Life on Earth, or consumeristic industrial culture. From all the evidence, we can only have one or the other. Which do you choose?
Hey everyone. I’m recording this on May 10th. I did the math and I think it is day 115 of the Protect Thacker Pass protest camp being set up here. I think most you who are watching this will know the story but on January 15th my friend Will Falk and I set up camp on this land that I’m on right now, Thacker Pass in northern Nevada, which we have since learned is called Peehee Mu-huh in Paiute, in the original language of this place. And we’re here because this land is threatened by an open-pit lithium mine. This place could be bulldozed, could be blown up with dynamite, could be turned into a heavy industrial extraction zone within months. It’s been…it’s been a lot of different things, you know, over the last few months of doing this we’ve experienced a lot. We’ve experienced blizzards, heat, rainstorms, hail, wind like you wouldn’t believe. We’ve had some really low times where we thought, you know, it was all over, where we thought we were in real trouble. And we’ve had some really good times, some amazing connections with people sitting around the fire and having conversations and walking up the mountain. And for people who don’t know, this lithium mine is to produce lithium for electric car batteries, primarily. Also batteries for storing energy from wind and solar which…you know, if the wind isn’t blowing, if the sun isn’t shining, how do you get power to people during those periods? Well, you put in giant batteries and you store the energy and you deliver it when people want it. It’s the same type of battery that powers a cell phone, a laptop computer, a lot of devices these days. But the big increase in demand is because of electric cars, and grid energy storage to a lesser extent.
You know, we’re living in this time when climate change is an existential threat. It’s this huge serious issue. I know it’s an issue. It’s a huge problem. I’ve walked on thawing permafrost. I traveled to Siberia in the summer of 2010 with a group of climate scientists and stayed for a month near the Arctic Circle on the lower section of the Kolyma river in northeastern Russia. So I’ve walked on thawing permafrost. I’ve seen entire forests falling over because the soil is giving out under them and thawing after 10,000 years of being frozen. I’ve seen these ancient bones emerging from the rivers as they are eroded away rapidly as this climate changes. I’ve talked with climate scientists and heard them talk about how terrified they are, of what their research is showing. I’ve seen methane bubbling out of these arctic lakes and streams as the permafrost underlying them starts to fall, and I’ve been terrified of global warming for a long time myself. It’s this incredibly serious issue you, which is why I have fought the oil industry, the fossil-fuel industry for more than a decade at this point. That’s why I climbed on heavy equipment to block the Utah tar sands’s construction. That’s why I stood in front of coal trains to try and stop the coal industry from exporting coal from the United States to Asia to be burned. Because that’s destroying our future. That’s destroying the planet. That’s poisoning the water. All for what? For a little bit of energy now. For this cheap consumer culture, this throwaway culture that we live in now. None of that crap matters. You know, none of these consumer products matter when we think about the health of a loved one in comparison. When we think about children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and whether or not they’re going to have clean water to drink, whether or not they’re going to have a world in which they can survive, right? When you think about future generations of these lupins and the sagebrush and the meadowlarks and the sage grouse who live up on this mountain and the pronghorn antelope and the snails and the Lahontan cutthroat trout in these streams, right? I want future generations to be able to live here and experience this. I want people to come up here on mother’s day and look at the wildflowers like we’ve heard from these locals.
But people have gotten so afraid of climate change that they have lost their critical thinking in some areas. And this includes the areas of green energy and green technology and energy storage. These things are not solutions. Blowing up a place like this? Desecrating a place like this? Sacred indigenous land, incredibly important habitat for rare and threatened species – destroying a place like this so that people can drive an electric car? It’s a luxury! It’s not something that we need to survive. We need food, we need water, we need air, we need shelter, clothing, basic medical care, community, family. Those are necessities. That’s what we need in order to survive. And anyone who’s been poor, anyone who’s spent time in communities that are poor knows that it is completely possible to live a brilliant, wonderful, amazing life without any of this mass consumer culture crap that we seem to worship somehow in American culture. We can live without that. We don’t need it, but we need land. We need water. We can’t survive unless we protect our watersheds and these places that are the source of life. I can’t create oxygen. The sagebrush can. The lupins can, right? We rely on these beings who are part of our family tree. They’re part of the tree of life. We share DNA with this life. They’re literally our kin, our family, and it’s wrong to destroy this. To destroy these beings for the sake of what? Of what? A few decades of profits? A few decades of a decent job and a four-car garage and a nice house? A few decades of sitting there watching your flat screen TV when you get home from work because you’re so exhausted you can’t enjoy your life? I recognize that this is a serious issue. That this is hard for people to contemplate because we’ve lived in this culture for so long in which everything is based on extraction. Everything’s based on industrialism. Energy. We’ve lived in this world in which each of us has so much energy at our beck and call at any given moment. And the thing is, it hasn’t even made us happy. It hasn’t even made our lives better, which is why you see so much alienation, so much drug abuse, so much mental illness, so much suicide and self-harm.
You know, our communities are not succeeding because of this culture of industrial civilization that we live in. We’re dying because of it. We’re getting cancer because of it. We’re getting sick because of it. We’re going crazy because of it. It does not make us well.
And so when these corporations come in and plan to blow up a place like this for their profit, for the profit of a small number of people, it’s wrong and we need to fight back against it. We need to stop them. They’re counting on people laying down. They’re counting on people saying, ‘I don’t know how to do that. I’ve never done that before. I don’t have experience. That’s scary.’ They’re counting on us to feel disempowered, to feel powerless. To feel like there’s nothing we can do. We’ve been taught to feel that way. That’s called learned helplessness, okay? And they want us to keep feeling that. So we need to find our power. We need to organize with our communities, our friends, our families, the people right around you. Start educating, start empowering, start changing the narratives on these things and start building to pressure and force the changes that we need in our society. Because these big institutions, the government, these corporations, they’re not doing a very good job of it. And in fact they’re carrying us in the wrong direction. They’re carrying us into oblivion. They’re carrying us deeper into this consumer culture, right? We need to turn around. We need to change our course. Not just because we want to or because it might be a better way – I think it is a better way. But because if we don’t we will destroy the fabric of life on this planet. That’s what is happening right now. We’re living in the sixth mass extinction event.
The sixth mass extinction event. The only planet in the known universe to support life and this culture is killing that life en masse everywhere you look. Bulldozers and trawlers and roads everywhere and urban sprawl and oil and gas development…And now solar energy sprawl, and wind turbines knocking birds and bats out of the sky, and lithium mines coming in and threatening to tear up beautiful places like this. I can barely even say it because it makes me so upset…because it’s so crazy…because it’s so nuts. And they try and paint themselves like they are the rational ones, like they’re the ones who are being reasonable and responsible and somehow like they’re the rational people, when they are the ones destroying life on this planet and poisoning water for hundreds or thousands of years and leaving behind a wasteland for future generations. And they try and say that’s rational? That’s normal? That’s the direction that we should go in? It is crazy. It is literally crazy in terms of being out of touch with physical reality, to be promoting these things when we know what we know now about the world. When we understand ecology. When we understand our place in this web of life on the planet. We are only here by the grace of these other beings we depend on for every breath of air, every bite of food, every sip of water.
We need to have some humility as a species, as a culture, as communities, as individuals. We need to fit in with what the land can handle, with what the ecology can manage. We need to live with some humility instead of saying it’s always about what we want. Yeah sure, you might want a nice fast electric car. You might want a gas car. You might want a nice big house. You might want a flat screen TV. You might want to watch Netflix whenever you want. That doesn’t really matter, I’m sorry to tell you, when it comes down to the natural laws of the planet we live on. These are laws just like gravity. You can pretend gravity doesn’t exist but if you jump off a cliff, you’re gonna pay for it. You’re gonna feel the pain.
And the only reason people can still ignore these laws of ecology is because there’s a delay between when you make the mistake and when you pay the price. But some people are already paying that price, right? If you live on one of the small island nations in the Pacific Ocean you are paying the price right now for sea level rise, for ocean acidification, for the collapse of the coral reefs. If you live in northern Nevada here, you will soon pay the price for so-called lithium batteries and this “green energy” boom. You will pay the price. If you’re living in Appalachia you are paying the price right now for coal, for the culture of coal. If you’re living in China you might be paying the price right now working in a sweatshop factory that basically amounts to slavery for a crap wage, working 60, 70, 80 hours a week to make, you know, an iPhone or a battery pack or something like this, right? These people are paying the price right now.
So we can pretend. We can tell all these stories about economic development and jobs and opportunities for the kids in the future – and that is crap. That is a lie. That is a distraction from what’s really going on which is the plundering and the pillage of our planet. And so if anybody from Lithium Americas, Lithium Nevada Corporation is watching this, I’m talking to you. You need to listen up. This is some bullshit. You are lying to people. You are misleading people, and people and future generations are going to pay the price for your actions. That goes for any industrialists. That goes for anyone who’s destroying this planet or defending it or working with them or justifying what they’re doing. Those decisions, your decisions, will lead to people dying. They will lead to people getting cancer and dying horrible deaths. They will lead to children having leukemia. They will lead to all kinds of atrocities. They will lead to future generations of lupin not being able to reproduce, not being able to exist. These families right here, these beings, right? That have children. That reproduce. That sit here in the sun. That orient themselves toward the sun. That have their own desires and their own life that you know nothing about because you’re focused on yourself and your wallet and your bank account. But if they won’t stop, I’m not counting on convincing anyone with this video. I hope that they listen to this. That you hear me, right? That you listen to what I’m talking about. This isn’t about my ego. This isn’t about making myself look good. This is about life on the planet, okay? This is about our future as a community – as a species. But I’m not counting on convincing you, because sometimes people just won’t stop. Sometimes people are going to be bullies. Sometimes people are going to make bad decisions no matter what, because they’re addicts, because their mind isn’t right – I don’t know why. But I do know that people continue to do these things. And what they have to understand, what everyone listening has to understand, is that we have to stop them and we will stop them. And we need you for that. We need you alongside us, okay? So if you’re standing on the sidelines, if you’re just watching this issue – you know what we’re talking about here at Thacker Pass – we’re trying to protect this place, we’re trying to protect this land and this ground. This is one fight in a much larger struggle to defend the planet, to stop the green washing, to end the lies, and to completely retool how we live as a society. I mean, this is a revolutionary change. This is not, you know, superficial stuff that I’m talking about and I recognize that. This isn’t easy. This isn’t like something that’s gonna happen in one year or four years or 10 years. These are generational challenges. We need to make this happen, okay? And if you are watching, you need to take responsibility for making a part of that happen. This is your job. This is my job too but this is your job, okay? And I don’t know exactly what role you’re going to play in this. I don’t know exactly what your part is but everyone has a role to play. Everyone has a part in this fight because there is a lot of work to be done. There is serious work to be done at every level of our society. So, if people want to talk about this, reach out to me, leave a comment, get in touch. I’m organizing. This is what I do with my life – is try and make these changes. This is what I’m passionate about. This is what I’ve been passionate about since I was about 15, 16 years old, right? This is the course of my life. I know what my purpose is. I know what my mission is and so if you want to get on board, if you want to collaborate, if you want to do your own thing and just, you know, talk and share some ideas, let’s do it. But if you’re not on board with this then I hope you understand that you need to get out of the way because this is what needs to happen in our world. And if you are not down, if you’re going to be an impediment and an obstacle, then we will move you out of the way and we will stop you from destroying the planet because we cannot allow this to happen any longer. And we will not allow this to happen any longer.