By Deanna Wendel
The Knox Student
Derrick Jensen, noted environmental activist and author whose books include A Culture of Make Believe, A Language Older than Words, and his most recent success, Endgame (for which he was named 2006 Press Action Person of the Year), was brought to campus to speak at 7:30 p.m. in Harbach, April 25. The event was a part of Earth Week, hosted by the AnSo Club in response to an idea posed by KARES. Jensen’s presence on campus drew not only Knox students, but also guests from other parts of Illinois who traveled to Knox to hear Jensen speak.
Jensen began by warning guests that his presentation would be lengthy, and he spoke for nearly two-and-half hours, followed by an hour-long Q-and-A session. Between the two segments, there was a brief intermission in which books were available for sale in the hallway and Jensen offered signings. Despite the length of the event, which did not conclude until past 11 p.m., most students chose to stay for its entirety.
Jensen began his talk with a well-received humorous anecdote about what the first draft of the Star Wars movie would have been like if written by environmentalist rebels, culminating in Darth Vader’s bombardment with a vegan cream pie.
Stories and jokes aside, the backbone of Jensen’s speech were the 20 premises of his book Endgame, which he explained in detail to his audience, with the first premise that “Industrial civilization is not and can never be sustainable,” setting the pace for the rest of the discussion. He adamantly proclaimed any society based on the use of non-renewable resources cannot last.
Jensen’s message is that industrial civilization, which is destroying the planet, must come to an end, and he emphasized that, “The longer we wait to bring down industrial civilization, the worse it will be for those humans and non-humans who follow after us. If someone had brought down civilization 80 years ago, we wouldn’t have to worry about global warming now.”
Jensen described the global environmental situation as a battle in which “Exxon Mobil is winning and hammerhead sharks are losing. Truth is, I don’t give a fuck if Exxon Mobil loses.”
Acts of violence and human rights violations, Jenson also said, are part-and-parcel with industrial civilization, even when they are not perceived as being such. This is because there is such a strong displacement (not disappearance) of violence within the patriarchy.
He pointed out that 44,000 people in America every year die in automobile accidents, only one each year from a bear attack, and four to six every day from an encounter with police officers. When a cop dies, there is huge funeral and a glorification of his character, but it is not the cop who faces the most danger, even while he often inflicts it. The most dangerous profession in the United States is actually collecting garbage,18 times more dangerous than being a police officer, yet because garbage collectors are lower on the hierarchy, we do not glorify them when they die.
“So many environmental activists work hard to protect the thing that they love, such as bears or salmon, but what they do not do often enough is question the larger superstructure which allows it to happen,” said Jensen.
According to Jensen, people need to prepare for the downfall of industrial civilization in any way possible.
“We need people to do everything. We need people to identify local edible plants, tear down asphalt and create community gardens, grow medicinal plants, take out dams,” said Jensen.
Jensen also made his own feelings very clear about a topic of great controversy on campus lately, referencing John Ashcroft several times throughout his talk. He added political protestors to his list of much-needed people, saying, “We need people to put bags on their heads and blood on their hands.”
When asked exactly what future culture would look like after this death of industrial civilization, Jensen said there would be a drastic reduction in human population because “humans have exceeded carrying capacity,” and that we would not wish to replace this industrial culture with one culture, but with many different indigenous cultures, each with its own individual landbase.
Mackenzie Loyet, sophomore, and co-president of AnSo Club, said, “We invited Derrick because we thought he would appeal to a broad audience, including those interested in anthropology, sociology, conservation, history, and environmental studies.”
She was especially pleased that they were able to bring Jensen to Illinois not only for students’ sakes, but also that Knox could provide an opportunity for Jensen’s readers from other parts of the state to hear him speak.
Next in the works for AnSo Club are plans to host a Knox-Galesburg relations conference, in conjunction with Circle K and Food For Thought.