Sustainability is destroying the Earth

Don’t talk to me about sustainability.  You want to question my lifestyle, my impact, my ecological footprint?  There is a monster standing over us, with a footprint so large it can trample a whole planet underfoot, without noticing or caring.  This monster is Industrial Civilization.  I refuse to sustain the monster.  If the Earth is to live, the monster must die.  This is a declaration of war.

What is it we are trying to sustain?  A living planet, or industrial civilization?  Because we can’t have both.

Somewhere along the way the environmental movement – based on a desire to protect the Earth, was largely eaten by the sustainability movement – based on a desire to maintain our comfortable lifestyles.  When did this happen, and why?  And how is it possible that no-one noticed?  This is a fundamental shift in values, to go from compassion for all living beings and the land, to a selfish wish to feel good about our inherently destructive way of life.

The sustainability movement says that our capacity to endure is the responsibility of individuals, who must make lifestyle choices within the existing structures of civilization.  To achieve a truly sustainable culture by this means is impossible.  Industrial infrastructure is incompatible with a living planet.  If life on Earth is to survive, the global political and economic structures need to be dismantled.

Sustainability advocates tell us that reducing our impact, causing less harm to the Earth, is a good thing to do, and we should feel good about our actions.  I disagree. Less harm is not good.  Less harm is still a lot of harm.  For as long as any harm is caused, by anyone, there can be no sustainability. Feeling good about small acts doesn’t help anyone.

Only one-quarter of all consumption is by individuals.  The rest is taken up by industry, agribusiness, the military, governments and corporations.  Even if every one of us made every effort to reduce our ecological footprint, it would make little difference to overall consumption.

If the lifestyle actions advocated really do have the effect of keeping our culture around for longer than it would otherwise, then it will cause more harm to the natural world than if no such action had been taken.  For the longer a destructive culture is sustained, the more destruction it causes.  The title of this article isn’t just attention-grabbing and controversial, it is quite literally what’s going on.

When we frame the sustainability debate around the premise that individual lifestyle choices are the solution, then the enemy becomes other individuals who make different lifestyle choices, and those who don’t have the privilege of choice.  Meanwhile the true enemy — the oppressive structures of civilization — are free to continue their destructive and murderous practices without question.  This is hardly an effective way to create a meaningful social movement.  Divide and be conquered.

Sustainability is popular with corporations, media and government because it fits perfectly with their aims.  Maintain power.  Grow.  Make yourself out to be the good guy.  Make people believe that they have power when they don’t.  Tell everyone to keep calm and carry on shopping.  Control the language that is used to debate the issues.  By creating and reinforcing the belief that voting for minor changes and buying more stuff will solve all problems, those in power have a highly effective strategy for maintaining economic growth and corporate-controlled democracy.

Those in power keep people believing that the only way we can change anything is within the structures they’ve created.  They build the structures in a way that people can never change anything from within them.  Voting, petitions, and rallies all reinforce the power structures, and can never bring about significant change on their own.  These tactics give corporations and governments a choice.  We’re giving those in power a choice of whether to grant our request for minor reform.  Animals suffering in factory farms don’t have a choice.  Forests being destroyed in the name of progress don’t have a choice.  Millions of people working in majority-world sweatshops don’t have a choice.  The 200 species who became extinct today didn’t do so by choice.  And yet we give those responsible for all this murder and suffering a choice.  We’re granting the desires of a wealthy minority above the needs of life on Earth.

Most of the popular actions that advocates propose to achieve sustainability have no real effect, and some even cause more harm than good.  The strategies include reducing electricity consumption, reducing water use, a green economy, recycling, sustainable building, renewables and energy efficiency.  Let’s look at the effects of these actions.


We’re told to reduce our consumption of electricity, or obtain it from alternative sources.  This will make zero difference to the sustainability of our culture as a whole, because the electricity grid is inherently unsustainable.  No amount of reduction or so-called renewable energy sources will change this.  Mining to make electrical wires, components, electrical devices, solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal plants, biomass furnaces, hydropower dams, and everything else that connects to the electricity grid, are all unsustainable.  Manufacturing to make these things, with all the human exploitation, pollution, waste, health and social impacts, and corporate profits.  Fossil fuels needed to keep all these processes going.  Unsustainable.  No amount of individual lifestyle choices about electricity use and generation will change any of this.  Off grid electricity is no different – it needs batteries and inverters.

Water conservation

Shorter showers.  Low-flow devices.  Water restrictions.  These are all claimed to Make A Difference.  While the whole infrastructure that provides this water – large dams, long distance pipelines, pumps, sewers, drains – is all unsustainable.

Dams destroy the life of a whole watershed.  It’s like blocking off an artery, preventing blood from flowing to your limbs.  No-one can survive this.  Rivers become dead when fish are prevented from travelling up and down the river.  The whole of the natural community that these fish belong to is killed, both upstream and downstream of the dam.

Dams cause a lowering of the water table, making it impossible for tree roots to get to water.  Floodplain ecologies depend on seasonal flooding, and collapse when a dam upstream prevents this.  Downstream and coastal erosion results.  Anaerobic decomposition of organic matter in dams releases methane to the atmosphere.

No matter how efficient with water you are, this infrastructure will never be sustainable.  It needs to be destroyed, to allow these communities to regenerate.

The green economy

Green jobs.  Green products.  The sustainable economy.  No.  There’s no such thing.  The whole of the global economy is unsustainable.  The economy runs on the destruction of the natural world.  The Earth is treated as nothing but fuel for economic growth.  They call it natural resources.  And a few people choosing to remove themselves from this economy makes no difference.  For as long as this economy exists, there will be no sustainability.

For as long as any of these structures exist: electricity, mains water, global economy, industrial agriculture – there can be no sustainability.  To achieve true sustainability, these structures need to be dismantled.

What’s more important to you – to sustain a comfortable lifestyle for a little longer, or the continuation of life on Earth, for the natural communities who remain, and for future generations?


We’re made to believe that buying a certain product is good because the packaging can be recycled.  You can choose to put it in a brightly-coloured bin.  Never mind that fragile ecosystems were destroyed, indigenous communities displaced, people in far away places required to work in slave conditions, and rivers polluted, just to make the package in the first place.  Never mind that it will be recycled into another useless product which will then go to landfill.  Never mind that to recycle it means transporting it far away, using machinery that run on electricity and fossil fuels, causing pollution and waste.  Never mind that if you put something else in the coloured bin, the whole load goes to landfill due to the contamination.

Sustainable building

Principles of sustainable building: build more houses, even though there are already enough perfectly good houses for everyone to live in.  Clear land for houses, destroying every living thing in the natural communities that live there.   Build with timber from plantation forests, which have required native forests to be wiped out so they can be replaced with a monoculture of pines where nothing else can live.  Use building products that are slightly less harmful than other products.  Convince everyone that all of this is beneficial to the Earth.

Solar power

Solar panels.  The very latest in sustainability fashion.  And in true sustainability style, incredibly destructive of life on earth.  Where do these things come from?  You’re supposed to believe that they are made out of nothing, a free, non-polluting source of electricity.

If you dare to ask where solar panels come from, and how they are made, its not hard to uncover the truth.  Solar panels are made of metals, plastics, rare earths, electronic components.  They require mining, manufacturing, war, waste, pollution.  Millions of tons of lead are dumped into rivers and farmland around solar panel factories in China and India, causing health problems for the human and natural communities who live there.  Polysilicon is another poisonous and polluting waste product from manufacturing that is dumped in China.  The production of solar panels causes nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) to be emitted into the atmosphere.  This gas has 17 000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Rare earths come from Africa, and wars are raged over the right to mine them.  People are being killed so you can have your comfortable Sustainability.  The panels are manufactured in China.  The factories emit so much pollution that people living nearby become sick.  Lakes and rivers become dead from the pollution.  These people cannot drink the water, breathe the air or farm the land, as a direct result of solar panel manufacturing.  Your sustainability is so popular in China that villagers mobilise in mass protest against the manufacturers.  They are banding together to break into the factories and destroy equipment, forcing the factories to shut down.  They value their lives more than sustainability for the rich.

Panels last around 30 years, then straight to landfill.  More pollution, more waste.  Some parts of solar panels can be recycled, but some can’t, and have the bonus of being highly toxic.  To be recycled, solar panels are sent to majority-world countries where low-wage workers are exposed to toxic substances while disassembling them. The recycling process itself requires energy and transportation, and creates waste products.

Solar panel industries are owned by Siemens, Samsung, Bosch, Sharp, Mitsubishi, BP, and Sanyo, among others.  This is where solar panel rebates and green power bills are going.  These corporations thank you for your sustainable dollars.

Wind power

The processing of rare earth metals needed to make the magnets for wind turbines happens in China, where people in the surrounding villages struggle to breathe in the heavily polluted air.  A five-mile-wide lake of toxic and radioactive sludge now takes the place of their farmland.

Whole mountain ranges are destroyed to extract the metals.  Forests are bulldozed to erect wind turbines.  Millions of birds and bats are killed by the blades.  The health of people living close to turbines is affected by infrasound.

As wind is an inconsistent and unpredictable source of energy, a back-up gas fired power supply is needed.  As the back-up system only runs intermittently, it is less efficient, so produces more CO2 than if it were running constantly, if there were no turbines.  Wind power sounds great in theory, but doesn’t work in practice.  Another useless product that benefits no-one but the shareholders.

Energy efficiency

How about we improve energy efficiency?  Won’t that reduce energy consumption and pollution?  Well, no.  Quite the opposite.  Have you heard of Jevon’s paradox?  Or the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate?  These state that technological advances to increase efficiency lead to an increase in energy consumption, not a decrease.  Efficiency causes more energy to be available for other purposes.  The more efficient we become at consuming, the more we consume.  The more efficiently we work, the more work gets done.  And we’re working at efficiently digging ourselves into a hole.

The economics of supply and demand

Many actions taken in the name of sustainability can have the opposite effect.  Here’s something to ponder: one person’s decision not to take flights, out of concern about climate change or sustainability, won’t have any impact.  If a few people stop flying, airlines will reduce their prices, and amp up their marketing, and more people will take flights.  And because they are doing it at lower prices, the airline needs to make more flights to make the profit it was before.  More flights, more carbon emissions.  And if the industry hit financial trouble as a result of lowered demand, it would get bailed out by governments.  This “opt-out” strategy can’t win.

The decision not to fly isn’t doing anything to reduce the amount of carbon being emitted, it’s just not adding to it in this instance.  And any small reduction in the amount of carbon being emitted does nothing to stop climate change.

To really have an impact on global climate, we’ll need to stop every aeroplane and every fossil-fuel burning machine from operating ever again.  And stopping every fossil-fuel burning machine is nowhere near the impossible goal it may sound.  It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely achievable.  And it’s not only desirable, but essential if life on this planet is to survive.

The same goes for any other destructive product we might choose not to buy.  Factory-farmed meat, palm oil, rainforest timbers, processed foods.  For as long as there is a product to sell, there will be buyers.  Attempting to reduce the demand will have little, if any, effect.  There will always be more products arriving on the market.  Campaigns to reduce the demand of individual products will never be able to keep up.  And with every new product, the belief that this one is a need, not a luxury, becomes ever stronger.  Can I convince you not to buy a smartphone, a laptop, a coffee?  I doubt it.

To stop the devastation, we need to permanently cut off the supply, of everything that production requires.  And targeting individual companies or practices won’t have any impact on the global power structures that feed on the destruction of the Earth.  The whole of the global economy needs to be brought to a halt.

What do you really want?

What’s more important – sustainable energy for you to watch TV, or the lives of the world’s rivers, forests, animals, and oceans?  Would you sooner live without these, without Earth?  Even if this was an option, if you weren’t tightly bound in the interconnected in the web of life, would you really prefer to have electricity for your lights, computers and appliances, rather than share the ecstasy of being with all of life on Earth?  Is a lifeless world ruled by machines really what you want?

If getting what you want requires destroying everything you need – clean air and water, food, and natural communities – then you’re not going to last long, and neither will anyone else.

I know what I want.  I want to live in a world that is becoming ever more alive.  A world regenerating from the destruction, where every year there are more fish, birds, trees and diversity than the year before. A world where I can breathe the air, drink from the rivers and eat from the land.  A world where humans live in community with all of life.

Industrial technology is not sustainable.  The global economy is not sustainable.  Valuing the Earth only as a resource for humans to exploit is not sustainable.  Civilization is not sustainable.  If civilization collapsed today, it would still be 400 years before human existence on the planet becomes truly sustainable.  So if it’s genuine sustainability you want, then dismantle civilization today, and keep working at regenerating the Earth for 400 years.  This is about how long it’s taken to create the destructive structures we live within today, so of course it will take at least that long to replace these structures with alternatives that benefit all of life on Earth, not just the wealthy minority.  It won’t happen instantly, but that’s no reason not to start.

You might say let’s just walk away, build alternatives, and let the whole system just fall apart when no-one pays it any attention any more.  I used to like this idea too.  But it can’t work.  Those in power use the weapons of fear and debt to maintain their control.  The majority of the world’s people don’t have the option of walking away.  Their fear and debt keeps them locked in the prison of civilization.  Your walking away doesn’t help them.  Your breaking down the prison structure does.

We don’t have time to wait for civilization to collapse.  Ninety per cent of large fish in the oceans are gone.  99 per cent of the old growth forests have been destroyed.  Every day 200 more species become extinct, forever.  If we wait any longer, there will be no fish, no forests, no life left anywhere on Earth.

 So what can you do?

Spread the word.  Challenge the dominant beliefs.  Share this article with everyone you know.

Listen to the Earth.  Get to know your nonhuman neighbours.  Look after each other.  Act collectively, not individually.  Build alternatives, like gift economies, polyculture food systems, alternative education and community governance.  Create a culture of resistance.

Rather than attempting to reduce the demand for the products of a destructive system, cut off the supply.  The economy is what’s destroying the planet, so stop the economy.  The global economy is dependent on a constant supply of electricity, so stopping it is (almost) as easy as flicking a switch.

Governments and industry will never do this for us, no matter how nicely we ask, or how firmly we push.  It’s up to us to defend the land that our lives depend on.

We can’t do this as consumers, or workers, or citizens.  We need to act as humans, who value life more than consuming, working and complaining about the government.

Learn about and support Deep Green Resistance, a movement with a working strategy to save the planet.  Together, we can fight for a world worth living in.  Join us.

In the words of Lierre Keith, co-author of the book Deep Green Resistance, “The task of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much personal integrity as possible; it is to dismantle those systems.”


41 responses to this post.

  1. hi kim, glad to see this here as i missed the workshop. encouraging you to check in at

    the drunk guy


  2. this I like. this is honest


  3. Posted by Eric Nicholson on September 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Great blog Kim – lots to think about – even more to do…


  4. I’d like to both disagree (with the definitions) and agree (with the sentiment)! 

    I think sustainability is about relocalisation, decentralisation and diversity, which fosters resilience, and agree with many of your points under your subheadings. Despite our current denial, we cannot sustain a growth economy on a planet that is not expanding – although even this discussion is finally starting to happen closer to the mainstream (we’re into the bargaining stage of the grief cycle!).

    Also absolutely agree with your point that asking individuals to make slightly greener choices within a dysfunctional social and economic framework does not equate to sustainability. Story of Stuff Project’s latest vid was on this very issue:

    > You might say let’s just walk away, build alternatives, and let the whole system just fall apart when no-one pays it any attention any more. I used to like this idea too. But it can’t work…Your walking away doesn’t help them. Your breaking down the prison structure does.

    And you’re right that those who ‘get it’ can’t just disconnect and live life according to their values without worrying about those larger systems – because when the industrial structures do collapse (one thing not discussed here is peak oil, which will be our biggest undoing), there will be a lot of desperate people who don’t have access to food, or the skills to sustain themselves. And they won’t be sitting around wringing their hands, they’ll be out looking for what they need, and they’ll take it from wherever and whoever they can.

    > What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.

    Over time, the word ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ has been co-opted by certain forces, particularly corporations – there was even a ludicrous comment about ‘ecologically sustainable uranium mining’ in this state a few years back! The word, the concept has been bastardised. Do we abandon it or reclaim it?

    >Somewhere along the way the environmental movement – based on a desire to protect the Earth, was largely eaten by the sustainability movement – based on a desire to maintain our comfortable lifestyles.

    My view has always been the opposite – that speaking of ‘the environment’ tends to infer a disconnect between people and nature, as if nature is somehow ‘out there’ and divorced from the human experience. It also enables certain elements who want to attack ‘greenies’ by saying they are misanthropes, don’t care about social justice etc, when the two are clearly two sides of the same coin. This contributes to ‘divide and conquer’ and stops us recognising our true problem. A society that exploits its environment will exploit each other; a society that exploits each other will exploit its environment. Although the terms ‘green’ and ‘sustainability’ have, I believe, both been co-opted by vested interests (those who speak of ‘green growth’ and ‘sustainable consumption’, for example), I don’t see the notion of sustainability as the enemy. True sustainability would require human societies to understand they are subordinate to nature, and that economies are subordinate to a society – neither nature, nor people, should be used as fuel for any economy.

    > What’s more important – sustainable energy for you to watch TV, or the lives of the world’s rivers, forests, animals, and oceans? Would you sooner live without these, without Earth? Even if this was an option, if you weren’t tightly bound in the interconnected in the web of life, would you really prefer to have electricity for your lights, computers and appliances, rather than share the ecstasy of being with all of life on Earth?

    Here’s the problem – a large number of people would say their electricity is more important, certainly in the time frame they understand (day to day life), especially if it’s presented only as an either/or choice. We have a culture of billions of people who are unconsciously unsustainable, and very few people think like ‘pioneers’ (see ).

    So how can we ‘onboard’ the prospectors and the settlers (bearing in mind many pioneers also have some of the prospector and settler in them)?

    In my 20 years in this movement, I’ve come to the realisation that people tend not to respond to messages where they feel they are being blamed, that they are a planetary burden by virtue of their existence because they have arrived at this point in history in this culture. We need other ways to influence people.

    This is why people like Paul Ehrlich, author of the Population Bomb, a conservation biologist for 40 years, have now turned their attention to how to bring about cultural change:

    And we also have to be careful with our own sense of virtue – because even those of us who know this are still using products (like the computers we use to write and publish our thoughts) that contain rare earth materials, toxic components, and which make communities sick where they often end up at the end of their useful life. We are also the wealthy minority to six sevenths of the world’s population.

    >Only one-quarter of all consumption is by individuals. The rest is taken up by industry, agribusiness, the military, governments and corporations. Even if every one of us made every effort to reduce our ecological footprint, it would make little difference to overall consumption.

    And yet, individuals are purchasing the products (usually unknowingly, or often unwillingly) created by corporations, government and agribusiness.

    Piecemeal change within existing systems won’t cut it, I agree. Co-creator of the Ecological Footprint William Rees once said something that captures the essence well:

    ‘There is no particular virtue in becoming more efficiently unsustainable’

    Thanks for this interesting discussion!


    • Right, in fact I think in order to be sustainable efficiency needs to be balanced with resiliency or it gets brittle and breaks, so pushing efficiency can create problems. See 25 years of research on complex network flows by R. N. Time to build local economies using local currencies and ramp up local organic food, and other essentials, production. These things sound small in a world bloated with superfluous crap but they will be big when the crap is just composting junk that won’t work anymore.


  5. Posted by David Myhre on July 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I have a question. So, if we we’re to achieve this and on a global scale, or at least started working toward the eventual final outcome, the goal, what would it look like? Would we be evolving “back” toward a tribal based society globally? In the number of billions? If anyone has a solid realistic answer to this question please post! I’m trying to visual and imagine it, but I just can’t. Modern’s man’s inventions and materials are here to stay, and we’re going to have a mass amount of this (Plastic for several hundreds of years at least, and nuclear remains for thousands).


    • My thoughts exactly, David. This all sounds wonderful on “paper,” but I didn’t see any realistic suggestions (I do like the alternative community ideas, but for the foreseeable future they likely will remain just that — alternative). Cut off the supply? How are you going to get folks to stop taking hot showers, or using cars, or electricity? I work in the environmental movement, and I will tell you the first thing that shuts most “regular” folk down quicker than anything is radical ideology. The concept of every little bit helps is practically the only way we can get through to the people who choose to live with blinders on. I agree with you personally, a radical change IS what needs to happen, but unless you forcibly take the candy away from the baby, the baby is going to keep eating the candy.

      I just don’t think widespread anarchy will work right now, not unless our economy collapses — what mothers or fathers do you know that will risk their children’s lives and futures when a “comfortable” life is still available?

      I think we need to work at making the “alternative” not so alternative anymore. Make farmers markets and new food communities more accessible and less intimidating to mainstream folks. Promote the concept of distributed generation electricity by working to convince your local town to install community-owned solar on the courthouse or county jail. I could go on and on, but I do know that you can’t stop an aircraft carrier in less than a mile and you can’t change a 1/2 century paradigm in just a few years. If you have a better idea, don’t waste your time attacking other people’s methods, especially if we’re on the same “team” — just start DOING it. Today. Right Now. Be the change you want to see.


    • exactly, David, …. where is the image, the plan, the outlook for the exponentially grown population of 400+ years???? I loved the encapsulation of the prisoners choice in ‘fear and debt’, very nicely put…. necessity keeps people treading the same path,…. and then it’s pain and sadness that keeps them consuming more and more, emptiness, feeling a hollow inside – that’s what we can work on together – the inside of people – because if it were just the excess wants driving the growth economy they’d be easier to give up, but the basic human needs and desires, those are difficult to ignore. People want comfort, financial security, physical security, food security…. and the older you get the less radical you become about trying to achieve those ends, or the more tempered…. unless you are so financially secure you can start a new radical life and excite all the young people into following you – the young people who will suddenly wake up one day and realise they have a big education debt and no financial security…. for example when they fall pregnant and start raising a child and wonder where they will school this little person, and where this little person will be educated and work and so on. While there is only this old world there has to be a way to forge inroads that eventually break it apart, but the inroads must be fulfilling ones, not just rebellious ones.


  6. Posted by Jinny on July 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I agree that it is the system, not the way we work within the system that needs to be changed. I feel the frustration the author has for people who think they are doing enough by using less water or electricity, or having a more energy efficient car. But, I also believe that the true definition of sustainability is creating something that lasts forever. Therefore, those who truly understand living sustainably and advocating for sustainability know that you can make changes to the system by how you spend your money and how you live. It’s not about finding your way in the current system, it’s about creating and supporting a system that meets our goals and needs. That is hard for individuals alone to do, but we can all put efforts towards it.


  7. I understand what you are saying, I think…. But if you were truly checked out of society yourself, you wouldn’t be using social media to send this message. Electricity, electronic devices made by slave labor creating pollution, etc etc.


  8. Posted by Stan on July 16, 2013 at 3:59 am

    It should be noted that newly-independent and desperate for cash Greenland is a Rare Earth minerals paradise. It is also a very fragile and near virgin wilderness that is now becoming accessible to mining equipment, etc; due to melt from global warming. The drop in prices in Rare Earth minerals will fuel a mining, processing and ultimately consumer marketing boom in products containing these minerals.


  9. Hey, very potent article. I feel this part makes a good summary:
    “How about we improve energy efficiency? Won’t that reduce energy consumption and pollution? Well, no. Quite the opposite. Have you heard of Jevon’s paradox? Or the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate? These state that technological advances to increase efficiency lead to an increase in energy consumption, not a decrease. Efficiency causes more energy to be available for other purposes. The more efficient we become at consuming, the more we consume. The more efficiently we work, the more work gets done. And we’re working at efficiently digging ourselves into a hole.”

    I also really appreciate Sharon’s in depth reply. Thanks Sharon! I intend to check out some of those links!

    What I would REALLY like to see from this author is more in the side of solutions. You’ve pointed out many flaws, and only given a vague idea at solutions beyond hinting that maybe we should just die since we can’t stop this train anyway.
    You also mention that “alternatives” aren’t working, but then in the end say we need more alternatives. So which ones should we adopt exactly?

    I like your passion!



  10. Posted by Tree on July 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I see our human existence as a part of the earth’s ecosystem. When we go too far out of balance, nature will take its course. Either we will go extinct as well, or our numbers will be diminished dramatically. I don’t think any individual needs to take into their own hands what nature can do quite effectively. The course is already set. We just do the best we can, and hang on for the ride.


  11. Posted by marcfortebob on July 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    “would you really prefer to have electricity for your lights, computers and appliances, rather than share the ecstasy of being with all of life on Earth?”

    Unless you’re envisioning human numbers so decimated that we go back to hunter-gatherer culture this is romanticism. Before modern technology was available, life for most people (at least in cooler climates) was a monotonous, uncomfortable, short, and mostly unpleasant slog, and nature was seen as much as an enemy just as much as a friend. It’s a pretty big stretch to imagine that ‘gift economies, and polyculture food systems’ would be enough to turn that scenario around, and that ‘alternative education’ would survive very long under the relentless daily grind of meeting necessity without technology.

    Leaving that aside have you ever seen images of what cancer can end up doing to people without modern surgery? Can you imagine, say, breast cancer surgery without anaesthetic? Most people’s wish to acquire the benefits of technology, and difficulty in giving these things up, is not, by and large, based on greed or stupidity or brainwashing by corporations. The benefits technology brings are huge on an individual level and cannot be dismissed so easily.

    I’m a carpenter; if it was not for the help of machines I would now (if I had been producing enough work to be a meaningful contributor in an unmechanised culture in a cold climate) be riddled with arthritis and approaching functional old age at 40. And I would have had precious little time or energy to enjoy nature, or contribute to my culture in other ways during that time. The fact that people have light to see after dark, and therefore to function after the working day is done, has made a vast difference to the richness of their lives, culturally, personally and politically.

    It’s great to acknowledge the enormity of the problems we face, but romanticising the alternatives doesn’t help either. We’re in a hole and if there is any kind of answer out there it will be more complex, and less black and white, than what you are suggesting.


  12. Posted by Joy on July 21, 2013 at 11:02 am

    as well as the thought of ‘resist and dismantle’ maybe we can hold this thought in our consciousness ‘a world that is becoming ever more alive. A world regenerating from destruction, where every year there are more fish, birds, trees and diversity than the year before’… only thing is, to my mind, the latter is wholly possible without the existence of humans which always leaves me questioning why we are here at all


  13. Marc: you’re speaking on behalf of the richest five or ten percent of the world’s population. The majority of people don’t have access to surgery, and are suffering to make modern medicine available to this minority. Their lives are impoverished, not enriched, by industrial civilization.


    • Posted by marcfortebob on July 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      “you’re speaking on behalf of the richest five or ten percent of the world’s population. ”

      No, I’m not. The vast majority of the remaining 90% want to have those things as well and given the chance, take them. Quite understandably.


  14. […] Originally posted by Stories of Creative Ecology here. […]


  15. Posted by Africa Great Lakes Fund on August 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Dunno if I agree just yet… but I certainly enjoyed reading this and the question certainly keeps me busy!


  16. Posted by Matt on August 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

    “To live harmlessly is impossible” Thomas Berry


  17. […] hugs for all, she showed me a journal, which caught my attention, because of the bold title, “Sustainability is Destroying the Earth!” There’s a whole section on the dangers of solar power, and one of my personal tasks for the day, […]


  18. Thomas Berry also said we are entering an era where the central concern of human community will be the well being of the comprehensive earth community. He introduced the term the ecozoic era.


  19. […] Original article by Kim, Stories of Creative Ecology […]


  20. Posted by John71 on January 23, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Many interesting points made. However, I must disagree with the dismantling of the system and agree more with a re-inventing of the system. Bill McKibben’s “Deep Economy” book touches on this – the need to localize our economy. Also, the work of Paolo Soleri ( shows that there are alternatives to the car-centric culture in which societies have thrived.

    Without social structures, however, we would probably have more social problems than we currently have given the amount of people in the planet. Also, I agree with the comment about technology. Technology and scientific advancements have made a positive difference in the world – take Polio, for example, which would affect over half a million people every year at it’s peak ( Also, the advancement in computing power has been remarkable ( and no doubt it has allowed to advance medicine and scientific research much quicker than it would have been possible with out it. It’s not that technology doesn’t have a downside, because it does, but it has helped humanity greatly – not to mention the fact that technology has significantly improved the lives of the blind and the paralyzed (voice recognition computers, etc.).

    I believe that reinventing the system is possible (perhaps more so than trying to dismantle it). Dismantling would mean fighting all government and business super-powers which would probably create some sort of civil war. Re-inventing, however, could be worked out more like a deal where the institutions are smaller (localized) and restructured but still there, businesses still exist but on smaller and local scales, electricity generation is largely decentralized, and people have a greater sense of community (sharing a common garden instead of having individual backyards for example), and so on. Something like this is quite more possible than “killing” the system. Put yourself in their position too, many people who are part of the system are innocent to the harms caused by the system (I don’t think it’s fair to blame a good-willing employee at a big company for the bad things that company does if that person is not in a position to change something within that company – he or she is just working there because the need for income).

    “Those in power keep people believing that the only way we can change anything is within the structures they’ve created. They build the structures in a way that people can never change anything from within them.” I must disagree. The Civil Rights movement is a proof that this statement is not 100% accurate. Sadly though, it is accurate most of the time, but if people organize and actually push for change, change can happen. Also, outside of the United States, I saw change first-hand in Venezuela where economic disparity had never been addressed how it has been in recent years until people organized and took action.

    It’s not easy, but change is possible.


  21. Posted by The Overthinker on January 23, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I haven’t even got half way through reading this but I need to comment…

    I know so few people who I can talk to about this stuff without it ending up in a fight, and even fewer people who are genuinely sympathetic to the realities.

    What to do?

    I’m not saying this from the perspective of someone who’s new to it all and just starting to dip into the literature. I’ve been at this for a long time, and still there are so few kin. I say that because almost every time I come across someone who really seems to be deep green I find that they are angry and want to hurt people who they think are to blame, instead of shouldering a portion of the blame themselves – as though they will find absolution through the violent overthrow of our violent system.

    I feel lost and alone as a critical, compassionate soul who gets it, but still doesn’t want to hurt anyone.


  22. […] movement advocate transitioning to a sustainable society with clean energy. Kim explains in this article why this is unrealistic. We do not have the time. See this recent report by James Hansen, who has […]


  23. References for claims made are wanting.


  24. Posted by pcisabela on August 14, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Reblogged this on isabelacallegari and commented:
    Não concordo com tudo, mas com a maioria. Uma visão extremista é sempre útil e importante pra questionar…


  25. […] Traduction d’un article (en anglais) initialement publié par Kim de Deep Green Resistance, à l’adresse suivante: […]


  26. Reblogged this on bluegrayeyes and commented:


  27. Posted by Justin tingler on May 3, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    I want to petition for a reservation to reclaim our right to be completly natural human seperste from government and cooperation ,I’ve started a page it isn’t big but we are going to protest in Ashland ,ky my page is (enlight in light ) it’s on Facebook,I don’t feel like we should have to pay for it if we don’t want to have no part in this twisted charade ,we didn’t ask to be born under a system like this. I want to live the way I was naturally intended.


  28. Posted by Statici on February 25, 2017 at 4:44 am

    Ok I’m stumbling upon this as of this year and I just have to say:
    Kim, you are INSANE.

    Thing is, all processes lead to increasing entropy in the universe. What is entropy? It is a measure of how many ways that things can be arranged (the more common misconception is that it is a “measure of disorder” but that is simply because with more options, the higher likelihood for disorder there is). Naturally, with higher disorder, we lead to a world with less-structured objects (such as life). To put it in simpler terms: Life doesn’t last forever, everything will die, and eventually the whole universe will just be a cold landscape of evenly-distributed dust. This is also referred to as the “heat death” of the universe. It is inevitable. It doesn’t matter what we as humans do; this is just what will happen, no matter what.

    You make posts all over your blog about how humans are causing destruction, and no amount of effort to slow down our destruction matters; we are just going to cause it. You are correct. However, your points are also largely moot, because, again, EVERYTHING is “destructive” in this manner. Even if every human on the earth kills themselves, right now, the earth will still be swallowed by the sun in a few billion years, and before that, another intelligent race will likely arise, and cause the same damage we have.

    I understand that you think it is morally objectionable for us to damage other species, to cause mass extinctions, and well: I agree with you. However, I also think that in such an entropic universe, it is important that we make some semblance of a meaningful structure. After all, should it just be a slow approach to dust with no interesting tidbits in between, or should there at least be moments where something cool pops up? Personally, I think it is a cool fact that your site CAN exist in the first place, and I’m sure you enjoy being able to communicate with thousands of people; convey your ideas and make people think. Thought, in of itself, is a cool thing. It is a thing humans are good at, and if you seek to stop our morally objectionable impact on the universe, you also have to admit that our very thoughts are dangerous. In fact, by the very nature of entropy, the more complex a process is, the more entropy it generates; the best way to slow down the growth of entropy, is to be as stupid as possible. That’s really what it boils down to; if you want to retain the moral high ground, you have to stop thinking.

    In any sense, if you DON’T want to stop thinking, you should know that any and every effort to produce a sustainable world, is doing so by reducing the entropic impact. They are doing what you want. There is also no point in trying to get humans to stop, because (a) they are not going to kill themselves (the most efficient route) and (b) they are NOT GOING TO STOP. So, if you want to stop the destruction…you can’t. But you can at least slow it down and minimize it. Your arguments, although they appear to be motivated by a need to stop the increase of entropy, are in fact, pushing for a speedup. Renewable resources cause the least damage, and lead to a world (where humans are present) where the entropic increase is the slowest it can be. You should be pushing FOR them, not against them.

    I just HAVE to leave this here. You don’t seem to UNDERSTAND that your efforts cause damage, so here you go.


    • Posted by Red Sage on February 27, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      If the term sustainability mostly refers to the ‘ability’ to sustain the continuing experience of humans in the world…. and it usually refers to particular business models and technologies, but never addresses the big picture reality of the unsustainablity of the human race on this planet….. then yes of course sustainability as a model is destructive. If it refers to the reduction of the impact of the continuing experience of humans in the world and the specific technological advances aimed at achieving that, eg algae biofuel, then it’s not in itself destructive, it’s just the way it’s implemented that inevitably contributes to the inherent nature of our race. So it’s the human race that is destroying the planet we inhabit. As for the inevitable destruction of all life, that’s as irrelevant as the creation of life. The issue is what to do with life, not how to stop it from ending.


      • Posted by Statici on February 28, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        >it usually refers to particular business models and technologies, but never addresses the big picture reality of the unsustainablity of the human race on this planet

        Actually, it puts restrictions on business models and technologies, for the purpose of reducing the

        “impact of the continuing experience of humans in the world”

        You seem to be thinking that people are initiating the sustainable environment act FOR THE PURPOSE OF BUSINESS PROFITS. That is not true at all. Talk to any scientist involved in climate change or green technologies; most of them get into it BECAUSE they care about reducing our footprint, not because they want to make a lot of money. In fact, most researchers in academia make less than $40k/yr; it’s definitely not for the money.

        If you are arguing against green tech, you are arguing against protection of the environment. It is just that simple.

      • Posted by Red Sage on February 28, 2017 at 4:42 pm

        actually…. seeing as you like the word,…. actually, green technologies will never be taken up in anything near a ‘sustainable” level unless they become commercially viable. Research jobs, even at only 40k per year won’t exist without investors. The big fossil fuel companies pulled out of the algae biofuel research and development because they believe that it will be 25 years before it can become a commercial enterprise. The development of the research findings is dependent on the business community and the social benefits of looking clean and green is usually not enough to get the level of investment required. If you read my post less defensively you will be able to get my point – being it’s not the sustainable technology that’s destroying the planet, it’s the human species. The main flaw with any sustainable system is not in the motivation of scientific research, it’s in the implementation of the enterprise and expansion of the technology. Take solar cells. Capitalist competitors are looking for ways to cut corners and undercut prices. The life cycle of this technology is as important as the ideology behind capturing the energy from the sun and replacing fossil fuels, dirty coal and environmentally risky methods such as fracking. But how clean is green? Solar cells are a worthwhile case to dig into.
        Another important “actually’ is at the end of the production line – the user. Just because someone installs solar panels on their roof doesn’t mean they are interested in protecting the environment and saving the planet. More often the motivation is saving money, not saving energy. The fact is solar panels give people the freedom to consume more energy. I didn’t make that up. Call it human nature…. yeh a destructive species.

      • Posted by Statici on February 28, 2017 at 5:15 pm

        “actually…. seeing as you like the word,…. actually, green technologies will never be taken up in anything near a ‘sustainable” level unless they become commercially viable.”

        Actually, solar is already more viable than coal. It may be a while before it becomes more viable than gas, but it will definitely GET there.

        As for your argument that we are enabling people to use more power: What do you think it will even be used for? Evil destruction because that’s what humans do? I know that’s what everyone here seems to think humanity exists for.

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