Bright green lies How the environmental movement lost its way and what we can do about it

Derrick Jensen, 1960-

Book - 2021

""Bright Green Lies exposes the hypocrisy and bankruptcy of leading environmental groups and their most prominent cheerleaders. The best-known environmentalists are not in the business of speaking truth, or even holding up rational solutions to blunt the impending ecocide, but instead indulge in a mendacious and self-serving delusion that provides comfort at the expense of reality. They fail to state the obvious: We cannot continue to wallow in hedonistic consumption and industrial expansion and survive as a species. The environmental debate, Derrick Jensen and his coauthors argue, has been distorted by hubris and the childish desire by those in industrialized nations to sustain the unsustainable. All debates about environmental p...olicy need to begin with honoring and protecting, not the desires of the human species, but with the sanctity of the Earth itself. We refuse to ask the right questions because these questions expose a stark truth-we cannot continue to live as we are living. To do so is suicidal folly. 'Tell me how you seek, and I will tell you what you are seeking,' the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said. This is the power of Bright Green Lies: It asks the questions most refuse to ask, and in that questioning, that seeking, uncovers profound truths we ignore at our peril."-Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of America: The Farewell Tour"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 304.28/Jensen Checked In
Rhinebeck, New York : Monkfish Book Publishing Company [2021]
Main Author
Derrick Jensen, 1960- (author)
Other Authors
Lierre Keith (author), Max Wilbert
Physical Description
xxii, 478 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
  • A Note from the Authors on Language
  • Preface
  • Prologue
  • The Spectrum of Environmentalism
  • Chapter 1. The Problem
  • Chapter 2. Solving for the Wrong Variable
  • Chapter 3. The Solar Lie: Part 1
  • Chapter 4. The Solar Lie; Part 2
  • Chapter 5. The Wind Lie
  • Chapter 6. The Lie of Green Energy Storage
  • Chapter 7. Efficiency
  • Chapter 8. Recycling
  • Chapter 9. The Green City Lie
  • Chapter 10. The Green Grid Lie
  • Chapter 11. The Hydropower Lie
  • Chapter 12. Other Lies
  • Chapter 13. More Solutions That Won't Work
  • Chapter 14. Real Solutions
  • Chapter 15. Conclusion
  • Afterword
  • Resources Guide
  • About the Authors
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this substantial if dispiriting volume, environmental activists Jensen (Deep Green Resistance) and Keith (The Vegetarian Myth), and journalist Wilbert deliver a thorough critique of the environmental protection movement and its reliance on renewable resources. Even recycling, they write, "requires an infrastructure that is harmful to both the environment and humanity," describing the vast amounts of energy required to recycle scrap metal and aluminum, and arguing that recycling is primarily a capitalist impulse: in 2015, for example, "the global recycling industry made more than $23 billion in profits." Electronic waste, meanwhile, often gets sent to Ghana or Pakistan, "where the country's poor pull apart or burn to 'recycle' the metals, living day and night with the acrid smoke." In addition to skewering the "false assumptions" of recycling, the authors call into question the efficacy of wind turbines (blades are manufactured from "energy-intensive plastics made from petrochemicals"), hydropower (dams impact "cultural sites and hunting, fishing, and gathering places"), and other renewable energy sources. While the survey is detailed and exhaustive, and the steady beat of doom and gloom is sobering, the lack of viable solutions to balance it is disappointing. Climate-minded readers may feel more overwhelmed than empowered. (Mar.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A critical look at the modern environmental movement and the promises of green, renewable technology. All technologies come laden with costs that are never factored in, including damage to the environment in producing the workings of machines and commodities. "No technology is neutral," write the authors. From that inarguable first tenet, they go on the attack. Even so-called environmentalists, they argue, are human-centered, and building things such as solar energy cells and wind towers are ineffective stopgaps meant to maintain wealthy lifestyles with minimum inconvenience. The real object of saving the world should be…saving the world--the spotted owls, the fish, the "last scrap of forest," etc. As long as the emphasis is on humankind and trying to salvage what remains of civilization, the environmental movement will be thwarted in its stated task of healing the planet of the wounds industrial civilization has inflicted. Many of the authors' points are cogent and well taken: Renewable energy sources have yet to do much to power the world, and producing solar cells and wind towers requires numerous rare metals--lithium, cerium, neodymium, yttrium, and the like--that are environmentally destructive to secure and do not easily lend themselves to recycling. The authors dismiss the longing of futurists and engineers for "technologies that haven't been invented yet"--though by other accounts, there is hope that such things as capturing the energy from tidal flows and deep-sea thermal vents may bear sustainable fruit. Unfortunately, the hectoring tone will likely repel more readers than draw them in. The authors are knowledgeable on many of the most significant issues we face, and there's useful information here, especially for diligent activists. However, the authors' tendency to yell at the choir and curtly dismiss any arguments advanced by "mainstream environmentalism" may dampen the appeal to general readers. A dour assessment of the current state of green technology. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Preface The American way of life is not up for negotiation. Period.[1] --George Herbert Walker Bush Once upon a time, environmentalism was about saving wild beings and wild places from destruction. Over the years, environmentalism has undergone the same cooptation that turns so many social movements for justice and sanity into yet more tools for supporting ever more injustice and insanity, until by now too much environmentalism has become not about helping the real world to "sustain" in the face of this culture's incessant omnicide, but rather about finding ways to "sustain" this destructive culture a little bit longer, no matter the costs to the real world. This is how we end up with mainstream environmentalists who overwhelmingly prioritize saving this way of life over saving life on the planet. For example, Lester Brown, labeled as "one of the world's most influential thinkers" and "the guru of the environmental movement,"[2] writes books like Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (which at least one university has made required reading for all incoming freshman) and ran an organization called Earth Policy Institute: Providing a Plan to Save Civilization . He routinely makes comments like, "We talk about saving the planet. Those of us working on environmental issues have been talking about the need to save the planet for some time. But the planet's going to be around for a while. The question is, can we save civilization? That's what's at stake now, and I don't think we've yet realized it." This was written in an article entitled (in case we hadn't already gotten the point), "The Race to Save Civilization."[3] When two hundred species went extinct today; when the oceans are being killed; when wildlife around the world has declined by 50 percent in the last forty years' when insect, frog, fish, mussel, songbird, shorebird populations are collapsing; when the world is being killed because of civilization; what he says is at stake, and what he's racing to save, is precisely the social structure causing the harm: civilization. Not saving salmon. Not monarch butterflies. Not oceans. Not the planet. Saving civilization. He's certainly not alone. Peter Kareiva, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, more or less constantly pushes the line that "Instead of pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity's sake, a new conservation should seek to enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of [human] people. . . . Conservation will measure its achievement in large part by its relevance to [human] people." [4] Bill McKibben, who works tirelessly and selflessly to raise awareness about global warming, and who has been called by The Boston Globe "probably America's most important environmentalist," constantly stresses his work is about saving civilization, with articles like "Civilization's Last Chance,"[5] or with quotes like, "Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989 . . . I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly--losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in."[6] I'll bet polar bears, walruses, and glaciers would have preferred that sentence ended a different way. Or there's the statement signed by "160 leading environmentalists from 44 countries" who were "calling on the world's foundations and philanthropies to take a stand against global warming." Why take this stand? Because global warming "threatens to cause the very fabric of civilization to crash." The declaration concludes, "We, 160 winners of the world's environmental prizes, call on foundations and philanthropists everywhere to deploy their endowments urgently in the effort to save civilization."[7] Coral reefs, emperor penguins, and Joshua trees probably wish that sentence would have ended differently. This entire declaration signed by these "160 winners of the world's environmental prizes," never once mentioned harm to the natural world. In fact it never mentioned the natural world at all. Or there's this instruction from the style guide for designing their public arguments: "Focus on people. Whenever possible, use visuals to emphasise [sic] that climate is a real, tangible human problem--not an abstract [sic] ecological issue."[8] Are leatherback turtles, American pikas, and flying foxes "abstract ecological issues," or are they our kin, each imbued with their own "wild and precious life"?[9] Or there's this, from yet another climate activist who states, "I'm not an environmentalist. Most of the people in the climate movement that I know are not environmentalists. They are young people who didn't necessarily come up through the environmental movement, so they don't think of themselves as environmentalists. They think of themselves as climate activists and as human rights activists. The terms 'environment' and 'environmentalism' carry baggage historically and culturally. It has been more about protecting the natural world, protecting other species, and conservation of wild places than it has been about the welfare of human beings. I come at from the opposite direction. It's first and foremost about human beings."[10] Note that he called "protecting the natural world, protecting other species, and conservation of wild places" baggage . There's Naomi Klein, who states explicitly in the film This Changes Everything : "I've been to more climate rallies than I can count, but the polar bears? They still don't do it for me. I wish them well, but if there's one thing I've learned, it's that stopping climate change isn't really about them, it's about us." And then there's this from Kumi Naidoo, former head of Greenpeace International: "The struggle has never been about saving the planet. The planet does not need saving."[11]. The day he said this, it was fifty degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal at the North Pole, above freezing in the middle of the winter. I cannot bear how invisible life on this planet is to these people. This is the priority--and the willful blindness--of so much modern environmentalism. The real world just "doesn't do it for us." The real world doesn't need our help. It's about us. It's always "about us." But something infinitely more important than civilization is at stake. # Decades ago, I[12] was one of a group of grassroots environmental activists planning a campaign. Before the meeting started, we went around the table saying why we were doing this work. The answers were consistent, and exemplified by one woman who said, simply, "For the critters," and by another who got up from the table, walked to her desk, and brought back a picture. At first, the picture looked like a high-up part of the trunk of an old growth Doug fir, but when I looked more closely I saw a small spotted owl sticking her camouflaged head out of a hole in the center of the trunk. The activist said, "I'm doing it for her." # Calling yourself an environmentalist as you prioritize saving this omnicidal culture over saving the real world is only part of the process of coopting environmentalism toward nature-destroying ends. The next step is simple: collapse the distinction and pretend sustaining this omnicidal culture is saving the planet. Excerpted from Bright Green Lies by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, Max Wilbert All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.