Ripping up Asphalt and Planting Gardens
Ripping up Asphalt and Planting Gardens
By Derrick Jensen
Oct. 21, 2005
I don't see declining oil extraction as a problem. I see it as a
wonderful and necessary thing I wish would have happened a long time
This culture is killing the planet. It must be stopped. We evidently do
not have the courage to stop it ourselves. The natural world will stop
it for us. I think suburbs have no future. Nor do cities. They are
They can be made less unsustainable than they are, but all cities
require the importation of resources, and if you require the
importation of resources your way of living can never be sustainable,
because requiring the importation of resources means you've denuded the
landscape of that particular resource.
There has never been a sustainable city anywhere on the planet.
Sustainable villages, yes. Sustainable camps, yes. But not cities.
Civilization is going to crash, whether or not we help bring this
about. If you don’t agree with this, we probably have nothing to say to
each other (how ‘bout them Cubbies!).
We probably also agree that this crash will be messy. We agree further
that since industrial civilization is systematically dismantling the
ecological infrastructure of the planet, the sooner civilization comes
down (whether or not we help it crash) the more life will remain
afterwards to support both humans and nonhumans.
If you agree with all this, and if you don’t want to dirty your
spirituality and conscience with the physical work of helping to bring
down civilization, and if your primary concern really is for the
well-being of those (humans) who will be alive during and immediately
after the crash, then, given, and I repeat this point to emphasize it,
that civilization is going to come down anyway, you need to start
preparing people for the crash, ripping up asphalt in vacant parking
lots to convert them to neighborhood gardens, teaching people how to
identify local edible plants, even in the city (especially in the city)
so these people won’t starve when the proverbial shit hits the fan and
they can no longer head off to Albertson’s for groceries. Set up
committees to eliminate or if appropriate channel the (additional)
violence that might break out.
We need it all. We need people to take out dams, and we need people to
knock out electrical infrastructures. We need people to protest and to
chain themselves to trees. We also need people working to ensure that
as many people as possible are equipped to deal with the fall-out when
the collapse comes. We need people working to teach others what wild
plants to eat, what plants are natural antibiotics. We need people
teaching others how to purify water, how to build shelters.
All of this can look like supporting traditional, local knowledge, it
can look like starting roof-top gardens, it can look like planting
local varieties of medicinal herbs, and it can look like teaching
people how to sing. The truth is that although I do not believe that
designing groovy eco-villages will help bring down civilization, when
the crash comes, I’m sure to be first in line knocking on their doors
asking for food.
People taking out dams do not have a responsibility to ensure that
people in homes previously powered by hydro know how to cook over a
fire. They do however have a responsibility to support the people doing
Similarly, those people growing medicinal plants (in preparation for
the end of civilization) do not have a responsibility to take out dams.
They do however have a responsiblity at the very least to not condemn
those people who have chosen that work. In fact they have a
responsibility to support them. They especially have a responsibilty to
not report them to the cops.
It’s the same old story: the good thing about everything being so
fucked up is that no matter where you look, there is great work to be
done. Do what you love. Do what you can. Do what best serves your
landbase. We need it all.
This doesn’t mean that everyone taking out dams and everyone working to
cultivate medicinal plants are working toward the same goals. It does
mean that if they are, each should see the importance of the other’s
Further, resistance needs to be global. Acts of resistance are more
effective when they’re large-scale and coordinated. The infrastructure
is monolithic and centralized, so common tools and techniques can be
used to dismantle it in many different places, simultaneously if
By contrast, the work of renewal must be local. To be truly effective
(and to avoid reproducing the industrial infrastructure) acts of
survival and livelihood need to grow from particular landbases where
they will thrive. People need to enter into conversation with each
piece of earth and all its (human and nonhuman) inhabitants.
This doesn’t mean of course that we can’t share ideas, or that one
water purificaton technique won’t be useful in many different
locations. It does mean that people in those places need to decide for
themselves what will work. Most important of all, the water in each
place needs to be asked and allowed to decide for itself.
The work we face includes both destruction and creation. I'm thinking,
for example, about a cell phone tower behind the local Safeway. Cell
phone towers kill between five and fifty million migratory songbirds
per year just in the United States. The cell phone tower needs to come
down. It is contiguous on two sides with abandoned parking lots. Those
lots need to come up. Gardens can bloom in their place. We can even do
our work side by side.
Derrick Jensen is an activist, author, small farmer, bee-keeper,
teacher, and philosopher whose speaking engagements in recent years
have packed university auditoriums, conferences and bookstores
nationwide. He has authored or co-authored a number of books that
examine western civilization, including The Culture of Make Believe, a
finalist for the 2003 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, A Language Older
than Words, and Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution.
Visit his website: http://www.derrickjensen.org