The Myth of Human Supremacy


In this impassioned polemic, radical environmental philosopher Derrick Jensen debunks the near-universal belief in a hierarchy of nature and the superiority of humans. Vast and underappreciated complexities of nonhuman life are explored in detail—from the cultures of pigs and prairie dogs, to the creative use of tools by elephants and fish, to the acumen of caterpillars and fungi. The paralysis of the scientific establishment on moral and ethical issues is confronted and a radical new framework for assessing the intelligence and sentience of nonhuman life is put forth.

Jensen attacks mainstream environmental journalism, which too often limits discussions to how ecological changes affect humans or the economy—with little or no regard for nonhuman life. With his signature compassionate logic, he argues that when we separate ourselves from the rest of nature, we in fact orient ourselves against nature, taking an unjust and, in the long run, impossible position.

Jensen expresses profound disdain for the human industrial complex and its ecological excesses, contending that it is based on the systematic exploitation of the earth. Page by page, Jensen, who has been called the philosopher-poet of the environmental movement, demonstrates his deep appreciation of the natural world in all its intimacy, and sounds an urgent call for its liberation from human domination.


“Derrick Jensen’s ferocious love of this earth and all her living beings has ignited and crafted a genius work that has the potential to shift human consciousness. The Myth of Human Supremacy must be read and reread and read again. It will shatter and rearrange your beliefs, call up your sorrow and rage. It will humble you and inspire you to fight with every bit of your being for the end of hierarchy, dominance and destruction.”
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and In the Body of the World

“In the hottest year we’ve ever recorded, perhaps people of all persuasions should take a moment to grapple with Derrick Jensen’s anger and love. This is a necessary provocation—it’s clearly time to think anew about who and what we are.”
Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“This book dissects and demolishes one of our culture’s most pernicious assumptions, that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and the supreme species on the planet. Derrick Jensen is a master at digging into our beliefs, turning over rocks and unflinchingly looking at what lies beneath. The Myth of Human Supremacy brilliantly exposes our dangerous, nature-devouring belief that humans are superior and reveals to what absurd lengths we will go to preserve that belief. This is an important book full of critical lessons. It shows the value—and urgency—of humbly taking our true, unexceptional but valuable place among all of life’s marvelous creatures.”
Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden and The Permaculture City

Show more praise

“Derrick Jensen’s Myth of Human Supremacy brilliantly challenges our fatal belief in ‘progress,’ our inability to absorb the looming ecocide around us, and the deadly consequences of our hubris. Jensen has never fled from hard truths. This book is no exception. Jensen’s work is vital to our understanding of the suicidal impulses that exist within human society.”
Chris Hedges

“[The Myth of Human Supremacy] offers a new way of thinking about the role of humans in relation to all other life on Earth, and a call to reevaluate our most basic assumptions about human domination of the planet.”
George Wuerthner, author, ecologist, and wildlands advocate

“Jensen’s arguments are ferocious, heartbroken, hilarious, and lethally logical. The truths he tells are the most important in this reeling world, bar none.”
Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Moral Ground and Great Tide Rising

“This book made me weep. It’s an angry ballad, an anguished love song to life itself. I sit here, tears in my eyes as I type these words, as if yet another human needed to be heard from. I sit here wishing, dreaming we could instead hear what the Amani flatwing damselflies, ploughshare tortoises, Asiatic black bears, and the pea plants have to say about The Myth of Human Supremacy. I imagine they’d bellow in unison: ‘It’s about fuckin’ time you caught on!’”
Mickey Z., author of Occupy These Photos

“Brilliant, lucid and gorgeously written, The Myth of Human Supremacy attacks the core of the planet-scale problem, the idea that only humans matter. The book is elegant and poised; the argument unassailable; the narrative engaging, witty, and full of surprises; the research meticulous. This is perhaps my favorite of his books.”
Suprabha Seshan, environmental educator, activist and restoration ecologist, winner of 2006 Whitley Fund for Nature award, Ashoka Fellow, Executive Director of Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary

“In this important book, Jensen upends longstanding ‘truths’ about human domination of the planet, demanding that we not only rethink our ideas about politics and economics, but about ourselves. He focuses our attention on the multiple, cascading crises that can be traced to human supremacy—the deeply destructive illusion that the world was made for humans because we are so very special. Jensen considers, and rejects, every reason we want to believe ourselves the anointed species, and challenges all of us to take seriously the moral principles we claim to hold.”
Robert Jensen, University of Texas at Austin, author of Plain Radical

The Myth of Human Supremacy is poetic and deeply moving. Jensen is unafraid to interrogate unquestionable assumptions and ask ‘crazy’ questions. Here he dismantles the core of our crises, the mythologies that guide authoritarian, unsustainable, human supremacist cultures. Read this and weep, but then with new awareness shake off emotional and ideological blinders you have been taught, and take action with those who understand that humans are one among many.”
Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, blogger at Psychology Today (“Moral Landscapes”), and author of Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom

“Derrick Jensen elegantly shows that everything in our world is interconnected, and animals, plants, and even bacteria are sentient, conscious, and much like us. We humans refuse to believe that, preferring to believe a vast gulf exists between us and the rest of the natural world. That leads to the end of us and all of nature as we kill our planet. I hope this book will help people change their belief in human supremacy and help save our world.”
Con Slobodchikoff, PhD, author of Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals

“In his most important work since A Language Older Than Words, Jensen lays bare the sociopathy of the ideology of human supremacy: the fact that western ‘civilization’ is based on domination, thievery, and murder, while the natural world innately gravitates towards harmony and balance. This supremacy is destroying the planet, an infinitely complex living entity we’ve only barely begun to understand. This book is mandatory reading.”
Dahr Jamail, author/journalist

“It is said that a revolution begins in the mind—an alternative to our present circumstances must first be imagined before we can be moved to fight for it. So we should all be grateful to Derrick Jensen, who with this book breaks the ideological chains of human supremacy and reveals the world as the interconnected web of being that it truly is. With our illusions ripped away, we may yet be able to save ourselves and our beautiful planet from the system that is killing us all.”
Stephanie McMillan, author of Capitalism Must Die

Contents and Excerpts


February 2017, by Laura Carroll
June 2016, by Richard Reese
May 2016, by Max Wilbert