“hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.”
“hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.”
I think my primary stance about the environment, is that a belief is worth nothing, if you cannot act on it.
So, when I talk about my beliefs, I am talking about the stances I take towards the world. There is no magical-fiat power fairy roaming the land of Judgeballotopia. There is no left-wing congress, ready to pass legislation. There are lobbyists, and they will fight tooth and nail to reject any sort of systemic change.
William James argued that a belief was true, he said, if in the long run it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semihospitable world.
Therefore, beliefs about the environment are only true, if they are useful for us in action. A belief about global warming is useful if it explains how we should act. It is not useful if it is already known by those who are in a position of power.
Section 1: Hope, Belief, and Action
My first argument is that hoping for change is not useful for any purposes. It is something you should be ashamed of.
There is a distinction between things you do, and things you hope for.
As Derrick Jensen writes, “I’m not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don’t hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn’t crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they’ve assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.”
To hope to help the environment is offensive and counterproductive. To hope for help is to do nothing, and pretend you are doing something.
Jensen gives an example of why he acts, rather than engages in the defense mechanism of hope,
“I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn’t drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don’t like how they’re being treated—and who could blame them?—I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.”
The implication of being an agent is that you must act on your beliefs. If you don’t, then you are worthy of shame. We need to find out what specific choices we can make to align our actions with our beliefs.
“When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to “hope” at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.”
One other thing worth noting –
Activists are not smug-a-holics. They do not merely want to “feel better” about themselves. They actually want to improve the world, and they incidentally make themselves feel better. As Jensen points out,
“At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn’t matter, he said, and it’s egotistical to think it does.
I told him I disagreed.
Doesn’t activism make you feel good? he asked.
Of course, I said, but that’s not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.”
We have a choice. We can just masturbate and pretend to help by being “informed,” or we can actually do the things that matter.
Section 2: The Environment
I think we are fucked.
Jensen agrees, “THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We’re fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have—or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective—to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they’re reduced to trying to protect just one tree.”
If you want to know what I think is True, you should read “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith. The book is written by an ex-vegan who argues that vegetarians are just as uninformed as meat eaters. Both parties are taking part in the orgy that will bring about the end of ecosystems. She argues that most vegetarians don’t have a clue what facts are accurate.
She gives this great example:
“I’ve heard vegetarian activists claims that an acre of land can only support two chickens. Joel Salatin, one of the High Priests of sustainable farming and someone who actually raises chickens, puts that figure at 250 an acre. Who do you believe? How many of us know enough to even have an opinion? Frances Moore Lappe says it takes twelve to sixteen pounds of grain to make one pound of beef. Meanwhile, Salatin raises cattle with no grain at all, rotating ruminants on perennial polycultures, building topsoil year by year.”
Her point is that the main culprits are agriculture, not meat.
“But our attachment to the vegetarian myth leaves us uneasy, silent, and ultimately immobilized when the culprit is wheat and the victim is the prairie.”
If this sounds interesting, you should probably read her book. I can’t do it justice.
I think the most important thing you can do is write letters to your school cafeteria to get them to offer more locally grown dishes at the cafeteria.
The second thing you can do is limit your meat/dairy consumption to 5-10% of your daily calorie intake. This is mostly for your health, but it might help the environment too.
The third thing you can do is donate $$$ to environmental organizations.