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  1. #1
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Review: Bright Green Lies

    Just finished Bright Green Lies by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert. Very provocative.

    Its premise is that mainstream environmentalists are asking the wrong questions. The question is not: What technologies will save life as we know it given the existential threats to our planet--in other words, how can we humans perpetuate our current lifestyle by tweaking the environment?

    The real question is: What do we have to do to save the planet--planet meaning everything on the planet? All the life forms that are systematically being destroyed--human and non-human life forms big and small--how do we preserve the interconnectedness of life? How do we get to the point where it is important to save life for its own sake?

    To that end, he really challenges the mainstream environmentalists' solutions like solar, wind, and other energy systems like hydroelectric, biomass, etc. He also challenges recycling programs and progress in the name of efficiency.

    I've read Jensen's other books, most notably Endgame I and II, so I know that he believes that civilization is the problem. We can't save the planet and save civilization, too. He cites all the civilizations going back to the the dawn of agriculture, which have eventually failed because of the decimation of their land base. We are different. We are destroying our land base in record time because of industry and technology. So then what?

    Unlike Bezos who feels we just shove off and resign Earth to a planetary recycling heap, Jensen/Keith/Wilbert believe it is better to take off our blinders and do something to save the wholesale destruction of the planet. And by taking off our blinders, he means stop thinking that politics and industry can solve the problem for us, because they can't. The upholders of our current systems are reframing the issue in terms of what's best for them--meaning more power and more money, and neither of those things are going to save us. As for us, we need to do what we can to promote, in our own ways, the restoration of of the earth--vigorously--as if it were our own homes burning down. Which it is.
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    Seems to me like all this talk about technologies saving the planet is in the end, just another way to make money which always seems to be the most important thing. I hear more and more talk locally about changing the way we eat, travel, shop, grow food etc so those I feel are about all we as ordinary citizens can do. There is a small underground of people who want to live sustainably and are doing so but not nearly enough to "save" us. I will check out the book.

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    I don’t mean to be rude here but my summary thought is—Is this supposed to be new ecothought? Is the copyright on this book something recent? It does not seem recent.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    I don’t mean to be rude here but my summary thought is—Is this supposed to be new ecothought? Is the copyright on this book something recent? It does not seem recent.
    No, Derrick Jensen has been around for a long time writing about the same thesis about civilization, but this particular book is directed at really looking at the goals and motivations of the mainstream environmentalists, so we don't wind up being misled into thinking it will solve all the problems. He references Rachel Carson and how her motivation was to save the flora and fauna, out of a deep respect for all life; versus Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben who are interested in doing what we can to save civilization. Two different ways of thinking.
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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post
    No, Derrick Jensen has been around for a long time writing about the same thesis about civilization, but this particular book is directed at really looking at the goals and motivations of the mainstream environmentalists, so we don't wind up being misled into thinking it will solve all the problems. He references Rachel Carson and how her motivation was to save the flora and fauna, out of a deep respect for all life; versus Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben who are interested in doing what we can to save civilization. Two different ways of thinking.
    As someone who does not read in this area, still yet, I know the ideas.I think we all know these ideas by osmosis the things leaking into our brain via cheddar on the Internet and news and etc.


    The saving of mankind versus the saving of the earth is a conflict well in the forefront of mainstream ecological thought. However, I disagree with jensen’s or (or your?) idea that “mainstream” environmentalists are those who look to technology to solve these enormous problems. Is my impression that they are sidelined by the purest like Jensen.


    However, as I said I don’t read in this area and just absorb bits here and there, so if eco warriors who push science advancement are indeed the main pstream then I guess I’m happy about that.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post

    The saving of mankind versus the saving of the earth is a conflict well in the forefront of mainstream ecological thought. However, I disagree with jensen’s or (or your?) idea that “mainstream” environmentalists are those who look to technology to solve these enormous problems. Is my impression that they are sidelined by the purest like Jensen.
    What you say used to be true, but as technology with solutions from solar/wind/water/biofuel grows (and the money that can be made and the lifestyle that can be preserved) , the "technology will save us" group is growing and now sidelining "Deep Greens." Interestingly, as a prelude to the book the authors outline a continuum of environmentalists:

    In short:

    • Deep Greens: Humans must live within the limits of the natural world, so drastic transformation needs to occur.
    • Lifestylists: Humans depends on nature, but political involvement is impossible or unnecessary, so the best we can do is practice self-reliance and other personal solutions
    • Bright Greens: Green technology and design and ethical consumerism will allow a modern, high-energy lifestyle to continue. "It's less about nature--it's more about us."
    • Wise Use/Environmental Managers: Problems are minor and can be solved through proper management. Natural resources should be protected primarily to enable continued extraction and human well-being
    • Cornucopians: Resources are infinite. Technology and the economic system will solve it all.
    • Technocrats/Transhumanists: Humans should transcend biology by investing heavily in technology. Leave Planet Earth behind in favor of cybernetic enhancement.


    I haven't worked out where I am on this continuum.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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    I don't think life without civilization in the broadest possible abstract would be much worth living (for other species maybe but then one is actually advocating voluntary human extinction at that point).

    But I don't think *human* life would be much worth living, but one is going to be all "oh you mean transatlantic travel", NO I mean women not dying in childbirth at massive rates (like I've always said notice it's ALWAYS men advocating this....) But even if somehow it were and we were like "a bunch of women are just going to die in childbirth ho hum, so their average lifespan is 40, oh well", I don't think anyone from this culture can even imagine life without civilization, it's so far out there. So therefore I really think his thinking is a dead end, not just radical but so radical that it can't even serve as an ideal to work toward .. But notice it seems there has been civilization without massive fossil fuel use, what about the Roman empire? Technologically advanced in some ways no? LONG BEFORE the industrial revolution. Not utopia, not without exploitation - in fact slavery, not as advanced as now? No noone says that, I'm just thinking about technology.

    But an alternative way of life? Well I think some kind of degrowth eco-socialism might be desirable. Because most of our real improvements to life due to technology may amount to a few things: oh yes modern medicine is one. So I try to read de-growth books to try to understand what it would look like (so I read Herman Daly's Beyond Growth, and I'm maybe 1/2 through Prosperity Without Growth), and I don't know yet, but it seems less of a complete dead end to try to imagine what such a world would be like with technology used appropriately, than just declaring: all civilization is bad.

    Of course population is a big factor, if the population of the world was 2 or 3 billion rather than near 8 billion (and that is very recent) this would all be easier to deal with, it's easier to deal with at 8 billion than 12. A better life for less people would be better, but try to tell that to people (and no I don't advocate murder of already existing people, I advocate limitation of birth rates). People who advocate against population growth actually are advocating the EASY way, it is the easy compared to collapse sure, but also compared to trying to limit economic growth without limiting population growth. One can do things the easy way or the hard way.

    The problem for solar etc. is we just add solar and keep on using the same amount of fossil fuels etc. because energy use keeps increasing. The problem is growth (fueled by population growth too). At the same energy use alternative energies would probably (eh yea even I don't know for certain as it's a total lifecycle cost thing) reduce fossil fuel use as they would replace some of it. But that's not what happened, energy use keeps growing.

    As for big environmental movements? I think you have to be pretty naive and not really paying attention, to not realize most big advocacy things have their corruption, it doesn't mean they are entirely corrupt but ...
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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ApatheticNoMore View Post
    I don't think life without civilization in the broadest possible abstract would be much worth living (for other species maybe but then one is actually advocating voluntary human extinction at that point). But I don't think *human* life would be much worth living, but one is going to be all "oh you mean transatlantic travel", NO I mean women not dying in childbirth at massive rates (like I've always said notice it's ALWAYS men advocating this....) But even if somehow it were and we were like "a bunch of women are just going to die in childbirth ho hum" ... I don't think anyone from this culture can even imagine life without civilization, it's so far out there. So therefore I really think his thinking is a dead end, perhaps and interesting dead end but ..

    But an alternative way of life? Well I think some kind of degrowth eco-socialism might be desirable. Because most of our real improvements to life due to technology may amount to a few things: oh yes modern medicine is one. So I try to read de-growth books to try to understand what it would look like (so I read Herman Daly's Beyond Growth, and I'm maybe 1/2 through Prosperity Without Growth), and I don't know yet, but it seems less of a complete dead end to try to imagine what such a world would be like with technology used appropriately, than just declaring: all civilization is bad.

    Of course population is a big factor, if the population of the world was 2 or 3 billion rather than near 8 billion (and that is very recent) this would all be easier to deal with, it's easier to deal with at 8 billion than 12. A better life for less people would be better, but try to tell that to people (and no I don't advocate murder of already existing people, I advocate limitation of birth rates).

    The problem for solar etc. is we just add solar and keep on using the same amount of fossil fuels etc. because energy use keeps increasing. The problem is growth (fueled by population growth too). At the same energy use alternative energies would probably (eh yea even I don't know for certain as it's a total lifecycle cost thing) reduce fossil fuel use as they would replace some of it. But that's not what happened, energy use keeps growing.

    As for big environmental movements? I think you have to be pretty naive and not really paying attention, to not realize most big advocacy things have their corruption, it doesn't mean they are entirely corrupt but ...
    Yeah, ANM, I think I'm on your page with the alternative of degrowth eco-socialism.. As you probably know, I'm a big fan of Charles Eisenstein (Sacred Economics, The Ascent of Humanity) who writes about benefits of negative growth (demurrage). The problem is getting people on board with this type of a counterintuitive mindset.

    As for the Deep Green thinking, yes, I think that even those guys admit that it will take an apocalypse of some kind for that to happen. A Biblical Flood or a destruction of The Golden Calf/Tower of Babel as it were.

    Thanks for mentioning those books by Daly--I'll have to check them out.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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    Senior Member JaneV2.0's Avatar
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    The declining birth rate seems like a promising step to me. So does the burgeoning renewable energy industry. I'm not a pessimist by nature.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JaneV2.0 View Post
    The declining birth rate seems like a promising step to me. So does the burgeoning renewable energy industry. I'm not a pessimist by nature.
    His response to you would be:
    a) Yes: global education for women is key.
    b) The renewable energy industry is fraught with its own problems (according to him--he outlines the challenges very well, but I don't have the time at the moment to synthesize.).

    I'm the eternal optimist, and I don't think it's being pessimistic to consider that an alternative way of life wouldn't be better for humans and non-humans. That's where my optimism lies.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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