The book I’m currently reading, Endgame: The Problem of Civilization by Derrick Jensen, lays out an
irrefutable case for how industrial civilization is killing the planet, how it’s doomed to collapse, and how our only
hope for even limited survival is to bring about this collapse as soon as possible and keep it as controlled as
possible. The logic is impeccable: industrial civilization began with the steam engine, a device drawing on energy
that was trapped on this planet millions of years ago in organic matter and is now trapped in coal, oil, and other
such substances. There is a finite supply of this energy, and as we are rapidly—repeat, RAPIDLY—burning it all
up. It won’t be very long before it completely runs out, probably within our lifetimes.
Everybody who knows anything about anything must know this. Yet NOBODY TALKS ABOUT IT
because…well…it’s just so depressing. We all talk about global warming, terrorism, war, hunger, poverty, etc.
and these things are all terrible but they are actually just side effects of the real problem: civilization itself—
particularly western civilization. Western civilization expands, conquers, uses up all the resources and then
moves on to expand and conquer some more. Unless we find a new planet to conquer some time very soon—
and I mean soon—there will be no more resources left to exploit, and it will all come crashing down.
“But surely technology will save us!” shouts the poor delusional kid in the back of the room. “Humans are too
smart to let that happen.” Well, sorry kid, but unfortunately there’s really not much technology can do, unless
somebody discovers how to get cold fusion—which can never really work—to work. The fact is, there’s only so
much energy on this planet and we’re gobbling it all up like there’s no tomorrow. And if we continue, there won’t
be any tomorrow, at least for us. We can talk all we want about alternative fuel sources, but no technology we
know of can possibly replace the oil-based economy. Do you think corn is going to save us? Ethanol takes more
energy to produce than it yields. Solar power won’t do the trick either, as to harness that power we will need
equipment that can only be manufactured industrially anyway. Wind? You’ve got to be kidding. How hard can
Nope, it’s all going down, and that’s the undeniable truth. Believe me, I’m just as disappointed as the rest of
you. Not to say I think civilization is such a wonderful thing—I almost killed myself in high school because of the
soul-crushing reality of this world (and I think a girl had something to do with it too)—but I was really hoping to
be riding interstellar spaceships through the galaxy at some point in the future and it doesn’t really look like that’s
going to happen. Nope, the only sustainable way of living is to live like the Native Americans, who enjoyed
generations’ worth of highly satisfying lives before Western civilization came along and raped, plundered, and
pillaged it all away in the name of God and Progress.
The real question is whether civilization is going to continue long enough to the point where returning to the native
lifestyle becomes impossible because we’ve fucked up the planet so much that human beings—or maybe even all
forms of life—will not even be able to survive here anymore. Just look at Venus with its atmosphere full of carbon
dioxide. Life can’t exist there, and if we keep doing what we’re doing there’s absolutely no guarantee that Earth
won’t turn into a smouldering cauldron just like it. Billions of years of beautiful oceans, rivers, and a fantastic
variety of living, breathing, miraculous creatures including human beings…and then Western civilization comes
along, invents the steam engine, and in just a few centuries it’s all completely wiped away. There have been five
mass extinctions on this planet before. We are now causing the sixth. Will this one be the last?
Personally, I sincerely hope not. If not for our sake, at least for all those other creatures that might have been able
to survive on this planet had it not been for us. And personally, I’d also hope that the planet will still be able to
support us once it’s all over. I may hate the societies that human beings are currently trapped in, but I don’t hate
human beings. Thanks to civilization we’re all fucking insane, but if the beast is gone and we’re once again living
in small tribes in harmony with the land and the creatures we share it with, each of us with the potential for true
significance in our own small communities (as opposed to being doomed to total insignificance in the monstrous
world-community we’re building now) and we are all blessed with the true experiences of love, family, and
tradition—I think human beings can be downright lovely people. Just look at all the wonderful art that we’ve
produced. Pink Floyd alone is worth the entire three million years of human existence.
And finally, I must confess that a big part of the reason I don’t want to see humanity go is that some of us are just
too damned beautiful to go extinct. Sorry, but there’s nothing in the universe more lovely to me than a human
woman, and it makes me very sad to think that if we keep killing the planet like we’re doing, the next century may
see the birth of the last human woman to exist in the universe. And without women, the universe is just a cold,
desolate, worthless place as far as I’m concerned.
But it wouldn’t really matter, would it? A human woman is only going to be beautiful in the eyes of another
human, and if there are no humans at all there’s no real loss to the universe anyway, is there? The world will keep
on circling the sun, even if there’s nobody on board for the ride. The moon will keep on shining even if there’s
nothing down here to appreciate it. The universe will just keep on expanding and expanding and the Brahman will
continue dreaming until the yin yields to yang and it’s time for the next period of rest. Then the whole cosmic
drama will start all over again, and should something like humanity somehow find a place somewhere in these new
cosmos, they may then have the chance to avoid the mistakes we made this time…
Or…we can avoid them this time….We just have to face the reality, as frightening as it may be, and figure out
what to do about it. This is the End. But is this the End?
Kem Stone - December 2007