Deep Green Resistance
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (March 2013)|
|Founder(s)||Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, Aric McBay|
|Focus(es)||Environmental justice, Social justice|
|Method(s)||Direct action, education, lobbying|
Deep Green Resistance (DGR) is an environmental movement that views mainstream environmental activism as being largely ineffective. DGR also refers to the strategy described by the movement for saving the Earth. DGR believes that industrial civilization is endangering all life on the planet, and that a broad range of tactics are needed to achieve environmental and social justice in decisive material ways. It advocates for a radical shift in society's structure and function and calls for humans to actively fight for the Earth. DGR's goals are to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and to stop those in power from destroying the planet. DGR argues that these effects are systemic to the culture of civilization and thus aims to stop industrial civilization altogether. Ultimately, Deep Green Resistance intends for the health of landbases to be restored, for indigenous peoples to regain their cultural integrity and land rights, and for the human communities that inhabit the earth to be egalitarian, just, and sustainable. DGR has gained attention because of its controversial nature—it advocates a pragmatic approach to saving the earth, utilizing whatever means necessary to stop destruction of the natural world.
DGR promotes the defense and restoration of landbases, and the recognition that most of the land belongs to indigenous peoples, who are suffering under foreign military occupation. DGR also aligns itself with radical feminist, indigenous rights, anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist movements, as well as other social justice issues. As an organization, it actively educates the public about the need for resistance and uses examples from past and current resistance movements, and advocates for a world where biodiversity increases from year to year. Due to security risks and surveillance, DGR maintains a strict firewall towards any possible underground.
The Deep Green Resistance movement believes that civilization, particularly industrial civilization, is fundamentally unsustainable and must be actively (and very urgently) dismantled in order to secure a livable future for all species on the planet. DGR identifies several traits that make industrial civilization a threat to the planet. Civilization can be defined by the development of agriculture and the growth of cities. Deep Green Resistance argues that agriculture is detrimental to land fertility and cities necessarily surpass the natural carrying capacity of land bases. Civilization relies heavily on industry, which operates largely on non-renewable and unclean fossil fuels. In geological time civilization is a recent phenomenon and DGR argues that its expansion has resulted in the loss of a great deal of traditional knowledge.
DGR's principles stem from the concept of deep ecology and states that all species are inherently equal, and thus that humans are not superior to any other form of life. Deep ecology attributes the current environmental crisis to the anthropocentrism that is embedded in Western perspectives. The term, first used by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss, was quickly taken up by a variety of radical environmental groups, such as Earth First!. Deep ecology provides a foundation upon which to base the cross-cultural nature-based spirituality that is often associated with radical environmental movements.
The movement differentiates itself from bright green environmentalism, which is characterized by a focus on personal, technological, or government and corporate solutions, in that it holds these solutions as inadequate. DGR believes that lifestyle changes, such as using travel mugs and reusable bags and taking shorter showers, are too small for the large scale environmental problems the world faces. It also states that the recent surge in environmentalism has become commercial in nature, and thus it in itself has been industrialized. The movement asserts that per capita industrial waste produced is orders of magnitude greater than personal waste produced; therefore, it is industrialism that must be ended, and with that, lifestyle changes will follow.
Origins and advocates
The term was created for a conference entitled "Deep Green Resistance. Confronting Industrial Culture" in April, 2007 in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Lierre Keith was the main organizer.
Derrick Jensen is a prominent public advocate of Deep Green Resistance. In addition to being a radical activist, he is also a writer, philosopher and teacher. Lierre Keith, another well-known supporter, is a feminist activist, writer and small farmer. Another advocate is activist, writer and organic farmer Aric McBay. Waziyatawin, Stephanie McMillan, and Jack D. Forbes are also prominent influences on the movement. DGR draws on the philosophy and writings of many authors, including Arne Næss, Richard Manning, Andrea Dworkin, Peggy Reeves Sanday, David Abram, Chellis Glendinning, Chris Hedges, Joseph Tainter, Richard Heinberg, Daniel Quinn, Zoe Blunt and Jerry Mander, among others.
The Deep Green perspective argues that the dominant culture, a term that encompasses all the cultures within globalized civilization, will not undergo a voluntary transformation to a sustainable way of living. This includes the dismissal of a possible success of a slow and soft shift to sustainability. Members of the Deep Green movement believe that industrial civilization will inevitably collapse. This notion is based on historical examples of the collapse of major civilizations such as Rome or the Mayan civilization, and statistics regarding the current system's unsustainability. DGR maintains that humans must act decisively before the collapse to ensure the Earth that remains is inhabitable for all organisms and that humans build a more sustainably structured society following the collapse. Deep Green Resistance supports an active resistance movement with the objective of accelerating the collapse of industrial civilization.
Within the Deep Green theory, lifestyle or personal changes are not considered effective methods of creating meaningful change. The mainstream environmental movement is seen as being distracted by its emphasis on individual lifestyle changes and technological solutions instead of confronting systems of power and holding individuals, industries, and institutions accountable. The founders of the Deep Green movement view technological solutions, no matter how well intentioned, as unsatisfactory and warn that they could even lead to accelerated ecological destruction and pollution (see Jevons Paradox). The Deep Green movement looks to pre-industrial and pre-civilization, land-based cultures as models for sustainable ways of living.
Proponents of Deep Green Resistance encourage strategies for social action that run the gamut from violent to non-violent. DGR's support for violent action (described as a potentially necessary means by which to invoke drastic environmental change) is rejected by many pacifists. Some have called this a potential deterrent to environmentalists who believe in nonviolent activism. In terms of the use of violence, Jensen, Keith, and McBay's strategies all largely center around hard-hitting infrastructural vandalism, such as forcible dam removal, rather than any kind of personal violence.
Jensen predicts, regarding the movement, that acts of personal violence in the future will be almost completely offensive by those countering the resistance movement (i.e. those currently in power) and self-defensive by those enacting the resistance movement. Regarding the topic of violent action, Jensen has responded that "No matter what you do, your hands will be blood red... because the global economy is [already] murdering humans and non-humans the planet over...." and "As this culture continues to collapse, those who are doing the exploiting will continue.... Don’t blame those who want to stop that exploitation. Instead, help to stop the exploitation that is killing people in the first place." Jensen has also clarified such ideas on Democracy Now!: "I get accused of being the 'violence guy'... but I don’t ever think that's really fair, because I really consider myself the 'everything guy', that I want to put everything on the table and talk about all forms of resistance.... We can certainly parse out cases where we think it's appropriate to have militant response or non-militant response."
Keith has discussed in depth the "complexity of the issue of violence" in the organization's eponymous book, and how it is "understandable that people who care about justice want to reject violence; many of us are survivors of it." However, she urges the following distinctions, favoring only the second in each dichotomy: "the violence of hierarchy vs. the violence of self-defense, violence against actual people vs. violence against property, and the [use of] violence as self-actualization vs. the violence of political resistance. It is difficult to find someone who is against all of these."
While Deep Green Resistance maintains that it is a strictly aboveground movement, Keith and McBay have openly encouraged an additional element of underground action, and DGR provides the theoretical and aboveground framework to support such action. The organization's book points to historical examples of resistance movements that relied on an interdependence between aboveground and underground networks in order to accomplish mutual goals.
Literature and references
A book titled Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet by Aric McBay, Lierre Keith, and Derrick Jensen was released in May 2011, from Seven Stories Press. The book is divided into four sections: Resistance, Organization, Strategy and Tactics, and the Future. Each section contains several essays written by McBay or Keith and concludes with Jensen's answers to common questions about resistance. The book intends to provide a framework from which readers can build upon in order to begin fighting for environmental change.
The organization's official website states that "DGR strives to be a radical organization in every respect, including our approach to feminist struggles." DGR's radical feminism views gender, by definition, as a civilized social system created by patriarchy to coercively and violently control behavior of both males and females; however, within this system, men and masculinity are privileged, while women are trained into subordinated behavior and routinely targeted for institutionalized and socially sanctioned violence due to their sex and/or gender role.
DGR's stance on gender has led some to interpret DGR as transphobic. The organization has denied this claim, explaining that "DGR does not condone dehumanization or violence against anyone, including people who describe themselves as trans." The website asserts that DGR merely holds "a difference of opinion about the definition of gender" with genderists, and states that "genderists think gender is an identity, an internal set of feelings people might have. Radical feminists think gender is a caste system." DGR's view of gender as a caste system implies that gender is an institution that cannot be improved or remedied, but, rather, requires complete dismantling so that egalitarian, spontaneous, and free behavior can emerge.
The controversy especially swelled when a newly transitioning member of DGR, self-identifying as a woman, requested to join a women-only communal sleeping and showering space and, later, a women-only caucus space; the women's caucus discussed the issue collectively and ultimately denied the applicant. A year after this, Aric McBay claimed he "left the organization at the beginning of 2012 after a trans inclusive policy was cancelled by Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith. Many good people and good activists left the organization for that reason. I find these transphobic attitudes to be disgusting and deeply troubling...." DGR released a note in response to McBay's statement, claiming that McBay actually departed the organization by mutual agreement, after unsuccessfully trying to force Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith from DGR, and being involved in embezzlement of DGR money. Furthermore Keith and Jensen reiterated that the women of DGR democratically made the decision to deny the applicant for themselves. In this statement, DGR also affirmed that "the right of women to define their own spaces" is central to how the organization operates.
Because DGR inherently defines gender as "a brutal and corrupt arrangement of power," they want to dismantle the gender system, rather than reform it, celebrate it, or make it more inclusive. DGR, as self-described radical feminists, are "critical of gender itself. We are not gender reformists—we are gender abolitionists."
Critics of Deep Green Resistance have made claims similar to critics of anarcho-primitivism and deep ecology. DGR's ideas have been variously criticized by online publications as polarizing solutions to environmental reform, "elitist", "too radical", or "out of step." Founder Derrick Jensen, for example, has concluded in his earlier work Endgame that "The mass of civilized people will never be on our side.” This has led to the criticism of organizing a strategy that is pessimistic about popular involvement, and therefore aims at forcing change without the majority's consensus. Some critics have, therefore, argued that "radical tactics tend to be counterproductive to the goal of increasing awareness and concern in the general public."
Opponents of Deep Green Resistance further claim that DGR, which predicts massive numbers of human deaths during the forthcoming "crash" of civilization, does not offer a feasible or desirable alternative human lifestyle in seeking to accelerate this crash. Keith and Jensen have both acknowledged this unpleasant reality; however, they have repeatedly claimed that the crash is inevitable (and will only result in more suffering the longer it is delayed) and that they are merely warning of—and trying to prepare the world for—these forthcoming deaths and possible wide-scale violence. Jensen has stated that if activists do not wish to participate in the physical work of accelerating this crash, they, at the very least, should locally prepare and "set up committees to eliminate or, if appropriate, channel the (additional) violence that might break out."
The Deep Green Resistance movement has also come under fire by anarchists (particularly anarcho-primitivists) for asserting what such anarchists feel is a disturbingly hierarchical or authoritarian approach to resistance against civilization. McBay and Keith have both promoted the idea of a revolutionary movement organized along hierarchical lines. Keith has advocated for a disciplined "command structure". McBay, in Deep Green Resistance, has argued that hierarchies are an efficient means of organizing resistance. Anarchist writers—among them anarcho-primitivists like John Zerzanand Kevin Tucker—have criticized DGR's Code of Conduct, their historical understanding of revolution and radical history, and the perceived "cult of personality" around Jensen and Keith.
- "Derrick Jensen" Presentation at Deep Green Resistance Workshop, 26 September 2009. Crescent City, CA
- McBay, Aric, Lierre Keith, and Derrick Jensen. 2011. Deep Green Resistance. New York: Seven Stories Press.
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