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Beyond Environmentalism and Sustainability: The War to Save Life on Earth

Derrick Jensen goes beyond environmentalism. Derrick Jensen goes beyond environmentalism.

If you’re a hydroponics grower, an environmentalist, or someone who appreciates trees, flowers, forests and other living things that produce oxygen and beauty, you owe it to yourself to take a journey with author-activist Derrick Jensen.

The journey begins when you read Jensen’s What We Leave Behind, a powerful, funny and passionate book that shows why Jensen is hailed as the most courageous author writing about industrial capitalism, environmentalism, and the fate of our planet.

With a degree in mineral engineering physics, Jensen well understands science, and writes with the force of someone who understands how the real world works. Along with those advantages, Jensen is a thorough historical researcher who spices his book with details that fascinate and illuminate.

For example, in his chapter on plastic, he describes the old-time practice of slaughtering elephants so their ivory tusks could be used to make piano keys and billiard balls.

When manufacturers realized they’d soon cause the total extinction of elephants (they didn’t care about the fate of elephants…they only cared about being left without materials to make their products), they embarked on a research process that contributed to the development of plastic.

Jensen’s decisive tone and conversational style arise from his hands-on activism and his community. When he’s not writing books and trying to stop corporations and individuals from destroying the planet, he’s a farmer. He’s been an English teacher at a California prison. Jensen is engaged with the world- not hiding behind the pages of his books.

Derrick Jensen goes beyond environmentalism.Derrick Jensen goes beyond environmentalism.As he reveals in What We Leave Behind and his many other books, Jensen walks the walk. He tells of his dumpster-diving hobby at a time when he owned chickens. He fed his chickens valuable “food garbage” thrown out by grocery stores and feasts on watermelons, ice cream and other discarded items. The chickens, with a little help from earthworms, create tons of rich, new soil all around Jensen’s home. In this and other ways, Jensen reveals a life spent lessening his ecological footprint and giving back to the earth.

Another example of Jensen’s authenticity is what he and his neighbors did when a developer announced plans to pave over forests and wetlands in Jensen’s Northern California homeland.

Jensen’s book blasts the developer and his hirelings, depicting them as greedy liars who use threats, political payola and other unethical methods to subvert the political process and the wishes of the community so they can ruin a living ecosystem.

Jensen describes how he and his neighbors documented the developer’s lies, relied on environmental laws and government officials, filed a lawsuit, and absolutely proved that the developer’s land use plans and political tactics were illegal.

Still, due to the bought-off nature of the court system, local politicians and regulatory processes, Jensen’s community wasn’t able to defeat all the developer’s plans. Indeed, Jensen only needs a few pages to show us that laws and court systems are inherently biased so that “the little people” seldom get justice.

And as Jensen shows time after time throughout his book, a culture of destruction and denial rules our world, and has invaded every facet of society. It’s almost impossible to stop the death machine by playing only within the rules set up by the death machine’s owners, Jensen says.

Lest you think that What We Leave Behind is only for “environmentalists,” please note that Jensen’s book is for anyone concerned about freedom, about the people and systems that dominates us from birth to death, and about right and wrong.

Jensen reminds me of a 21st century Edward Abbey (the late author who wrote a “fictional” book that proposed blowing up dams and other industrial infrastructure). His many books, and his live audio CD’s, are fun to read or hear, and they’re an energizing call to action. Most importantly, Jensen gives you a way to look inside yourself to see how your beliefs, ideas and lifestyle affect you and the world around you.

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Democracy Now interviews Derrick Jensen
Last modified on Thursday, 31 March 2011 23:21

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