US Greenhouse Gas emissions increase by 2% per year. If everyone did everything recommended in Al Gore’s movie as their personal contribution to curbing their share of the toxic releases–and mind you 100% compliance with Gore’s suggestions is what we’re talking here–it would lower emissions by 21%. The other 79% comes from sources Al Gore studiously avoided–factory farms, heavy industry and other political sacred cows. Heaven forbid, Al Gore suggest anything that would cause corporate America any gas pains. Nope. It’s all on us and even if we do change every bulb, run biodiesel/ethanol in our vehicles, properly inflate our tires and recycle every yogurt container; our collective emissions savings would hardly be noticeable in the overall scheme of things. In addition, the grain required to make enough ethanol to fill an SUV’s tank just once could feed a human being for a year.
Talk about inconvenient truths. Such brutally honest factoids abound in As the World Burns; 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial (Seven Stories Press) a graphic novel by Derrick Jensen (author of Endgame, A Language Older than Words and The Culture of Make Believe) and Stephanie McMillan (creator of the comic strip Minimum Security). The "plot" involves a couple young girls who seek to make sense of what is happening to their planet. A group of robot aliens come to Earth and are granted permits by our idiot-in-chief president to gobble up the planet’s resources in exchange for lots and lots of gold ingots. Conveniently, the gold ingots are a byproduct of the robots’ operating systems–yep, they shit gold.
Meanwhile, a one-eyed rabbit, Bunnista, liberates his still-incarcerated animal allies from a sordid animal testing gulag. And, wild animals of all types meet and sow the seeds of revolt. The rabbit and a philosophical raven make contact with the ever-radicalizing girls and educate them as to the real threats.
Awakening to the alien threat, Big Green bureaucrats take time away from perusing the grant portfolio and organizing their latest Arctic Eco-tour and pull out all their tried and true tactics. Noting that the aliens’ permit only allows them to take some of the fish, trees, ore, etc.; they conclude they can "stop them on procedural grounds." Just think of the attorneys fees to be had!
Of course, next comes the Petition-circulating and the mass-mailing/sign-on letters (which the president appreciatively uses as fuel to heat the White House) coupled with the inevitable fund-raising letter signed by "the names of some massive stars;" whose signatures come first on all the letters, of course, as that is seen to "be more effective."
Someone suggests blowing up the aliens. The plastic-water bottle-swilling Executive Director of Big Green’s response to such notions is: "You know better than that. Ghandi would never have blown them up." Soon, a dam is blown up by Bunnista and cohort so police are dispatched to interrogate anyone "expressing hostility towards the system." Talking head experts rail on against the terrorist bunny menace. The girls are arrested for associating with bunnies with offers of release should they implicate four friends — a la the recent Green Scare witch-hunt.
Big Corporations respond by convincing the nitwit-in-chief that he has erred and that it is their job to consume the planet. The government waits for the corporate-foundation-dependent Big Greens to rally enough support to provide an excuse for the president to transfer the permits from the aliens to the corporations. Of course, the corporations have to deal with the Greens, so 70 fish, trees and rocks are protected – a great victory on the Clinton Option 9 resuming of Old Growth logging model.
Eventually, the aliens beat back the challenge from corporate America. But, the aliens themselves realize that: "Wildness. The wild. That’s the only thing that can destroy us." And sure enough, Bunnista and the rest of the wild insurgents strike and free the human and animal captives in their Halliburton-built Detention Centers. The assembled masses then take out the aliens with whatever tools they can find. The book ends with one enemy of Earth vanquished and the other contemplating defeat.
As the World Burns is ground-breaking in its absolute refusal to fall for any of the simple solutions thrust forth by the Al Gore’s of the world; modern-day Neros who cash in on the Carbon Off-sets scam, as you-know-what burns.
At the same time I was reading the book, I heard a great term from a friend: Embedded Energy. Embedded Energy refers to the energy costs of mining and smelting raw materials, energy used in manufacture, energy used in shipping, energy and toxicity related to disposal, etc. One study shows that the embedded energy in that Simple Steps icon the compact fluorescent light-bulb – exceeds the energy savings over the life of the bulb, not to mention the mercury toxins also embedded in each bulb! Same with the batteries on the Pius the celebrity drives to the awards show in after landing the private jet (I personally know of two such cases). Same with the solar panel and the wind tower.
Embedded Energy and toxic by-products alone make most of the proffered, easy "solutions" unfeasible. As John Zerzan points out in a back-cover note on As the World Burns, "We are drowning in phony green this and sustainable that nonsense."
As the World Burns is a necessary book – one of the increasingly necessary genre of books that cut through the "sustainable that" nonsense and addresses what serious threats the planet is really facing. As the World Burns leaves no doubt that all the 50 Simple Things lists, prize-winning Partial Truth documentaries and worse-than-useless greenwash "victories" are really a disserving distraction from how serious things are and what necessary corrections must really be instituted.
The book ends with the Prez and his evil advisors commiserating.
"What are we going to do if the wild terrorists don’t let us consume the planet? How will we maintain our lifestyles?"
"I’d rather die than quit this lifestyle."
"You might get that chance."
MICHAEL DONNELLY, like the authors, really knows that the correction to the human outbreak will most likely come about due to eco-collapse; not by a revolt of Wild Insurgents of all Species, though ya gotta love the image. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org