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Deep Green Resistance Southwest April News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

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Photo Credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA showing the aftermath of treatments in the Modena Canyon Wildlands.

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Don’t let them destroy these forests! Sign our petition here.

Also join us to ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests.

3/25/2016 The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees
2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Waters, Sacred Forests

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

A Gathering for Celebration, Community, Movement Building, Ecology, and Land Defense

Join us in May of 2016 for a tour of sacred lands threatened by the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater pipeline. We will spend three days visiting the communities affected by the water grab, learning about the project and the threatened sacred lands and waters. For those already familiar, we’ll also be holding workshops on the ecology and politics of the region at a basecamp in Spring Valley. The tour will begin at Cleve Creek campground, 12 miles north of Highway 6-50 at the base of the Schell Creek Mountains.

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

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Image: Cone-shaped solar flux of high intensity as in the above 50 kiloWatt per square meter diagram, at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System during operation.

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen: When I Dream of a Planet In Recovery

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers who welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries who grow to be eaten by those who then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi who join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings who live inside you, who make it possible for you to live.

Derrick Jensen: Not In My Name

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. The notion is wrongheaded, disrespectful to the human and nonhuman victims of this culture, an enormous distraction that wastes time and energy we don’t have and undermines whatever slight chance we do have of developing the effective resistance required to stop this culture from killing the planet. The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. When it comes to stopping the murder of the planet, too many environmentalists act more like they’re planning a party than building a movement.

Sustaining a Strategic Feminist Movement

At the core of this movement, there is an intangible force with a measurable impact. It’s an attitude, a mindset, a determination that compels us to push back against oppression. It’s the warrior mindset, the stand-and-fight stance of someone defending her home and the ones she loves.

Many burn with righteous anger. This is important – anger lets us know when people are hurting us and the ones we love. It’s part of the process of healing from trauma. Anger can rouse us from depression and move us past denial and bargaining. It is a step toward acceptance and taking action.

Rewriting the trauma script includes asserting our truth and lived experiences, and naming abuses instead of glossing over them. It includes discovering (and rediscovering) that we can rely on each other instead of on men. It’s mustering the courage to confront male violence. But it’s not going to be easy.

Ben Barker: Masculinity is Not Revolutionary

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.” Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm.

Film Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

All people interested in a living planet–and the resistance movement it will take to make that a reality–should watch this film. The courage found within every one forming their amazing culture of resistance–militant and non; including those who set up alternative courts, sang traditional songs and speak the traditional Gaelic language, open their homes for members of the resistance–is more than i have ever experienced, yet exactly what is needed in our current crisis. Those who fought back endured torture, murder, and the destruction of their communities. Yet, they still fought because they were guided by love and by what is right.


 

Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

In blunt terms, industrialization is a process of taking entire communi­ties of living beings and turning them into commodities and dead zones. Could it be done more “efficiently”? Sure, we could use a little less fossil fuels, but it still ends in the same wastelands of land, water, and sky. We could stretch this endgame out another twenty years, but the planet still dies. Trace every industrial artifact back to its source­ which isn’t hard, as they all leave trails of blood-and you find the same devastation: mining, clear-cuts, dams, agriculture. And now tar sands, mountaintop removal, wind farms (which might better be called dead bird and bat farms). No amount of renewables is going to make up for the fossil fuels or change the nature of the extraction, both of which are prerequisites for this way of life. Neither fossil fuels nor extracted substances will ever be sustainable; by definition, they will run out. Bringing a cloth shopping bag to the store, even if you walk there in your Global Warming Flip-Flops, will not stop the tar sands. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life, they’re declared both real­istic and successful.

 


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Update: Pinyon-Juniper Campaign

Editor’s Note: Wildlands Defense and Deep Green Resistance have formed a coalition to tackle the immense but largely unnoticed problem of pinyon-juniper deforestation.  Following a successful fund raiser in October, DGR members Max Wilbert and Will Falk traveled to Nevada with Wildlands Defense Board Secretary Katie Fite to inspect several public lands sites that have already been stripped completely of the high-desert forests.  The first part of Will Falk’s report back can be found on the DGR News Service; the second part, excerpted below, can be found here.

By Will Falk / Deep Green Resistance

The trunk I lean against is the trunk of a tree lost in another clear-cut. I do not want to see clear-cuts anymore, so I face away from the carnage. Behind me are the scattered corpses of pinyon-pine and juniper. Many of these trees were two or three hundred years old and had watched countless of the Great Basin’s arid summers and bitter winters. The pinyon-pines had offered up their delicious nuts to birds like turkeys, Clark’s nutcrackers, Steller’s jays, scrub jays, and pinyon jays as well as wood rats, bears, deer and humans for centuries.

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Pinyon Jay. Image by Robert Harrington.

With my back turned to the clear-cut, the wide, clear sky, the drama tracing the sharp mountainsides, and the seemingly eternal evenness of the Cave Valley floor creates a vastness that overpowers any inclination I possess towards my own importance.

Read more at Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis

The Castle Rock Prairie Dogs are Gone: Open Letter from an Exile

By Deep Green Resistance Colorado

What follows is an essay from a Deep Green Resistance member. Perhaps this Open Letter serves as an epitaph for the Castle Rock Prairie Dog community, as well as a call to act. We welcome all those who would stand up in defense of the living.

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Open Letter From an Exile:

I wore this shirt, long-sleeved, multi-patterned, funky, well tailored hand-me-down for almost every day I worked on the prairie dog relocation at the “Promenade” site in Castle Rock Colorado.

The “Promenade” site was only that in the avaricious life-sucking minds of the capitalist pig developers. The “site” was really a scrap of prairie community, a last survivor already lacerated by monstrous earth movers, surrounded by apartments, highway, box stores, a mall, parking lots—anti-life.

The shirt faded faded under the intensity of the high-altitude sun. The shirt was embroidered with the words, “Knowledge Wisdom Truth” on the button facing.

I don’t know why.

My camp hat was also a constant part of my attire for those five arduous weeks. A grubby white canvas cloth wide brim decorated in black permanent marker with free-hand representations of dragonflies and guitars. The art was gifted on a happy Folks Festival afternoon by a daughter long sense grown.

Perhaps it was this shirt, and my camp hat – that made the sight of this human so familiar that – on the last day of my participation in the relocation, a sweet bird trusted my presence enough to land on my hat while it was on my head. I will never forget the sensation.

I think it is the greatest compliment I have ever or will ever receive. It will eternally break my heart for I have yet to live up to that trust.

Every step I took upon this scarred, tragically doomed prairie home, now extinct, was a step into the sacred. There are no words to describe her smell, her touch, her sounds, the beat of her heart, the soils the stones, the animals, the birds the bones, the plants in and out of flower. Paradise opened every day just by looking down up around. I am crying as I write this.

We saved most of the Castle Rock Prairie Dogs that survived the holocaust, the fumigation. Some would not leave. No matter how we tried to trap them, to flush them out, they would not be captured. They died on the land of their ancestors when the earth-movers came and obliterated billions of living beings and their infinity of wondrously woven relationships, spun through timeless time and loving trust.

All dead. In the void created the psychopaths are constructing a mall, more and more insatiable life sucking monstrosities following atrocities.

The prairie dogs we relocated are no longer prairie dogs. They inhabit a mountain meadow, in peace. Perhaps they are becoming meadow dogs, weaving new relationships in a new land. They are refugees of the War on Earth.

I was paid for the work that I did and the source of that money was the developer.

It was a band of beautiful women who did the relocation work, who sacrificed so much, loved completely and are wounded deeply.

Some of us could not stop gathering. I was one who compulsively collected stones and bones and feathers, wood and, in the beginning, flowers and herbs to press and burn. They seemed to be calling to me. I was trying to find the answer to a mystery.

Surely somewhere, in such abundance there must be the key to continuing her existence? Surely the beauty and story of any bit of this land could awaken even the most callous heart and save the community?

I know better; psychopaths have no heart. For the most part, humans are already deluded and dead, slaves to machines, servants to destruction. Who are you? How dare you!

Now all I have is a pile of stones and bones, feathers and wood, flowers dried flat and a certainty that this love, this immersion in Prairie gave me. I can wake up and be a whole human.

I am now in exile from Life in Alabama. On the way I stopped to pray at the Witchaphi Wall. I left a blood red stone from that Prairie Home in that sacred place. I offered prayer for the salvation of Prairie Life and a prayer for human redemption in service of Earth.

The song, “A Feather’s Not a Bird” came to Rosanne Cash as she sat with the Witchaphi Wall.

The Chorus:

“A feather’s not a bird,
The rain is not the sea,
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me”

There are also these lines in her song:

“There’s never any highway when you’re looking for the past.
The land becomes a memory and it happens way to fast.”

I am in exile, from communities of Life, but not for long. We are rapidly approaching no return, there will be no communities of Life to return to. We will go extinct with them.

There is no point in running away. There is nowhere to run to that has not been marked for destruction.

Nothing left to do,
But defend the land, and let the river run though me.

And You?

Jennifer Murnan
8/2/15

Help Save the Castle Rock Mall Prairie Dogs

By Deep Green Resistance Colorado

The ‘Nation’s Biggest Mall’, planned  for Douglas County, Colorado, would kill one of the largest prairie dog colonies on Colorado’s Front Range. Currently, Alberta Development LLC is in charge of the construction and annihilation of this prairie dog colony, which is critical to the plains’ biodiversity and long-range health. Alberta Development is planning on eradicating 40 acres of the prairie dogs on or around the second week of February. We may not be able to halt construction, but we can at least relocate as many of the prairie dogs as possible. We need to find willing landowners to take on 100 acres of prairie dogs.

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Help save them.

We also need to run a media campaign to convince Alberta Development to hold off on construction until June so we can relocate the prairie dogs in a way that will ensure their survival.

Please help us by donating to this cause so we can share this story with concerned individuals through media outlets, using various means to encourage Alberta Development to do the right thing and landowners to take in this colony.

To help, please head to this indiegogo link:

https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/save-the-castle-rock-mall-prairie-dogs/x/1002347

The ‘Nation’s Biggest Mall’ in Colorado Will Destroy One of the Largest Prairie Dog Colonies on Colorado’s Front Range

Editor’s Note: This first appeared on Deep Green Resistance Colorado‘s website.

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by Bellmeadow, Deep Green Resistance Member

Recently I heard news that our county (Douglas) was getting one of the nation’s biggest malls. The news simultaneously sunk my heart and angered me. Why the hell do we need another mall? To consume the world? Then my mind raced to the location of the mall, and the prairie dogs that live there. I had been worried about this colony before, about the strong possibility that the remaining colonies comprising hundreds of prairie dogs would be destroyed for some kind of development. After all, a Lowe’s store, an outlet mall, a housing project, and a tire store had occupied their territory and had already killed thousands of these dogs in the name of “development.” And this was the final solution for the 3,000 to 8,000 remaining burrows: complete annihilation of the prairie dogs for a shopping mall set to cover 170 acres in concrete.

Once the news sunk in, I called the town of Castle Rock, where the new mall is slated to be developed and spoke with the government official in charge of the construction. I was given the contact information of the individual working with Alberta Development (the development company constructing the mall) on the prairie dog “problem.” She was kind and helpful, as developers are trained to be when it comes to dealing with “pesky environmentalists” and let me know that the current plan for the prairie dogs was to cage them, kill them, and send them off to the nearest raptor farm to feed the birds. All the dogs. Hundreds of prairie dog families sucked up out of their only homes, caged, killed, and fed to the raptors. She informed me they had tried to find new places for them to be relocated, but had no success, so this was the only possibility left for the prairie dogs. She extended an invitation to help her find relocation areas with assurance that if we found a place, they would cover the costs for the relocation and support us in any way they could to make that transfer happen. All I needed to do was find private land owners in Douglas County who were willing to have prairie dogs on their land. I knew that in our county, it would not be easy to locate such land owners. Ranchers and conservatives have a long history of deep-seated hatred for these animals as they perceive prairie dogs as a nuisance and a threat to their cash herds and crops. Landowners by and large are perfectly willing to accept prairie dog extermination as good business practice.

Grabbing my camera, my next plan of action was to visit these prairie dog families and spend some time with them, to witness what was happening with the development of the mall. As I drove past the thousands of burrows, my heart was racing and sadness pulsated through me. I found a good spot to pull over and started to listen and watch as I walked among the dogs. Individual scouts were sitting on top of their burrows chatting away, relaying information to their families below. People studying prairie dogs have found that the colonies have their own distinct languages and dialects and have different words for coyotes, hawks, snakes and humans. They even distinguish between the different colors of shirts people are wearing. As I watched them chatting, I was imagining what it was they were communicating to each other. I assumed they were sharing that a scary person holding a strange contraption was encroaching on their homes and they were taking their necessary precautions. After all, it was just a couple weeks before when Alberta Development created a rock crushing area that destroyed hundreds of homes and buried their neighbors alive.

As I walked among their colonies, their alert calls became louder and several of them sat on top of their burrows with tails wagging in tune to their chattering warning calls. As I watched, they started to get used to me and stopped being on high alert. I could see them stretching out on the top of their homes and several of them were in pairs and were hugging and kissing each other while they were basking in the sun. One of the dogs wobbled towards me in a brave and playful manner until he lost his bearings and decided to race back to his friend for comfort. As I watched these families and friends rolling, eating, singing and calling out warnings, trucks, heavy equipment and one car after another raced around them with deafening roars. It didn’t require much imagination to understand how stressful and terrifying it must be to live in this chaos and danger every day, to be forced to witness friends and family being smashed by giant, smoking machines, to be evicted to far corners of their world, the only places left to survive, constantly uprooted by the encroachment of a “civilized” human world where malls and parking lots take priority over the living biomes of multitudes of diverse lives. This fate is what is left for all of them, despite their ability to thrive on the land for generation upon generation.

Prairie dogs are an essential component of the health and biodiversity of the prairies and are considered keystone species, meaning they are essential to the balance of prairie life. The biodiversity that exists in these biomes cannot remain in healthy balance without their existence. There are at least 170 known species that are dependent on the prairie dogs for survival and when the prairie dogs are removed from these areas, those other species can no longer survive and the prairies lose their biodiversity. Prairie dog colonies are the preferred grazing areas for ungulates; the nutrient-dense plants that grow there are a result of the dogs digging up nutrients that become readily available for the plants to absorb. Contrary to myth, there has never been one documented case of an animal being so ignorant as to step into their burrows.

Before the rise of the consumerist culture on this continent, prairie dogs were densely populated throughout the prairies. The largest known colony covered 25,000 square miles and was home to perhaps 400 million prairie dogs. The total range was about 150,000 to 200,000 square miles and the population of the prairie dogs was well over a billion. The colony here in Douglas County is now one of the largest on the Front Range, and consists of between 3,000 and 8,000 burrows covering approximately 150 acres. The prairie dogs are now reduced to three percent of their range and less than one percent of their population and are truly an endangered species, but are not labeled as such because of their inappropriate status of “pest.” Such labeling makes it easy for otherwise squeamish developers to do the dirty work associated with their elimination, and to sell this practice to the uninformed.

After my visit with the prairie dogs, I contacted the developer to inquire what my timeline was for finding a relocation spot. The developer informed me (in late November) that we had to find a home for them no later than late March. However, in working with the Prairie Dog Coalition of the Humane Society of the United States, I learned that relocating prairie dogs any time before June is problematic and carries a lower success (survival) rate. Female prairie dogs spend the better part of the fall and winter preparing for their babies by building a nesting room in their burrows. After months of working on these nests, they get pregnant in January and February. After giving birth, females tend to stay down inside their burrows until April to May, once their babies are mature enough to come out of their nests. If the colony is disturbed after they have had their babies between March and May, the babies and the mothers will be buried alive because they do not leave their nest area. This is why Colorado Parks and Wildlife doesn’t give permits for relocation to take place until June 1st.

The ground is also cold and often frozen in Colorado at this time of the year with little edible vegetation, making the chances for relocation success even slimmer. This is compounded by the trauma prairie dog families and friends experience from being sucked out of their burrows and spewed into cages, then transported (if they even survive that far) to an unfamiliar area leaving all these vulnerable animals terrified, traumatized and separated from their relatives, which is alone enough to kill them. Further, they face the dangers of being buried alive in burrows, crushed under the wheels of construction machinery, or being killed for sport by bored workers, spectators, or trespassers. Prairie dog relocation is harsh enough in a “good” time of the year, but in March the chances for their survival are bleak indeed. If these prairie dogs are to be given any reasonable chance to live, our priority is to convince Alberta Development to wait until June so we have time to find a relocation spot where they will have a chance to survive.

I once again head back to the remnant of what was once a vibrant prairie dog colony to contemplate the next steps I should take to ensure their survival. I see the thousands of burrows and hundreds of dogs spread across the landscape, surviving against the odds of a culture hell bent on destruction. The sun beams down on their homes and they start to chatter and run back and forth across the ground, to their burrows. All around them I see the construction starting to take place: the large dirt mounds, the huge trucks rolling back and forth, the rock crushing area that recently buried hundreds of them alive. What words did those families share with each other as their world turned dark, as they desperately sucked in their last breath of air as the oxygen left their burrows? What will the remaining families communicate as the machines of death dump concrete over their only homes? Will they have words for their holocaust? What words will they use if they are sucked up into cages only to be euthanized and fed to raptors? How will the mothers deal with the loss of their children from whom they are separated in transport, if in fact they are not killed along the way? All these thoughts race through my head and continue to do so.

All for a shopping mall. A mall we don’t need and don’t even pretend to. But life wants to live and these dogs need this land. They need a place that will sustain them and future generations. And the prairies need these animals. The hawks need them, the coyotes, the fox and the black-footed ferret. We need these animals, whether or not we choose to see it. We need private landowners who are willing to bring these creatures onto their land, not as a work of charity or penance for sins imagined or real, but to improve the biodiversity of the prairies. We need to fight for the prairie dogs, because they cannot fight against the machines paving their homes with concrete to erect more malls that are continuously failing in our current economy. The fate of these dogs rests with us, and it is not enough to stand by, wringing our hands as we witness yet another tragedy. We must stand together and put pressure on Alberta Development to, at the minimum, put off construction of “the nation’s biggest mall” until June in order to give these prairie dogs a chance at survival. And then we need to wake up to the understanding that prairie dogs are a keystone species on our prairies and begin to welcome them back home.

Max Wilbert: Plows and Carbon: The Timeline of Global Warming

By Max Wilbert, Deep Green Resistance

In June 1988, climatologist and NASA scientist James Hansen stood before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the United States Senate. The temperature was a sweltering 98 degrees.

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“The earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements,” Hansen said. “The global warming now is large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship to the greenhouse effect… Our computer climate simulations indicate that the greenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves.”

Hansen has authored some of the most influential scientific literature around climate change, and like the vast majority of climate scientists, has focused his work on the last 150 to 200 years – the period since the industrial revolution.

This period has been characterized by the widespread release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), and by the clearing of land on a massive scale – the plowing of grasslands and felling of forests for cities and agricultural crops.

Now, the world is on the brink of catastrophic climate change. Hansen and other scientists warn us that if civilization continues to burn fossil fuels and clear landscapes, natural cycles may be disrupted to the point of complete ecosystem breakdown – a condition in which the planet is too hot to support life. Hansen calls this the Venus Syndrome, named after the boiling planet enshrouded in clouds of greenhouse gases.

“If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale [low grade, high carbon fossil fuels], I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty,” Hansen has said.

If humanity wishes to have a chance of avoiding this fate, it is important that we understand global warming in detail. Why is it happening? When did it start? What fuels it? And, most importantly, what can stop it?

How old is global warming?

New studies are showing that the current episode of global warming may be a great deal older than previously believed – which may entirely change our strategy to stop it.

While fossil fuels have only been burned on a large scale for 200 years, land clearance has been a defining characteristic of civilizations – cultures based around cities and agriculture – since they first emerged around 8,000 years ago.

This land clearance has impacts on global climate. When a forest ecosystem is converted to agriculture, more than two thirds of the carbon that was stored in that forest is lost, and additional carbon stored in soils rich in organic materials will continue to be lost to the atmosphere as erosion accelerates.

Modern science may give us an idea of the magnitude of the climate impact of this pre-industrial land clearance. Over the past several decades of climate research, there has been an increasing focus on the impact of land clearance on modern global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in it’s 2004 report, attributed 17% of global emissions to cutting forests and destroying grasslands – a number which does not include the loss of future carbon storage or emissions directly related to this land clearance, such as methane released from rice paddies or fossil fuels burnt for heavy equipment.

Some studies show that 50% of the global warming in the United States can be attributed to land clearance – a number that reflects the inordinate impact that changes in land use can have on temperatures, primarily by reducing shade cover and evapotranspiration (the process whereby a good-sized tree puts out thousands of gallons of water into the atmosphere on a hot summer day – their equivalent to our sweating).

So if intensive land clearance has been going on for thousands of years, has it contributed to global warming? Is there a record of the impacts of civilization in the global climate itself?

10,000 years of Climate Change

According to author Lierre Keith, the answer is a resounding yes. Around 10,000 years ago, humans began to cultivate crops. This is the period referred to as the beginning of civilization, and, according to the Keith and other scholars such as David Montgomery, a soil scientist at the University of Washington, it marked the beginning of land clearance and soil erosion on a scale never before seen – and led to massive carbon emissions.

“In Lebanon (and then Greece, and then Italy) the story of civilization is laid bare as the rocky hills,” Keith writes. “Agriculture, hierarchy, deforestation, topsoil loss, militarism, and imperialism became an intensifying feedback loop that ended with the collapse of a bioregion [the Mediterranean basin] that will most likely not recover until after the next ice age.”

Montgomery writes, in his excellent book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, that the agriculture that followed logging and land clearance led to those rocky hills noted by Keith.

“It is my contention that the invention of [agriculture] fundamentally altered the balance between soil production and soil erosion – dramatically increasing soil erosion.

Other researchers, like Jed Kaplan and his team from the Avre Group at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, have affirmed that preindustrial land clearance has had a massive impact on the landscape.

“It is certain that the forests of many European countries were substantially cleared before the Industrial Revolution,” they write in a 2009 study.

Their data shows that forest cover declined from 35% to 0% in Ireland over the 2800 years before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The situation was similar in Norway, Finland, Iceland, where 100% of the arable land was cleared before 1850.

Similarly, the world’s grasslands have been largely destroyed: plowed under for fields of wheat and corn, or buried under spreading pavement. The grain belt, which stretches across the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, and across much of Eastern Europe, southern Russia, and northern China, has decimated the endless fields of constantly shifting native grasses.

The same process is moving inexorably towards its conclusion in the south, in the pampas of Argentina and in the Sahel in Africa. Thousands of species, each uniquely adapted to the grasslands that they call home, are being driven to extinction.

“Agriculture in any form is inherently unsustainable,” writes permaculture expert Toby Hemenway. “We can pass laws to stop some of the harm agriculture does, but these rules will reduce harvests. As soon as food gets tight, the laws will be repealed. There are no structural constraints on agriculture’s ecologically damaging tendencies.”

As Hemenway notes, the massive global population is essentially dependent on agriculture for survival, which makes political change a difficult proposition at best. The seriousness of this problem is not to be underestimated. Seven billion people are dependent on a food system – agricultural civilization – that is killing the planet.

The primary proponent of the hypothesis – that human impacts on climate are as old as civilization – has been Dr. William Ruddiman, a retired professor at the University of Virginia. The theory is often called Ruddiman’s Hypothesis, or, alternately, the Early Anthropocene Hypothesis.

Ruddiman’s research, which relies heavily on atmospheric data from gases trapped in thick ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, shows that around 11,000 years ago carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere began to decline as part of a natural cycle related to the end of the last Ice Age. This reflected a natural pattern that has been seen after previous ice ages.

This decline continued until around 8000 years ago, when the natural trend of declining carbon dioxide turned around, and greenhouse gases began to rise. This coincides with the spread of civilization across more territory in China, India, North Africa, the Middle East, and certain other regions.

Ruddiman’s data shows that deforestation over the next several thousand years released 350 Gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, an amount nearly equal to what has been released since the Industrial Revolution. The figure is corroborated by the research of Kaplan and his team.

Around 5000 years ago, cultures in East and Southeast Asia began to cultivate rice in paddies – irrigated fields constantly submerged in water. Like an artificial wetland, rice patties create an anaerobic environment, where bacteria metabolizing carbon-based substances (like dead plants) release methane instead of carbon dioxide and the byproduct of their consumption. Ruddiman points to a spike in atmospheric methane preserved in ice cores around 5000 years ago as further evidence of warming due to agriculture.

Some other researchers, like R. Max Holmes from the Woods Hole Research Institute and Andrew Bunn, a climate scientist from Western Washington University, believe that evidence is simply not conclusive. Data around the length of interglacial periods and the exact details of carbon dioxide and methane trends is not detailed enough to make a firm conclusion, they assert. Regardless, it is certain that the pre-industrial impact of civilized humans on the planet was substantial.

“Our data show very substantial amounts of human impact on the environment over thousands of years,” Kaplan said. “That impact really needs to be taken into account when we think about the carbon cycle and greenhouse gases.”

Restoring Grasslands: a strategy for survival

If the destruction of grasslands and forests signals the beginning of the end for the planet’s climate, some believe that the restoration of these natural communities could mean salvation.

Beyond their beauty and inherent worth, intact grasslands supply a great deal to humankind. Many pastoral cultures subsist entirely on the animal protein that is so abundant in healthy grasslands. In North America, the rangelands that once sustained more than 60 million Bison (and at least as many pronghorn antelope, along with large populations of elk, bear, deer, and many others) now support fewer than 45 million cattle – animals ill-adapted to the ecosystem, who damage their surroundings instead of contributing to them.

Healthy populations of herbivores also contribute to carbon sequestration in grassland soils by increasing nutrient recycling, a powerful effect that allows these natural communities to regulate world climate. They also encourage root growth, which sequesters more carbon in the soil.

Just as herbivores cannot survive without grass, grass cannot thrive without herbivores.

Grasslands are so potent in their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that some believe restoring natural grasslands could be one of the most effective tools in the fight against runaway global warming.

“Grass is so good at building [carbon rich] soil that repairing 75 percent of the planet’s rangelands would bring atmospheric CO2 to under 330 ppm in 15 years or less,” Lierre Keith writes.

The implications of this are immense. It means, quite simply, that one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is to move away from agriculture, which is based upon the destruction of forests and grasslands, and towards other means of subsistence. It means moving away from a way of life 10,000 years old. It means rethinking the entire structure of our food system – in some ways, the entire structure of our culture.

Some ambitious, visionary individuals are working in parallel with this strategy, racing against time to restore grasslands and to stabilize Earth’s climate.

In Russia, in the remote northeastern Siberian state of Yakutia, a scientist named Sergei Zimov has an ambitious plan to recreate a vast grassland – a landscape upon whom millions of herbivores such as mammoths, wild horses, reindeer, bison, and musk oxen fed and roamed until the end of the last ice age.

“In future, to preserve the permafrost, we only need to bring herbivores,” says Zimov. “Why is this useful? For one, the possibility to reconstruct a beautiful [grassland] ecosystem. It is important for climate stability. If the permafrost melts, a lot of greenhouse gases will be emitted from these soils.”

Zimov’s project is nicknamed “Pleistocene Park,” and stretches across a vast region of shrubs and mosses, low productivity communities called ‘Taiga’. But until 12,000 years ago, this landscape was highly productive pastures for a span of 35,000 years, hosting vast herds of grazers and their predators.

“Most small bones don’t survive because of the permafrost,” says Sergei Zimov. “[But] the density of skeletons in this sediment, here and all across these lowlands: 1,000 skeletons of mammoth, 20,000 skeletons of bison, 30,000 skeletons of horses, and about 85,000 skeletons of reindeer, 200 skeletons of musk-ox, and also tigers [per square kilometer].”

These herds of grazers no only supported predators, but also preserved the permafrost beneath their feet, soils that now contain 5 times as much carbon as all the rainforests of Earth. According to Zimov, the winter foraging behavior of these herbivores was the mechanism of preservation.

“In winter, everything is covered in snow,” Zimov says. “If there are 30 horses per square kilometer, they will trample the snow, which is a very good thermal insulator. If they trample in the snow, the permafrost will be much colder in wintertime. The introduction of herbivores can reduce the temperatures in the permafrost and slow down the thawing.”

In the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, a similar plan to restore the landscape and rewild the countryside has emerged. The brainchild of Deborah and Frank Popper, the plan calls for the gradual acquisition of rangelands and agricultural lands across the West and Midwest, with the eventual goal of creating a vast nature preserve called the Buffalo Commons, 10-20 million acres of wilderness, an area 10 times the size of the largest National Park in the United States (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska).

In this proposed park, the Popper’s envision a vast native grassland, with predators following wandering herds of American Bison and other grazers who follow the shifting grasses who follow the fickle rains. The shifting nature of the terrain in the Great Plains requires space, and this project would provide it in tracts not seen for hundreds of years.

In parts of Montana, the work has already begun. Many landowners have sold their farms to private conservation groups to fill in the gaps between isolated sections of large public lands. Many Indian tribes across the United States and Southern Canada are also working to restore Bison, who not only provide high quality, healthy, traditional food but also contribute to biodiversity and restore the health of the grasslands through behavior such a wallowing, which creates small wetlands.

Grasslands have the power to not only restore biodiversity and serve as a rich, nutrient-dense source of food, but also to stabilize global climate. The soils of the world cannot survive agricultural civilizations for much longer. If the plows continue their incessant work, this culture will eventually go the way of the Easter Islanders, the Maya, the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Harrapans, or the Roman Empire – blowing in the wind, clouding the rivers. Our air is thick with the remnants of ancient soils, getting long overdue revenge for their past mistreatment.

The land does not want fields. It wants Bison back. It wants grasslands, forests, wetlands, birds. It wants humans back, humans who know how to live in a good way, in relationship with the soil and the land and all the others. The land wants balance, and we can help. We can tend the wild and move towards other means of feeding ourselves, as our old ancestors have done for long years. It is the only strategy that takes into account the needs of the natural world, the needs for a land free of plows and tractor-combines.

In time, with luck and hard work, that ancient carbon will be pulled from the atmosphere – slowly at first, but then with gathering speed. The metrics of success are clear: a calmed climate, rivers running free, biodiversity rebounding. The task of achieving that success is a great challenge, but guided by those who believe in restoring the soil, we can undo 8,000 years of mistakes, and finally begin to live again as a species like any other, nestled in our home, at peace and in balance, freed at last from the burdens of our ancestors’ mistakes.

Bibliography

Climate meddling dates back 8,000 years. By Alexandra Witze. April 23rd, 2011. Science News. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/71932/title/Climate_meddling_dates_back_8%2C000_years#video

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Global Emissions. Accessed June 23rd, 2012. http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html

The prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation of Europe. By Kaplan et al. Avre Group, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. Quaternary Science Reviews 28 (2009) 3016-3034.

‘Land Use as Climate Change Mitigation.’ Stone, Brian Jr. Environmental Science and Technology 43, 9052-9056. 11/2009.

‘Functional Aspects of Soil Animal Diversity in Agricultural Grasslands’ by Bardgett et al. Applied Soil Ecology, 10 (1998) 263-276.

Zimov, Sergei. Personal Interviews, June/July 2010.

DIY Resistance: Recover Empathy

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

The dominant culture kills our ability to empathize. Faucets deliver water over great distances silencing the voices of rivers. Super-markets place meat on chilled display shelves hiding the sacred ceremonial relationship between hunter and prey. Pornography produces orgasms without mutual vulnerability.

Sockeye salmon swimming upstream

Sockeye salmon swimming upstream

One way empathy is killed is through alienation. The comforts of civilization alienate us from our ancient roles as members of natural communities. Electric lights drown out the stars. Asphalt divorces our feet from the soil. Walls block the caresses of the summer breeze. The hole we’ve burned in the sky forces us to wear UV-resistant sunglasses dulling the vibrant colors of the day.

Another way empathy is killed is through the entitlement that follows this alienation. Living too long in a system that allows us to eat plants without ever seeing where they were grown, that gives us computers without ever seeing where their metals were mined, and that gives us clothing sewn by children in boiling warehouses we will never visit encourages us to forget.

Psychologist R.D. Laing explains the process brilliantly, “If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also.” If Jill reminds Jack of the migratory songbirds killed everyday by cell phone towers, Jack might encourage Jill to forget by simply denying this is true. He might forbid Jill to mention the birds in his presence. Or, a more effective means to encourage Jill to forget is to convince her not to worry about the birds because we deserve cell phones. We have every right to communicate with anyone in the world wherever they are whenever we want. And, those birds are just birds, after all.

***

Consider the war being waged on women by men. How is it possible that men who are given their very lives by women can wage this war? How is it possible that men many of whom claim to love women can perpetuate this violence?

The first answer is the loss of empathy.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1 out of 3 women have suffered rape or attempted rape worldwide. (http://www.nsvrc.org/publications/fact-sheets/worldwide-sexual-assault-statistics) Every 17 minutes a woman is raped according to the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Another Canadian survey by DeKeserdy and Kelly reports that four out of five female undergraduates have been victims of violence in a dating relationship.

Meanwhile, the porn industry makes more money than Hollywood. (http://stoppornculture.org/about/about-the-issue/facts-and-figures-2/) A 2007 report by Bridges and Wosnitzer “Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography: A content analysis update” appearing in the International Communication Association is enlightening. Bridges and Wosnitzer report 88.2% of the top rated scenes contain aggressive acts. In 70% of these scenes, a man is the aggressor, and 94% of the time the act is directed towards a woman. Open-hand slapping occurs in 41.1% of the scenes.

Pornography is both an expression of and a leading cause for the destruction of empathy. When sex is mediated through a television or computer screen the viewer’s sexual satisfaction is alienated from its beautiful expression in true mutuality. Sex, in the real world, involves the building up of trust between partners. Sex, in the real world, involves the truly magical experience where lovers offer their vulnerabilities in order to share in one another’s bodies.

When sexual satisfaction can be ordered up by placing a DVD into a player or clicking on a link, feelings of entitlement grow. Just like Jack and Jill from Laing’s example, when Jill reminds Jack that pornography is not real, that the bodies of women do not look like that, that acting out the scenes depicted bring her no pleasure, Jack can ignore Jill and gain his orgasms through porn at the expense of the bodies of women he will never have a true relationship with. Jack can point to the prevalence of porn to argue that porn must be natural and undermine Jill. Or, Jack can emulate the men getting off in his favorite scenes and explain to Jill that men are entitled to these actions. We can hear Jack saying, “Look, babe, this is just how it is.”

Jill’s experience is negated for Jack’s entitlement. Jack’s empathy dies.

***

In the first installment of my “Do-It-Yourself: Resistance” series, I wrote that the first step towards a life devoted to saving what is left of the world is to fall in love. The next step is to recover empathy.

Too many in this dominant culture have lost or ignore their ability to feel the suffering of others. Civilization is based on the domination of others. Our comforts depend on the exploitation of others. Laborers are sweating, suffocating, and dying in mines that bring us the metals for our phones, computers, and solar panels. Children are starving due to policies such as the debts imposed on colonized nations by imperial instruments like World Bank. Leatherback sea turtles are critically endangered due to the pollution of the seas.

How would those destroying the planet act if they suffered from the lung ailments suffered by miners? How would those destroying the planet act if it were their screaming from the pangs of hunger? How would those destroying the planet act if they went to eat their dinner only to discover they were consuming a plastic bag too late to prevent the plastic bag from catching in their throats?

It is difficult to recover our empathy because the dominant culture encourages us so strongly to forget with television, with drugs, with pornography, but it is imperative that we cut into our hearts to regain the connections that have always been there. Resistance would become much stronger if more of us truly felt the suffering surrounding us.

Go outside. Let the wind play with your hair. Let the sun warm your skin. Take your sunglasses off and admire the vibrancy surrounding you. Watch the pattern of bumblebees in a camas field. Watch bear cubs wrestle in fireweed. Ask their mother what she needs for her family. And, listen.

Ask your lover to come with you outside. Ask your lover who she is. Ask him to tell you his dreams. Ask her what she wants, what makes her feel good. And, listen.

Look up at the stars. Watch them dance across the space between. Let their light pierce you. Ask them what they want. And, listen.

After listening, act. Act with everything you’ve got because you share in the emotions of those around you.

***

On Monday, August 4, 2014 while I’ve been working on this piece, the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond overwhelmed its dam and released 10 billion liters of polluted water and 4.5 million cubic meters of fine sand into the Hazeltine Creek near Likely, British Columbia. Over the past year, the Imperial Metals Corporation dumped 326 tons of nickel, 400 tons of arsenic, 177 tons of lead, and 18,400 tons of copper into the pond. The spill is depositing this waste through the entire Quesnel and Cariboo river systems. With the sockeye salmon beginning their annual runs up the rivers, this disaster could not come at a worse time.

I have heard many people express hope that maybe – finally – this is the disaster that will wake the world up to the seriousness of the world’s crisis. I remember many people expressing the same hope after the BP Gulf Oil Spill. I remember many people expressing the same hope after Fukushima. But, here we are again.

Have you ever seen the sockeye run up a river? Have you ever seen the brilliant flashes of their bright bodies in a cold current? Have you heard the rivers singing joyous greetings songs to announce the sockeyes’ arrival?

Can you see the poison seeping over the dam and down the channels? Can you taste bitter metals in your water? Can you hear the sockeye weeping?

If you can’t, when will you? If you can, what are you going to do about it?

Browse Will Falk’s DIY Resistance series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

DIY Resistance: Fall in Love

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who first published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

Three months ago, I packed up my 80-litre pack with my tent, sleeping bag, four t-shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of thermals, five pairs of underwear, my toothbrush, and six collections of poetry (only the essentials) and made the journey from San Diego, CA to the Unist’ot’en Camp on traditional Wet’suwet’en land in so-called British Columbia.

Salish Sea

Salish Sea

I fell in love with the Unist’ot’en Clan, the Camp, and their work. I decided it was time to dig in to defend the land and I’ve been in Canada working to support the Camp ever since. It took me 27 years, two degrees, two suicide attempts, a failed romantic relationship, and a deserted legal career to finally devote myself to radical resistance.

It is becoming increasingly clear that one of the many reasons the environmental movement is losing so bad is we suffer from a lack of committed individuals determined to resist for as long as it takes. I am committed to saving what’s left of our burning world because I am deeply in love.

I have finally arrived at this commitment and I hope you will, too. Here is the first in a series of pieces I am calling “Do-it-Yourself: Resistance.” These are my reflections on my path to resistance. Everyone’s path will be different, but people who embark on this path should know that the trail has already been blazed. They should know they will not have to walk the trail alone and in darkness. There’s a community of us and we are growing stronger.

***

The first step is falling in love.

It is true that falling in love may make you vulnerable. Destruction rages on around us. When you’re in love and you shed the armor of denial, the truth might wound you. When you’re in love and you seek the filthy corners of this culture, the truth might stain you. When you’re in love and you dare to peer directly into the flames consuming life on this planet, the truth might burn you.

When you’re in love and your beloved is dying, how can you do anything but try to protect your beloved?

Opening yourself to love may make you vulnerable because destruction rages around us. With global temperature averages rising, clean water disappearing at astonishing rates, and human population growing exponentially, the planet’s ability to support life is in serious jeopardy. Every thing we love is under attack.

I must be honest: learning how to love dragged me into the deserts of severe depression. I think many are too scared of the truth and their own reactions to the truth to visit this desert. It can be dangerous.

Sometimes depression will not quit. Mine won’t. It’s been 16 months since my first suicide attempt and just under a year since my second. Because depression is characterized as an illness I reasoned that I would eventually recover from my illness and live a healthy life. The darkness would simply be a tough time in my life that would fade in my memory as the course of my life pushed forward.

In many ways, this view was encouraged by my therapists and doctors. After my second suicide attempt, I was checked into an intensive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) program. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) describes the methodology of CBT in treating mental illness, “By exploring patterns of thinking that lead to self-destructive actions and the beliefs that direct these thoughts, people with mental illness can modify their patterns of thinking to improve coping.”

What were the “patterns of thinking” that lead me to “self-destructive actions?” As a public defender, I loved my clients so much the thought of them in jail compelled me to work harder and harder, longer and longer hours until I was exhausted. As a member of a natural community, I loved my land base so much that the continual degradation of Lake Michigan by industry sometimes caused me to weep.

And, “coping?” Through CBT I was taught that if I could just learn how to cope, I’d heal myself of depression. The popular proverb “If you can’t change the world, change yourself” comes to mind. I’ve always hated this expression for the way it encourages inaction. If the world doesn’t change, so much of what I love will be destroyed. Therapy based on changing individuals instead of our destructive culture puts the patient in the horrible position of either ignoring her love or changing what she’s in love with.

And what could be more depressing than that? In some senses, isn’t denying the love you feel a sort of death in itself?

To me, the only true therapy will come from stopping the dominant culture. We all know what the consequences might be for seeking to change the world.

Sister Dorothy Stang, a Roman Catholic nun standing up for indigenous peoples in Brazil, received perpetual death threats from logging companies before she was shot six times on her way to a community organizing meeting in Anapu, Brazil. Anna Mae Aquash – a Mi’kmaq activist with the American Indian movement – was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation with a bullet in the back of her head. Fred Hamptom, the Deputy Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, was drugged by the FBI before they sprayed his bedroom with automatic gun fire and fired two shots into his head at point blank range to make sure he was “good and dead, now.”

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think Sister Stang, Anna Mae Aquash, or Fred Hampton developed mental illnesses through their work. I can even imagine a therapist asking them if their habit of demanding justice might be causing some of their anguish. But, Sister Stang, Anna Mae Aquash, and Fred Hamption never gave into the comforting acceptance encouraged by coping. They were in love with oppressed peoples. They wanted to change the world and they went about doing it.

***

I still feel suicidal sometimes. Death is a seductive whisper at the edge of my consciousness. I suffer from situational and spiritual vulnerabilities. I’m completely broke. I’m not sure where I’m going to live in three weeks. I’m not sure when my family is going to get sick of me being away and make their anxiety felt. I’m afraid that my new Canadian friends may discover the darkness my mind tends to and decide its too much work to be around me.

My heart turns the shade of gray that comes from profound weariness. I’m haunted by the sight of forests at Unist’ot’en Camp decimated by climate-change induced beetle infestations. The worst part is the way the once proud, tall, green pines are left standing when the beetles are done with them. The pines stand as towering grave-markers warning of the disaster this world faces if we cannot stop the destruction. My stomach fills with the gnawing acid of anxiety and anger as the radio lists the dead in Palestine. When the mangled bodies of children make it to my newsfeed I wonder how my stomach will keep the acid from burning a hole through my guts.

Besides being suicidal, you know what else I am?

Alive. I am, despite feeling all this, still alive.

Being alive lets me strip to my underwear and dip in the freezing Salish Sea. I step on sharp rocks watching crabs with delight. They play their own version of “King of the Hill” competing over pieces of seaweed on a submerged stone. As the green shadow of seaweed approaches their perch, crab siblings bump one another off the stone before snatching the seaweed in their pinchers and gobbling it down. I cut my heel on a rock and a gang of fish comes to investigate the blood. Their mouths are soft as they press against the cut. Before long the blood stops, and the fish settle in the warm spaces between my toes.

Being alive lets me enjoy the contrast of the hot sun on my back when I emerge from the cold sea. Being alive lets me taste the fresh ginger molasses cookies we brought to snack on. Being alive lets me hear the cries of wheeling sea gulls overhead.

Most importantly, being alive empowers me to be in love. I will not give into suicide because I’m in love with the Salish Sea, the crabs, the school of fish, the sun, the taste of ginger molasses cookies, and the cries of sea gulls on the beach.

Love will give you the strength to travel through the spiritual deserts of depression and even suicidal ideation. My continuing survival is proof of this. The continuing survival of countless others struggling with the emotional ailments facing us in these times is proof of this. Stand with us. Fall in love. Learn how to love at whatever cost. Love may make you vulnerable to feelings of despair. This is natural. It means you’re alive – and being alive is everything. It means you can resist and resistance gives your beloved a chance.

Browse Will Falk’s DIY Resistance series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog

2014 Sacred Water Tour Report-Back

Max Wilbert, Susan Hyatt, Katie Wilson, and Michael Carter, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

In late May 2014, members of Deep Green Resistance (DGR), Great Basin Water Network, the Ely-Shoshone Indian tribe, and others toured the valleys of eastern Nevada and western Utah targeted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) for groundwater extraction.[1] The region is part of the Great Basin, a cold desert named for its lack of any drainage to an ocean. What rain falls in the Great Basin remains there in a few streams, ponds, lakes, springs, and aquifers. It is these aquifers that SNWA wants to pump into a central pipeline and bring to the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson. The Goshute and Shoshone tribes and many groups, local individuals, businesses, and governments oppose the project, now stalled by lawsuits. DGR initiated the Sacred Water Tour to help familiarize potential opponents with the land and the water conflict.

We met on the 24th at the Goshute Tribal Headquarters, in the tiny town of Ibapah, Utah, near the Nevada border.   More than a year earlier, DGR coordinators Max Wilbert and Michael Carter met the tribal council here for the first time, to offer solidarity and assistance with the water-grab fight.

Goshute Tribal Headquarters

Goshute Tribal Headquarters

It was the Goshute’s dilemma that first attracted our attention to the SNWA pipeline.[2] Both the Goshute and Ely Shoshone (the Shoshone in this region called themselves “Newe”) have reservation land in the affected area, and both have been fighting the pipeline since it was first proposed. Rick Spilsbury, a Shoshone man from Ely, Nevada, led the tour, which began with Spring Creek, near Ibapah in Antelope Valley.

Spring Creek sustains a rich diversity of life. Rare Bonneville cutthroat trout swim in the creek and reservoir, elk come to drink, and many medicinal and edible plants grow in the riparian areas. Watercress lines the creek, and stinging nettles and wild rhubarb grow under the shade of the rocks where the water emerges. The stewardship of the Goshute has been integral in the return of Bonneville cutthroat to their native waters, and Spring Creek is essential in the restoration of the native fish population.[3]

About a dozen Goshute people went along this part of the tour, including young children transfixed by the sight of water springing straight from rock. The small stream cooled a channel through hot, dry air. The Goshute seemed especially quiet here, though all laughed when one of us held up a handful of old elk droppings, apparently thinking we didn’t know what they were. There seemed a lightness of heart to the mood, maybe because all felt that for the time being, the spring was safe.

Pond at Spring Creek and Deep Creek Range

Pond at Spring Creek and Deep Creek Range

SNWA suffered a major legal setback in December, 2013, when a Nevada District Court judge ruled that the State Engineer’s decision allowing the groundwater pumping was “arbitrary and capricious,” and also “criticized the proposed plan to monitor and take action if damage to the environment occurs and stated there must be scientific triggers.”[4] “Triggers” are events—such as the drying of springs or wells—that would force SNWA to cease pumping water and re-evaluate how it’s impacting an aquifer.

Before this ruling, SNWA wouldn’t even negotiate the possibility of triggers, according to tour guide Rick Spilsbury. Though SNWA has appealed, and other federal lawsuits against the project are pending, the overall outlook for now is good. As Spilsbury explained it, SNWA owns the water rights but because they’re locked in litigation, the water must legally stay put. However, he also cautioned that in the midst of this wave of good news is the bad news that weary pipeline opponents are becoming complacent.

It is important to remember that no success is guaranteed to last as long as industrial civilization stands. And any loss will be effectively permanent. Overdrawn aquifers will not return to their original states on timescales meaningful to humans. It’s possible to stop the SNWA pipeline, but if organized action doesn’t materialize before it’s too late, the effects are irreversible.

“My people have lived here sustainably for over 10,000 years,” said Spilsbury. “We want that for all of the Earth for another 10,000 years.”

From Spring Creek, the tour proceeded south through Antelope Valley into Spring Valley. Spring Valley would be mined for 61,127 acre feet of water annually (one acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land a foot deep—about 325,850 US gallons). Along with other valleys targeted for wells—Delamar, Cave, and Dry Lake—the project may produce 200,000 acre feet of water per year.

That night, we stopped to camp at Cleve Creek on the eastern edge of Spring Valley. We did not see any of the “Indian Petroglyphs” indicated on the map, but the place’s coolness, its cottonwoods and willows, its little gurgling creek, the distant tree-spotted meadows in the Schell Creek Range above, all spoke of its endurance and durability. The vestigial ice-age water below the surface—not so long ago, these valleys were long fjords of inland seas, the many mountain ranges slender peninsulas and islands—had a quiet language of its own, too. This quiet of the Great Basin is immense, sometimes intimidating. At Cleve Creek that night, as small thunderstorms came and went and birds and bats circled in the twilight, the calm was overwhelmingly of peace and security.

The conversation turned to the topic of bears and, as if the sky were participating, the clouds parted to reveal the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear), whose seven brightest stars are also known as the Big Dipper.

The next day we went further south through Spring Valley to the Swamp Cedars, a place that is both sacred and horrible to Goshute and Shoshone peoples. For many generations, this was a gathering place, trading ground, and ceremonial area. But only two generations ago, Mormon settlers and the U.S. cavalry attacked Newe gathered at this location.[5] Over a hundred people were killed in three massacres.

Sacred Water Tour, 2014

Sacred Water Tour, 2014

After paying our respects, admiring the rare ecology of a valley-floor forest in Nevada, and contemplating the sobering fact that this site is surrounded by SNWA test wells and is constantly threatened (a nearby wind farm was originally sited in the cedars), we proceeded further south.

After passing through Ely for resupply, long dirt roads carried us further south in sagebrush valleys between several mountainous wilderness areas (including Mount Grafton Wilderness). These remote, life-filled areas are threatened by the water grab as well.

In the heat of the afternoon, we dropped down to the West to Hot Creek Springs and Marsh Area, part of Kirch Wildlife Management Area. We visited Adams-McGill Reservoir, an oasis full of fish, flanked by many birds and lined with thick bulrush. A great blue heron waited nearby to show us that life can thrive in the desert—if there is water.

Kirch Wildlife Management Area

Kirch Wildlife Management Area

The endangered White River spinedace live in these waters, and are directly threatened by the proposed pipeline which would drain crucial habitat for the few remaining spinedace populations.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “A recent environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline project disclosed that major vegetation and ecosystem changes would occur on more than 200,000 acres, including wetlands that will dry up and wildlife shrubland habitat converted to dryland grasses and noxious weeds. More than 300 springs would also be hurt, along with more than 120 miles of streams.”[6]

We headed back into Cave Valley via an extremely rough road, and we guessed that it rarely travelled. No place to break down. Even though the herd of wild horses we glimpsed knew where to find water out in these dry open valleys, there is no guarantee we could find drinking water. There are few perennial streams or springs. Most of the water is held in the ground, and the shallow groundwater brings life. Every drop of water counts. Water stolen means death to many of those who call this land home.

As the Goshute put it, “even a slight reduction in the water table will result in a cascade of wildlife and vegetation impacts directly harming our ability to engage in traditional practices of hunting, gathering, and fishing on ancestral lands. As our former Chairman Rupert Steele has pointed out; ‘if we lose our language or our lands, we will cease to be Goshute people.’ SNWA’s groundwater development application is the biggest threat to the Goshute way of life since European settlers first arrived on Goshute lands more than 150 years ago.”[7]

Before reaching our next camp in a small pass along the side of Cave Valley, we passed beneath the great tilted limestone peaks of the Schell Creek mountain range.

 Schell Creek Mountains

Schell Creek Mountains

Our campsite that evening, with views into two valleys threatened by SNWA, reminded us of what happened to the Owens River Valley in California after a water extraction project. The valley was turned into a desiccated, dusty landscape largely devoid of life.[8]

That evening, we watched the sunset—a vibrant backdrop of rust, fuschia, and vermillion—from a remote limestone bluff above the pass until the light faded and hunger and darkness drove us back to camp.

Great Basin sunset, Cave Valley

Great Basin sunset, Cave Valley

The sun rose bright on our final morning, cicada song rising in volume with the light. We drove east along several more valleys before dropping into Lake Valley, where SNWA has purchased several ranches. The largest ranch was scandalized when SNWA fired a ranch manager for sexually harassing a female employee. According to Spilsbury, the money-losing ranch is an unpopular venture for the semi-public water agency, even in Las Vegas.

The day was warming quickly, reminding us this desert isn’t always cold. Lake is a broader valley than the others, the mountain ranges lower and gentler than those just to the west. Here the distance felt lonelier, more desolate, yet grazing antelope and circling ravens made their ways through the heat and bright sun. We made a final stop at another SNWA test well, and found beetles and ants and many other subtle crawling things in the cow-burnt soil. A sign in the bulldozed perimeter read “restoration area” with no evident irony at all. We said goodbye, wondering what would happen next, what we could do. The fate of this land seems in the hands of lawyers and judges, where a city’s agents have squared off against the scattered peoples of the dry valleys who only seem to want to be left alone. This is the old weary story of civilization—of legitimized theft, of an inevitable trajectory of civilized human endeavor that always ends in ruin. Yet the land wants to live.

SNWA Test Well site, Cave Valley

SNWA Test Well site, Cave Valley

As long as the cities of civilization exist near these wild places of sage and sky, they will have their eyes on the water. Even with precious little water evident in the landscape and ecology of the dry valleys, the judge in the December court ruling has noted that the SNWA water-grab is “likely the largest interbasin transfer of water in U.S. history”.[9] If the pipeline is approved the beautiful land will be permanently transformed into a dry dead place in the same way that other lands have been destroyed by this culture of extraction. As Derrick Jensen says, “Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.”[10]

DGR Southwest Coalition is searching for strategies to add defenses to the water and communities of the region. One possibility is being advanced by Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which “works with communities to establish Community Rights—such that communities are empowered to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability.”[11] We welcome any suggestions and offers to help; we also encourage you to join the yearly Sacred Water Tour next May.

 

[1] Michael Carter, “Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups,” Deep Green Resistance News Service, June 17, 2013, http://dgrnewsservice.org/2013/06/17/groundwater-pipeline-threatens-great-basin-desert-indigenous-groups/

[2] Stephen Dark, “Last Stand: Goshutes battle to save their sacred water,” Salt Lake City Weekly, May 9, 2012, http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/article-35-15894-last-stand.html?current_page=all

[3] US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Status Review for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout,” October 2001, http://wildlife.utah.gov/cutthroat/BCT/literature/fws/bct_status_review.pdf

[4] Lukas Eggen, “Opponents of SNWA pipeline earn ‘complete victory’,” The Ely Times, December 13, 2013, http://www.elynews.com/2013/12/13/opponents-snwa-pipeline-earn-complete-victory-2/

[5] Delaine Spilsbury, “Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project Public Comment,” October 5, 2011, http://water.nv.gov/hearings/past/springetal/browseabledocs/Public Comments/Delaine Spilsbury 3.pdf

[6] Center for Biological Diversity, “Top 10 U.S. Endangered Species Threatened by Overpopulation,” October 28, 2011, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2011/7-billion-10-28-2011.html

[7] Protect Goshute Water, “Southern Nevada Water Authority Groundwater Pumping & Pipeline Proposal,” The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, accessed June 24, 2014, www.GoshuteWater.org

[8] Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert. New York: Viking Penguin, 1986.

[9] Rob Mrowka, “Lawsuit Filed to Halt Massive Las Vegas Water Grab: Pipeline Would Dry Up Springs and Wetlands, Hurt Fish, Sage Grouse, Pronghorn and Other Species” Center for Biological Diversity, February 12, 2014http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2014/southern-nevada-water-authority-02-12-2014.html

[10] Derrick Jensen, Endgame (Volume I): The Problem of Civilization. New York: Seven Stories, 2006.

[11] Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, “Community Rights,” accessed June 25, 2014, http://www.celdf.org/section.php?id=423

From Unist’ot’en Camp: No Word for Good-Bye

Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who transcribed and first published the original handwritten manuscript.

Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

June 9, 2014

no-pipelines

Editor’s Note:  Will’s first two essays about Unist’ot’en Camp are here and here.

Leaving Unist’ot’en Camp was hard. As I stepped away from a group of new friends passing pens and notebooks around to share contact information, I found myself on the banks of the Morice River under the pines. Looking up to see their silver and green tops swaying with the sky, I wondered if the pines were discussing the worth of my actions at the Camp. For the first time in my life, I was being watched by trees that I was directly involved in protecting. I studied the splinters still stuck in my hand from the construction site. I rubbed the black bruise under my left thumbnail where I missed a nail with my hammer. My shoulders were sore from holding heavy roof rafters precisely in place so they could be installed properly.

I hoped the trees approved of my efforts. Then, realizing this desire could only mean I was in love, I began to cry.

I was only at Unist’ot’en Camp for a couple weeks, but the first days after leaving felt like something had been pulled out of my stomach. At the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, there is a shopping center with a Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, a corporate bookstore selling $25 copies of hardcover bestsellers, and a chocolate shop selling individually wrapped candies. Still unshowered, smelling of camp fire and sweat, with Unist’ot’en Camp soil under my fingernails, I almost asked my friend, Rusty, if we could turn around and drive the 12 hours back to the Camp. Immediately.

I wandered around in this fog for a few days struggling with a feeling of meaninglessness so far from the Camp. It wasn’t until I was sharing coffee with a Dene friend that I found some peace. He had previously been to Unist’ot’en Camp, so we talked about our experiences. I explained to him how difficult I was finding it to be back. He told me that he always leaves the bush with a renewed sense of the interconnectedness of all things.

“I understand your feelings. It’s easy to feel empty down here. Easy to forget that there is no beginning or end to the connections between all life,” he said. “That’s why the Dene have no word for good-bye in our language.”

***

The night before I left the Camp, I sat with a friend on the forestry road bridge leading into camp. We were watching shooting stars, swallows performing their hunting dance, and sharing poetry. The conversation turned to why we write poetry. The Morice River rushed at us and under us with her powerful current roaring at the concrete bridge foundations we were sitting on. I started with my usual explanation that the land is speaking, my poetry is my attempt to listen to what the land is saying, and, once hearing the land’s language, to write it all down. I quoted some Simon Ortiz lines about his poetry being his attempt to explain as simply as possible his relationship to everything. With my friend’s supportive ear to help me build my ideas, I felt safe enough to tell her about my suicide attempts and the role poetry and writing has played in my recovery.

Then, as the river’s voice grew louder, I began to make a connection. I saw that poetry helps me to understand my relationships with natural communities. I realized that the river’s voice was no metaphor. The river really was speaking. And, speaking, the river could be a friend.

One of the feelings contributing to my struggles with depression is a constant feeling of loneliness. Let’s face it, if you’ve read much of my work – especially any of my anti-civilization work – I am in a political minority. Most of my friends and family are supportive, but it is tough for them to share in the intensity of my views. Most people are uncomfortable hearing arguments for the death of capitalism, the end of extractive corporate colonialism, the reality of male hegemonic violence, all coupled with my insistence that dogmatic non-violence may not be the path to redemption.

But, as I recognized the river as a subjective being with its own voice, its own preferences, desires, and destiny, it became more difficult to feel so lonely. Once open to the possibility that the river could be a friend, other beings like the trees, stones, swallows, and moths become potential friends, become potential allies in the desperate, lonely struggle to preserve life on Earth.

***

I travel back to Unist’ot’en Camp on the trails in my memory.

The moss is thick on the forest floor where I sit. Soft with warm greens and browns, this moss makes the perfect seat for contemplation. The sun barely crests the treetops. It is morning. In this space, before my mind fills with the thoughts of the day, I let my awareness seep into the reality surrounding me.

My breathing deepens with the pines. I breathe in the oxygen they breathe out and they breathe in the carbon dioxide I breathe out. I reach to my water bottle still cold from the night. The Morice River water I collected last night is delicious. It wakes up my tongue, flows down my throat, pools in my stomach, and then travels to my cramping legs through my veins. The water becomes my sweat. My sweat will fall from my brow onto pebbles to be filtered through the soil to drain back into the river.

Down at the big kitchen tent they are preparing moose for breakfast. This moose walked the land with heavy limbs, munching on twigs and leaves, naturally tilling the forest floor and recycling the forest’s nutrients. Now, her meat will sustain me as I work carrying heavy loads and hammering nails spending the day in constant motion. The protein from her muscles is used by my muscles. And one day, my meat sustained by the moose’s meat will be returned to the soil where worms and other organisms will break me down to sustain plants.

I begin to dissolve into a collection of relationships. I am the temporary arrangement of physical forces in this particular space. This collection I call “me” is comprised of borrowed materials. The same organic chemicals that are me were once a moose, before that a leaf, a drop of rainwater, and a ray of sunshine. As time works across space, this arrangement will loosen and I will be carried away by animals, birds, worms, rivers, oceans, and winds to sustain this grand process we call life. Time is only a circle transposed over space. There is no beginning and no end. There are only cycles on a land base. It has always been this way and there will never be another way.

Of course, the land could be so maimed as to render these life-giving cycles empty. The natural order of the land could be disturbed to the point where the cycles spin into dangerous destructive processes. In many places this is already happening. This is exactly why the Unist’ot’en Camp must succeed in stopping the pipelines. The extraction, transportation, and burning of fossil fuels involves a process of stealing the decomposing remains of previous lives in the form of oil, coal, and natural gas from their natural cycles. Cycles that should operate in million year revolutions are being combusted into instant explosions. And, as we’re seeing, the results are disastrous.

***

My sadness about leaving Unist’ot’en Camp is beginning to subside. I do not think that it will ever completely ease up nor do I think it ever should. It’s easy to say that a part of Camp will always be with me. Many of us have no trouble with the notion that our memories can never be taken from us. Our tendency to stop at purely mental constructs is due to our willingness to accept our internal psychological processes as the primary proofs of reality. The idea that each one of us is a fundamentally isolated entity doomed to existential loneliness is wrong. The horrible destructive Cartesian maxim, “I think, therefore, I am” is utter bull-shit.

I learned an invaluable lesson at the Camp that can be transferred to everywhere life exists. I do believe that nothing I see can be taken from me. But, it’s deeper than that. It’s not just mental or emotional. It is the literal, physical relationships at work in the world that define us. During the time I was there eating food off the land, drinking water from the river, and breathing air from the forest, I literally was Unist’ot’en Camp. The Morice River is an ally that I do not believe wants pipelines crossing her proud current. The pine trees are being killed by an over-population of beetles stemming from shorter winters due to climate-change. If you listen to the pines, I think they will tell you that they want to live.

dgr-quotes-Falk-NoWordForGoodbyeAnd just as matter can neither be created nor destroyed, when you and your land base engage in the mutual sharing of bodies trading processes, materials, and spirit in the holiest of intercourses, you can never truly leave that land base and that land base can never truly leave you.

In short, there is no word for good-bye in the language of life.

Browse Will Falk’s Unis’tot’en Camp series at the Deep Green Resistance Blog