Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Derrick Jensen’s most recent book is titled As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial (Seven Stories Press). He lives in Crescent City, California.
A mycelial “mat,” which scientists think of as one entity, can be thousands of acres in size. The largest organism in the world is a mycelial mat in eastern Oregon that covers 2,200 acres and is more than two thousand years old. Its survival strategy is somewhat mysterious. We have five or six layers of skin to protect us from infection; the mycelium has one cell wall. How is it that this vast mycelial network, which is surrounded by hundreds of millions of microbes all trying to eat it, is protected by one cell wall? I believe it’s because the mycelium is in constant biochemical communication with its ecosystem.
The bear takes seven steps, her claws clicking on concrete. She dips her head, turns, and walks toward the front of the cage. Another dip, another turn, another three steps. When she gets back to where she started, she begins all over. This is what’s left of her life.
We’ll never know what might have transpired if Western intelligence agencies hadn’t used the power of the underground drug economy and its criminal syndicates to fight communism during the Cold War. If the CIA hadn’t existed, would we have the levels of addiction we see today? I can’t say. But I can say that covert operations played a significant role in the expansion of drug trafficking after World War II.
The precautionary principle is a simple yet revolutionary idea that turns our culture’s practice of science on its head. It says that, when you have scientific uncertainty and the likelihood of harm, you take preventive or precautionary action. On the most basic level, there’s nothing more to it.
Efficiency leaves no room for enchantment. Anything that is magical or mysterious is apt to also be meandering and inefficient. Furthermore, enchanted systems are often complex and highly convoluted, having no obvious means to an end. And how do you quantify the enchanted? Since it cannot be readily calculated, it is ignored and quite often eliminated.
If we want to survive and to remember what it is to be human, then we need to establish a viable pattern of activity for the whole earth community. This community should be governed by the principle that every being has three rights: the right to live; the right to occupy a habitat; and the right to fulfill its role in the ever-renewing processes of nature.
Many children who weren’t excelling in the classroom have suddenly become academic superstars, because they have aptitudes — kinesthetic, spatial, musical, interpersonal — that tend to emerge more successfully outside the classroom. When you give kids rich and varied contexts, they rise to a level of excellence you might not have anticipated.
The United Nations estimates that around 830 million people in the world do not have adequate access to food. Numbers, though, distance us from the real pain felt by the hungry. Hunger is a form of torture that takes away your ability to think, to perform normal physical actions, to be a rational human being. There are people in my own country, India, who for months have not had a full stomach, who have never had adequate nutrition. This sort of hunger causes some to resort to eating anything to numb the pain: cats, monkeys, even poisonous roots.
How can I be a responsible citizen while participating in an international market? Even if my intent is to do good, I can have only the slightest knowledge of the impacts of my consumption. I can’t know what injustice or ecological destruction the manufacture and purchase of my computer, for example, has wreaked. I’ve had no contact with the women in Thailand who will get cancer from putting hard drives together. It is impossible to understand all the social and environmental impacts of a computer made in a dozen different countries.
Slaves are so cheap that they’re not even seen as a capital investment anymore: you don’t have to take care of them; you can just use them up and throw them away. Human beings have become disposable tools for doing business, the same as a box of ballpoint pens.
Our overriding purpose, from the beginning right through to the present day, has been world domination — that is, to build and maintain the capacity to coerce everybody else on the planet: nonviolently, if possible; and violently, if necessary. But the purpose of our foreign policy of domination is not just to make the rest of the world jump through hoops; the purpose is to facilitate our exploitation of resources. And insofar as any people or states get in the way of our domination, they must be eliminated — or, at the very least, shown the error of their ways.
Yes, ads are everywhere: on billboards and buildings, buses and cars. You fill your car with gas, and there’s an ad on the nozzle. There are ads on bank machines. Kids watch Pepsi and Snickers ads in classrooms and tattoo their calves with Nike swooshes. Administrators in Texas have plans to sell ad space on the roofs of their schools. There are ads on bananas at the supermarket. In San Francisco, IBM beamed its logo onto clouds with a laser; it was visible for ten miles. In the United Kingdom, Boy Scouts sell ad space on their merit badges. In Australia, Coca-Cola cut a deal with the postal service to cancel stamps with a Coke advertisement. There are ads at eye level above urinals. There’s really nowhere to hide. And adspeak — the language of the ad — means nothing. Worse, it’s an antilanguage that annihilates truth and meaning wherever the two come in contact.