Eco-terrorist? Or freedom fighter?

Well, as President Clinton famously put it, it depends what you mean by “eco-terrorist.”

One man’s “terrorist” is another’s “freedom fighter,” after all.

I didn’t need Derrick Jensen, Aric McBay and Lierre Keith to tell me that our planet was in trouble. As someone who has always been tuned into the natural world, I noticed when the dawn chorus of songbirds diminished to a few lone, defiant voices.  I noticed when the summer clouds of butterflies were reduced to single wanderers, here and there.  I noticed when the tree frogs stopped singing, and there were no longer any toads hiding in the damp leaves of the garden.

I noticed.

But I did not react.  Or if anything, I reacted with a kind of sad resignation.  I blamed some kind of faceless “Progress” for the loss of these dearly beloved fellow travelers on the planet; I did not take any kind of personal responsibility for their disappearance, and I did not see anything I might do to slow “Progress” or change its impact on the environment.

Giving money to environmental groups did not seem to make any difference.  Petitioning Congress–ditto.  And so there was just that kind of paralyzed melancholy, a sense of inexorable doom, that only increased as the full scale of our climate change crisis became apparent.

And then I started reading  Deep Green Resistance.  It was hardly my first foray into environmental manifestoes–I’d started with Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, years ago, and kept up with Bill McKibben, Wangari Maathai, Julia Butterfly and many others.

But this book is different.  It is not only a call to action, but a manual for how to accomplish change–whether you are a middle-aged armchair activist like me, or a stalwart young guerilla resistance fighter.  There is a role for all of us, and it’s spelled out more clearly in this book than I have ever seen it done before.

What inspires me most about this vision of resistance is that it springs most profoundly from love.

“Whatever work you are called to do, the world can wait no longer,” Lierre Keith writes in the conclusion to the book.  “Power in all its versions–the arrogant, the sadistic, the stupid–is poised to kill every last living being.  If we falter, it will win.  Gather your heart and all its courage; fletch love into an arrow that will not bend; and take aim” (515).

“The carbon is swelling; the heat is rising; the rivers are fading and somewhere a black tern is giving up in exhaustion.  The same noose that took Ken Saro-Wiwo is tightening, and there is only time for one last breath.  Will you close your eyes and let the earth fall, with a sickening snap of species and forests and rivers?  Or will you fight?

“Whatever you love, it is under assault.  Love is a verb.  So take that final breath and fight” (495).

The question is, what form will my fighting take?

I don’t see myself as someone who blows up power plants or takes out dams.  Nor am I a computer hacker.

In DGR terms, I am an aboveground activist.  What I want to do more than anything is to awaken “my people,” that is, the privileged ones, the denizens of Park Avenue and Westchester County and Long Island, the ones whose grandparents and great-grands came to this country around the turn of the century and found a land of peace and plenty, and have ridden the 20th century wave of “Progress” to a life of luxury and comfort.

These are the people who need to understand that this lifestyle we have all enjoyed so much IS NO LONGER SUSTAINABLE.  In fact, it is what is driving our entire planet into climate ruin, from which, for us as a species at least, there will be no return.

It is frightening to think about going “back” to the kind of “primitive” lifestyle that we human beings lived for all those thousands of years before the advent of the industrial revolution.  We don’t want to go back to the time before antibiotics, before computers, before hot showers, before TV, before cars, before supermarkets.

But we have to think seriously about what all these “modern conveniences” and “advances” have really given us.  We have to weigh the pros and cons.

I want to believe I come from reasonable people.  I want to believe if the case is made for them in a reasonable way, they will be able to understand.

Understanding is not action, but it is a necessary first step.

Will you take that step with me?

Eco-terrorist from Park Avenue?

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches…

the fateful year of 2012 is on the horizon…

a hurricane rips up the East Coast, leaving 5 million without power, and billions of dollars worth of damage in its wake;

riots in London are quelled by force;

and dictators who have held sway for 30 years or more in the Middle East are run out of town.

As the debt crisis of the Western world continues, Exxon Mobil opens up new drilling potential in the Russian Arctic worth 500 billion dollars, of which almost nothing will be taxed, while schools lay off teachers, states lay off workers, and municipalities have trouble paying for basic services like road maintenance.

At least we have our iPads and iPhones!

For those able to connect the dots, it is no accident that a major hurricane hit the East Coast this week–given that the ocean is hotter than it’s ever been, thanks to global warming.  More storms like that, and worse, are on the way!  The question is, WILL WE CONNECT THE DOTS????

And more: Can we have a world in which we continue to enjoy our luxuries–a hot shower in the morning, easy internet access, refrigeration and supermarkets full of food–without having to pay any price?

Like anyone of my generation (I was born in 1962) I want to believe that the world I’ve always known will always be here for me.

But I am not so blind as to see that the very luxuries I have taken for granted as necessities are what has driven our entire ecosystem to its current precarious state.

I know this.

What am I going to do about it?

Mark Hertsgaard and others have said very clearly that individual sacrifice or change is not the answer for the planet.  The planet needs us to stand up and agitate for her, to take risks, to be bold.

Getting arrested in front of the White House is not a bad idea.

Lately I’ve been reading about even more radical steps one might take.  Our government might call these steps eco-terrorism.  I might call them standing up for what is right.

In Deep Green Resistance, Aric McBay, Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith outline a full spectrum of productive resistance to the planet-killing powers that be, from “propaganda”–ie, what I’m doing now–to actually going out and blowing up dams or cell towers.  

I am reading on, taking it in.  Do I have it in me to become an eco-terrorist?  Me, a sheltered girl from Park Avenue?

We’ll see!  Tune in next week…..

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