Editor’s Note: This article originally ran July 24, 2013, in the Deep Green Resistance News Service. We are republishing the entire Time is Short series, and welcome your comments.
By Lexy Garza and Rachel Ivey, Deep Green Resistance
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
This quote by Spanish writer and philosopher George Santayana was posted on the wall in my high school history classroom. The idea, as my history teacher explained, it is that learning about history is vitally important because by knowing and understanding past events, we can actively shape the future. According to my teacher’s view, at least the view he shared with his students, the history in our textbooks is objective, time-tested truth, and nothing more nor less.
Some time after that class ended, I read another George Santayana quote, which is somewhat less often quoted, “history is a pack of lies about things that never happened told by people who weren’t there.”
Taken at face value, this statement goes to the other extreme and completely writes off the history we’re taught as lies, as intentionally untrue. I think that both these views let us off too easy, because the stories we call history, and the process by which some stories become the dominant stories, the ones we teach to our children, is more complex than the dichotomy of truth vs. lie.
Another often repeated idea about history is that it’s “written by the victors.” This gets closer to a nuanced look at what history means and what it does.
For instance, in 1890 the US army massacred 300 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, burying them in a mass grave. Twenty US soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for this atrocity, just one of the many perpetrated by European colonizers who called genocide their manifest destiny. The vast majority of “historical” accounts throughout the decades don’t call Wounded Knee a massacre; they lend it a false legitimacy by calling it a battle. The same goes for the Washita massacre carried out by Custer in 1868. So-called historical accounts refer to this event as the Battle of the Washita. As it’s been said, “When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre.”
These and countless other examples show us that what we call history is certainly not objective truth. The voices of the colonized and the conquered do not get included in the version of the past we call history. That’s what it means to be colonized: genocide means the mass killing and eradication of entire peoples, but it also means the eradication of their culture, their stories, and the power to pass those stories on to future generations.
In his book A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn wrote, “I knew that a historian (or a journalist, or anyone telling a story) was forced to choose, out of an infinite number of facts, what to present, what to omit. And that decision inevitably would reflect, whether consciously or not, the interests of the historian.”
So this is the question we want to address– What interests are represented by the dominant story? Whose interests does the dominant story serve, and whose does it erase?
But before we get to that, there’s another question– Why does any of this matter? Why does it matter where our popular history comes from, and why does it matter what gets omitted?
It matters because our understanding of history informs our strategy in the present. Our ability to imagine what is possible is shaped by our understanding of the past. Therefore, our actions in the present are shaped by our understanding of the past. And right now, our actions in the present could not be more crucial.
200 species are pushed to extinction every single day. 
A Cornell research survey that found that water, air, and soil pollution account for 40% of human deaths worldwide 
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change states unequivocally that for the climate to remain stable and in their words “manageable,” the average temperature rise cannot exceed 2 degrees Celsius. Yet virtually nothing decisive has been done to try and meet that 2 degrees Celsius limit. 
According to the International Energy Agency’s November 2010 assessment, which does not include the self-reinforcing feedback loops that many experts anticipate, the global average temperature rise of Earth will hit the 3.5 degrees Celsius mark in 2035, and some climate models have predicted a rise of 11 degrees by the end of the century. 
In the short term, we’re already seeing the beginnings of the floods, fires, droughts, and superstorms.
Plankton populations are collapsing, amphibian populations are collapsing, 90% of large fish in the ocean are gone .
The fabric of life on Earth is collapsing and humans are not exempt, though the effects aren’t obvious from here behind the military barricade of the US Empire.
The Global Humanitarian Forum recently put out a prediction that, by 2030, 100 million people could be dying annually as a direct result of climate change, based on how many are currently being killed due to climate change, which is around 300,000 per year .
We, not only the human we, but the global we of life on Earth are facing a crisis on a scale the planet has never seen, and the reality is that we are losing this fight right now.
With all the world at stake, we need to form and implement a strategy that can work. The latest Climate Commission report has warned that 80% of global fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground if the planet is to avoid dangerous climate change. Our governments and the corporations that run them plan to burn every last drop of oil, every last speck of coal, and every last whiff of gas, and right now, the strategy of the mainstream environmental movement has no hope of stopping them, or even of substantially slowing them down.
If we are to avert the catastrophic dismemberment of our planet, we will need to see past the lies of the dominant culture and recognize its narratives—the mainstream narratives of social change—for the falsity that they there. Ultimately, we will need to move beyond legal & aboveground tactics as a whole movement, and make room for strategic sabotage and militant action in the tool chest of resistance.
 UN Environment Programme, Ahmed Djoghlaf, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/16/nature-economic-security
 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change**
 International Energy Agency’s November 2010 assessment**