28 July 2009

We interrupt this chicken and puppy report to bring you an outbreak of middle age angst

Although it may seem as though I haven't been thinking about anything but chickens and puppies and vegetables for the last few months (which does cover most of it, certainly) I actually have been pondering my usual end-of-the-world stuff as well. Mostly, I've been an interested observer of the decline of industrial civilization with occasional spells of anger, sadness, fear and guilt.

I read Derrick Jensen's What We Leave Behind this summer. I agree with much of what he says about what a mess we're making of the world, but I got so turned off by his pining for some kind of pre-civilization eden and talking to trees and piously shitting in his backyard that I know I'm one of the kind of people he despises. The ones who aren't prepared to fight for every salmon and who don't actually mourn every fallen tree. I guess the problem is I can't generate a lot of enthusiasm for his vision of a post-collapse but prehistoric lifestyle in total harmony with all of nature. He advocates a resistance against those who would harm the natural world, like developers and industrialists and politicians but he makes a false distinction between us (presumably anyone reading his books is a victim) and them, the evil nature destroyers. No matter how much I side with the good guys, the fact is by participating in civilization to any degree, I'm contributing to the destruction of the natural world. Leaving aside the problem of unintended consequences, I don't think tearing down a cell tower or blowing up a dam is going to change a thing.

But I also know that my own utopian fantasy for the future, which looks strikingly like my present - where everyone gets to live in a modest house surrounded by beautiful food gardens and wild space not far away - is at best impractical and at worst greedy. I have no illusions that the world will be saved by my personal pursuit of an anachronistic idyll. Effectively, I'm trying to find a comfy seat from which to watch the economic, energy and environmental circus that's going on all around, because quite frankly, I can't think of anything better to do. And for that, I'm sure, Derrick Jensen would be very angry.


  1. B

    I could hardly agree more with your post in general.

    Regarding Jenson: I haven't read his latest book (and don't plan to, after reading a recent essay of his) but I found Endgame to quite motivational; I felt like being an eco-terrorist. Alas, the whole family thing and a bloodline of pacivists prevented me from doing anything. More and more I find myself trying to be the change I want to see and, like you said, Jensen would probably tear me a new one just like he did Ghandi. But this is all I can do right now; plant seeds, in soil and in minds. Lather and nothing else.

  2. That story is messing with my mind. Thanks for that.

  3. It was part of the grade nine cirriculum in Winnipeg, if memory serves. Indoctrination of pacifism. Stuck with me for some reason.

    Why is it messing with your mind?

  4. I was feeling bad for the barber to be put in that position. I don't know what I'd do.



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