“James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle ‘Avatar’ may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.”
This scared the bajeezus out of me. Civilization has wrought so much damage upon the land that the beauty and luscious ecosystems in which humans once lived are dwindling on the edge of existence, and now movies like Avatar simply make people depressed instead of inspiring them to take action to save our own beautiful planet.
I know that here, Coast Salish territory in northwestern Washington State, there used to be mossy old-growth forests with sitka spruce trees that towered above everything. The salmon runs that came through the rivers were so large that people were afraid their boats would capsize, so large that you could hear them coming before you could see them. All one had to do to get enough fresh salmon for months would be to dip a basket in the river. This place was a paradise, but almost no one knows because of how decimated the land has become. The same is true of the east coast–there used to be flocks of passenger pigeons so large that they would darken the sky for days at a time, so large that you could shoot one shot from an old muzzle loader and bring down a dozen birds. The bison are gone, the prairie lands are gone. The rainforest is being destroyed.
I grew up in a rural area just west of Olympia, Washington on a small hill that overlooked a beautiful meadow. On the other side of the meadow was another hill covered in thick evergreen and deciduous trees which, in the fall, would capture my attention with how gorgeous the vibrant colors were. Also, there was a community of elk who lived in the area. I would get so excited when I saw an elk poke their head out of the trees on the far side of the meadow, followed by another, then another, then three more, and more, until the entire herd was out grazing and frolicking in the grass. One of the memories that will stick with me forever is from a morning when my mother took my sister and I outside on a particularly foggy day, not to watch the elk, but to listen to them. They would call to each other in the fog, making noises that reminded me of whale song. It was one of the most eerie and magical experiences of my life.
Later, some people bought the meadow and pulled in a mobile home. It didn’t take long for the land to become filled with garbage and rusting cars. They were “horse people” who bought and sold race horses. I never again saw the elk. The people also wanted to log the hillside and sell the timber. I was devastated. First the elk, now this?
It was obvious to me then that I was living in two different worlds. It is obvious to me now that I have to pick a side, because those worlds are not compatible. I have chosen the side of the real physical world. The earth is dying–no, the earth is being killed. The institutions that are perpetrating the mass annihilation of ecosystems worldwide must be stopped if future generations are going to have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
It’s time to fight back.
I just noticed an article that particularly disturbed me.
Reporting from Corvallis, Ore. – An oxygen-depleted “dead zone” the size of New Jersey is starving sea life off the coast of Oregon and Washington and will probably appear there each summer as a result of climate change, an Oregon State University researcher said Thursday.
The huge area is one of 400 dead zones around the world, most of them caused by fertilizer and sewage dumped into the oceans in river runoff.
But the dead zone off the Northwest is one of the few in the world — and possibly the only one in North America — that could be impossible to reverse. That is because evolving wind conditions likely brought on by a changing climate, rather than pollution, are responsible, said Jack Barth, professor of physical oceanography at OSU.
A dead-zone the size of New Jersey? That’s 7,800 square miles. That’s roughly the size of Israel. That’s so large I can barely comprehend it.
If you asked a child how to stop climate change, their response would be simple: stop burning fossil fuels. If you asked an economist, politician, scientist, or environmentalist how to stop climate change, their response would be verbose (if they had a response at all). In this case, I’d agree with the child.
I recently heard an uplifting statistic. If all industrial processes were halted and natural processes were allowed to resume (meaning that grasslands, wetlands, prairies, and forests were again able to act as carbon sinks), all carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution would be removed from the atmosphere within 9-10 years.
That’s probably the most encouraging piece of information I’ve had in years, and for working on environmental and social justice, that’s saying a lot.
A few weeks ago I, along with my friends Ko and Cameron, shouldered our backpacks and wandered into the Olympic National Park. Wilderness like this is a temple. Trees. Trees like these have seen 50 generations of people walking beneath them. They have a presence when you are near them. You catch them in the corner of your eye and spin, arching your back to try to see the top. These forests are still being destroyed. In Canada, one of the few remaining old growth stands remaining on the continent are being cut by Kimberely-Clark so that we can have Kleenex tissues, Scott and Cottonelle toilet paper, and Viva paper towels. 95% of the old growth trees on our continent are gone, and counting. 70 countries in the world no longer have any intact or original forests. People who claim that they can influence the world through their buying habits are deceiving themselves and buying into the cage that defines us as consumers. The consumer has two choices: buy, or do not. The human, on the other hand, has infinite choices. Imagine that our civilization is a machine. It is not hard to do. The machine eats forests, rivers, grasslands, coral reefs, estuaries, mountains, and even air. The machine keeps careful track of how much it is eating, and calls it ‘GDP’. Behind the machine, the landscape is changed. Clearcuts have replaced forest, rivers dried up from agricultural demands, grasslands grazed until they become deserts. Coral reefs are fished into oblivion and bleached by poisoned oceans. Mountains are simply blown to pieces. And the air is poisoned (think we are safe from this in the ‘clean’ northwest? think again: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2009381228_pollution25m0.html?syndication=rss). The machine is killing us. But like any good abusive situation, we feel dependent upon the machine. It has taken away our independence, our sanity, our lives.
Says Emilio F. Moran, author of “People and Nature,” an anthropological study:
“The move from a [hunter gatherer] way of life to a farming one must have been difficult, and evidence shows that this transformation was a long and complex process (B. Smith 1989:1566). Anyone who has ever farmed, or lived for any length of time among farmers, knows how hard that work can be. Gone are the pleasures of going on trips to hunt and gather honey. Gone are the long walks on spectacular landscapes, the pleasures of the chase, and the freedom to follow the game or of finding new groves of trees with desired fruit. Instead of this freedom of movement, farmers have to get up each day, at the same place, and go out to the same place to carry one more step in the careful nurturing of plants that have become so dependent on our care that they cannot survive without us. If animals have been domesticated as well, the tedium is even greater. Each day animals must be milked (sometimes several times a day), taken to pasture or feed brought to them from far away places, and the farmer lives with the constant worry that if he is too successful, his grain and his animals might become targets of raiders who have been successful or less fortunate but are better armed.”
So you’re not a farmer. But you’re still dependent on industrial agriculture for your food—still dependent on capitalism to bring your food to you. You walk into a crowded grocery store where people are bustling with their carts and their lists and furrowed brows. Children are crying and the people behind the counters at the deli look like they’d rather be somewhere else. You think to yourself, “is this the way we were meant to get our food?”
I refuse to believe it. I see now that we are all slaves in this system. Most people have to work an hour (at a job most likely unrelated to obtaining their food) to get enough money to buy one semi-healthy meal. That’s absurd. It is learned in the field of anthropology that—generally—hunter-gatherers work maybe 25 hours a week, and the “work” they do is always meaningful and probably enjoyable.
I truly believe that human beings were (and still are) more alive as hunter-gatherers. The risks associated with the hunter-gatherer lifestyle—which are usually the same risks that deter domesticated humans from viewing the lifestyle in a positive light—serve to make the comfortable moments that much more comfortable. I feel like the ups and downs in a hunter-gatherer’s life would make for a life well-lived.
But that’s not what’s most important. What is most important is that it is the hunter-gatherer who has to do very little and at the same time can benefit their habitat. All a hunter-gatherer has to do is defer to the land to live in a sustainable way. Tossing the remains of hunted and gathered food would be absorbed back into the soil. Defecating was another form of giving to the land. It was so easy.
I’m out of time for now. More on this later.
Resistance against this culture, of course.
This culture is killing the planet. There is dioxin and flame retardant in every mother’s breast milk. There is ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in many parts of the ocean. The possibility that industrial human-caused climate change could catastrophically effect life on planet earth is becoming more of a plausibility.
Where are the sane and effective responses to our situation? We have been deluded into believing that mainstream environmentalism, Barack Obama, or nanotechnology will save us when they are deeply embedded in this fundamentally unsustainable system that is based on constant growth. Constant growth on a planet with finite sources of energy is most definitely not sustainable. Any way of living that is based on the use of non-renewables will not last.
Part of why we don’t resist is because many of us actually benefit from this system. We receive the material wealth that has been stolen from someone else’s home. We don’t have to meet the people who made our clothes for cents an hour. We don’t have to witness the extinguishing of countless nonhuman communities around the world just so that civilized humans can extract precious oil, bauxite, or other materials we ‘need’ for our televisions, laptop computers, morning coffee, or plastic toys.
Long story short, we have no right to displace human and nonhuman people from their homes just to increase our affluence. What we should be doing is what humans were doing (and still are doing in some places) for the majority of our existence. We should be obtaining our food from within living ecosystems. We should be living in communities where everyone is taken care of and respected. Most importantly, we should be giving back to the land that gives us our nourishment–where would we be without healthy land? We are all animals who need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
We need to start thinking and acting honestly. We need to stop listening to capitalists and start listening to the real physical world. What does the land where you live need to survive? What do your children need to survive into the future? What will your grandchildren need to survive into the future? What are your gifts? And how can you use your gifts in the service of your landbase? We need to resist.
Resistance to profiteering and domination has happened and is happening all over the world: the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta; the Zapatistas; the IRA; etc…
Fertile Ground, a new organization located in Bellingham, Washington, is trying to start a resistance movement from the heart of privilege. It’s not easy, and we need help. Visit our social networking website to learn about us:
And, please, start a conversation.