The book opens with a preface by Derrick Jensen where he summarizes the problem, which is that industrial civilization is killing the planet. He quickly names the strategy of Deep Green Resistance which is: “to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet (p.15),” as well as “defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases (p. 16).”
Then Chapter 1, “The Problem,” by Lierre Keith, expands on that introduction, by explaining some necessary facts about civilization and the dying planet. Two hundred species a day are dying, the oceans are losing their plankton and filling with plastic instead, and global warming has “passed the tipping point (p. 22).” Civilization is inherently unsustainable, because it’s based on the consumption of resources that are running out.
This book is very hard to read, and I’m getting through it very slowly. It’s well-written and well-researched of course, but it’s not an uplifting book—it’s a book that cuts through the denial and puts the ecological crisis right in my face where I can’t look away from it. It makes me question my own role in this. Could I actually become brave enough to do what it takes to really defend my own landbase from environmental destruction? So far I have done nothing but play my part as a cog in the Capitalist machine. I get up every day and go to work for Capitalism, and I consume its products and pay interest to its banks. I do this because I don’t have much of a choice in the matter—if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have a roof over my head or food to eat. And even if I had the means to buy some land, live off the grid and grow my own food, that would be an individual solution that would not stop civilization—it would only remove me from it. What DGR is calling me to do is to actively participate in stopping civilization, and that is not an easy thing to think about.
One of the reasons I wanted to read this book is because I know that the Left is lost and confused and ineffective at fighting capitalism, to the point where I don’t even know what the Left is supposed to be for anymore. The Left party in my area has completely alienated me by pandering to neo-liberalism and promoting the agency of the individual instead of a material analysis. In a desperate bid to be electable, the Left has become the Right. I am politically engaged but in the last election I couldn’t even vote for anybody. The Communists have all but disappeared, and now even the social democrats don’t look any different from the center-right. (The social democrats used to be at least left of center, even though they were never very far to the left.) I’m always searching for strategies and analyses for improving and creating a real Left—one that truly poses a threat to capitalism. I think I may have found it in DGR. I haven’t read the whole book yet, but something that I’ve been thinking about is that, if industrial civilization is killing the planet, then it doesn’t really matter if the proletariat seizes the means of production, because we will still meet our end eventually when we run out of natural resources from which to produce our consumer goods. We need to actually end production, not just change ownership of it. I have no doubt that the implementation of Communism would slow down overconsumption and put us on a more reasonable track, but a culture that is based on the consumption of non-renewable resources is going to have to end eventually even if materials are shared equally while they last. What this means is that I have turned out not to be a Communist, even though I think their analysis is excellent and they have some really great ideas.
In Chapter 2, “Civilization and Other Hazards,” Aric McBay talks about the negative characteristics of civilization. To name only a few of them, civilization is globalized, mechanized, militarized, patriarchal, hierarchical, and capable of making the planet uninhabitable. I found his writing very refreshing in the sense that he tells the actual truth about what is going on in the world and it is rare to see this sort of truth being spoken. One of the points I found most interesting in this chapter is the point about civilization having to import resources from other, non-civilized lands. Any city has to import resources from the surrounding land, and any civilized country has to import resources from less developed countries. As McBay explains,
“Further, any way of life based on the importation of resources is also functionally based on violence, because if your way of life requires the importation of resources, trade will never be sufficiently reliable: if people in the next watershed over won’t trade you for some necessary resource, you will take it, because you need it. So, to bring this to the present, we could all become enlightened, and the US military would still have to be huge: how else will they get access to the oil they need to run the economy, oil that just happens to lie under someone else’s land? The point is that no matter what we think of the irredeemability of this culture’s mass psychology or system of rewards, this culture—civilization—is also irredeemable on a purely functional level (p. 59).”
Radical feminism names the oppression of women as a system where men use their power over us to extract resources from us—whether it is domestic or sexual labor or reproductive labor or the actual children that they impregnate us with. Deep Green Resistance takes this analysis a step further. The extraction of resources from women goes hand in hand with the extraction of resources from the Earth. The powerful extract resources from the oppressed, in every situation where there is oppression. Because civilization must take resources from other lands in order to survive, civilization is inherently oppressive. It cannot operate without extracting someone else’s resources. It cannot operate without oppression and destruction.
McBay mentions the Aral Sea being destroyed by the industrial irrigation of the USSR. It’s interesting that a Communist government can do just as good a job as Capitalism does at destroying the environment. It won’t really matter who’s in charge any more when we can’t drink the water or breathe the air. In addition, male Leftists can be just as misogynist as men on the right because they don’t necessarily listen to feminists. A real, effective Left needs to take into account not just the sharing of resources and the re-distribution of wealth, but also care for the environment and equality for women. I am not interested in a Left where equality is for men, and where exploitation of women and the environment goes unquestioned.
I’m very much interested in Deep Green Resistance though, and I will keep on getting through this book, no matter how unpleasant it may be to face these things.