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Excerpt from Dreams

This Is Not a Tragedy (p. 456)

From chapter "Fate"

I am writing this book in an attempt to counter this culture’s fierce stupidity and bigotry, and to try to salvage whatever relationships are possible with nonhumans, including those on other sides, and as I said early on, to try to understand and stop this culture’s destructiveness, and to do so with, if possible and if necessary, help from those on other sides.

I am writing this book in an attempt to find my way home, and in doing so to possibly help others to find their own ways home, too.

What does this have to do with this culture’s attitudes toward fate and inevitability? I’ll cut to it. With very few exceptions, even those who don’t believe in fate or cosmic intervention and who claim to believe that humans can make choices—in other words, those who don’t entirely adhere (or who don’t claim to entirely adhere) to a tragic perspective—still speak and act as though the murder of the planet is inevitable, as if it’s fated.

It’s not. It is inevitable so long as civilization—based as it is and must be upon land-base destruction—stands. But we could bring down civilization. With all the world at stake (or if you don’t care about the world, with billions of humans at stake) too many people continue to promote a tragic perspective. “It’s too late.” “The momentum is too strong.” “We can’t fight back.” “Make a life raft so you can save your family” (family who will probably hate you for “saving” them from hell, when by acting decisively you could have prevented hell from being imposed on earth). “Use the death of the planet as an opportunity for spiritual growth.” “It was meant to be.” “Humans are just too smart.”

If we’re so fucking smart, let’s see this alleged intelligence put to use.

How many writers do you know of who are explicitly calling for us to dismantle the infrastructure that supports civilization, and thus to dismantle civilization? In contrast, how many writers do you know of who seem to recognize that this culture is causing great and irreparable harm to the biosphere, yet who still insist we must save civilization (thus guaranteeing—cause and effect—that the destruction of the biosphere continues)? How can there be so many more of the latter than the former? Is the causal connection so hard to see, so hard to understand? When the oceans themselves are dying, is it that hard to tell the truth? Also, how many writers do you know of who perceive civilization to be both destructive and unsustainable, yet who insist we must not dismantle this culture, that we must wait till it destroys itself? But two hundred species went extinct today, and they were my brothers and sisters. Two hundred will go extinct tomorrow, and the day after. And the day after that. Until civilization is dismantled, when many threatened will be able to come back. Yet these writers seem to deny we have any choice, any option or opportunity or possibility of stopping this culture even one day sooner. Why their belief in inevitability? Why their belief in fate? Who is making this fate? Who hands it to them? Who guides them toward this fate? Is it their own will? Or is it perhaps their lack of will? Why this adoption of the tragic attitude? Why do they not choose? Or rather, why do they choose not to act?

I’ll put it plainly: if you don’t believe in some external fate or fatedness—if you believe that there is no fate; or that if there is a fate then it is just a manifestation of one’s own will—then you can’t believe that continued human destruction of the biosphere is inevitable. Because you and others can choose to stop it. Do you believe that a world without humans shouldn’t exist? Or more to the point, do you believe that a world without civilized humans shouldn’t exist? Do you believe that if we can’t have it, nobody can? I believe that many people in this culture are guided by the despicable unspoken belief that it would be better to destroy the world than to stop industrial civilization; that it would be better to destroy the world than to allow it to continue without industrial humans (who are, of course, the only “decent” humans living “decent” lives). If you don’t believe this, you can choose to work to stop this culture. Or you can choose not to. Either way, you are making a choice, which means that whatever result occurs is not inevitable. We’re not living in a tragedy, because it’s not a tragedy if you can choose. Do you want to be a tragic figure, haunted by your fatal tragic flaw, whether it’s indecision, cowardice, or an unwillingness to risk the comforts and elegancies on which the beneficiaries of this destructive way of life have come to rely? Here’s another way to put it: would you rather see a tragedy that ends with a dead planet, or would you rather participate in a victory that leads to a planet recovering? If you favor the latter, let’s get to work; we’ve got a lot of infrastructure to dismantle before it kills any more of the planet. If you favor the former—if you even unacknowledgingly perceive our situation as tragic, if you perceive yourself as being incapable of choosing to help bring down this culture before it collapses—then I’d rather have on my side the members of MEND any day of the week, people who are taking decisive action to destroy the infrastructure which is destroying their lives.