A Change of Heart—Revolutionary Ecology in a World of Climate Change

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Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

“The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and the people responsible have names and addresses.”

— U. Utah Phillips

Combating global climate change and destabilization, and arresting the human-related causes of these are the greatest challenge of our time, perhaps the greatest challenge in human history. Global climate change and destabilization also bring home the fundamental conflicts between our industrial capitalist way of life and world view and the realities of ecological processes and the limits of the natural world.

As 2017 marks the 40-year anniversary of the inception of the Environmental Protection Information Center, we continue to see examples of how the basic underpinning of the world created by humans is in direct conflict with the world that created us, and how this conflict is leading us toward our own demise as a species as we continue to compromise the life support systems of our planet. Of course, none of this is new and the advent of global and bioregional climate change and destabilization once again has us searching for the root causes of what ails us as people and a societies.

Judi Bari shows police photo of her bombed car; circa 1991. Photo © by Evan Johnson

May 24, 2017 marked the 27-year anniversary of the car-bombing of Earth First activists Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney on their road tour to promote Redwood Summer. This upcoming November 3, 2017, EPIC will posthumously award Judi Bari with the Semperviren’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her career of work for environmental and social justice.

Judi understood that changes in heart and in culture and not simply changes in law, politics and policies were necessary to change the course of human history and its relations to the feminine, the native, and the natural. In her treatise titled, Revolutionary Ecology, Judi wrote about some of the root causes of our human sickness. The belief that humans are separate from nature and that nature exists to serve humans is the core underpinning to the justification of our modern-day industrial capitalist societies and of course the concept of private property. The idea that humans can own, control, manipulate, and dominate the earth and its natural processes for individual gain and profit fundamentally contradicts how things work in nature, where inputs and outputs are equal, and all things work in an interconnect web of balance.

Judi knew that a human centered, and human-dominated world-view was in direct conflict with the true nature of the world, which revolves around nature and its processes. Judi wrote of the contrary nature of anthropocentrism and biocentrism, stating: “Biocentrism is a law of nature that exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not. It doesn’t matter whether we view the world in a human-centered way. Nature still operates in a biocentric way. And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use –has led us to the brink of collapse of the Earth’s life support systems.”

Judi also called out the patriarchal framework upon which so much of our modern-day industrial capitalist society is built, hallmarked with top-down, power-over structures that devalue nature, women, and feminine traits in humans and the earth. Judi argued that in place of a patriarchal framework predicated upon domination, that human societies must return to a more feminine and biocentric view, writing, “Instead of this masculine system of separation and domination, ecofeminists seek to promote a science of nature. Nature is seen as holistic and interdependent, and humans as part of nature, our fates inseparable.”

Judi Bari shows a photo blowup of Headwaters Forest as she speaks at a March 28, 1995 rally for Headwaters at Fisher Gate, near Carlotta CA. Photo by Nicholas Wilson.

Twenty years later, Judi’s words ring more true than ever, as we see the global atmospheric greenhouse gas component continue to skyrocket. Last October, global scientists announced that GHG concentrations in our atmosphere had reached 400-parts-per-billion, and that the earth had crossed over into a new geologic phase from the Holocene, to the Anthropocene, or the “age of man,” a world irreversibly modified by humans. Most credible climate scientists recognize 350-parts-per-billion GHG component in our atmosphere as the upper limit beyond which planetary life support systems would begin to unravel. But the prevailing industrial capitalist model cannot recognize the fact that its activities are creating the very device of its own demise. Judi knew that little would change in the system without mass non-cooperation, stating, “[t]he system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people.”

At EPIC, we work within the existing framework of the law, regulations and policies established to bolster a system that we already know cannot be reformed in any fundamental way. We serve the role of enforcing existing laws and regulations and trying to improve these utilizing the mechanisms and venues offered by the system itself. Our work in Sacramento and elsewhere is critically important in holding a line of defense and attempting to slow the progress of the destruction, but ultimately, as Judi knew, the system itself must be changed.

While we in California are undoubtedly national and global leaders in the fight to recognize, arrest the causes of, and mitigate and adapt to the damage already done to causes climate change, our efforts are half-measures predicated upon false hopes and voodoo accounting, at best, while our national leadership is in a shambles on the issue with the recent announcement by the Trump Administration that the U.S. would be pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. Behind these failings are the global corporate industrial capitalists who wish to continue polluting and making a profit at the expense of the natural world, the people of the planet, and ultimately, the very life-support systems that allow it all to exist and persist.

Judi argued that one of the greatest failings of capitalism is that it cannot account for the true value of the natural resources it destroys and extracts and exploits due to the very nature of a profit-dominant paradigm. Judi referred to capitalism’s, “total disregard for nature as a life-force rather than simply a source of raw materials.” Our forests, our water, our air, our fish and wildlife and our soil are reduced to bank ledger-lines and to categories such as “assets,” “profits,” “capital,” “commodities,” and of course, “liabilities.” The compartmentalization of our thought and reasoning about the natural world perfectly sets the stage for tunnel vision. The western “scientific” or what Judi called, “reductionist,” view of the natural world and the tings in it completely fails when faced with the reality that all things have a value of their own, and that all things in nature are interconnected.

And so, how can all this change? Judi argued that the machinery of capitalism must stop, and that this must be accomplished by those operating the machinery, the workers themselves. Some argue that simply changing lightbulbs, driving hybrid cars, and transitioning to “clean” energy are all that are necessary to avert the impending climate disaster and save human civilization. Judi knew better: “A revolutionary ideology in the hands of privileged people can indeed bring about some disruption and change in the system. But a revolutionary ideology in the hands of working people can bring the system to a halt. For it is the working people who have their hands on the machinery. And only by stopping the machinery of destruction can we ever hope to stop this madness.”

Judi also understood that direct violent conflict with the system and its throngs of military and police could never succeed, writing: “This system cannot be stopped by force. It is violent and ruthless beyond the capacity of any people’s resistance movement. The only way I can even imagine stopping it is through massive noncooperation.” Mass non-cooperation requires a massive change in the hearts, minds, and dispositions of the majority of the global population, or at least, the majority of the population in the industrialized countries. And so, the question remains, can and will the everyday people of this planet wrest the steering wheel of this titanic away from the capitalist industrials captioning this spaceship Earth, or will we sit by sipping our tea and eating our crumpets as we slam headlong into the climate disaster iceberg?