What We Leave Behind (英語) ペーパーバック – 2009/4/7
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What We Leave Behind is a piercing, impassioned guide to living a truly responsible life on earth. Human waste, once considered a gift to the soil, has become toxic material that has broken the essential cycle of decay and regeneration. Here, award-winning author Derrick Jensen and activist Aric McBay weave historical analysis and devastatingly beautiful prose to remind us that life—human and nonhuman—will not go on unless we do everything we can to facilitate the most basic process on earth, the root of sustainability: one being's waste must always become another being’s food.
"Unwaveringly forthright, urgent and compelling. While there has been no shortage of recent works written about climate change, environmental degradation, dwindling fossil fuel supplies, and impending catastrophe, few are as direct, pragmatic, and compassionate as this one."--"Powell's Books"
"Jensen seeks to break the habits of mind that induce us to deny the severity of our environmental predicament and point the way to significant change. To that end, Jensen and McBay conduct an in-depth analysis of waste and wastefulness...their demand for the end of wishful thinking and beginning of environmental transformation is rooted in meticulously constructed arguments, striking psychological insights, and profound love of life."--"Booklist"
"Reading "What We Leave Behind" makes me think of Thoreau, of Lewis Mumford, of Tolstoy, who asked us to rethink our most deeply embedded beliefs in order to live clean, modest, thoughtful lives, to return to that natural world we have forsak商品の説明をすべて表示する
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I'm giving five stars to this book because it is passionately written and full of insights and knowledge that I wish were more widely known and appreciated. Jensen is an extremely knowledgeable and brilliant man. He is also a bitter and angry man. This book is a long polemic against what he sees as the on-going destruction of this planet by an unsustainable industrial society, a society willfully ignorant of what it is doing.
Where I part company with Jensen is in the identification of the underlying problem, which to me is too many people on the planet. For some reason, although he obliquely acknowledges that we have too many people, Jensen deemphasizes the crucial importance of this fact and even ignores it to concentrate on mostly industrial pollution and the destruction of the planet's ecosystems by the industrial machine. Implicit and central to Jensen's understanding is the idea that if you are spending 10 calories of energy for every one calorie of food produced (see pages 339 and 361 for this claim, which I suspect is close to correct) you have a situation that is headed for collapse in a world with 6.5-billion people. If however the same ratio were applied to a world with say half a billion people, it might be sustainable since there would be a surplus of energy available. Of course it would be much better if we were to both reduce our numbers and to employ more economic and sustainable means of subsistence.
"What We Leave Behind" are the waste products of industrialized society. Jensen makes a distinction between the natural wastes from our bodies--including our bodies!--which help to sustain the planet's ecosystems, and the wastes from our industrial machines which mostly do not. These wastes include everything from toxic metals to rank poisons to plastics to spent nuclear materials. He seems to believe that we cannot keep these wastes from harming the planet whereas I believe we can. It is a question of the proper use of technology and a political willingness to do things in a non-polluting and sustainable manner. In part Jensen's cynicism stems from his observation that corporations which account for most of the pollution are psychopathic entities that exist to maximize profits while externalizing costs. That is their nature: they cannot behave otherwise. Externalizing costs means dumping wastes onto somebody else's backyard or onto the laps of future generations. Make no mistake about it: that is what our giant corporations are doing today and have been doing since their inception.
Let me jump ahead to Jensen's solution. He has a five point plan for resistance in the pen-ultimate chapter, "Fighting Back." I won't outline it here except to mention that for Jensen the goal does indeed justify the means. He wants the culture to be "dismantled completely" (p. 381) and he wants to employ and disrupt the "centralized industrial and economic systems" themselves. (p. 382). He believes that fighting back "means not using violence when it's appropriate to not use violence..." and "using violence when it is appropriate to use violence." (p. 383) Jensen justifies his extreme position with this rationale: "Do you think that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been so successful if the government hadn't been afraid of Malcolm X?" (p. 397)
Jensen's argument rests on two presumptions, one, that things really are so bad and the planet's situation really so desperate that an overthrow of the system is imperative--now. And two, it is impossible for the system to change by its own accord. Like a junkie, industrial civilization must crash and burn before it has even a glimmer that change is necessary. After rejecting the possibility of a sustainable "technotopia"--a society in which technology is used in a sustainable way--Jensen comes to what he considers is most likely to happen: collapse. He recalls that Rome collapsed because it ran out of people and resources to exploit. He sees the same thing happening to industrial civilization. In this I think he may very well be correct because of the short-sightedness of our leaders and our institutions that are unable to look much past the next quarter's economic numbers.
Jensen argues that it is not enough to conserve energy and recycle wastes as individuals. Most of the waste and pollution comes from industry itself, as Jensen points out, not from individuals. His clarion call is nothing less than a call to revolution. I think this is correct (and probably inevitable) when the situation is truly desperate. But to take arms against the system when one's belly is full one must have the true believer's mentality, which in this case is the system will not change without the use of force. If there is a revolution against industrial civilization I suspect it will come from without, from those people in the exploited world who may very well be going to bed hungry and who have little to lose. In fact we may be seeing the scattered, disconnected and sporadic beginnings of a planetary revolution in the acts of terrorism that are today instigated by religious extremists. When the Vandals crash through the gates, we'll know. Until then it's unlikely that people in the industrialized world are going to heed Jensen's call to arms.
What I hope happens is that we have enough far-sighted, aware and educated people to bring about a change without having to go through the horrors of collapse or revolution. History suggests however that I am wrong and that Jensen is right.
Read or not read this extraordinary book at your peril.
Anybody's who's been smacking his or her head in the last year or two about eco-chic weddings, hybrid cars and biofuel will also be in good company. What's so incredible about this book is that the authors unmask not only the usual propagandists at work, but more importantly our own desires to delude ourselves.
This book also analyzes our relationship to the earth via decay and decomposition. I had never thought so much about these processes on such a microscopic scale. Anyone who's marveled at the collaboration happening in nature will be enthralled by this book's window into some of life's less savory collaborations (the conversion of the dead into food, of our own waste into food).
This book is not cheery reading but it's good medicine.
If you've read _Endgame_ by the way, this book goes into some new and very interesting places and I would say is ultimately more motivating. I also whole-heartedly recommend "How Shall I Live My Life?" which despite the overearnest title is the best collection of interviews I've ever read on the subject of not just environmentalism but also on living a full and beautiful life.
I picked up a copy of What we Leave Behind at my local library, intending to decide if it was worth checking out. This book was so good and so comfortable to read, that I ended up standing next to the book shelf for nearly an hour, until the library closed. I finished the book in one sitting at home that night.
The book's words are intelligent, humorous and very touching. The experience of reading them is even more profound than having a conversation with a trusted friend - it is like having a conversation with your own heart. That is a unique reading experience!
The book shows the dangers of compartmentalization. Compartmentalization is how Nazi doctors could try to help concentration camp inmates without ever challenging the system and assumptions that brought the victims to the camps.
Anyone who loves the natural world has noticed its decline - many species gone extinct, lakes so poisonous we can't even swim in them, let alone drink out of them as our ancestors did, an 80% reduction in birds over the past ten years, rises in cancer, a pile of garbage in the ocean the size of a continent, a dangerous decline in honey bees and now the horrendous BP oil spill - to name just a few. Compartmentalization allows us to care about the nonhuman animals on the planet and the lives of our children and grandchildren, without ever challenging the cultural assumptions that brought the world to this sickening (literally), sad and dangerous place.
What we Leave Behind rips down those compartments. Without those these barriers, the knowledge we already have can flow freely (which I suppose is why it feels like the authors' message comes from inside your own heart). The reader is left with a stunning clarity of vision.
What we Leave Behind makes a more than compelling case that we can and must stand up to this culture and radically change it. If we want to spare any life on earth, including our own, we have no choice.
Where Derrick Jensen falls short is in his lack of awareness of how much of our environmental degradation in the United States if the result of the supra human status given to corporations whose executives can pollute and kill with impunity. Or how the conspiracy by Standard Oil, Firestone Tire, and General Motors, after World War II to buy up light rail systems across the USA and rip out the tracks, abandon right of way rights, and burn the trolley cars, led to cities that devote more than a third of their space to auto transit and parking or storage, and has led to the enormous suburban sprawl, and kills tens of thousands of Americans each year as well as contributing significantly to the crime that resulted from the mental retardation of children subject to lead poisoning from motor vehicle gasoline exhaust fumes. The USA has worse than a third world transportation system with not a single mile of high speed rail. Thanks to our corrupt Congressmen continuously reducing funding for passenger trains it takes as long to travel by train from Boston to Washington, D.C. today as it did in the 1930's. How many people would be traveling by air if they were flying in circa 1930 airplanes? But that is what a privatized transportation system provides us when automobile manufacturers enjoy their monopoly which is heavily subsidized by every taxpayer in the USA. Until Congress and state and local governments include competent individuals with integrity this situation will not improve. Derrick Jensen rightly states that to believe that 45 MPG cars is a solution is to engage in the sort of magical thinking that pervades in the country.
As someone who has also spoken with Jensen himself, it is important to keep in mind that he is a nice guy - this book demonstrates all of the passion he has for this subject: the real world. Sometimes it can come off as aggression towards the reader, but do not get disheartened in the read, do not misinterpret this man's passionate remarks, and do not, I repeat DO NOT GET DOWN ON YOURSELF OR GIVE UP THE READING. This is vital for every individual on this planet, in my opinion.
p.s. if there is anyone out there who loves this book as much as myself, anyone who wishes to engage in discussion over it, or anyone who wants to do something about the problems addressed in this text, I would love to correspond.
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