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Excerpt from Endgame

The Time Has Long Come (p. 841)

From chapter "Bringing Down Civilization, Part IV"

Last year I gave a talk at a gathering called Bioneers. You can guess my topic. Afterwards one of the questions was, “When is it time to use any means necessary to bring down civilization?”

Nobody had ever asked me that before. My answer was, as my first answers too often are, flip. I said, “When the last passenger pigeon gets killed.” But that’s not what I wish I would have said. I was attempting, feebly, to say that the time has long come. But my threshold was still too late. I should have said, “The first time a man rapes a woman. The first time a parent beats a child. The first time a city tries to steal resources from someone else. The first time a culture enters into a nonreciprocal and thus nonsustainable relationship with a landbase. The first time a culture fails to follow the fundamental predator/prey relationship.The first time a culture drives a species extinct. But we can’t blame those who came before for not bringing down civilization. They’re dead and gone, and we’re here and now. The time to use any means necessary is now. The time to use any means necessary is when the time is right to use any means necessary.”


Over the years a few people have said to me that we must not bring down civilization because to do so would hurt the natural world. Civilization has fucked up so much of the planet that it cannot now survive without us.

Of all the arguments against bringing it all down, this is probably the most foolish. It is of course the same argument against taking out dams, only this time writ large.

The argument might make some sense if each day more messes were cleaned than made, if each day more forests were restored than cleared, if each day more bombs were destroyed (not by use) than manufactured, if each day the population voluntarily decreased instead of exponentially increased.

But none of those are happening.

I asked an engineer what he thought of this question.

His response was strong, and what I expected.

“All analyses must begin with the salient fact that the system as it is going

now is guaranteed to destroy the biosphere. Anything which has less than a 100 percent chance of destroying it is better than something which will destroy it for sure. That much is obvious.”