The letter written by Ian Waddell in response to our view of the accomplishments achieved by the environmental movement, as thus far missing the mark and not being enough, and the concepts/strategies of radical resistance against the atrocities of industrial civilization, is typical. It’s the kind of response that’s been well rehearsed amongst neocolonial pacifists, who in the face of devastation and violence perpetrated by the very system which provides for their perceived freedoms, lack the conviction and desire to resist against that system.
While Deep Green Resistance is strictly an above-ground nonviolent environmental and social activist group, we see the need to advocate for direct action. The usual advice from pacifists, given to those who have been forced into a place of defending their lives and the lives of the biological world, go something like this: “Violence only begets violence” or “We must be the change we wish to see” or “If you use violence against those who exploit you, you will become just like them” or “If violence is used, the media will only distort our message.” It would be outrageous to imply that a woman forcefully defending herself against a man attempting to brutally rape her becomes the rapist herself.
“It is obscene to suggest that a tiger who kills a human at a zoo becomes like one of her captors.”
- Derrick Jensen
The same could be said of indigenous tribes who continue to resist by force against colonization and assimilation; would these tribes then become the very agency they fight against? Furthermore, when a forceful resistance counters the violence perpetrated by a corrupt and totalitarian regime, would this resistance then distort the underlying message of the need to remove the root causes of the destruction? Perhaps, if that system were not ruled by mad men with a death urge employed to propel them to greater heights of power. It’s impossible to mitigate this abusive or psychopathological behavior through rationalization, which has thus far been met with indifference. There should, however, be a clear distinction made between aimless hostility and constructive resistance. The ineffectual behavior of alienated dissidents who, with little to no strategic and decisive intentions, merely lash out against a society unwilling to change is completely unrepresentative of the culture and vision we desire to advocate.
In Canada, the beneficiaries and “entitled” of this great colonization, over what was once free indigenous territories, continue to reap the gains of violence while their reluctance to acknowledge and retract what continues to be a totalitarian occupation grows. Would it not be ludicrous to assume, after decades of blatant disregard for the concerns and welfare of First Nations and of the land, that at some point a forceful resistance would not eventually ensue? Industrial civilization cannot exist without destroying its own land base and the land bases of others; it is based on the assumption of infinite growth and the disregard for a finite planet. In essence, industrial civilization has been founded upon and perpetuates violence for its own survival. The core ideologies and values of this system, that the Earth was made for man to do with as he wishes, and that we are entitled to all that Earth possesses—its land, its resources, and the uncivilized—to assimilate and use, must be exposed.
With respect to what the environmental movement has accomplished thus far, it has not been enough. This is not to discredit the earnestness with which the movement has sought after or attempted in ending the destruction of ecosystems and biological life. Where the movement has and continues to focus on is the peripheries of industrial civilization, not the core of the system itself. The path of industrial civilization has yet to be abated. In reality it has only become stronger and farther reaching.
In each example, given to us by Waddell, of the accomplishments achieved by specific environmental groups, it’s easy to see how they’ve been less than effective against the continual destruction of the planet. Yes certain areas of B.C. have been placed under environmental protection. Yes some old-growth forests have been saved from clear-cut logging, and these are important and commendable accomplishments. However, the fact still remains that industrial civilization continues to destroy old-growth forests, it continues to exploit natural resources for monetary gain, and it still expands its colonizing territories.
Take the campaign to protect and save the Carmanah Valley from being logged for instance. This was indeed a victory won by the Wilderness Committee and local First Nations. However, the logging company that had been forced out of the region, MacMillan Bloedel, went on to log and clearcut forests throughout B.C. until they were eventually amalgamated into an even larger and destructive logging giant, Weyerhaeuser. While the Carmanah Valley struggle was a victory for the environmental movement on a small, local scale, it had only redirected the efforts of industrial logging to yet another area. The beast has only grown stronger and has yet to be stopped. It would be good to note here the presence of civil disobedience used in this conflict, which had been the primary forcing methods used for resisting the timber companies interests. Without these acts it would be hard to see how such a large corporate power could have relinquished its pricey stake in the area. These instances were, as Waddell would label them, “criminal acts”.
Our struggle is not against environmental and social activist groups. We need everyone to get involved in this cause for the sake of our planet and future generations. This totalitarian system has caused an alarming degree of damage in a relatively short period of time. To frame our present situation here, we are currently converting large amounts of natural forest habitats into commodities, roughly 12 to 15 million hectares each year—“the equivalent of 36 football fields per minute”, according to WWF.
We’re causing an alarming 200-plus species per day to be wiped off the face of the planet—forever. The global temperature and sea levels are rising, the glaciers are melting, our rivers and aquifers continue to be polluted, and ecosystems around the world are on the brink of collapse. The situation is urgent and threatens not only peoples livelihoods, but the survival of our species.
The reluctance to act has for decades been tied up in the fear of retaliation from corporate and corrupt governmental powers. The real issue here is not between violent or nonviolent environmental groups, it’s between long-lasting effectiveness and the short-term moderation of the destructive and unbroken path of this system. Environmental groups up until now, though not intentionally, have merely moderated and relocated industrial civilization. Unfortunately this has only strengthened the tenacity of these exploitative activities, increasingly positioned now in more socially acceptable locations, and out of the sight and minds of the general public. Which is to simply say that the destruction has not been stopped. If we are to ensure a healthy and hospitable planet for generations to come, and an end to the oppression and degradation of indigenous peoples, we must strategically focus our efforts upon the core of industrial civilization. In order to stop this destructive system we need to address the roots of its perpetuation, its ideologies and values.
As Lierre Keith has expressed so eloquently, “The task of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much personal integrity as possible; it is to dismantle those systems.”