Social critic Derrick Jensen on BP oil disaster

06/10/10 Kelly Benjamin
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Derrick Jensen is an award winning author, activist, and social critic who has written extensively on the unsustainability of industrial civilization in regards to the natural world. WMNF spoke to him today about the systemic problem of industrialization and the BP oil spill.

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Derrick Jensen

Ahh, the brutal truth. Leave it to Derrick Jensen to deliver it honestly. Did you catch those numbers on the amount of plastic in our oceans today? I think our entire species is slowly (quickly?) becoming 60% or more plastic. Scary, very scary. Good interview, just wish there was more.

Derrick Jensen

Agreed, Derrick Jensen is known to deliver nothing but the truth, and I thank him for that. I know about the plastics, I pick up the damn plastics, I know that more and more plastics are being produced, and yes, it is scary.

Read Endgame

And see if you still like Jensen. His science is good, but when he expands it to killing people, well, to quote Lennon, "if you're talking about destruction, don;t you know you can just count me out."

re: killing people

I'd rather see a few humans die to insure something like this never happens again than see our oceans and shorelines turned into lifeless wastelands. Also if you were a real Beatles fan you'd know in the better version of that song he sings "count me in" too.

I'm not sure

Derrick has ever talked 'killing people' but rather has pretty strongly explained that a lot of folks are going to die. In point of fact, he's written a lot on the 'save as many as you can' theme. Spoken and written about learning wildcrafting, teaching wildcrafting, encouraging others to learn 'made by hand' sustenance skills. I think a lot of criticism leveled at Derrick isn't about what he's said, but what other folks have attributed to him, that he never said.

Derrick Jensen and violence

He does, however, have a lot of contempt for people who talk pacifism while not actually defending or preserving anything of value. Actually, so do I. Context is everything--don't just condemn a behavior, look at the reasons for that behavior. A pacifist would condemn me for shooting a person who has broken into my house and is trying to strangle me. They already do the moral equivalent with anybody who is on the front lines fighting colonialism, environmental destruction and general oppression. I like Starhawk's definition far better: Violence is the imposition of power-over. You don't have to hit or kill someone to be violent to them. Actually, I see violence occurring in the progressive movement all the time, at the hands of people who'd never dream of raising a hand to me. But I feel violated and hurt just the same.


I am someone that would shoot someone coming into my house and attacks me, what I am not is someone that says "these people should die for the sake of my cause", and it is not because I do not want to defend what is of value, it is because I know that violence, if not contained, will always burn out of control and destroy whatever you care about far more effectively than your enemy could. America's foreign policy shows that pretty well. To quote Gandhi, a man whom Jensen condemned, "an eye for an eye, and sooner or later, the whole world is blind." And I do understand that those on the front line get accused of a lot, but just as you ask me not to just condemn a behavior, I would also ask you not to just blindly praise a behavior. For example, when Palestinians do violence against Israelis, I understand why they fight, but that does not mean I will hand them a nuke and say "Have a good time guys!" Jensen is more dangerous, because he does not make a distinction between the idiot driving an SUV, and the diabetic who needs insulin to live, He does NOT care about context, at all, and THAT is my beef with him. As you said, context IS everything.


Jensen suggests we use all tools at our desposal, if that is filing lawsuits against loggers, blowing up dams or building resilient communities, we need it all. Violence is just one tool within this wider description of needing it all. Scott may I suggest you are confusing abusive-violence with counter-violence; Derrick has spoken continuously against all forms of abuse, and he suggests counter-violence as one tool against abusive-violence. Scott, may I ask, do you think the human world is going to voluntarily change to being this miraculous eco-friendly utopia one day? If so, then good luck with whatever you do. If not, then what does that say for how we engage with the issues facing us and the planet? And remember, this isn't just "a cause". This is about you, and me, and everyone we know and love (human and nonhuman) being able to eat, drink and breathe... If this is something you don't understand, then I suggest you look up 'Earth systems science', as humans and nonhumans cannot live on a dead planet. Simple as. So given all of this, how does this change how we may act? And hey, what's wrong with letting people know they need to move before the dams get blown up? What's wrong with people making conscious choices to reduce the population through birth control? What's wrong with us moving away from monoculture agriculture (which is destroying the six-inches-of-topsoil that we owe our lives to) and move to perennial polycultures? We need it all.