|Born||December 19, 1960|
|Occupation||Environment activist and writer|
|Genres||Global warming, ecology, social justice|
Derrick Jensen (born December 19, 1960) is an American author and environmental activist (and critic of mainstream environmentalism) living in Crescent City, California. Jensen has published several books questioning and critiquing modern civilization and its values, including The Culture of Make Believe and Endgame. He has also taught creative writing at Pelican Bay State Prison and Eastern Washington University.
He holds a B.S. in Mineral Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, which he attended on a scholarship, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington.
Themes in Jensen's work
Jensen's work is sometimes characterized as anarcho-primitivist, although he has categorically rejected that label, describing primitivist as a "racist way to describe indigenous peoples." He prefers to be called "indigenist" or an "ally to the indigenous," because "indigenous peoples have had the only sustainable human social organizations, and... we need to recognize that we [colonizers] are all living on stolen land."
Jensen sees civilization to be inherently unsustainable and based on violence. He argues that the modern industrial economy is fundamentally at odds with healthy relationships, the natural environment, and indigenous peoples. He concludes that the very pervasiveness of these behaviors indicates that they are diagnostic symptoms of the greater problem of civilization itself. Accordingly, he exhorts readers and audiences to help bring an end to industrial civilization.
In A Language Older Than Words and also in an article entitled "Actions Speak Louder Than Words", Jensen states "Every morning when I awake I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam. I tell myself I should keep writing, though I'm not sure that's right".
Jensen proposes that a different, harmonious way of life is possible, and that it can be seen in many societies including many Native American or other indigenous cultures. He claims that many indigenous peoples perceive a primary difference between Western and indigenous perspectives: even the most progressive Westerners generally view listening to the natural world as a metaphor, as opposed to the way the world works. Furthermore, these indigenous peoples understand the world as consisting of other beings with whom we can enter into relationship; this stands in contrast to the Western belief that the world consists of objects or resources to be exploited or used.
A recurrent topic in Jensens's books and talks is critique of cosmeticism (as e.g. defined by William Catton), lifestyleism  and other "Bright Green Lies" - the title of one of his upcoming books.
A Language Older Than Words uses the lens of domestic violence to look at the larger violence of western culture. The Culture of Make Believe begins by exploring racism and misogyny and moves to examine how this culture’s economic system leads inevitably to hatred and atrocity. Strangely Like War is about deforestation. Walking on Water is about education (It begins: "As is true for most people I know, I’ve always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?"). Welcome to the Machine is about surveillance, and more broadly about science and what he perceives to be a Western obsession with control.
Endgame is about what he describes as the inherent unsustainability of civilization. In this book he asks: "Do you believe that this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?" Nearly everyone he talks to says no. His next question is: "How would this understanding — that this culture will not voluntarily stop destroying the natural world, eliminating indigenous cultures, exploiting the poor, and killing those who resist — shift our strategy and tactics? The answer? Nobody knows, because we never talk about it: we’re too busy pretending the culture will undergo a magical transformation." Endgame, he says, is "about that shift in strategy, and in tactics."
Most of Jensen's writing uses the first-person and personal experiences to construct arguments. His books are written like narratives, lacking a linear, hierarchical structure. They are not divided into distinct sections devoted to an individual argument. Instead, his writing is conversational, leaving one line of thought incomplete to move on to another, returning to the first again at some later point. Jensen uses this creative non-fiction style to combine his artistic voice with logical argument. Jensen often uses quotations as reference points for ideas explored in a chapter. (For example, he introduces the first chapter of Walking on Water with a quote from Jules Henry's book Culture Against Man.)
In 2008, Jensen wrote Thought to Exist in the Wild (with photographs by Karen Tweedy-Holmes), which discussed the keeping of animals in zoos on both a physical and philosophical level. The book won the 2008 grand prize for the Eric Hoffer Award for Books.
Resistance Against Empire consists of interviews with J. W. Smith (on poverty), Kevin Bales (on slavery), Anuradha Mittal (on hunger), Juliet Schor ('globalization' and environmental degradation), Ramsey Clark (on US 'defense'), Stephen Schwartz (editor of The Nonproliferation Review, on nukes), Alfred McCoy (politics and heroin), Christian Parenti (the US prison system), Katherine Albrecht (on RFID), and Robert McChesney (on (freedom of) the media) conducted between 1999 and 2004.
Jensen co-wrote the book Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet with Lierre Keith and Aric McBay. Jensen's contribution consists of end-of-chapter responses to common queries he gets regarding bringing down civilization. The bulk of the book is written by the other two authors and covers the history of effective militant resistance movements such as parts of the U.S. civil rights movement and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), while also outlining potential strategies for above- and below-ground resistance to civilization, termed Decisive Ecological Warfare.
After the publication of this book, the authors co-founded an organization by the same name. Aric McBay left the organization at the beginning of 2012, however, attributing his departure to the alleged cancellation of a transgender-inclusive policy by Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith. Deep Green Resistance has disputed this account, saying that the decision to restrict women's spaces was made by the women of DGR, and not by Derrick Jensen or Lierre Keith.
In 2011, Jensen also published Dreams, which draws on the mythologies of ancient cultures and the wisdom of contemporary thinkers like Jack Forbes, Waziyatawin (a Dakota activist), Paul Stamets, and Stanley Aronowitz and is Jensen's challenge to the view that there is no knowledge ouside that gained by science, and Truths Among Us, a thought-provoking collection of interviews with 10 leading writers, philosophers, teachers, and activists who argue against society’s belief that corporations and governments know what is best for the future.
Jensen convened the conferences "Earth at Risk", which were held in November 2010 and 2011 in San Francisco and Berkeley, CA, respectively, with presentations by D.J., Arundhati Roy, William Catton, Rikki Ott, Thomas Linzey, Gail Dines, Jane Caputi, Waziyatawin, Aric McBay, Stephanie McMillan, Lierre Keith, and Nora Barrows-Friedman, which were also published on DVD and as a book.
Jensen has written three novels: Lives Less Valuable; Songs of the Dead; and The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad.
Jensen is anti-capitalist, a critic of Buddhism, a radical feminist, and promotes the dismantling of civilization by any means necessary. He is against pacifism and believes sometimes violence can be justified as self-defense, citing the success of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising vs those Jews who did not fight back, and his being attacked by many species of mother animals in perceived defense of their babies.
While he believes that overpopulation is a problem, he thinks it is a "tertiary" problem and that over-consumption is the primary problem.
Jensen was featured in the documentaries What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire (2007), Blind Spot (2008), First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture (2009), Call of Life (2010)  and END:CIV (2011).
Honors and awards
- 2008: Named a “visionary” as one of Utne Reader magazine’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World.”
- 2008: Grand Prize winner, Eric Hoffer Award for Books for Thought to Exist in the Wild, Derrick Jensen, Photographs by Karen Tweedy-Holmes.
- 2006: Named "Person of the Year" by Press Action for the publication of Endgame.
- 2003: The Culture of Make Believe was one of two finalists for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize.
- 2000: Hackensack, NJ, Record declared A Language Older Than Words its best book of the year.
- 2000: Language was nominated for Quality Paperback Book Club's New Vision Award.
- 1998: Second Prize in the category of small budget non-profit advertisements, as determined by the Inland Northwest Ad Federation, for the first ad in the "National Forests: Your land, your choice" series.
- 1995: Critics' Choice for one of America's ten best nature books of 1995, for Listening to the Land: Conversations About Nature, Culture, and Eros.
- 1995, Listening to the Land: Conversations about Nature, Culture, and Eros (with George Draffan and John Osborn), Sierra Club Books, ISBN 0-87156-417-3 Republished 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1-931498-56-2
- 1995, Railroads and Clearcuts: Legacy of Congress's 1864 Northern Pacific Railroad Land Grant (with George Draffan and John Osborn), Keokee Company Publishing, ISBN 1-879628-08-2
- 2000, A Language Older Than Words, Context Books, ISBN 1-893956-03-2 Republished 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1-931498-55-5
- 2002 The Culture of Make Believe, New York: Context Books, ISBN 1-893956-28-8 Republished 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1-931498-57-9
- 2003, Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests (with George Draffan), Chelsea Green, ISBN 978-1-931498-45-6
- 2004, Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control (with George Draffan), Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 1-931498-52-0
- 2005, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, Chelsea Green, ISBN 978-1-931498-78-4
- 2006, Endgame, Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization, Seven Stories Press, ISBN 1-58322-730-X
- 2006, Endgame, Volume 2: Resistance, Seven Stories Press, ISBN 1-58322-724-5
- 2007, Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos (with Karen Tweedy-Holmes), No Voice Unheard, ISBN 978-0-9728387-1-9
- 2007, As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial (with Stephanie McMillan), Seven Stories Press, ISBN 1-58322-777-6
- 2008, How Shall I Live My Life?: On Liberating the Earth from Civilization, PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-003-0
- 2009, What We Leave Behind (with Aric McBay), Seven Stories Press, ISBN 978-1-58322-867-8
- 2009, Songs of the Dead, PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-044-3
- 2010, Lives Less Valuable, PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-045-0
- 2010, Resistance Against Empire, PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-046-7
- 2010, Mischief in the Forest: A Yarn Yarn (with Stephanie McMillan), PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-081-8
- 2011, Dreams, Seven Stories Press, ISBN 978-1-58322-930-9
- 2011, Deep Green Resistance (with Lierre Keith and Aric McBay), Seven Stories Press, ISBN 978-1-58322-929-3
- 2011, Truths Among Us: Conversations on Building a New Culture, PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-299-7
- 2012, The Derrick Jensen Reader: Writings on Environmental Revolution (edited by Lierre Keith), Seven Stories Press, ISBN 978-1-60980-404-6 (pbk.)
- 2012, The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad (with Stephanie McMillan), PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-596-7
- 2012, Earth at Risk: Building a Resistance Movement to Save the Planet (edited by D.J. and Lierre Keith), PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-674-2
Spoken word on CD and DVD
- Derrick Jensen Standup Tragedy (live double CD), 2002
- ---- The Other Side of Darkness (live CD), PM Press, 2004
- ---- Now This War Has Two Sides (live CD), PM Press, 2008
- Lierre Keith, Arundhati Roy, D.J. & al Earth at Risk (6 DVD set), PM Press, 2012
- Endgame, Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization, Seven Stories Press (ISBN 1-58322-730-X), p. 17.
- Jensen D., 2003, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, Context Books (ISBN 1-893956-37-7).
- "...and I couldn’t afford to go to college otherwise." The Derrick Jensen Reader (p.438), Seven Story Press, 2012 (ISBN 978-1-60980-404-6)
- Derrick Jensen.
- Sean Esbjörn-Hargens; Michael E. Zimmerman (2009). Integral ecology: uniting multiple perspectives on the natural world. p. 492.
- Bob Torres (2007). Making a killing: the political economy of animal rights. p. 68.
- Blunt, Zoe (2011). "Uncivilized". Canadian Dimension. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- He defines a civilization as "a culture — that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts — that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning state or city), with cities being defined — so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on — as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life." Jensen D., 2006, Endgame, Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization, Seven Stories Press (ISBN 1-58322-730-X), p. 17.
- Jensen, Derrick. "Actions Speak Louder Than Words".
- "Forget Shorter Showers - Why personal change does not equal political change". Orion (magazine). 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
- "Talk at UoMichigan, March 2, 2012; edited transcript (available for subscribers of the "DJ reading club" only)". 2012. Retrieved May 2012.
- Walking on Water, p. 1.
- Endgame V.1, p. 1.
- Jensen D., 2004, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, Chelsea Green (ISBN 1-931498-48-2), p. 1.
- Aric McBay, "DGR and Transphobia", May 14, 2013.
- "Reponse(sic) to Aric McBay". deepgreenresistance.org. 2013 [last update]. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- Blind Spot @IMDb
- First Earth @IMDb
- Call of Life @IMDb
- END:CIV @IMDb
- Visionaries Who Are Changing the World
- "HOFFERAWARD.COM". www.hofferaward.com. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
- Press Action ::: Press Action Awards 2006
- Derrick Jensen
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Derrick Jensen|
- Official personal website
- END:CIV - Documentary centered around Derrick Jensen's work
- The website for Jensen's book Endgame, which includes numerous online excerpts
- Forget Shorter Showers - Why personal change does not equal political change by Derrick Jensen
- A Talk given by Derrick Jensen at The Santa Cruz Vets Hall on 03-29-06
- A Conversation with Derrick Jensen, published in Black Oak Presents, Summer 2008
- Conversation with Derrick Jensen, published in ascent magazine, summer 2008
- An interview with Derrick Jensen in NoCompromise.org
- Contribution to HopeDance Magazine
- Earth: A Wake-up Call for Obama Nation, April 25, 2009 Speaking Event, Arlington, VA
- Jensen: "The Dominant Culture is Killing the Planet" - video interview by Democracy Now! November 2010