Current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere

Nothing else matters

On this Father’s Day, here in the US, I think it’s particularly appropriate to think of the proper role of parenting in dealing with the climate change mess and, more generally, sustainability mess we’ve created. As I’ve said countless times online, you can slice and dice this interlocked complex of issues until your eyes bleed, but you can’t escape the core conclusion that it’s ultimately about intergenerational responsibility. That begins with the recognition that the children of the world, including those yet unborn, are all ours, whether or not they carry our DNA. Once you see that reality and internalize it, you can’t look at the disaster we’ve set in motion the same way and still be considered a reasonable adult.

Which brings me to one of the few examples I’ve seen of someone bringing an appropriate amount of urgency to the discussion. This is from chapter 26 of a book of essays, Hope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World, and the author is Derek Jensen[1]:

We need to stop this culture that is killing the planet. Nothing else matters. NOTHING else matters. The only measure by which we will be judged by the people who come after is the health of the land base, because that is what is going to support them. They’re not going to care about how hard we tried. They’re not going to care about whether we were nice people. They’re not going to care about whether we were nonviolent or violent. They’re not going to care about whether we grieved the murder of the planet. They’re not going to care about whether we were enlightened or not enlightened. They’re not going to care about what sort of excuses we have to not act (“I’m too stressed to think about it,” or, “It’s too big and scary,” or “I’m too busy,” or “But those in power will kill us if we effectively act against them,” or “If we fight back we run the risk of becoming like they are,” or any of a thousand other excuses we’ve all heard too many times). They’re not going to care how simply we lived. They’re not going to care about how pure we were in thought or action. They’re not going to care if we became the change we wished to see. They’re not going to care about whether we voted Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or not at all. They’re not going to care if we wrote really great books about it. They’re not going to care about whether we had “compassion” for the CEOs and politicians who are running this deathly economy. They are going to care about whether they can breathe the air and drink the water. They are going to care about whether the land can support them. We can fantasize all we want about some groovy eco-socialist utopia, and if the people can’t breathe the air, it doesn’t fucking matter. Nothing fucking matters but that we stop this culture from killing the planet.

[1] I’m guessing that the prissy people out there will feign insult and go off on a righteous indignation bender over the fact that I quoted something with a (gasp!) dirty word — and one that’s even repeated! Well, get the fuck over yourself. If that word is what you’re focused on, then I beg you to either educate yourself about just how incredibly serious our situation is and then get to work, or shut your freaking pie hole — which includes not voting — and let the rest of us get on with it.

4 comments to Nothing else matters

  • Dan R

    I used to think that Derek Jensen’s anti-civilization stuff was completely insane but as the days and months and years wear on, I’m starting to think that that’s where we’re going whatever we do; it’s just a matter of what we preserve on the way.

  • Lou

    I hate to admit this, but Jensen wasn’t even on my radar screen until I stumbled across his essay in the book I mentioned above. That’s one of the problems with this topic — there’s just so bloody many writers (and scientists) that it can be a challenge to keep up with them. We almost need a game day program, ala baseball, just to keep track of them.

    As for the situation we find ourselves in, I’m growing increasingly pessimistic that nothing short of paying an immense and very painful price will jolt us into taking sufficient action. I’m talking about a major disruption to food production or a nightmarish tropical storm leveling a city much larger than New Orleans or who knows what. We simply seem incapable of seeing beyond our petty, short-term concerns and acting in our own best interest unless we’re kicked hard by the environment. And, of course, if we wait that long, we’re in very deep trouble.

  • Dan R

    I’m not sure that even that’ll do it. Beforehand, I think most of us would have thought that any one of Katrina, the Russian heatwave or the 2003 European heatwave would have changed hearts and minds in their respective countries but now they seem to have passed on without having had the slightest impact so, as time goes by, the evidence seems increasingly to dis-confirm the idea that a sufficiently large shock will provoke action. I live in Thailand and, as you know, we had major, major floods last year. Bangkok is borderline uninhabitable as it is and a half meter rise in sea level will put an awful lot of it and the surrounding area (home to about a quarter of the country’s population and most of its industry and communications infrastructure) at risk of semi-permanent inundation. But having been flooded for several months, the (rather sensible) talk in the immediate aftermath of the flood of moving the capital and its industry to somewhere which won’t shortly disappear beneath the waves has now been replaced by the latest scandal du jour; a young woman on Thailand’s Got Talent (yes, that particular bird-flu of ‘entertainment’ has infected even these far-off lands) painting a picture using her bare breasts. And all – shock, horror, think of the children – on TV. “The entire national infrastructure is screwed you say? Yes well, perhaps we’ll dredge a few canals but we can talk about that later. But have you seen what this terrible woman has done? Do you have a close up of that shot? Enlarged, perhaps…?”

  • Lou


    Your comment about the disasters we’ve ignored already makes an excellent point. Paul Gilding, in his book The Great Disruption, talks about exactly that situation and says that we need to change before we’ll be open to being influenced by such an event.

    I think he’s right, and have thought a lot about what it will take to make that first change in our world view before we’re open to responding in a productive way once a terrible event happens. Oddly, I think it might be a lot of “little” disasters over a period of 5 or 10 (or 20?) years that slowly changes us before something big and very painful happens and pushes us over the edge. Even if my theory (and wishful thinking) is right, it will still likely take far too long; we’ve already glided right by the point of making comfortable adjustments.