Kevin Hester is an environmental and anti-imperialist activist living in New Zealand who is raising the alarm about the dramatic, planetary-scale changes that are underway. He is expecting “the imminent collapse of the biosphere from the perfect storm of runaway abrupt climate change and indifferent human hubris.” He regularly publicizes the latest pertinent stories and data on his website, kevinhester.live, and on his interview show, Nature Bats Last, on the Progressive Radio Network (which he took over from Guy McPherson, the well-known proponent of Near Term Human Extinction theory).
In January of this year, I spoke with Hester over Skype, as part of researching an upcoming (and nearly finished) new book. What follows is a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity.
Sonnenblume: So I don’t know very much about you except that you’re an activist around climate change and specifically around abrupt climate change.
Hester: Correct. And also, I’ve been involved in anti-nuclear, anti-racist organizations all my adult life as well. So I’ve been in that whole spectrum of environmentalism and geopolitics, the whole gamut.
Sonnenblume: New Zealand doesn’t have any nuclear there, right?
Hester: Yes. Myself and my peers played a small role in that where we used to protest out on the water where the nuclear ships used to come to New Zealand. We’re a member of the ANZUS treaty (Australia-New Zealand-United States) and we fought the government into a corner and backed them up and got enough public support to have New Zealand declared nuclear-free. In the very early 1990’s. It was a really big victory for us.
Sonnenblume: And that’s still the case, right?
Hester: It is, but incrementally the government of New Zealand is making a rapprochement with the Americans. I would be certain that American ships are using our international waters for ships with nuclear weapons, and probably nuclear-powered. The government just turns a blind eye to everything.
Sonnenblume: Right. It seems like that’s kind of the story these days.
Hester: Yes. Subservience to the empire. Whatever America wants, America gets. They get it either officially or unofficially, from what I’ve seen.
Sonnenblume: There’s very little awareness of the United State’s imperial status within the United States.
Hester: Yes, it’s extraordinary for us anti-imperialists on the outside looking in. It’s incredible. But one of the points I make all the time about imperialism is that you can’t be an environmentalist and not be anti-imperialist because the US Pentagon is the single largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet, so the carbon footprint of the US military machine is enormous. And then there’s the massive carbon footprint of all the nations responding to it in kind and warming up. So the warmongering of the planet is probably the single individual contribution to climate change.
Sonnenblume: Yes, certainly. Plus, the fact that the United States behaving as it does prevents cooperation from occurring.
Hester: Yes, that’s right. It’s the behavior of the bully. So people are bullied into submission, into doing what the United States wants. or else they’re ostracized and destabilized, and regime changed. And that’s what we seem to be watching everywhere these days. It’s a pretty bad, disgusting way to be watching the human story on this plant coming to an end.
Sonnenblume: I’ve been an activist for a number of years, too. Not as long as you have, and part of what I’ve been curious about is tracing back, where did the trouble start? In part to know if there’s any way to get out of it or, if there’s not any way of getting out of it, at least what’s a better way to behave as we go down, you know? That’s what has led me, for the time being, to agriculture…. The imperial project started with agriculture and with urbanization.
Hester: Yes. When civilization took off, [with] the ability to store grains in scale. It was also the cul-de-sac that has taken us close to extinction because we just raped and pillaged everything that we saw in our way. We’ve lost so much soil and soil quality in the last few decades. Like a lot of Climate Change graphs, it’s exponential.
Sonnenblume: Yeah. They say that, for example, in Iowa, in the United States, that two bushels of soil is lost for every bushel of corn that is harvested there.
Hester: Yeah, when you see the statistics like that, you realize what an extraordinary level of overshoot we are in, with the human population and industrial civilization and the over-consumption. It’s going beyond our planetary boundaries. It’s no surprise that we’re hitting the wall. But it is surprising that people have been talking about it for decades and, now that we’re hitting the wall, they literally can’t accept it. It’s quite amazing watching the cognitive dissonance and the denial. And the behavior of people who should no better. They just can’t accept the fact that we’ve hit the wall. It’s quite an extraordinary dichotomy.
Sonnenblume: When you say “hit the wall,” I think I know what you mean from having read things you’ve put out there, but could you say what you mean about that, in a real basic way?
Hester: Yeah sure. I believe that collapse of the biosphere is underway. It’s not going to happen sometime in the future. It’s already underway. I interviewed Professor Paul Ehrlich for my radio show Nature Bats Last on the Progressive Radio Network and one of the papers that Paul and his colleagues have just released was called “The Unfolding Sixth Great Extinction and Biological Annihilation on the Planet.” …What it stemmed from was that just recently they discovered in Germany that they’ve lost 80% of the flying insect population in the last 17 years. That’s in a reserve system in the normal countryside, not where agriculture is bathing the land in herbicides and pesticides. This is in the national parks [where] they’ve had this collapse. It’s mimicked the collapse of the phytoplankton and krill species which are keystone members of the marine food web. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look around and see that collapse is unfolding.
Sonnenblume: Yeah, the insects; that story was released this last year, I remember, by those German scientists and I think there’s been some supposition that part of that was due to the use of agricultural chemicals and conventional farming. But it’s beyond just that I think.
Hester: Undoubtedly. It’s habitat loss. Habitat is collapsing on the planet. It’s collapsing for these keystone species. People just don’t understand how important these minor — physically minor or small insects and organisms have toward being key links in the chain of the biosphere. We’ve been chipping away, chipping away, chipping away and it’s incredible what we don’t know. Most of the species on this planet have yet to be identified. We’ve finally just barely had a quick look at the bottom of the oceans, which is where we all come from. We’re losing keystone species that we know of. But we’re also losing keystone species that we didn’t know existed. It’s the perfect storm.
Sonnenblume: Right. The phytoplankton in the ocean, that’s considered a keystone species because they’re at the, quote, “the bottom” of the food chain.
Hester: Yes and they do multiple roles. They metabolize [carbon]. Most of the carbon that we emit goes into the oceans, not the atmosphere, and until recently a lot of that carbon has been metabolized by the different species like the phytoplankton. And the carbon has been stored at the bottom of the ocean and oxygen has been released. But what we’re finding is that we’re now getting a situation where the oceans, which effectively are like a battery, are overcharged and acidifying and there’s evidence that the ocean is out-gassing carbon now. So we’re losing our sinks, our sinks that have buffered us from the worst of the damage. Those sinks are now falling over. Last year we lost more forests globally than the physical size of the country that I live in. New Zealand is actually a very big country. People mistakenly think that it’s a little country because there’s only four million of us but the actual physical size of the country is very very large. [According to Wikipedia, the area of New Zealand is 103,360 sq miles / 267,710 sq km, which is “slightly smaller than Italy and Japan and a little larger than the United Kingdom.”] And we’ve lost that much forest off the planet. So that means that all that carbon, when it burns, has been released back into the atmosphere and then the carbon sink component of those trees is lost so they’re no longer absorbing the carbon. This is the perfect storm in exponential function.
Sonnenblume: And the forests are being cut down in large part for farming, it’s my understanding, for raising cattle, for raising feed for cattle, and also for… palm oils.
Hester: Yeah, all those things are happening, everywhere you look. It’s extraordinary. And of course, as our atmosphere heats up, trees stop sequestering carbon, somewhere around 35 or 37 degrees [Celsius, which is 95-98.6ºF]. Once they get into drought and heat stress they become carbon emitters. We had a situation a few years ago where they had thousands of fires burning in Indonesia and for a brief period of time, for a few weeks, Indonesia was the second largest emitter of carbon on the planet.
Sonnenblume: Just because they were having fires?
Hester: Yeah. And a lot of those fires were capitalist fires where industrialists had paid people to go set fire to native forests. Because they were in drought, and it was so hot, they could get them to burn. Because traditionally a lot of these places were rainforests. The rainforest wouldn’t be able to burn because it was green and damp. But when it gets into heat stress, then these lunatics can set fires and burn it and later on they can go back and plant palm forests on them. But another thing that takes place when land is burned off and – this happened in California just recently [when] they had those massive fires – and then afterward they had deluges and those deluges washed an extraordinary amount of topsoil into the rivers and oceans. Lost! Completely lost.
Sonnenblume: I was following the story of those fires. You’re talking about the Thomas Fire that just happened around Santa Barbara. This summer I was working in northern California doing some farm work for some friends when those fires were happening and there were days when I needed to be wearing a mask working outside. You didn’t want to exert yourself without wearing a mask because there was that much smoke in the air. At the same time, the nature of agricultural work is “this needs to happen now, you need to do that now.” So –
Hester: You don’t have any choice. Of course. And a lot of agricultural workers are low-income workers, and they desperately need every day’s wages, so it’s easy for exploitative employers to get people to go and work in those dangerous conditions because they desperately need the day’s wages. This is the whole thing about the reserve army and capitalism exploiting working class people. They get them to do shit that no one else would do.
Sonnenblume: There was a photograph that came out during the Thomas Fire that showed the billowing smoke in the background and then in the foreground there were some agricultural fields and there were some Latino workers who were out there doing the harvesting. And of course, it wasn’t white people because its’ much easier to exploit the migrants than the citizens here.
Hester: Yeah same old story. Disenfranchised. Take advantage of the poor. Classic, quintessential capitalism where they exploit all the resources and they treat the humans as resources, they treat the flora and fauna as resources. Everything is just a resource to be exploited for capitalism.
Sonnenblume: I agree, describing this as capitalism is perfectly accurate. And yet, capitalism itself doesn’t go back six or eight thousand years, during which all of this destruction has been happening. I mean, capitalism ramped it up to a whole ‘nother level. But –
Hester: I think part of it was civilization, where we became civilized and started living in cities. One of the things with cities is that very quickly they over-reach their ability to feed themselves, and their supply chains get longer and longer and longer and longer… With civilization, where you can store grains, you can control people. In the days gone by when people were only hunter-gatherers and tending small plots, everyone in the village had to play their part or they got drop-kicked out of the village, but now it’s different where it’s all about exploiting. Oxfam just released a paper about wealth disparity on the planet. It just goes to show that literally a handful of people own half the planet’s wealth. Wealth disparity is one of the driving issues of the sixth great extinction.
Sonnenblume: It’s amazing to think what a small number of individuals it is. I think I just saw that there are 8 individuals who have as much wealth as the, quote, “bottom” three and a half billion – with a “b” as in “boy” – people in the world.
Hester: Correct. That’s the stat I’ve seen as well.
Sonnenblume: Well that’s insane. Part of me looks at that and is like, how does that keep going? That’s only eight people “with names and addresses,” to quote Utah Phillips. So how does that keep going?
Hester: The theory I believe is that capitalism is a vortex of socio-pathological people at the top. If you look at the people who are running the big corporations, that are grinding the living planet into dust, I believe that the vast majority of those people are suffering from psychological illnesses… You’ll hear people say all the time, “Well how can they sleep?” making those decisions. It’s a mistake to think those people have empathy. They don’t have the same problems that we have. They don’t have sleepless nights worrying about poor people down the road who are exposed to the elements because capitalism has just consumed everything around them and it’s all been vortexed into the hands of the few. Those few don’t lose any sleep over the poor. They don’t lose any sleep over deforestation.
Sonnenblume: I agree with you completely about that. I think it’s a disease of the mind and perhaps deeper than that. I think it goes just beyond those few number of owners, too. Returning to what I said earlier about, here in the United States, very few people know that it’s even an empire, I feel like I see this ability to sleep – regardless of what this culture is doing – is everywhere. It’s kind of the normal behavior here. There’s only a small number of people here who have empathy.
Hester: Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that your media has been so conquered by the corporations. The same people who own everything on the New York Stock Exchange own the media that tells the people what to believe and what to think. There’s been a little bit of a revolution with social media where anyone who’s motivated enough can find critical examination of what’s going on, and you can distill it and decide for yourself what you believe is happening on the planet. The average Joe, from what I can see in the United States, is living on extraordinarily poor nutrition. The food that they’re eating, and then the nutritional value of the media they’re getting, is zero is well. So these big corporations like Fox and CNN and all the big ones, they’re just feeding people hogwash.
Sonnenblume: They definitely are. I’ve been a media activist, so I’ve noticed these things about the media concentration – the concentration of ownership. And I feel that at this point, with the recent attacks we’re seeing on alternative media by the social media giants, that the golden age of alternative media, at least in the US, has passed. We’re past the peak at this point. Now we’re in a time of decline, at least in the United States, for the power that alternative media can have.
Hester: Unquestionably. I think we have to realize that the nefarious bastards that are behind all this have been working on this project on how to reign in the internet and they’ve been working on it a long time. I think Internet freedom is really under attack from many different respects. In the United States, as an outsider looking in, it looks like a police state to me. The state can spy on anyone it wants to, the beautifully written Constitution that you have has now been used as toilet paper and I just see the rights of the individual and media being eroded on a day to day basis. It’s extraordinary.
Sonnenblume: That’s exactly what’s going on here. I’ve personally spent more and more of my time in rural areas and camping on our public lands in order to get away from a lot of that and… have some peace of mind and to be able to reflect on the whole situation and understand it better. Because the one thing that’s been holding me in the United States for the moment – because at some point I might want to go some other places – has been the beautiful wilderness that still exists in the United States, especially in the western half. There’s mountains and deserts and forests. And although you can’t go anyplace that’s untouched, you can go to places that have only been lightly touched. You can go to places in the desert where you can actually just be by yourself and not talk to anyone for weeks if you want. The perspective that I’ve been able to get from having time like that has really helped me personally. To be away from it all.
Hester: I think it’s an antidote for despair. For anyone who’s paying any attention to the unraveling of the biosphere, the biggest challenge we’re all going to have going forward is dealing with our grief. I believe that everyone is grieving to some degree or other, whether its consciously or unconsciously, and one of the ways to deal with that is to immerse yourself as much as you can in the natural world. It’s easy for me because I come from an underpopulated, beautiful country surrounded by oceans so the worst horrors of climate change are still delayed here because of the effect of the cooling aspect of a) the oceans that surround us and b) we’re quite low in the southern hemisphere. But what I always say, and what I do, is I spend as much time as I can in the natural world while it’s still holding on. I’m bearing witness to the unraveling. It can be very alienating. You know, no one wants to hear me talk about collapse; they think I’m dire and doomy. But this is one of the problems with liberals, with middle-class liberals: their lives are so comfortable, they can just ignore the fact that we’re losing 150-200 species every day and the poor everywhere on the planet are just being crushed.
Sonnenblume: Yeah. The effects of climate change are being directly felt by other people. I have a friend in Portland who was working with the climate change group, 350, which you’ve probably heard of. The local chapter of 350 in Portland was more radical than the national organization. They had a visitor, a climate change activist from Bangladesh, who came and lived at my friend’s apartment for a few months and who was working with 350 PDX. And in Bangladesh there is no such thing, really, as climate change denial because they’re all experiencing it there. Most of their nation is only a few feet above sea level. And what was happening there, that she reported, is that the freshwater is getting inundated with salt from the ocean and so people are getting sick and dying sooner than they normally would have, so women are now getting married and having children earlier than they used to because they can’t count on being as old as they used to be when they had kids.
Hester: Extraordinary. There’s a parallel with that happening to my Polynesian and Melanesian neighbors. The wells and the aquifers on a lot of the island in the south Pacific are getting more and more brackish. A few millimeters of sea level rise can alter the pH of the land and the wells and aquifers on these islands. Most of the sea level rise so far has come from thermal expansion, where the oceans have expanded, not from melting ice caps and glaciers.
Sonnenblume: Just from the fact that the oceans are warmer?
Hester: There’s a thermal expansion in the ocean. See, you heat water up and it physically expands in size. So that’s where a lot of sea level rise has come from already.
Sonnenblume: So you know people on some of these islands?
Hester: Oh yeah, totally. I’ve got a very dear friend who is a professor at Victoria University, Pala Molisa, who comes from Vanuatu. I attended a conference that Pala organized at Victoria in Wellington, which is the capital… And there were a lot of people speaking there, a lot of indigenous people from around the Pacific. And one criticism of me when I speak, sometimes, is people say, “You’re too emotional,” and I find that hilarious that the only people who’ve ever said I’m too emotional are the Anglo-Saxons. None of the indigenous people have ever said to me, “Oh you’re too emotional,” because they’re going through this emotional roller coaster. They know – they know that their islands are becoming daily more inhospitable to life. And the critical thing for a lot of indigenous people is that they believe that their ancestors walk amongst them. So it’s incredibly important for them to remain in their ancestral homelands because multiple generations walk amongst them. So when you talk to people in Polynesia about having to evacuate from Kiribati or Tuvalu, people don’t understand what a cultural upheaval this is for these people. It’s not just about leaving home. It’s about abandoning your ancestors. This is why the world is dominated by the ex-Anglo-Saxon colonialists. There’s so many of these important things that just go straight over their heads.
Sonnenblume: One of the people that I interviewed for this book is a Cherokee man who is also a college professor of divinity at a university in Portland and he talked about how one of the differences between the indigenous worldview and the western worldview is that the western worldview is based in time and the indigenous worldview is based in space or locality.
Hester: Very interesting observation!
Sonnenblume: Yeah, and I would never have come up with that on my own. That’s why it was so amazing to talk to him because he had these insights. That speaks exactly to what you were just saying about your Polynesian friends.
Hester: When we were children, my dad used to mock ownership of land. I only would have been ten or something like that [and] I remember him pointing at a rock and saying, “Son, look at that rock. It’s been here millions, perhaps billions of years, and then someone who looks like you and me walks by and says, ‘I own it.’” He could just not take land ownership seriously. My dad was an advocate of custodianship, or being a guardian, and the idea was that if you were a guardian, then you had responsibilities toward [the land]; you need to leave it in as good of condition when you leave as when you arrived. And if we did that, we would have a habitable planet. But of course what we do is we exploit and we use. Our whole capitalist system is derived around an infinite growth paradigm and it’s blatantly obvious that you cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Sooner or later, you’re gonna hit the wall. Edward Abbey, the desert anarchist, has a famous quote saying that, “growth [for the sake of growth] is the ideology of the cancer cell.” The planet’s got cancer and it’s really hard and bitter to accept that I’m the species that is the cancer. And then I’m a white male. I’m the worst. The most damage is being done by people who look exactly like me. That’s part of the reason I spend my life on climate change awareness and these issues; because I’m the personification. If you look in the mirror, I’m the personification of evil.
Sonnenblume: Right. I understand that one. My background is Norwegian and German. I’m “Aryan” as they would say. We have a responsibility to use our privilege to try to do something good in the world.
Hester: Yeah I hundred percent believe that. Through my activism, when I was in my teens, I was involved in anti-nuclear and anti-Apartheid. I was involved in an organization called HART which originally stood for “Halt All Racist Tours.” New Zealand had a big connection with South Africa [with] sending rugby players over. The Apartheid state was so racist to its people and we fought that battle. There was a famous case [in 1981] where the South Africans came to New Zealand. They were called the Springboks – that was the name of their team. They were playing at a provincial town called Hamilton and there was huge anti-Apartheid riots outside. They ripped the fence system out. They occupied the field. And this was the first game that had ever been live-broadcast in the Apartheid state so everyone in South Africa was listening to their rugby team playing the world-famous All Blacks [the name of the New Zealand team]. The ground was invaded by protesters and the game was stopped. Nelson Mandela wrote a letter to HARP from his prison cell on Robert Island and the broad detail of the letter was: “You have shone a ray of sunshine into a very dark cell.” How’s that for a trophy for everyone!
Sonnenblume: Wow. That’s amazing. I don’t know if I’ll ever accomplish anything as big as that in my life!
Hester: We didn’t know we were doing big things. This is the motivation, that you should just do what’s right… [and] don’t be too linked to the outcome. I’m fighting for Gaia and I’m fighting for the natural world and I believe the biosphere is in collapse. I believe that it will unravel in an exponential way in the coming months, and years if we’re lucky. If we get years we’ll be lucky. But I still believe what you’ve gotta do is do the right thing until the last moment. I work on a little island where I’ve got a lovely couple of dear friends of mine who have set up a not-for-profit nursery where we’re propagating native trees. We’ve got a rewilding program for our island. So any of the private landowners who come on board, they can buy the native plants from us at cost price, already on the island and acclimatized to the island. We’re trying to rewild and re-vegetate. And I firmly believe that the planet will become uninhabitable and inhospitable for complex life very soon. But I would love to be planting another tree on my last day when the towering inferno sweeps across us…
Sonnenblume: I understand. I feel the same drive.
Hester: It’s the only moral position to take. And you know, you talked earlier about 350 and how that one chapter was more radical than 350 nationally, and that’s a really big problem for all the organizations like that, for 350, for Greenpeace. The activists have to put the acid on the corporate structures that are now running those organizations. None of them are facing up to the severity of the crisis. None of them are speaking truth to power. And it’s up to all the good activists to take it on the chin and be critical about our own organizations. There’s too much going along with historical allegiances. I’ve been working alongside Greenpeace for nearly forty years and we’ve done a lot of good things together, but the corporate structure now is our enemy. It’s so much about revenue, bloody petitions. I’ve been petitioned to death. The planet’s been petitioned to death. We need to stop things. We need to turn off the valves. We need to stop the trains and the ships in their tracks, not just petition pathetic organizations to listen to us. It’s not having any effect. The old thing about going out to the road and shaking our banners, that’s all well and good, but we’ve got to stop ships and we’ve got to stop the trains and we’ve got to stop the chemical pollution at the gate. We’ve got to take on capitalism and the corporations where it hurts the most, which is the balance sheet.
Sonnenblume: Right I totally agree with that and I think that in the United States some well-meaning people get distracted by the, “Well, let me change light bulbs in my house” level of choices.
Hester: Yeah and those things are important to do. But it’s important to remember in the bigger scheme of things what effect that will have. And they will effectively have no measurable effect. If you want to do something really constructive for Gaia, it would be to stop the fighter jets and the warships. Keep the fighter jets and the drones on the ground and the warships in port. That’s a meaningful thing that we can do. We do all these things: we try alternative energy – I have a solar powered house on the island, I catch my water off the roof, we grow our own food out here, we try to do whatever we can – but you’ve got to be realistic. It’s not going to change anything. It’s not going to solve it. What it does is make a privileged few feel better about themselves for their excessive lifestyles.
Sonnenblume: Right. I mean it’s the same way that it doesn’t make a difference if you yourself have a vegan diet, in terms of stopping industrialized animal slaughter. But to not eat that food is still the right thing to do.
Hester: Oh absolutely! Absolutely. Some people who believe what I believe – that we’re already in collapse – are choosing to either not do anything or [are] discouraging people from doing anything. And that is completely a misrepresentation of our position. We’re just being honest about the severity of the crisis. I am going to keep doing the right thing until the lights go out. All the really true environmentalists and people with their hearts in the right place will do that no matter what. But let’s just stop bullshitting our youth. It really pisses me off when I see all this pressure put on young people that “you’ve gotta fix” this complete catastrophe that we have bequeathed them. That is so unfair. It’s wrong to tell the young people that they have to fix the unfixable. All we have to do is be completely honest with them and say we’ve dumped this on you and the place is becoming uninhabitable really quickly. We’re really sorry. You people have got to do the right thing for you. What I would suggest that young people [do] is learn horticulture, agriculture, how to fix things, now to make things. Learn practical skills. Don’t go into law and accounting and IT. All of these things depend on the internet working. The internet ‘s going to go off soon. The more practical skills you have on that day, the better off you will be.
Sonnenblume: I feel like the internet will not last forever and I’ve never treated it that way, because I remember, of course, before there was one. I worked in that field for awhile during the Dot-Com boom, all the while knowing this is temporary. This is a temporary little blip here that we have this global interconnectivity and if something’s really important to me, well I’m not going to store it in “the cloud,” I’m going to have it on paper.
Hester: As part of my studies, I’ve been studying the fragility of complex societies. For anyone listening to this, I would suggest that they go to Youtube and search, “Joseph Tainter,” and look at the different presentations he’s done over the years about how the more a complex a society becomes, the more fragile it is and easy to knock over. I’ll give you an example. Two years ago we had catastrophic flooding in Thailand and Vietnam. Those floods in Vietnam and Thailand shut down the Japanese car industry for a week because there was a certain couple of solenoids that were only built in one factory in Thailand and when that factory got flooded out, none of those cars on the production line could go through because they didn’t have a vital ingredient.
That’s what the nature of complex societies is like. That’s why they’re so fragile and certain things can come out of nowhere – you know, black swan events – can come out nowhere and tip the whole thing over. A little known detail about the degree of the predicament that we’re in is a thing called “global dimming.” If you look at organizations like Deep Green Resistance, they’ve been advocating for a very long time – and a lot of us, me a part of it – about ripping down industrial civilization and starting again. But the trouble is, that when industrial civilization falls over, we lose the global dimming effect, which is all the pollutions in the sky. [They will] fall out of the sky and more solar radiation will get through to the planet and put our extinction level event on steroids. There’s different statistics where people aren’t sure how much warming is in the global dimming, but it’s somewhere between a degree and a half and three degrees of warming. Which is pretty much instantaneous if industrial civilization fell over tomorrow. Most of those pollutants would be out of the atmosphere in week. So we could have three degrees of warming crash across the planet in a week or two. and that would wipe out global grain production on all the continents.
So, you know, things are going to change very quickly and people are underestimating the speed that this thing can happen at. A lot of people will say, “Oh, that’s Hester being too dire and doomy.” But excuse me, I’ve done sixteen ocean passages on small yachts and one of the things that a skipper on a small yacht does is follow the precautionary principle. When you see a storm a building, you prepare for the worst possible storm. And if it doesn’t come as bad as you prepared for, you are sweet. But if you’re not prepared, you’ll just get knocked down, knocked over, and knocked out. Capitalism is in complete denial about abrupt climate change. Even the people running he big NGOs and the big green movement are still in denial about abrupt climate change. So we’re just about to get hit by the perfect storm and no one’s prepared for it. It’s going to be ugly beyond comprehension.
Sonnenblume: It’s hard to even imagine.
Hester: It is hard to imagine and a lot of people prefer not to go there. They’d prefer not to dwell on it and to hope for the best. But hope isn’t a strategy.
Sonnenblume: No, hope is not a strategy at all.
Hester: Hope is the prerogative of the privileged. If you talk to mothers in Yemen or in Gaza who have the military industrial complex raining down on them as you and me are having this conversation, they’re not living in the world of hope. They move their children into the basement and when there’s a quiet period they try to get the kids to get some sleep so they can have some sanity. But they’re not giving those children false promises. They’re not saying we’re going to be okay. They’re saying we hope we’ll be okay but we’ve got to prepare for the worst.
Sonnenblume: There’s so little knowledge in the United States and those things are even going on. I live on the west coast of the United States. I’ve been here for the last 17 years and there’s a whole cultural strain here that believes in “manifesting reality through good intentions.” What’s always offended me about that is that, then if you’re not doing well or not having “abundance,” as they say – by which they mean material wealth – it’s your fault because you don’t have the right intentions. And I always think of the children in Fallujah who were born with grotesque birth defects because of the white phosphorous and depleted uranium that was used against that city in the early 2000’s during the US invasion. Children born with extra limbs, with the brain on the outside of the skull, this sort of thing. And it’s like, well now wait a minute, what did they do wrong? Were they supposed to have purer intentions so that wouldn’t happen to them, or what?
Hester: That is such a bullshit perspective to be taking. It’s a little bit like believing there’s some white guy floating around up in the clouds who’s looking down on us and making all the decisions… Well if people want to believe in that nonsense, they can, but the reality on the ground is what most people are suffering from and going through, so I want to live in the real world and deal with what I see as happening rather than hoping that there’s going to be some nice beautiful existence in another sphere after we go off our mortal plane. I firmly believe that I was born in heaven. I don’t understand why Christians want to go to heaven when I was born there. I want to look after the one that I was born into. Show some respect.
Sonnenblume: Well this whole thing of taking the divine or the sacred out of the earth, out of life itself, out of the plants and the animals and the people, and putting it up in the sky, in the next world, that whole idea came from those monotheistic religions in the Middle East that came out of the agricultural cities. They came from that first, quote, “agricultural revolution.” So it’s all a piece of it. Because you go back to the indigenous worldview again and there are still people living on this planet who don’t look at it that way, who do see – as what you just said – that we are already in paradise. You don’t have to look someplace else for what is holy. It is here.
Hester: Yeah, and I find that very liberating. To already be there is a really great start in life. All these people have aspirations to go to this place and it’s almost like they can’t see the forest for the trees.