Culture of Resistance

In this interview with Lierre Keith, the American environmental activist and author discusses ecocide and industrial civilisation; liberalism and radicalism in the context of social change; and a vision of the urgent need for a co-ordinated resistance movement.



Interview with Lierre Keith

co-author of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet (with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay – Seven Stories Press, 2011)

Deep green resistance

Helen Moore: Many people reading this will have woken up to the fact that industrial civilisation is having catastrophic effects on our planet, and they may also be engaged in artistic or scientific endeavours to address the ecological and spiritual crisis we collectively face.  Human consciousness is clearly at a crossroads right now, and there’s growing awareness of our deep interconnection with all beings and a need for radical change in how we live.  However, you and your co-authors have concluded that for life on Earth to be preserved, we require a co-ordinated resistance movement.  Could you begin by talking about this?

Lierre Keith: Your question cuts to the heart of the difference between liberalism and radicalism. For liberals, social reality is constituted of thoughts and ideas. This is called idealism. Social change, then, happens through education, through rational discussion and discourse. It happens by changing people’s minds.

In contrast, radicals understand that society is made up of material institutions that organize the subordination of one group to another. Education is always a necessary activity for a resistance movement, but education for what purpose? If education is the end goal, that’s a liberal approach. For radicals, education raises consciousness and gives people the tools to name their experience and hopefully they are then inspired to join a resistance movement. That’s the goal of political education. It’s that resistance that confronts and dismantles the structures of power.

Two hundred species are going extinct each day. Every single biological indicator is headed in the wrong direction, and we have not even slowed the rate of the destruction, let alone the destruction itself. We have maybe—maybe—a decade until the tipping points for complete biocide are reached. Past that point, it’s game over. Every day that goes by may be the last day that saving life on earth was possible. We need a serious resistance movement, and we needed it yesterday.

HM: Mainstream environmentalists tend to see that social change is necessary, but believe the only thing we can change is ourselves.   Why can’t ‘being the change’ lead to system change?  Surely consciousness is at the root of any system?  Or do you think that this position ignores entrenched institutional power, aided and abetted by technology, which is effectively paralysing systemic change?


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