I haven't done my mood any favors in the last week by continuing to read Derrick Jensen's major work, Endgame, which is a sprawling twin-volume opus that does a very convincing job of supporting its central premise that human civilization is based on violence, is unsustainable and is going to kill the planet dead unless it's killed first. Actually, Jensen lists 20 premises, but they pretty much boil down to that main point. I'm not even close to finished but I had to take a break because the more I read, and the more I find myself unable to disagree with him, and seeing no hope for a solution, the more depressed I get.
It is very hard to face up to the conclusion I am coming to, a very pessimistic one, that civilization is going to have to collapse under its own weight and fallacy in order for the planet to be "saved." Sure, some might lend a hand in pushing over that which is leaning, but even many a concerned environmentalist or far-leftist or Earth First diehard is going to have a hard time understanding how to save the world when you realize that basically there are just too many of us, and unless enough of us were willingly or forcibly returned to a life where there are a lot fewer people and those who remain live in a stone age level of civilization, the planet is pretty much screwed, and it's time to fight back.
But how am I gonna fight back and still have my computer and my music collection, and my tomatoes year-round and my gas stove? Reading Endgame I am struck by how much I am unwilling to give up, even though I think of myself as far less materialistic and more conscious than so many other citizens of this culture. Is it largely conceit and an unwillingness to look plainly at the reality of where we're at? Jensen asks, why it is that we're willing to poison our bodies? Why are we willing to kill off our only world? Watching coverage of the Copenhagen climate summit on Democracy Now, I wanted to feel like a difference could be made, but reading Jensen I feel like the conclusion I'm being led to is that even if we get the governments of the biggest polluters to pay, and even if we reduce carbon emissions, and maybe even stop the privatization of water, we're all pretty much screwed.
But this can't be it, right? Is my role simply to live in a way that I can stomach, fiddling while Rome burns because it's gonna burn anyway? Or is my role to cheer on the burning? Or is the right thing to try to encourage revolution? Beats me, but I don't feel very hopeful right now. What feels like might happen is that for a few short weeks I'll look at everything in my life in a new way, seeing even those organic foods and recycled products as more than can be justified when species are vanishing from the planet, and I'll contemplate the ways in which our choices of candidates for office are pointless to contemplate because they only offer us differently-worded menus that serve the same doom to our world, or I'll see that while I would consider spending all my time growing my own food and making my own tools and clothes and living off the local land, I have to make money to pay rent to somebody, and my having made the choice to go caveman didn't affect the world much at all, because the drumbeat goes on, the trees are still being hacked, the land is being stripped, the mountains are being blown apart, the arctic ice vanishing... Most people I meet don't even want to consider not buying Nikes, let alone think about the idea of living in accordance with nature.
If the feeling does last, then where does that lead me? What is the point then of careerism and study? What is the point in watching a movie or working on my resume? Why should I bother voting, even for someone I really like? Well, I guess it makes me think about the things I can do that don't have to do with civilization. I can enjoy watching the snowfall with my girlfriend, and listen to the sound of my breath and be grateful for these things which take no resources of any kind to produce. I'll be curious to see if Jensen offers a way to live in the world with this. I know he lives and works for money and pays for things and lives in the culture. How does he deal with the problem of living? Meanwhile, how do I?