If you recall, COP 21 is linked to UN “Sustainable Development Goals. And yet, no matter how remarkable the Agreement that was reached last night, even so, according to Derrick Jensen, the entire debate is framed within a lie. Or, as I prefer to say, “sustainable development,” on a finite planet, is an oxymoron. Who among us is actually willing to simplify his or her life to the point where, if everyone did that, the entire planet would benefit? Is it even possible? Or is “overpopulation” already such an elephant in the planetary room that only a “die-off,” as happens in Nature, will begin to right the balance.
The real world must be primary, with whatever social system you are talking about being secondary and dependent, because without a real world, you don’t have any social system whatsoever. “Sustainable development” is a scam and a claim to virtue because it is attempting to sustain this exploitative, destructive culture, not the world on which it depends.
And that will never work.
So many Indigenous people have said to me that the first and most important thing we must do is decolonize our hearts and minds. Part of what they’ve told me is that we must break our identification with this culture, and identify instead with the real world, the physical world, the living Earth that is our only home.
I want to tell one final story. In his book, The Nazi Doctors, Robert Jay Lifton asked how it was that men who had taken the Hippocratic Oath could work in Nazi death camps. He found that many of the doctors cared deeply for the health of the inmates and would do everything in their power to protect them. They’d give them an extra scrap of potato. They’d hide them from selection officers who were going to kill them. They’d put them in the infirmary and let them rest for a day. They’d do everything they could, except the most important thing of all. They wouldn’t question the existence of the death camp itself. They wouldn’t question working the inmates to death, starving them to death, poisoning them to death. And this failure to question the larger framing conditions led these doctors to actively participate in the atrocities.
With all the world at stake, it’s not good enough for us to paste the word sustainable in front of the deceptive worddevelopment when what we really mean is “continue this exploitative and destructive way of life a little bit longer.” That destroys the words sustainable and development and, of course, contributes to the ongoing destruction of the world. It wastes time we do not have.
With all the world at stake, we need to not only do what we can to protect the victims of this culture, but we have to question the continuation of this death camp culture that is working the world to death, starving the world to death, poisoning the world to death.