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McKibben Versus Hedges' Clash of Worldviews: How Do We Solve the Environmental Crisis?

Bill McKibben believes we must reduce our carbon emissions immediately, or else face disaster. Chris Hedges says that until we defeat corporate power, we can't address anything.

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"If your food comes from the grocery store and your water from a tap you will defend to the death the system that brings these to you because your life depends on it," said Jensen, who is holding workshops around the country called Deep Green Resistance [click here and here] to build a militant resistance movement. "If your food comes from a land base and if your water comes from a river you will defend to the death these systems. In any abusive system, whether we are talking about an abusive man against his partner or the larger abusive system, you force your victims to become dependent upon you. We believe that industrial capitalism is more important than life."

Those who run our corporate state have fought environmental regulation as tenaciously as they have fought financial regulation. They are responsible for our personal impoverishment as well as the impoverishment of our ecosystem. We remain addicted, courtesy of the oil, gas and automobile industries and a corporate-controlled government, to fossil fuels. Species are vanishing. Fish stocks are depleted. The great human migration from coastlines and deserts has begun. And as temperatures continue to rise, huge parts of the globe will become uninhabitable. NASA climate scientist James Hansen has demonstrated that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with maintenance of the biosphere on the "planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted." He has determined that the world must stop burning coal by 2030--and the industrialized world well before that--if we are to have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number. Coal supplies half of our electricity in the United States.

"We need to separate ourselves from the corporate government that is killing the planet," Jensen said. "We need to get really serious. We are talking about life on the planet. We need to shut down the oil infrastructure. I don't care, and the trees don't care, if we do this through lawsuits, mass boycotts or sabotage. I asked Dahr Jamail how long a bridge would last in Iraq that was not defended. He said probably six to 12 hours. We need to make the economic system, which is the engine for so much destruction, unmanageable. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has been able to reduce Nigerian oil output by 20 percent. We need to stop the oil economy." 

The reason the ecosystem is dying is not because we still have a dryer in our basement. It is because corporations look at everything, from human beings to the natural environment, as exploitable commodities. It is because consumption is the engine of corporate profits. We have allowed the corporate state to sell the environmental crisis as a matter of personal choice when actually there is a need for profound social and economic reform. We are left powerless.

Alexander Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of Russian anarchists working to topple the czar, reminded his followers that they were not there to rescue the system. 

"We think we are the doctors," Herzen said. "We are the disease."

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, is a Senior Fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday . His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle .

Bill McKibben is the author of 10 books, most recently Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.

 
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