Deep Green Resistance embraces the necessity of political struggle

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

6 thoughts on “Deep Green Resistance embraces the necessity of political struggle”

  1. Nigeria is a prime example of how and why industrial civilization is destroying itself. Incredibly, Nigeria’s population has increased by 1225% since 1900, and by 347% in just the last 50 years.

    The population of Africa as a whole is increasing at a similar rate, and has by far the highest rate of increase of any continent. Indeed, it is predicted to double again, in just the next 30 years.

    I can well imagine many readers screaming “Racism!” at the mention of this fact. But facts have no racial bias. Africa is the focus here only because the Niger Delta is in Africa, and because it is being raped by corporations based in Europe. And the African population explosion is, first and foremost, a tragedy for the people, plants, and animals of Africa.

    Not that the world in general is doing much better. The total population of planet Earth has increased by 475% since 1900, and that number is expected to reach 625% by 2050. In both Africa’s case and the world’s, we have painted ourselves into a corner. We used industrial development as an excuse to overpopulate globally, and now we require even more destructive development just to feed ourselves.

    If I may coin a term, psychocapitalists would say, optimistically, that this is a wonderful example of the growth imperative on which capitalism depends. They would point out the huge increases we have made in food production, thanks to the miracle of chemical fertilizers — a by-product of our old friend, fossil fuels.

    They would be reluctant, however, to add that since 1970, mechanized agriculture has destroyed more than a third of the world’s topsoil, depleted aquifers to the verge of a global agricultural collapse, and destroyed forests at a fiendish rate.

    Industrial humanity today is attacking the Earth like a swarm of locusts. To a neutral observer from another world, we would appear to be committing collective suicide as a species, and indiscriminate genocide toward the more than a million innocent, non-industrial species with which our pre-industrial ancestors once shared the planet.

    As the above book excerpt points out, global, systemic political action AND direct action will be required to avert an existential catastrophe. Sadly, however, we in the anti-industrial minority are unlikely to succeed before civilization as a whole suffers an irreversible collapse. As a recent article in Scientific Reports warned, equations based on overpopulation and deforestation alone predict that just such a collapse will occur within 20-40 years.

    Industry, of course, will eagerly try to prevent this, arguing against all evidence to the contrary that technology is the solution to the problem of technology. Technologies that only exist in science fiction, they claim, will allow us to harness the sun, mine the asteroids, colonize Mars, and produce the “cheap and abundant energy” to do it all.

    Like gamblers with a big bankroll and blind faith in their ability to defy the odds, they have placed a double-or-nothing bet that endless growth will work as well for capitalism as it does for cancer. But again, they deny the facts. Like cancer, capitalism is a parasite. It devours its host organism. And when the host organism dies, the parasite dies, too.

    Cancer cells behave as if they believe that they can jump from one host to another, just as techies claim we can use up the Earth and move to Mars. And in theory, both assumptions are true. Cancer cells can be transplanted from one host to another. What cancer and capitalism forget, however, is that they can’t do this on their own. In the case of cancer, a mad surgeon would be required to do the job. And in capitalism’s case, Nature would have to go mad, too.

    But Nature has shown consistently that it is sane. It has opposed industrial civilization from the start. For barely an instant in geological time, civilization has defied Nature. In that instant, we have done some apparently remarkable things. We have harnessed electricity, visited the moon, built instant communication and computer systems, transformed the bowels of mountains into highways, ships and skyscrapers, and treated ourselves to jet vacations across the seas. And we have done it by using at least half of all the fossil fuels Nature deposited in 300 million years.

    We are, to borrow an old British phrase, “penny wise and pound foolish.” We’ve thrown a wild party for a couple of centuries, the way a pandemic wreaks havoc for a couple of years. But Nature has been here for billions of years; civilized man, for a few thousand.

    Put your money on Nature.

  2. We need BOTH personal and major/radical institutional change. If the vast majority of people continue to support wrecking the planet, the institutions that are in place and doing so will continue to do so, and political struggle will fail. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. Leftists fail to recognize individual responsibility, pinning blame for everything on the rich and their corporations. And while the rich & powerful are MORE to blame than anyone else, they’re not the ONLY ones to blame.

  3. No I., Africa is part of this planet too and we fight for all life on it. While you’re correct that overpopulation is less of a problem in Africa than it is on any other continent at this time, Africa is definitely going in the wrong direction, and fast. In Kenya, human destruction of the environment for housing the overpopulated masses has encroached into lion/zebra habitat, for example. People on the other continents destroyed their ecosystems long ago with overpopulation (and overconsumption), now unfortunately people in Africa are heading in the same direction.

  4. I. seems to have a strange passion for watching Africans destroy their resource base — with the eager cooperation of neo-colonialists from China, the original colonial powers of France and Britain, and every newcomer that can get its foot in the door.

    If we “leave Africa alone,” as I. suggests, the African biosphere will be destroyed, the rainforests will turn to desert, and the thousands of starving Africans now trying to get into Europe will become tens of millions.

    Since writing my first comment on this topic, I have seen a documentary on Ivory Coast, the African country with the most insane growth rate. Its population has grown by roughly 1000% in the last 60 years, during which time its farmers and Western profiteers have destroyed 90% of the country’s forests. The forests are burned down and replaced with cacao groves, the depleted soil becomes barren in a few years, and more forests are cleared — to feed another and larger generation of children, and Cargill’s insatiable demand for chocolate for the Western market.

    At the current rate, all of Ivory Coast’s forests will be gone in 10 years, a permanent drought will be firmly in place, and the birth rate will finally drop — as would-be parents starve to death before they can reproduce.

    If that is the human plan, we need to reconsider the myth of human intelligence.

  5. Did you take my challenge, Jeff? How did your catequization in the Amazon go?

    How about trying it in the Congo river basin now?

    By the way, Mark, you should accompany him!

    Have a safe trip, and let us know how it went!

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