It wasn’t the Exxon Valdez captain’s driving that caused the Alaskan oil spill.It was yours.~Greenpeace advertisement, New York Times, 25 February 1990
A few weeks ago Sheila and I were lucky enough to hear a lecture given by Derrick Jensen at the Ira Allen Chapel on the University of Vermont campus. Mr. Jensen reputably places limits on his travel to speaking engagements, so his presence this day, so far from his west coast home, was particularly special. He followed Dr. John Todd (the principle designer of the living machine, amongst other notable achievements) and gave the keynote address for the University’s observance of this year’s Earth Day, the 40th installment of the venerable day of awareness.
I first came across Mr. Jensen’s work via my local library where I picked up his book “What We Leave Behind” written with fellow activist Aric McBay. A singularly powerful piece, I hadn’t encountered such uniquely impassioned language in defense of the Earth and its inhabitants since reading the sobering work of the great Farley Mowat. Sheila and I made sure to get there early and pick our seats (actually our ‘pew’ – the venue is a chapel after all) and lucky we did – the place filled right up with others eager to experience Mr. Jensen in-person.
I won’t polish over the truth. Mr. Jensen’s work is truly heartbreaking, as it is a withering combination of the stark factualism of Richard Heinberg lit afire with a radical call for revolution and the personification of the peril faced by the natural world. A warning to perspective readers: facing down the five stages of grief is a natural and necessary result of listening to and internalizing Mr. Jensen’s difficult message. The trick for each of us is to make it out the other side ready to solve the massive challenges those of us my age and younger will face in our lifetimes. Will we adapt in time…….?
Derrick Jensen is the author of Endgame, The Culture of Make Believe, and As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, among other books. He was named one of Utne Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” and won the Eric Hoffer Award in 2008. He writes for Orion, Audubon, and The Sun Magazine, among many others.