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Do We Need a Militant Movement to Save the Planet (and Ourselves)?

Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith and Aric McBay call for new strategy to stave off environmental catastrophe.

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TL: Derrick, you wrote that all the people associated with the Gulf Spill should be executed. That's going a little beyond property destruction.

DJ: If I were to write that now, I would take out the word "all" and put in the word "many." A couple of jokes I used to tell that aren't that funny: What do you get when you cross a long drug habit, a quick temper and a gun? The answer is two life terms for murder, earliest release date 2026. On the other hand, what do you get when you cross two nation states, a large corporation, three tons of poison and 8,000 dead human beings? The answer is, retirement with full pay and benefits.

Years ago, I was doing a benefit for a group trying to keep a toxic waste dump out of their community in Mexico. It was a poor Hispanic community. Many of the people who were blockading were being arrested by their neighbors, so the cops would protect distant economic interests over the health of their community. So we started having this conversation about what would happen if the police actually enforced cancer-free zones. Or the police actually enforced rape-free zones. What if the police enforced monopoly-free zones? And we all laughed, because we knew that was never going to happen. And then we thought, what if we had community police forces that were actually set up to enforce rape-free zones, toxic-free zones, that would not allow corporations to come in and poison our homes. And what would it look like to have a community defense force that is allowed to do that? Well, what that looks like is revolution. My point is that if those in power are not going to protect us from the Tony Haywards, then we in our communities need to protect ourselves from the Tony Haywards and the corporations they wield as tools.

TL : So what is your strategy for ending industrial civilization?

AM: I think the strategy is two-pronged. On one hand, we need to build up egalitarian communities, movements for democracy, local self-sufficiency, a lot of the things that progressives are trying to do right now, things like the Transition Town movements. But then, at the same time, we actually need to have another prong, and their job is to break things down, to break down the structures that are destroying the planet. You can't just have one. You can't just have people building their own alternative communities. You know, I live on an organic farm, we grow most of our own food, and we build soil with perennial polycultures and all of that sort of thing, but if we don't stop runaway global warming, then none of this is going to work. We just had several weeks without rain, and that is without severe climate change. The grass was all yellow, and the cows were very thirsty. So we can't just have one side of the prong, because the communities that we're trying to build won't survive.

And the two prongs need to undertake things very differently if you are talking about building democratic communities. And then, that is something that people do above ground, by building networks, building coalitions. On the other hand, if you are talking about disrupting or destroying systems that are killing the planet and people, then that is something that is traditionally done by the underground wing of the movement, by clandestine groups. Especially now with the amount of surveillance in our everyday lives, people who want to take direct action against systems of power have to do so secretly. That is the smaller part in terms of numbers but an essential part of the strategy.

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