I was really happy to read An apology from an environmentalist. I’ve been waiting so long to hear those words from someone, anyone, even some random anonymous person. The loneliness of being doom-aware is a recurring theme of this blog. It’s sucked especially because I know it’s because normals are gaslighting me because they’re emotionally incapable of dealing with reality. It’s crazy-making to be punished for sanity, for wanting to respond rationally to a life-threatening predicament.
I believe in meditation, psychoanalysis, psychedelics, Buddhism. All are based on the idea that avoidance and running away are what make us suffer. Mindfulness is the opposite of dissociation. Facing reality together has the best chance of letting us die at peace with ourselves.
I’ve argued with doom about people to the point of burning out on it. Finally someone from the other side stopped shaming me for “negativity” and said something real!
I was one of the people who told you changing your light bulbs or buying organic couscous would make things OK. I was wrong and I knew I was wrong at the time. I was one of the people who wrote about the successes of the charities I worked for. I knew full well that we were losing the natural world hand-over-fist.
I started working for my first major environmental NGO in 2003. I translated the stuff the wildlife boffins were doing into stuff people give money to. The boffins wanted to post out their PhD thesis with an invoice. The fundraisers wanted to send ransom notes with “give us the money or we mince the panda.” I wanted a proper job. I wanted to build myself a future. So I tried for some sort of compromise…
In all of these jobs, my bosses told me I shouldn’t scare the horses; I shouldn’t tell the full truth of the encroaching horrors I researched all day. Otherwise, people might give up or — in other words — stop sending us money.
I complied. I wanted the money. And I’m sorry.
This is what most of the environmental movement has become. It is one of the major reasons it has failed. I am not about to bore you with page after page of evidence. It’s self-evident. Approach any news channel with any kind of honesty and it will show you the failure with constant updates of catastrophe after catastrophe.
Being honest about this feels like a kind of heresy. Even now I am using a pseudonym so I can keep my day job in another environmental organisation. That should be a major warning sign. When did reality become so unpalatable that we shouldn’t tell people about it? Since when did so many of us need to be treated like children? Why do those of us who know about these things have to disassemble, distract or blatantly lie about the state of our world?
It feels calming to finally open up, if only to myself. To allow what I know to be true to flood in and flood out of me. Because only then can we start to really deal with it on its own terms. It’s now clear to me that “not scaring the horses” is as irresponsible as standing in a burning building selling wet napkins instead of shouting fire.
The truth is, I don’t know much that you don’t know already. It’s either deep down or, as in my case, a continuous kind of mental tinnitus you notice when things get quiet.
And the truth shall set you free! Welcome to the desert of the real. I thought you’d never make it!
For many of us, the thundering onset of climate change is what woke us from our slumber. That is the hardest to ignore. The latest comprehensive view from the deeply conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) went something like this:
“Within the next 12 years, we just need to put aside all our differences and peacefully orchestrate a massive and abrupt slow-down of the world’s economy without destroying it. Meanwhile, we need to pull carbon out of the air with gadgets that haven’t been invented yet, or we’re fucked.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to make a living by campaigning on climate change. Anyone who has made any serious attempt at following the logic through realises we are actually campaigning against industrial colonialist civilisation. For anybody in the industrialised world, this is the source of all our wealth. It’s what pays all our wages. Good luck sawing down the tree branch you are sitting on.
This whole time, I’ve felt it would be so much better if we could discuss this amongst ourselves. What are we willing to give up? What’s really important in life and how can we design a society that preserves it on minimal resources? How are we going to feed ourselves? We could use teamwork to get through it together as best we can. Maybe publicly subsidized euthanasia.
We have to go from 7 billion people in industrial civilization to millions of people in anarcho-primitivism. It’s not optional. It’s inevitable. But even the Green New Deal is a commitment to denial.
Today, the imminent breakdown of industrialised civilisation isn’t even a fringe view. It’s all over the mainstream media if you care to look, or even if you simply don’t deliberately look away.
The very idea of a breakdown in industrial civilisation suggests an interpretation of “civilisation” that is culturally biased and fundamentally wrong. We have been conditioned to believe civilisation is a state of high progress, hence breakdown. This blithely and brutally ignores the billions of people for whom this civilisation is apocalyptic, and always has been.
Check your history. Every time this particular civilisation turns up somewhere it signals the violent overthrow of the native population and the armed robbery of everything valuable. New Zealand is a textbook case. The ongoing processes in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most obvious current examples.
And this means we need to completely rethink the values that brought us here.
This next point is important: it’s hard to understand that the culture you grew up in is bizarre.
I am not wildly successful or talented. I have tended to work in non-management for charities where wages are not high. Yet I can feast better than a medieval king every day of the week. I can buy out-of-season exotic foods from all over the world, and then throw them away when I forget to eat them.
To think it outlandish to suggest this may not last forever is itself odd. It’s only the depth of our delusion that makes forecasts of a much poorer and more vulnerable way of life seem unlikely. In fact, nearly every other human’s life on Earth, now and throughout history, has been poorer and more vulnerable than ours. We are a culture of Marie Antoinettes, stuffing our faces with cake and idly wondering what that intriguing new scaffold outside might be for.
The environmental movement was supposed to do something about all that, but it lost its way.
We were blindsided by climate change, even though we had known about it for more than a century. The only way I can explain that is to quote a Sudanese farmer: when asked why the rich countries weren’t helping to relieve their famine he said, “you can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”