Thursday, March 01, 2007


There was some debate via email lists about the protest to oppose the building of dams on the Salween river. The debate was framed in terms of “human life vs global warming” with the point being raised that if the hydro electric dams were not built then more coal would be burnt. I think this highlights well how those in power are allowed to frame the debate and choose the battle ground. Letting those in power set the debate as a choice between coal and hydro puts us in the position where we are arguing for the best way to destroy the planet. I don’t want any more power to be generated; I don’t want to spend my time arguing for the best way to kill the planet.

Environmentalists too often only argue for that which industrial civilization can easily give them – things which make industrial civilization more efficient and allow it to destroy the planet at ever increasing rate. We argue for things which are relatively public friendly such as Nandor’s call to ban plastic bags last night. We argue for things which make us feel better but which ultimately do not matter. But we never question the system which always has and always will destroy this planet. Our civilization is irredeemable and cannot voluntarily make a switch to a sustainable way of living – this is the message we must hold and this is the message that must guide our actions. We must come to choose the battlefields and the terms of the battle.

I am not going to chose between coal or dams because that’s a choice we do not have to make. The demand for power is unsustainable – it cannot be sustained. This is what we need to tell people, that you cannot drive your car, that you will not be able to buy tomatoes in the middle of winter, that you will probably become unemployed as our system collapses. We must no longer be complicit and we must let our opposition to the entire system be known.

For me I don’t want cleaner cars, I don’t want carbon sequestration, I don’t want an end to plastic shopping bags. I want for my harbour - the Manukau to become cleaner every year, I want the number of cars to decrease every year, I want the number of houses connected to the electricity grid to decrease each year. I want to live in a society that values human life, the environment and freedom above profit and greed. I want to live in a society where the food I eat is not systematically poisoned. To get to this point I will use any tools available, including reformist action but ultimately I am guided by the knowledge that this system cannot and will not change willingly or soon enough to prevent the largest extinction ever.


Anonymous said...

would this mean opposing trade unions and workers' strikes for better pay and conditions? that'd seem to be part of the logic of your position.

John said...

In some cases it would mean supporting the indigenous communitys over the concerns of miners, or other workers on the front line of civilisation. In most cases it would mean aiding workers, giving them the tools and skills nessacary to survive. Most of the time the needs of communitys and the needs of the environment are exactly the same - sustainable healthy communities

Anonymous said...

But in NZ most workers either directly or indirectly survive due to the farming/primary production sector, which you regard as wholly bad, and they spend their wages and salaries on products like hamburgers, TVs and so on which you think are destroying the planet. So why do you support workers when they try to get more money? To take a concrete example: what was your attitude toward the supermarket workers' strike last year?

John said...

I supported it spending dozens of hours a week organising food and monetary donations organising pickets across auckland writing and taking photos of the strike and spending several hours a night on the picket.

I did this because these workers are on the lowest rung of society and I see the effects of this on the community I live in. The bigger picture and my wider beliefs do not stop me working on issues which are directly relevant to the community. While their will always be a conflict between these larger picture ideas and our day to day reality I think we should work to end poverty and oppression in our current society.

I also think we should be educating and helping people so when things do get bad as they will inevitably they have the tools and skills nessacary to survive. Even if things don't get apocalyptic teaching people to grow their own food that isnt drenched in poison and talking to people about the destructive nature of our current civilisation is an inherently good thing in my opinion.