We lost the campaign. Mine construction proceeds full speed ahead and hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of Thacker Pass are being carved up right now by Lithium Nevada. Though we lost the campaign and the mine is being constructed, four Native folks and three settler allies (myself included) were sued by Lithium Nevada for “trespassing” on public land to protest the mine. We might end up owing Lithium Nevada – a corporation profiting from the destruction of threatened species’ habitat and the final resting places of massacred Paiutes – hundreds of thousands of dollars for our peaceful protest. The case against us is still in its early stages so we’ll probably be fighting that lawsuit for months, at least. All while the violation of Thacker Pass and all the creatures who live there only gets worse.
Tonight, I will watch the Super Bowl – and the inevitable deluge of electric vehicle commercials that corporations will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure are witnessed by millions if not billions of people worldwide. (Yes, I know the Super Bowl is not the biggest sporting event on Earth. Still, it is widely viewed in North America, Europe, and parts of Africa.) The electric vehicle commercials are infuriating, of course. But, truth be told, most commercials infuriate me because virtually every one of them are wickedly designed to manipulate both the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind to consume evermore stuff. And, what does consuming evermore stuff – whether it’s consuming evermore Coca-Cola, Coors Light, that new dog food brand that you refrigerate, or electric vehicles – do?
It destroys more of what’s left of the natural world. And, at a time when human population has overshot the Earth’s carrying capacity, literally anything you consume destroys the natural world in an unsustainable manner.
But, what will really infuriate me while watching the Super Bowl will be the echo of all the people who criticized those of us working to stop the Thacker Pass mine for owning automobiles (and using them to get to Thacker Pass to confront mining there), for owning computers (and using them to educate the world about what mining does), for owning cell phones (and using them to organize resistance to the mine.) I will be infuriated because these people seem to truly believe that the destruction of the planet can be stopped if the precious few of us who both 1. actually care about the destruction of the planet and 2. are willing to do more than just tell everyone how much we care about the destruction of the planet just give up our cars, computers, and phones. Meanwhile, the corporations who profit from destroying the natural world will gain access to the consciousness of billions of people with their commercials encouraging everyone that if they just spend a smooth $60,000 or $70,000 on a sleek new electric vehicle they can stop the destruction of the planet and appear very virtuous while they’re at it.
Unfortunately, manufacturing electric vehicles includes the same fossil-fuel intensive processes that manufacturing anything (including traditional vehicles) does. When you buy your groovy new Tesla, you need to see the destruction of places like Thacker Pass, the deaths of child laborers in mines in the Congo, the murder of golden eagles reflected in that polished gleam your car salesman is so good at achieving.
But you also need to understand that just like simply buying an electric vehicle isn’t going to save the planet, simply refraining from buying an electric vehicle isn’t going to save the planet, either. Why? Because the global economy is based on the destruction of the natural world. This is true whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world for electric vehicles, whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world for agriculture, or whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world with the pollution nearly 9 billion humans make just from eating, pooping, and sheltering themselves. (Yes, people in the so-called First World use many more resources than others, but per capita consumption by all humans is increasing).
Because nearly every human life today is only possible through the destruction of the natural world, we’re simply not going to convince enough people to ever make the sacrifices necessary to keep the world from ecological collapse. This is especially true when those most responsible for destroying the natural world can put their propaganda in every American living room through things like television commercials more or less constantly. And, please, if you think that a few of us “leading by example” or “being the change” by giving up tools like computers will ever be as persuasive as Super Bowl commercials, then please keep in mind that virtually every traditional culture that thrived with stone age technologies has been massacred, forcibly assimilated, or otherwise destroyed upon contact with the dominant industrial culture. Those 31 Paiutes murdered in Thacker Pass by federal soldiers for standing in the way of mines are just one of countless examples of that.
Am I saying “give up?” Hell, no. I’m saying that we have to think much bigger than personal responsibility, lifestyle changes, or consumption choices. We can’t pat ourselves on our backs for arguing with people who disagree with us online, for buying a “green” product, for writing passionate essays.
Which brings me to Taylor Swift. I played college football. And for the first 22 years of my life, playing the game of football was my favorite thing to do on Earth. So, yes, I have been watching the NFL this year and have followed the Travis Kelce – Taylor Swift story. I’ve watched as some conservatives – believing that God has mandated that they try to put in her place an uppity, successful woman who points out some forms of misogyny – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. I’ve watched as some environmentalists – believing Mother Earth has mandated that they put an individual woman who boards planes which burn fossil fuels – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. I’ve watched as some feminists – believing the Goddess has ordered them to protect a single billionaire because she’s a successful woman that some men have criticized – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. (Full Disclosure: I do not know Taylor Swift, but I have a partner who cheers my activism on like Taylor Swift cheers Travis Kelce on. And that means something to me.)
But, here’s the thing: I see far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the current mass extinction event we’re living through, far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the fact that we’ve lost over 70% of vertebrate species on Earth since 1970, far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the fact that we can’t convince anyone to do hardly anything to actually stop any of this.
We’re not going to convince most people to make the sacrifices necessary to make sure there’s a livable planet to watch the Super Bowl on, to complain about Taylor Swift on, to complain about those who complain about Taylor Swift on, to – you know – live on. The good news is we don’t need to convince most people. We just need to deprive most people of the tools they need to continue to destroy the Earth, our only home. Worried about misogyny and porn culture? You don’t have to convince internet servers to stop serving pornography if you smash them. Worried about climate change? You don’t have to convince oil refineries to stop refining if you break them. Worried about how mass media affects us? You don’t have to convince televisions to stop brainwashing people if you pull enough power lines down.
I know that’s scary to think about. I know it would be scary to do. But, isn’t the collapse of life on Earth scarier? Scarier, at least, than team mascots, football games, or Taylor Swift?