“If monetary value is attached to something it will be exploited until it’s gone. That’s what happens when you convert living beings to cash. That conversion, from living forests to lumber, schools of cod to fish sticks, and onward to numbers on a ledger, is the central process of our economic system.”
Derrick Jensen is a leading voice of cultural dissent. A longtime activist living in Northern California, he has been described as an “ecophilosopher in the anarcho-primitivist tradition.” He explores the nature of injustice, how civilizations devastate the natural world, and how human beings retreat into denial at the destruction of the planet. His work examines the central question, “If the destruction of the natural world isn’t making us happy, then why are we doing it?”
Rather than proposing easy answers, Jensen traces the roots of the culture’s pathology and finds the places where they intertwine, revealing fresh and startling connections. The Culture of Make Believe (2002) examines the interrelationship between hate and economics. The book was a finalist for the 2003 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, which cited it as “a passionate and provocative meditation on the nexus of racism, genocide, environmental destruction and corporate malfeasance, where civilization meets its discontents.”
Arguing that contemporary culture is destined to collapse due to destruction of the planet, Jensen advocates “dismantling civilization”— but not in a conventional sense. “One of the good things about . . . the culture being so ubiquitously destructive is that no matter where you look — no matter what your gifts, no matter where your heart lies — there’s good and desperately important work to be done,” he writes. “Know explosives? Take out a dam. Know how to love and accept children, how to teach them to love themselves, to think and feel for themselves? That’s what you need to do.”
Jensen unflinchingly examines the culture’s darkest corners while searching for a way forward. In A Language Older Than Words (2000), he draws on his own experience of childhood abuse to examine violence as a pathology that afflicts every life on the planet. This acclaimed book has been said to accomplish the rare feat of breaking and mending the reader’s heart, as well as energizing the mind. Since then, Jensen has authored and coauthored more than twenty books—focusing primarily on saving the planet. His most recent book, coauthored with Lierre Keith and Max Wilbert, is Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It (2021). Always on the cutting edge, Jensen persists in challenging the environmental movement to save the planet by rejecting our destructive, unsustainable lifestyles.
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