Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kick It Over - Derrick Jensen

Caution: explicit expression of the environmentalism of despair.

[Most of this feature is in the embedded audio clips. This short script just gives more web links. To listen, just click on the title above.]

Do we have to stamp out civilization to save the planet?

The American author and activist Derrick Jensen thinks so, and offers his body to defeat the organized beast that is stripping the planet of forests, soil, and species.

There are three main reactions to the developing collection of crisis here on Earth, whether you think of frightening climate change, raped ocean life, polluted slums, or economic unreality: Let's fix it, Let it fall, and finally the school of "kick it over." Jensen is the prophet of slamming civilization, hoping it will fall before doing irrevocable damage to nature. We'll hear from a recent speech, list some tenets of his belief, and add books and web sources for further exploration.

We'll also hear the FBI view, and reactions it's latest "Green Scare" techniques to frighten environmental protesters.

This is Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock. Personally, I don't agree with Derrick Jensen. When it comes to taking out dams or cell phone towers by force, count me out. All that bravado just stimulates the beast to even more violence and oppressions.

Give me Ghandi or give me death.

Still, it isn't hard to find parts of Jensen's green despair in all of us. Facing the extremes of extinction, including our own, we need to listen to every voice. In a sea of corporate propaganda, we need freedom of speech now, more than ever.

Saying he's been culture bashing for 15 years, Jensen defines civilization as "a way of life characterized by the growth of cities." That is key now, as billions of humans are moving from rural land to polluted mega-cities, all over the world. As delegates to the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in June 2006 were told, the fantastic growth of cities signals a mass internal migration, never known to history for its size and speed. We didn't plan for it, and don't know the results of this huge human experiment.

Cities, Jensen says, require the importation of resources, especially food grown from the land and labor of others, and enforced with threats or acts of violence. Yet, Jared Diamond, and historians, warn us that no city or civilization has been sustainable. They are unstable structures which fall, often leaving a depleted soil and ecosystem. Of course, that doesn't mean dozens of generations didn't live well in them, while they lasted.

We're catching Derrick Jensen as a work in progress.

In this clip, as author or co-author of at least 10 books, Jensen explains the progressive development of his last three works, namely "A Language Older Than Words," "The Culture of Make Believe," and now his two volume series, "Endgame".

[Clip 5]

That comes from a speech given in March, 2006 in Santa Cruz, California. It was part of a fund-raiser for environmental activists charged with "eco-terrorism" - with penalties so severe, they are intended to threaten all those who criticize polluting corporations, and those who protest to save nature. The speech was recorded by Freak Radio, and passed on to us by a popular alternative radio show called "Unwelcome Guests." You can find that program, and Derrick Jensen's full speech, at

All right, let's get to the world according to Jensen. Here is a crude mash-up of his major premises, with just enough musical space between each, to give you a moment to respond, inwardly. Get ready for a rapid-fire delivery of core beliefs which are startling, repulsive, and at times, just too true.

[Clip: the premises][separated by activist music slices, Derrick explains 14 of his basic beliefs. This clip alone has been very popular so far.

The music comes from an album called Lake Cowal Gold, a benefit by Australian groups, such as Combat Wombat, protesting the destruction of Lake Cowal by Barrick, the Canadian Gold Mining Company. For more, search Google for "Scan Dot Org" or contact the folks at ]

It's a bit rude to grab bits from a speech lasting an hour and a half, but I hope it's useful, even to those who disagree. Of course the speech, and especially the books "Endgame," go into examples and explanations of each of these points.

Here are more rough and ready excerpts from the speech. I'll withhold my own comments until the end.

[a series of clips from his March 2006 speech, rapid fire]

My personal reaction: you say I must renouce non-violence, because it hasn't worked. Did those burned building stop construction? Did bombs help something? When did violence ever solve anything?

Communism fell in Eastern Europe not from armed rebellions, but by millions of brave people standing in the streets with candles. Should that happen here, night after night, the carbon consumer kingdom would fall too, in weeks, not in 2 or 10 years.

I say, this system thrives on violence. We only trigger a greater repression and loss of rights.

I said we need to listen to all voices. Here is the way authorities describe these eco-warriors.

[2 minute clip CBS TV 60 Minutes special on eco-terrorism]

Still, Jensen is right to say we are losing the battle for nature. The salmon, the rainforests, the birds, the great ocean life, plants and frogs are disappearing under the weight of the consumer economy. And, as Jensen eloquently expresses, all of us have to deal, one way or another, with the pressing despair this knowledge brings us.

Generally, Derrick prepares talks, really a collection of his writing and other anecdotes, for each book publication. The 2004 speech is almost the same verbatim as the 2006 speech. The web site offers a CD, titled "The Other Side of Darkness." This has different speeches, for his previous two books, including "A Language Older Than Words," and "A Culture of Make Believe" for $16. The current speech is on-going, for a series of benefits in June and July 2006 up and down the West Coast.

Let's review some links and resources hovering around Derrick Jensen.

His website is simply There you can read samples of his work, and buy a number of his books. Some are co-authored with George Draffan, such as "Welcome to the Machine." Draffan's web site is

Jensen's early best-seller was "Listening to the Land," published in the mid-1990's, when he was quite young. According to his web site, this is "a collection of interviews with environmentalists, feminists, theologians, philosophere, and Indians centering around the question: 'If the destruction of the natural world isn't making us happy, why are we doing it?'"

I also noted his 2003 book "Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests" - with a forward by Vandan Shiva. It's part of his roots, the struggle against big forest companies in the Pacific NorthWest.

His heroes, among books Jensen recommends, are technology critic Lewis Mumford, native activist Ward Churchill, and Stanley Diamond, author of "In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization."

Also: the works of anarchist John Zerzan, such as "Against Civilization," and the older standard "Anatomy of Human Destructiveness," by psychologist Eric Fromm. In addition to his writing, Jensen has worked to help prisoners, the victims of this civilization, and learned from native people near his home in Northern California.

There's also a link to another anti-civlization activist, Aric McBay, who mixes post-crash survival skills with ways to encourage the coming industrial collapse. At McBay's webstie,, you'll even find an online guide for survival called "Tools for Gridcrash."

So there you go, resources for those who have given up on the wonders and horrors of modern life, those who want to kick it over, or at least tip the system, almost like tipping over cows - while they sleep standing up.

A book or radio review doesn't always agree with the author. At Radio Ecoshock, we still believe in Green Peace, the green and the peace together, protesting the destruction of nature, in non-violent ways.

That's from me, Alex Smith from Sign up for our free podcast, or tune in to free all-environment radio, 24/7.

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[surprise clip ending]