Beloved Women, Beloved Earth

When I look around now, in 2015, I do not see the changes I had hoped to see for women in this world or Mother Earth. Our Mother Earth, and all living beings who rely on her, are at risk of extinction.  Men search for other planets – as if  moving there would solve the destruction men are inflicting. Men and their sadomasochism never end.

In Patriarchy,  women are only seen as a resource, a material to exploit. Brave New World and 1984 are upon us. Women scurry about uncertain, but women know: we feel it, we see it, we smell it, we touch it, in our children’s behavior. Women know intuitively that our children’s increasing rates of ADHD, gender dysphoria, autism, porn culture and prostitution; mental illness, violence, and unemployment are all connected. Corporations engineer our food, growing it with pesticides, growing it in nice engineered rows so the chemicals that make it grow can be easily applied.

In Canada and elsewhere colonized Indigenous communities are under siege for their homelands, again. Indigenous ways of life have sustained their cultures for thousands of years. Their cultures are  threatened when their lands are corrupted, maimed, damaged, and forever altered by civilization’s “henchmen-corporations.” This destroys the rights of a land-based culture to survive. The greed of civilization, capitalism and unchecked growth is unceasing and pathological at this point.

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Chipko Movement

Recorded human history is traditionally seen as a record of humans exceeding Nature’s limitations. Growing numbers of us ask: What about learning to live within our human and ecological limits? I know it sounds simple, but this is actually quite controversial.

In 1969 Rachel Carson [1] stood up to the pesticide industries and started the modern day environmental movement. A courageous women, a scientist, and a lesbian; Carson suggested this culture is insane for using chemicals that would inevitably end up in our food supply, water, wildlife, and our bodies. For unveiling this simple truth Carson was vilified, threatened, and harassed. But time would prove that her research, determination, and courage were right – she woke a whole generation to the hazards of using   technology to control nature. Man-made technological and chemical solutions to man-made problems, such as population and distribution of wealth, make matters worse.

Carson’s research, books, and voice were considered “radical.” Her perspective and call to awareness was fueled by the same energy, passion and resignation that drove Mary Daly to distill, ruminate, write, and reveal her understanding of radical feminism. [2] They were both lesbians in a patriarchical world and women in a decidedly patriarchical institution; academia.

Early radical feminist [3] and radical ecological feminist theory critiqued the human arrogance visible in attempts to master and control nature [4] and advanced various strains of environmental schools of thought: conservation, preservation, animals rights, vegan, vegetarian movements and critiques of capitalism and civilization all emerged out of Carson’s work.

Canadian naturalist John Livingston was my introduction to the vocabulary of anti-capitalism and anti-civilization. Livingston’s [5] critique of the anthropocentric and humanistic mindset driving human relationships with nature was grounded in his observations as a naturalist. Livingston was also a broadcaster, testified at The MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, lectured, supervised, graduate students and wrote a number of books that contributed a valuable Canadian critique of capitalism and civilization.

Livingston argued: “Civilization cripples the mind and cripples the heart by offering a humanistic ideology in place of our evolved naturalness or wildness.” [6]

Or as I came to understand, using “ideas” or “ideology” to connect with our true human nature is not an effective strategy for protecting and preserving life. Those ideologies or ideas were after all simply a form of “prosthetic,” filling in for a lost sensibility that resulted from our alienation from nature.

Livingston believed a natural cooperative instinct was at the root of animal and human behaviour. Humans needed to spend more time being in and with nature, rather than dominating her. He argued that our Judeo-Christian belief systems had humans brainwashed into believing we could somehow rise above our nature.

A key theme was the idea that humans are “domesticated.” Our domestication leads us to a reliance on culture and ideology. Ideology is a straitjacket when changes in human behavior are required. For Livingston, cultural ideologies do far more harm to the Earth than human nature and unless we learn to take the “lens” or glasses off, and de-program ourselves, humans are destined to never understand or accept our dependence on Mother Earth.

Without an understanding of and a connection to nature, humans can expect profound distress and malaise to spread steadily and rapidly – a form of psychosis. Kinda like what is happening today. A cloud of psychosis has seemingly taken over human brains, eyes, and ears, and has us submerged in a sea of shock, irrationality, disbelief, and inaction.

Livingston was convinced that when the lens of ideology was removed we could start to understand, shape an ideology that would stop making our species sick – separate from our true human nature.

“All domesticated animals have this piece missing; all of us are prosthetic beings. The animals depend utterly on us. We depend utterly on ideology. My dogs depend on me and whatever I offer them. I depend on what ideological crutch my culture offers me? Ideology is my master.” [7]

Livingston explains further:

“No one in his right mind denies natural selection. But the fuel of it does not need to be competition. He could have used some other principle. However, he didn’t. And here we are with competition and territoriality and said dominance and all the rest of the rubbish we’re fed by mechanistic biology and the Sunday supplements.  Social dominance in gorillas and whales and wolves and elephants? Come on. I have often wondered how Darwin’s argument would have looked had he invoked cooperation, or compliance.   Even more persuasive I would think.” [8]

What if, Livingston asked, we choose the principle of cooperation instead of competition to view humanity’s relationship to nature?

When I left school I left with the question: Would a “paradigm shift” [9] stop the environmental degradation that humans, patriarchal culture, civilization, and unquestioned growth were inflicting on the Earth? Would replacing the principle of competition with cooperation prevent Earth’s and all living beings’ death? Should civilization be dismantled before every living thing is eradicated?

I have recently come to terms with the idea that a new story will not do the trick. We have had fifty years to act, and there has been only more of the same. The only option left now is: Resistance.

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Deep Ecology was coined in 1973 by Arne Naess, a Norwegian who came up  with the concept to address the state of environmental thought and action he was seeing. When naturalists and philosophers looked out at the reality of the 70s and the actions that were taken to address environmental contamination of ecological systems, these remedies usually involved a mechanistic fix. And yet nature, Earth, is not a machine. Human arrogance and shallow thinking around environmental quick and dirty fixes resulted in the emergent blueprint offered by Deep Ecology.

As Naess was struck at how shallow the approaches to the environmental crisis were, he recommended that what humans needed were deep inquiries around humanity’s relationship to nature. Naess saw no hope in the dominant environmentalism’s ability to prevent the collapse of civilization and the death of all living beings. Humanity’s hope lay in implementing Deep Ecology.

The Deep Ecology Platform  [10]

1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth, intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

4. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

5. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

Explicit in Deep Ecology is an understanding of the need for a radical paradigm shift in human ideology. Rather than humans seeing themselves as overlord dominators, men would have to put their sadomasochist tendencies aside and adopt a relationship with nature based on intrinsic value, not utilitarianism. There would need to be multi-level interventions to effect change. This shift in attitude would have to be legislated at local, national, and global levels to be successful – to stop the destruction of our Mother Earth.

Deep Ecology put cooperation as the central principle. Ecology is a the science of healthy ecosystems: how all the members of a biotic community work together. Once humans accepted the intimate inter-connectedness and intrinsic value of every living being, we would be part of that biotic community once more.

Climate change, in 2015, is our biggest universal indicator that our Earth is exceeding her limits to growth.   For conscious humans, the signs of our inability to change our path, to shift our operating principle from competition to cooperation has never been so fully obvious – men and their greed.  Profit and power are a seductive addiction and destructive of living communities.

After 25 years of looking for a new story, a new narrative that could address some of the hopes I had for future generations, I found it! But it is not a story – we are long past a story change being of any value. Resistance is our only option.

Deep Green Resistance [11]

1.    Deep Green Resistance recognizes that this culture is insane.
2.    Deep Green Resistance embraces the necessity of political struggle.
3.    Deep Green Resistance must be multilevel.
4.    Deep Green Resistance requires repair of the planet.
5.    Deep Green Resistance means repair of human culture.
6.    Deep Green Resistance recognizes the necessity of militant action.

All significant changes in human organization have entailed direct confrontations with power: the American Revolution, French Revolution, Irish Independence Movement, Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Front Liberation du Quebec, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, Cruise Missile protests, Claquot Sound, Meares Island……

Humans make change to ideological straitjackets because we possess an inbuilt character trait called a “moral imperative.” [12] A moral imperative is like a chemical reaction. Humans are hard-wired to defend ourselves or our Beloved, just like a mother will defend at any cost her child.

This compulsion to act, this moral imperative, is an instinct and a powerful one.  This impulse to defend our Beloved is hard-wired into being human.

Question:   What do you get when you blend the theory and actions of American marine biologist, conservationist and lesbian Dr. Rachel Carson with the ideas of American radical feminist philosopher, theologian, and lesbian Dr. Mary Daly; and the cultural and historical perspectives of nature found in the work of Canadian naturalist, broadcaster, writer and teacher John Livingston?

Answer:   A 21st century Radical Feminist Resistance movement with a clarion call to Rise, Act, and Defend our Beloved Earth:  because to defend our Beloved is human and it is in our nature to do so.

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Trish Oliver is a lesbian radical feminist, deep ecologist and Sculptor. Trish is a founding member of Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), a Teacher, has practiced the martial art of Aikido for twenty years, and is a member of Deep Green Resistance. Trish graduated from York University in Toronto in 1989. John Livingston was her Masters supervisor and “thinking” mentor, and his “radical” ideas changed her life path.

ENDNOTES

  1. Carson, Rachel. (1962) Silent Spring
  2. Daly, Mary. (2015) https://philosophynow.org/issues/3 “There are several definitions but I’ll give you the core of it. First of all the word ‘radical’ means ‘going to the roots’. It is derived from the Latin radix, meaning root. Radical Feminism goes to the root of oppression and the way out. And I define it as ‘way of being characterised by (a) an Awesome and Ecstatic sense of Otherness from patriarchal norms and values (b) conscious awareness of the sadosociety’s sanctions against Radical Feminists (c) moral outrage on behalf of women as women (d) commitment to the cause of women that persists, even against the current, when feminism is no longer ‘popular;’ in other words, constancy.”
  3. Daly, Mary. (2015)  https://philosophynow.org/issues/3 “The definition as I wrote it is still the one I would maintain, but in the current crisis of life on earth and the danger to all animals, plants, rocks, minerals, as well as women from the phallocrats who are destroying the planet, I now say ‘radical ecological feminism.’ There is a desperate commitment in my writing to ecology and feminism.” https://philosophynow.org/issues/3
  4. Evernden, Neil., (1992), The Social Construction of Nature.
  5. Livingston, John. (1973), One Cosmic Instant (1981), The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation (1988), 8 Lectures on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8Y7PZ_DVes (1992), Rogue Primate: An Exploration of Human Domestication
  6. Jensen, Derrick., (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston
  7. Jensen, Derrick., (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston
  8. Jensen, Derrick), (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston.
  9. Kuhn, Thomas., (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolution.
  10. Naess, Arne and George Sessions.,(1984) The Deep Ecology Platform http://www.deepecology.org/platform.htm
  11. Keith, Lierre, McBay, Aric and Derrick Jensen., (2011). Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_imperative

REFERENCES

Carson, Rachel. (1962) Silent Spring

Daly, Mary (1990)

Gyn/Ecology Aug/Sept  (2015) https://philosophynow.org/issues/33/Mary_Daly

Evernden, Neil. (1983) The Natural Alien (1992) The Social Construction of Nature

Fertile Ground Institute (2014) Earth at Risk 2014 Social Justice and Sustainability

Firestone, Shulamith. (1970) The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

Hedges, Chris. (2010) Death of the Liberal Class

Jensen, Derrick. (1995) Listening to the Land, (2000) Language Older than Words, (2002) Culture of Make Believe, (2006) Endgame 1 & 2, (2008) What We Leave Behind

Jensen, Derrick & L. Keith. (2013) Earth at Risk : Building a Resistance Movement to Save the Planet

Keith, Lierre. (2009)  The Vegetarian Myth

Keith, L., McBay, A. &   Derrick Jensen. (2011) Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet

Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolution

Livingston, John. (1973) One Cosmic Instant: A Natural History of human Arrogance, (1981) The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation (1995) Rogue Primate:  An Exploration of Human Domestication, (1988)  YouTube. John Livingston Lectures on Cultural and Historical Perspectives of Nature.

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The Girls and the Grasses

Captured in a test tube, blood may look like a static liquid, but it’s alive, as animate and intelligent as the rest of you. It also makes up a great deal of you: of your 50 trillion cells, one-quarter are red blood cells. Two million are born every second. On their way to maturation, red blood cells jettison their nuclei―their DNA, their capacity to divide and repair. They have no future, only a task: to carry the hemoglobin that will hold your oxygen. They don’t use the oxygen themselves–they only transport it. This they do with exquisite precision, completing a cycle of circulation through your body every twenty seconds for a hundred days. Then they die.

The core of hemoglobin is a molecule of iron. It’s the iron that grasps the oxygen at the surface of your lungs, hangs on through the rush of blood, then releases it to wanting cells. If iron goes missing, the body, as ever, has a fallback plan. It adds more water to increase blood volume; thin blood travels faster through the fine capillaries. Do more with less.

All good except there’s less and less oxygen offered to the cells. Another plan kicks in: increased cardiac output. The heart ups its stroke volume and its rate. To keep you from exploding, the brain joins in, sending signals to the muscles enfolding each blood vessel, telling them to relax. Now blood volume can increase with blood pressure stable.

But still no iron arrives. At this point, the other organs have to cooperate, giving up blood flow to protect the brain and heart. The skin makes major sacrifices, which is why anemics are known for their pallor. Symptoms perceived by the person―you―will probably increase as your tissues, and then organs, begin to starve.

If there is no relief, ultimately all the plans will fail. Even a strong heart can only strain for so long. Blood backs up into the capillaries. Under the pressure, liquid seeps out into surrounding tissues. You are now swelling and you don’t know why. Then the lungs are breached. The alveoli, the tiny sacs that await the promise of air, stiffen from the gathering flood. It doesn’t take much. The sacs fill with fluid. Your body is drowning itself. This is called pulmonary edema, and you are in big trouble.

I know this because it happened to me. Uterine fibroids wrung a murder scene from me every month; the surgery to remove them pushed me across the red cell Rubicon. I knew nothing: my body understood and responded. My eyes swelled, then my ankles, my calves. Then I couldn’t breathe. Then it hurt to breathe. I finally stopped taking advice from my dog―Take a nap! With me!–and dragged myself to the ER, where, eventually, all was revealed.

Two weeks later, the flood had subsided, absorbed back into some wetland tissue of my body, and I felt the absence of pain as a positive. Breathing was exquisite, the sweetest thing I could imagine. Every moment of effortless air was all I could ever want. I knew it would fade and I would forget. But for a few days, I was alive. And it was good.

Our bodies are both all we have and everything we could want. We are alive and we get to be alive. There is joy on the surface of the skin waiting for sunlight and soft things (both of which produce endorphins, so yes: joy). There is the constant, stalwart sound of our hearts. Babies who are carried against their mothers’ hearts learn to breathe better than those who aren’t. There is the strength of bone and the stretch of muscle and their complex coordination. We are a set of electrical impulses inside a watery environment: how? Well, the nerves that conduct the impulses are sheathed by a fatty substance called myelin―they’re insulated. This permits “agile communication between distant body parts.” Understand this: it’s all alive, it all communicates, it makes decisions, and it knows what it’s doing. You can’t possibly fathom its intricacies. To start to explore the filigree of brain, synapse, nerve, and muscle is to know that even the blink of your eyes is a miracle.

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Our brains were two million years in the making. That long, slow accretion doubled our cranial capacity. And the first thing we did with it was say thank you. We drew the megafauna and the megafemales, sculpted and carved them. The oldest known figurative sculpture is the Goddes of Hohle Fels, and 40,000 years ago someone spent hundreds of hours carving Her. There is no mystery here, not to me: the animals and the women gave us life. Of course they were our first, endless art project. Awe and thanksgiving are built into us, body and brain. Once upon a time , we knew we were alive. And it was good.

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And now we leave the realm of miracles and enter hell.

Patriarchy is the ruling religion of the planet. It comes in variations―some old, some new, some ecclesiastical, some secular. But at bottom, they are all necrophilic. Erich Fromm describes necrophilia as “the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive; to destroy for the sake of destruction; the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical.” In this religion, the worst sin is being alive, and the carriers of that sin are female. Under patriarchy, the female body is loathsome; its life-giving fat-cells vilified; its generative organs despised. Its natural condition is always ridiculed: normal feet must be turned into four-inch stubs; rib cages must be crushed into collapse; breasts are varyingly too big or too small or excised entirely. That this inflicts pain―if not constant agony―is not peripheral to these practices. It’s central. When she suffers, she is made obedient.

Necrophilia is the end point of sadism. The sadistic urge is about control–“the passion to have absolute and unrestricted control over a living being,” as Fromm defined it. The objective of inflicting pain and degradation is to break a human being. Pain is always degrading; victimization humiliates; eventually, everyone breaks. The power to do that is the sadist’s dream. And who could be more broken to your control than a woman who can’t walk?

Some nouns: glass, scissors, razors, acid. Some verbs: cut, scrape, cauterize, burn. These nouns and verbs create unspeakable sentences when the object is a seven-year-old girl with her legs forced open. The clitoris, with its 8,000 nerve endings, is always sliced up. In the most extreme forms of FGM, the labia are cut off and the vagina sewn shut. On her wedding night, the girl’s husband will penetrate her with a knife before his penis.

You don’t do this to a human being. You do it to an object. That much is true. But there is more. Because the world is full of actual objects—cardboard boxes and abandoned cars—and men don’t spend their time torturing those. They know we aren’t objects, that we have nerves that feel and flesh that bruises. They know we have nowhere else to go when they lay claim to our bodies. That’s where the sadist finds his pleasure: pain produces suffering, humiliation perhaps more, and if he can inflict that on her, it’s absolute proof of his control.

Behind the sadists are the institutions, the condensations of power, that hand us to him. Every time a judge rules that women have no right to bodily integrity—that upskirt photos are legal, the miscarriages are murder, that women should expect to be beaten—he wins. Every time the Fashion Masters make heels higher and clothes smaller, he smiles. Every time an entire class of women—the poorest and most desperate, at the bottom of every conceivable hierarchy—are declared legal commodities for sex, he gets a collective hard-on. Whether he personally uses any such women is beside the point. Society has ruled they are there for him, other men have ensured their compliance, and they will comply. He can kill one—the ultimate sex act for the sadist—and no one will notice. And no one does.

There is no stop to this, no natural endpoint. There is always another sentient, self-willed being to inflame his desire to control, so the addiction is forever fed. With other addictions, the addict bottoms out, his life becomes unmanageable, and the stark choice is stop or die. But the sadist isn’t hurting himself. There’s no looming bottom to hit, only an endless choice of victims, served up by the culture. Women are the feast at our own funeral, and he is happy to feed.

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If feminism was reduced to one word, it would be this: no. “No” is a boundary, spoken only by a self who claims one. Objects have neither; subjects begin at no. Feminists said no and we meant it.

The boundary of “no” extended outward, an insult to one being an injury to all: “we” is the word of political movements. Without it, women are cast adrift in a hostile, chaotic sea, holding our breath against the next Bad Thing. With the lens of feminism, the chaos snaps into sharp focus. We gave words to the Bad Things, then faced down denial and despair to see the pattern. That’s called theory. Then we demanded remedies. That’s what subjects, especially political subjects, do. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragettes, worked at the Census Office as a birth registrar. Every day, young girls came in with their newborns. Every day, she had to ask who the father was, and every day the girls wept in humiliation and rage. Reader, you know who the fathers were. That’s why Pankhurst never gave up.

To say no to the sadist is to assert those girls as political subjects, as human beings with the standing the comes from inalienable rights. Each and every life is self-willed and sovereign; each life can only be lived in a body. Not an object to be broken down for parts: a living body. Child sexual abuse is especially designed to turn the body into a cage. The bars may start as terror and pain but they will harden to self-loathing. Instilling shame is the best method to ensure compliance: we are ashamed—sexual violation is very good at that—and for the rest of our lives we will comply. Our compliance is, of course, his control. His power is his pleasure, and another generation of girls will grow up in bodies they will surely hate, to be women who comply.

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What has been done to our bodies has been done to our planet. The sadist exerts his control; the necrophiliac turns the living into the dead. The self-willed and the wild are their targets and their necrotic project is almost complete.

Taken one by one, the facts are appalling. In my lifetime, the earth has lost half her wildlife. Every day, two hundred species slip into that longest night of extinction. “Ocean” is synonymous with the words abundance and plenty. Fullness is on the list, as well as infinity. And by 2048, the oceans will be empty of fish. Crustaceans are experiencing “complete reproductive failure.” In plain terms, their babies are dying. Plankton are also disappearing. Maybe plankton are too small and green for anyone to care about, but know this: two out of three animal breaths are made possible by the oxygen plankton produce. If the oceans go down, we go down with them.

How could it be otherwise? See the pattern, not just the facts. There were so many bison on the Great Plains, you could sit and watch for days as a herd thundered by. In the central valley of California, the flocks of waterbirds were so thick they blocked out the sun. One-quarter of Indiana was a wetland, lush with life and the promise of more. Now it’s a desert of corn. Where I live in the pacific northwest, ten million fish have been reduced to ten thousand. People would hear them coming for a whole day. This is not a story: there are people alive who remember it. And I have never once heard the sound that water makes when forty million years of persistence finds it way home. Am I allowed to use the word “apocalypse” yet?

The necrophiliac insists we are mechanical components, that rivers are an engineering project, and genes can be sliced up and arranged at whim. He believes we are all machines, despite the obvious: a machine can be taken apart and put back together. A living being can’t. May I add: neither can a living planet.

Understand where the war against the world began. In seven places around the globe, humans took up the activity called agriculture. In very brute terms, you take a piece of land, you clear every living thing off it, and then you plant it to human use. Instead of sharing that land with the other million creatures who need to live there, you’re only growing humans on it. It’s biotic cleansing. The human population grows to huge numbers; everyone else is driven into extinction.

Agriculture creates a way of life called civilization. Civilization means people living in cities. What that means is: they need more than the land can give. Food, water, energy have to come from someplace else. It doesn’t matter what lovely, peaceful values people hold in their hearts. The society is dependent on imperialism and genocide. Because no one willing gives up their land, their water, their trees. But since the city has used up its own, it has to go out and get those from somewhere else. That’s the last 10,000 years in a few sentences.

The end of every civilization is written into the beginning. Agriculture destroys the world. That’s not agriculture on a bad day. That’s what agriculture is. You pull down the forest, you plow up the prairie, you drain the wetland. Especially, you destroy the soil. Civilizations last between 800 and maybe 2,000 years—they last until the soil gives out.

What could be more sadistic then control of entire continents? He turns mountains into rubble, and rivers must do as they are told. The basic unit of life is violated with genetic engineering. The basic unit of matter as well, to make bombs that kill millions. This is his passion, turning the living into the dead. It’s not just individual deaths and not even the deaths of species. The process of life itself is now under assault and it is losing badly. Vertebrate evolution has long since come to a halt—there isn’t enough habitat left. There are areas in China where there are no flowering plants. Why? Because the pollinators are all dead. That’s five hundred million years of evolution: gone.

He wants it all dead. That’s his biggest thrill and the only way he can control it. According to him it was never alive. There is no self-willed community, no truly wild land. It’s all inanimate components he can arrange to this liking, a garden he can manage. Never mind that every land so managed has been lessened into desert. The essential integrity of life has been breached, and now he claims it never existed. He can do whatever he wants. And no one stops him.

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Can we stop him?

I say yes, but then I have no intention of giving up. The facts as they stand are unbearable, but it’s only in facing them that pattern comes clear. Civilization is based on drawdown. It props itself up with imperialism, conquering its neighbors and stripping their land, but eventually even the colonies wear out. Fossil fuel has been an accelerant, as has capitalism, but the underlying problem is much bigger than either. Civilization requires agriculture, and agriculture is a war against the living world. Whatever good was in the culture before, ten thousand years of that war has turned it necrotic.

But what humans do they can stop doing. Granted every institution is headed in the wrong direction, there’s no material reason the destruction must continue. The reason is political: the sadist is rewarded, and rewarded well. Most leftists and environmentalists see that. What they don’t see is the central insight of radical feminism: his pleasure in domination.

The real brilliance of patriarchy is right here: it doesn’t just naturalize oppression, it sexualizes acts of oppression. It eroticizes domination and subordination and then institutionalizes them into masculinity and femininity. Men become real men by breaking boundaries—the sexual boundaries of women and children, the cultural and political boundaries of indigenous people, the biological boundaries of rivers and forests, the genetic boundaries of other species, and the physical boundaries of the atom itself. The sadist is rewarded with money and power, but he also gets a sexual thrill from dominating. And the end of the world is a mass circle jerk of autoerotic asphyxiation.

The real brilliance of feminism is that we figured that out.

What has to happen to save our planet is simple: stop the war. If we just get out of the way, life will return because life wants to live. The forests and prairies will find their way back. Every dam will fail, every cement channel, and the rivers will ease their sorrows and meet the ocean again. The fish will know what to do. In being eaten, they feed the forest, which protects the rivers, which makes a home for more salmon. This is not the death of destruction but the death of participation that makes the world whole.

Sometimes there are facts that require all the courage we have in our hearts. Here is one. Carbon has breached 400 ppm. For life to continue, that carbon needs to get back into the ground. And so we come to grasses.

Where the world is wet, trees make forests. Where it’s dry, the grasses grow. Grasslands endure extreme heat in summer and vicious cold in winter. Grasses survive by keeping 80 percent of their bodies underground, in the form of roots. Those roots are crucial to the community of life. They provide physical channels for rain to enter the soil. They can reach down fifteen feet and bring up minerals from the rocks below, minerals that every living creature needs. They can build soil at an extraordinary rate. The base material they use to make soil is carbon. Which means the grasses are our only hope to get that carbon out of the sky.

And they will do it if we let them. If we could repair 75 percent of the world’s grasslands—destroyed by the war of agriculture—in under fifteen years, the grasses would sequester all the carbon that’s been released since the beginning of the industrial age. Read that again if you need to. Then take it with you wherever you go. Tell it to anyone who will listen. There is still a chance.

bison

The grasses can’t do it alone. No creature exists independent of all others. Repairing the grasslands means restoring the ruminants. In the hot, dry summer, life goes dormant on the surface of the soil. It’s the ruminants who keep the nutrient cycle moving. They carry an ecosystem inside themselves, especially the bacteria that digests cellulose. When a bison grazes, she’s not actually eating the grass. She’s feeding it to her bacteria. The bacteria eat the grass and then she eats the bacteria. Her wastes then water and fertilize the grasses. And the circle is complete.

The grasslands have been eradicated for agriculture, to grow cereal grains for people. Because I want to restore the grasses, I get accused of wanting to kill six billion people. That’s not a random number. In 1800, at the beginning of the Industrial Age, there were one billion people. Now there are seven billion. Six billion are only here because of fossil fuel. Eating a non-renewable resource was never a plan with a future. Yet pointing that out somehow makes me a mass murderer.

Start with the obvious. Nothing we do at these numbers is sustainable. Ninety-eight percent of the old-growth forests and 99 percent of the grasslands are gone, and gone with them was most of the soil they built. There’s nothing left to take. The planet has been skinned alive.

Add to that: all civilizations end in collapse. All of them. How could it be otherwise if your way of life relies on destroying the place you live? The soil is gone and the oil is running out. By avoiding the facts, we are ensuring it will end in the worst possible way.

We can do better than mass starvation, failed states, ethnic strife, misogyny, petty warlords, and the dystopian scenarios that collapse brings. It’s very simple: reproduce at less than replacement numbers. The problem will take care of itself. And now we come to the girls.

What drops the birthrate universally is raising the status of women. Very specifically, the action with the greatest impact is teaching a girl to read. When women and girls have even that tiny bit of power over their lives, they choose to have fewer children. Yes, women need birth control, but what we really need is liberty. Around the world, women have very little control over how men use our bodies. Close to half of all pregnancies are unplanned or unwanted. Pregnancy is the second leading cause of death for girls age 15-19. Not much has changed since Emmeline Pankhurst refused to give up.

We should be defending the human rights of girls because girls matter. As it turns out, the basic rights of girls are crucial to the survival of the planet.

girl with wolf

Can we stop him?

Yes, but only if we understand what we’re up against.

He wants the world dead. Anything alive must be replaced by something mechanical. He prefers gears, pistons, circuits to soft animal bodies, even his own. He hopes to upload himself into a computer some day.

He wants the world dead. He enjoys making it submit. He’s erected giant cities where once were forests. Concrete and asphalt tame the unruly.

He wants the world dead. Anything female must be punished, permanently. The younger they are, the sooner they break. So he starts early.

A war against your body is a war against your life. If he can get us to fight the war for him, we’ll never be free. But we said every woman’s body was sacred. And we meant it, too. Every creature has her own physical integrity, an inviolable whole. It’s a whole too complex to understand, even as we live inside it. I had no idea why my eyes were swelling and my lungs were aching. The complexities of keeping me alive could never be left to me.

One teaspoon of soil contains a million living creatures. One tiny scoop of life and it’s already more complex than we could ever understand. And he thinks he can manage oceans?

We’re going to have to match his contempt with our courage. We’re going to have to match his brute power with our fierce and fragile dreams. And we’re going to have to match his bottomless sadism with a determination that will not bend and will not break and will not stop.

And if we can’t do it for ourselves, we have to do it for the girls.

Whatever you love, it is under assault. Love is a verb. May that love call us to action.

 

Lierre Keith is the author of six books. Visit her website at www.lierrekeith.com

Music for today is The Curse by Lierre Keith