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Excerpt from Endgame

No Jensenites (p. 886)

From chapter "The Return of the Salmon"

This book is not, of course, just about taking down civilization. It is about something that needs to happen first. Why do you think I laid out the premises explicitly for you, put you in a position of actively choosing to agree or disagree with them? Why do you think I’ve approached this from so many directions? Why do you think I’ve expressed my own fears, expressed my own confusion? Why do you think I’ve made points, undercut or contradicted them, and then made them again?

Because I’m not the point, and what I understand isn’t the point. The point is the process I’m trying to model. The point is that you puzzle your own way through, and figure out for yourself what, if anything, you need to do. I said before I don’t want a flock of Millerites. Likewise, I don’t want a flock of Jensenites. I don’t want to replicate the same old model on which civilization has from the beginning been based: God/King/President/Priest/Scientist/Expert/Author reveals the Holy Truth to those who have ears to listen, and if you don’t listen, well, then, off to hell you go. I’m not going to let you off that easily. I’m asking you to be responsible for your own thinking, responsible to your own heart, answerable to your own understanding. I’m asking you to think and feel and understand for yourself.

If you start doing that, civilization will begin to crumble before your eyes. Because above all else, civilization cannot survive free men and women who think and feel and act from their own hearts and minds, free men and women who are willing to act in defense of those they love.

* * *

Do not listen to me. I do not live where you do. I do not know how to live there sustainably. I do not even know how to live here sustainably. I do not know how to live sustainably at all. If you want to know what to do, go to the nearest river, the nearest mountain, the nearest native tree, the nearest native soil, and ask it what it needs. Ask it to teach you. It knows how to live there. It has lived there a very long time. It will teach you. All you need to do is ask, and ask again, and ask again.

* * *

People often ask me what sort of a culture I would like to see replace civilization, and I always say that I do not want any culture to replace this one. I want 100,000 cultures to replace it, each one emerging from its own landbase, adapted to and adaptive for its own landbase, each one doing what sustainable cultures of all times and all places have done for their landbases: helping the landbase to become stronger, more itself, through their presence.

* * *

There’s a place I go when the sorrow gets to be too much for me, when I feel I just cannot go on. It’s only a few miles from my home, and coincidentally only a couple of miles from a couple of different sites where in the nineteenth century the civilized massacred hundreds of Tolowa Indians. In the 1960s a corporation started to put in a housing division there. The corporation laid out paved roads in neat squares. But then because of environmental concerns it was never able to get permission to build any houses. So for the last forty years the housing division has sat. And the forest has begun to reclaim its own. Trees push through pavement, roots making ridges that run from side to side of the street. Grass comes up in every crack. Wind, water, sand, and bacteria make potholes that grow year by year. Or maybe we should switch perspective and speak of the ground beneath finding its way back to the surface. Trees and bushes reach from each side of the road to intertwine limbs, at first high above the ground, then lower and lower, until sometimes you cannot even see where there used to be a road.

Forty years, and the land is coming back. That makes me happy.

Someday I know that each year more salmon will swim up the stream behind my home than swam here the year before. Each year more migratory songbirds will return than the year before. Each year more trees will creep out that much further from the edges of forests into clearings. Each year more roads will have that many more holes in them, that many more plants growing first along their shoulders, then all across. Each year that many more bridges will fall, each year that many more dams will fail or be removed. Each year that many more electrical wires will come down.

And someday, someday soon, wolves will return, and grizzly bears, and all those others whose home this is and has been.

And someday, someday soon, the rivers will again be full of salmon.