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Hope and Burnout in the Anthropocene


Hope and Burnout in the Anthropocene

Forrest Watkins

Between May 3 and May 16, thousands of people gathered in 20 acts of civil disobedience spanning 6 continents, to protest society’s continued reliance on fossil fuels. Dubbing their collective action “Break Free 2016,” they placed themselves in the paths of oil trains, coal ships and mining equipment, in an effort to convince those in power of the urgency of action on climate change.


Why do you have to insult this guy? His generation is on the receiving end of the most perilous future ever to confront humanity. Providing a peptalk to those who are up against Goliath-like energy oligarchs is a positive thing.

But then you're here to shill for nuclear power at least part of the time... so why would you give a damn about those fighting for sustainability and a clean energy future?


Friday morning and only 2 comments here.
"The Anthropocene" as a name, condition, locus in time and 'history' seems to warrant attention in terms of what it means as a social / psychological phenomenon. The occurrence of the very term Anthropocene calls us to note that language as used by human beings shapes a major portion of our reality. For example, in English the word 'term' refers to both a word/phrase with meaning and a time period of specific duration. Do people actually think this a coincidence?

I raise these examples of perspective in consideration of their appearance at a time when humanity is experiencing both intense domination of language, time segmentation and valuation by forces that assiduously force divisive 'sound bites' ('terms' in both senses) and neo-colonial economic and political domination patterns so devoid of natural balance that they need massive usurpation of resource for control, violence and killing to stay in power. This is not an accident but rather an age old methodology of 'manufactured consent' as Chomsky so ably demonstrated. I would add that the domination construct generates precisely the societal breakdowns that it uses as it claims to reason for existence.

I would submit that the 'unknown', cited, for example, as the raison d'etre for the "war on terror", is yet another instance of how domination modalities polarize to divide for 'power over' rather than for creative, collaborative strength. Throughout human history 'the unknown' has been intentionally and constantly joined at the hip with fear of death, and rationalization for every form of abuse in the name of power. The latter arises precisely because it is a model utterly lacking in recognition of the absolute necessity for diversity, breadth and collaborative creative strength to adapt.

Crisis is something human beings have evolved to utilize as gestation for agile new evolutionary adaptations. HOW we settle in to face this might take note of admonitions like that inherent in the everyday Mayan greeting In Lak'ech Ala K'in approximately translated as 'I am another yourself'; the word ubuntu - I am because you are'... and so many other ideas and social/spiritual expressions that domination models have tried for so long to destroy. One might pause to consider why this has been the case and then render those considerations part of the lens through which to consider life.


I think this person is projecting his own internal emotional perspective upon other activists. If he feels burnout then simply make room for someone else to take your place. That is how it works unless someone sees themself as a ( (supposedly) critical asset that is just so necessary for them to remain a leader or 'famous' personality type activist.

In other words if you want to take a break then take a break but don't start talking as if it is so important that you remain visible and so forth. This is a world wide movement and not dependent on personality drivers like once it might have been in the early days. Everybody knows now.

Back in the Vietnam war days we organized and it sometimes grew tiresome but what doesn't? We worked through the tiresome labor and effort to pull things together as we organized a march or a protest. It was more a kind of privilege to fight the good fight for real actually. To do more than just talk. I think this person should take a break and get out of the way of someone else. His projection of activist burnout may be what he feels or is rationalizing about how he feels after 8 months of riding a bike but then just go take a break then. I think if he did take a break and stopped talking about his feeling burned out, he do more good than he is now.


Capitalism is simply unable to run on green lines, as its motive force is expansion and domination, with no thought for the consequences for the people or the environment. Capitalism is unable to cope with the ecological challenges that lie ahead, from global warming to depletion of resources. If we look at the world around us today we cannot fail to notice the extent to which nature is being ravaged in the name of short-term economic gain. It is all too clear that the prevailing economic system of capitalist competition is quite incapable of seriously taking into account the long-term considerations with which ecology is vitally concerned. Only where the system's immediate objective of profit maximisation is threatened does it become expedient to act upon such considerations. Capitalism’s pursuit of profits and its competitive pressures to keep costs down have led to all sorts of inappropriate and mistaken technology being used in production and transport. To allow world capitalism to continue is to gamble with our future.

The allocation of most resources to the market is incompatible with the realisation of environmental goals. The market responds only to those preferences that can be articulated through acts of buying and selling. Hence, the interests of the inarticulate, both those who are contingently so - the poor - and those who are necessarily so - future generations and non-humans - cannot be adequately represented. Moreover, a competitive market economy is necessarily oriented towards the growth of capital, and such an orientation is incompatible with a sustainable economy. A non-market system is the only framework within which humans can organize their interaction with the rest of nature in ecologically acceptable ways. As long as production is carried on for making profits and not for needs the same problems of pollution, resource depletion and species extinction will remain.

“Man lives from nature, i.e., nature is his body, and he must maintain a continuing dialogue with it if he is not to die. To say that man’s physical and mental life is linked to nature simply means that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.” Marx goes so far as to define communism as “the unity of being of man with nature.”

“In London they can find no better use for the excretion of four and a half million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense" – Marx

“From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of particular individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations, as boni patres familias [good heads of the household].” – Marx

“Capitalist production, by collecting the population in great centers, and causing an ever-increasing preponderance of town population, on the one hand concentrates the historical motive power of society; on the other hand, it disturbs the circulation of matter between man and the soil, i.e., prevents the return to the soil of its elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; it therefore violates the conditions necessary to lasting fertility of the soil.” – Marx

“All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the laborer, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility…. Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth–the soil and the laborer.” - Marx

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquests over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us. Each of them, it is true, has in the first place the consequences on which we counted, but in the second and third places it has quite different unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first. The people who in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivatable land, never dreamed that they were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of those countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture . . .Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature - but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to know and correctly apply its laws.” – Engels