing and farming. No more. They’re knee-deep in oil industry waste. The fish population has been “decimated” and the people are now sick and starving. The original resistance, MOSOP, was led by poet-activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Theirs was a nonviolent campaign against Royal Dutch/Shell and the military regime. Saro-Wiwa and eight others were executed by the military government, despite international outcry and despite their nonviolence.
MEND is the second generation of the resistance. They conduct direct attacks against workers, bridges, office sites, storage facilities, rigs and pipelines, and support vessels. They have reduced Nigeria’s oil output by a dramatic one-third. In one single attack, they were able to stop 10 percent of the country’s production. And on December 22, 2010, MEND temporarily shut down three of the country’s four oil refineries by damaging pipelines to the facilities. Their main tactic is the use of speedboats in surprise attacks against simultaneous targets toward the goal of disrupting the entire system of production.
According to Nnamdi K. Obasi, West Africa senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, “MEND seems to be led by more enlightened and sophisticated men than most of the groups in the past.” They have university educations and have studied other militant movements. Their training in combat is so good that they have fought and won in skirmishes against both Shell’s private military and Nigeria’s elite fighting units. They’ve also won “broad sympathy among the Niger Delta community.” This sympathy has helped them maintain security and safety for their combatants as the local population has not turned them in. These are not armed thugs, but a true resistance. And they number just a few hundred.
Understand: a few hundred people, well-trained and organized, have reduced the oil output of Nigeria by one-third. MEND has said, “It must be clear that the Nigerian government cannot protect your workers or assets. Leave our land while you can or die in it.… Our aim is to totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian government to export oil.” I can guarantee that 98 percent of the people who are reading this book have more resources individually than all of MEND put together when they started. Resistance is not just theoretically possible. It is happening now. The only question is, will we join them?
Featured image: Degradation of the Niger Delta via Wikimedia Commons