By Will Falk 5/22/2014
For most of my life, I have been concerned about my future.
As a child, I studied hard to get good grades so I could grow up to be smart. In high school I studied hard to get good grades, played three sports and wrote for my high school newspaper so I could put together the most attractive college application possible. In college I played varsity football, earned a 3.95 GPA, graduated summa cum laude, and took out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans so I could put together the most attractive law school application possible. In law school I studied hard to get good grades, worked as many internships as I could, and took out tens of thousands of dollars in more student loans so I could get the job I wanted. Once I was hired as a public defender, I worked hard to save up money for vacations, made my student loan payments to build good credit, set aside money for a retirement, and set aside more money “just in case something happened.”
I was always working for the future. Only this was the wrong future to work for.
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There are a lot of young people who have made their way to Unist’ot’en Camp to stop the pipelines. A common conversation revolves around what our families and friends think about us being up here. One young woman I’ve become friends with has dedicated her life to traveling to camps and farms like Unist’ot’en Camp to resist the forces that are threatening life on the planet.
We were talking about what our parents said to us before we left for the bush. Her dad was pretty frustrated with her. He told her she needed to acquire some marketable skills. He urged her to start saving money and to work on a pension. Finally he asked her when she was going to start thinking about her future.
She responded, “What do you think I’m doing?”
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I’ve heard that depression is the inability to see a future. I’ve also heard that anxiety is the fear of an uncontrollable future.
In my own experiences with depression and attempted suicides, I’ve found this to be true. When I tried to end my own life, I could not envision a future I wanted to live in. As I looked down at the bottle of Ambien pills I was about to swallow, all I could see was a meaningless future. I saw myself working in an incessant cycle to save money, pay off my loans, and live for the weekends and vacations. I saw a future filled with industrial fires, warmer and warmer temperatures, and poisoned lifeless oceans.
I lost the future. The pain was excruciating. It hurt so bad all I wanted to do was end the pain.
I know, now, that the depression wasn’t all my fault. Just as depression erodes the future in a depressed person’s mind, the dominant culture, corporations, and governments are physically eroding the future through their unquenchable hunger for natural communities.
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I’m sitting next to the Morice River in northern British Columbia listening to its clear, flowing voice. I’m drinking a cup of coffee made from water pulled from her current. In the last few days, I’ve eaten salmon that swam in her waters.
She has flowed here for thousands of years and should flow here for thousands more.
She is the future.
But corporations want to cut right-of-ways through the forests she supports. They want to provide fossil fuels to burn in markets around the world where they will hasten the warming of the planet making the winters around the Morice River shorter, allowing more beetles to spawn to eat more and more healthy pine trees to death, loosening up soil from the river’s banks. They want to build pipelines through original peoples’ lands, creating a diaspora of the very people who have learned the lessons from the Morice River that could save humanity.
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By discouraging my friend from her activism, her father becomes the spear point of a culture that does everything in its power to silence resistance. My friend’s father, unwittingly, participates in the erosion of her future.
The problem can be put another way: What good is an education if you don’t have healthy soil to grow your food? What good is a retirement plan if you don’t have clean air to breathe? What good is shrinking your student loan debt when you don’t have clean water to drink?
I’m embarrassed to feel the need to have to prove this, but boil your debit card and see what happens when you eat it.
The reality is there is nothing without a livable planet.
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I understand that parents love their children and are deeply concerned for their well being. I understand that parents want their children to be happy and healthy. For many, a steady job with benefits symbolizes health and happiness.
But the truth is the destruction has grown in scope to affect everyone. Dioxin is in every mother’s breast milk. Acid rain falls on the heads of rich and poor alike. No amount of money will bring back even one of the 200 species that went extinct today.
The system, just like I was, is suicidal. It sees the erosion of its own future and the pain is excruciating. Perhaps this dominant culture sees no way out, so it increases the speed of its reckless tumble to death.
Unfortunately, the dominant culture isn’t just killing itself, it wants to take as many of us down with it as it can. It wants to commit murder-suicide.
This is a future many of us refuse to allow to happen. I’ve been humbled and inspired by the strength of the people I see working for a livable future at the Unist’ot’en Camp. Stand with us and help us build a future we all want to be part of.
Post Script May 30, 2014: I have decided to stay in British Columbia to offer all my support to the Camp. I am helping with fundraising, public awareness, and general organizing. I’ve already been in Victoria, BC for three days and I’ve been really busy running around town organizing for a big fundraiser we’re putting on Sunday, June 1. I have written 2 essays from the Camp that will appear on the San Diego Free Press. I’ve also been working on a collection of poetry.
Will Falk says
Just wanted to make it clear that supporting Unist’ot’en Camp is better than supporting me! You can donate here
John Lawrence says
Thank you, Will, for what you’re doing. No work is more important. We don’t need another pipeline. The fossil fuel industries need to come to a halt. If this means we have to go back to the horse and buggy days, so be it. The Amish can be our consultants. The US military is the largest consumer of oil on the planet. They consume more oil than most countries. So are they protecting our freedom or forcing us closer to extinction?
Will Falk says
Great points, John! Turn to the Amish and the leadership of the original peoples of Turtle Island!
In my analysis, extraction and destruction is what civilization does. I use Derrick Jensen’s definition of civilization as “a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts— that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities with cities being defined—so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on—as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.”
What this means is the civilized will use force to obtain the resources that they require. Oil has become a necessity of life as we probably couldn’t grow enough food to support human population without oil based fertilizers. The US military has become correspondingly implicated in this race that we simply cannot win due to the finitude of the world’s resources.
It also means that to live in a truly sustainable manner, we’re going to have to turn our backs on many of the technologies we’re used to.
So, in my opinion, it’s imperative that we work to undermine the force that props up this whole system. We must stop fossil fuels and we needed to stop them yesterday.
The biggest single thing any of us can do is to stop being part of the machine and to live responsibly and accountably for our actions and footprint. That means change comes from within first. The one thing all of us cogs in the wheel have is our sheer numbers. We are controlled by a very few for their benefit and if we stop letting ourselves being mislead and controlled their empire comes crumbling down. Take back your own power. Start by stop buying new stuff, buy second hand whenever possible and repair things as long as possible. When that isn’t possible, buy local artisan product. Realise that you are borrowing this planet from future generations and treat it as such
cliff skioff says
Borrowing this planet from future generations. So true. Can I use it?
Will Falk says
Thank you for your thoughts, Juan.
While I agree – we must decolonize our hearts and minds first – I do not believe that changing personal consumption habits will go very far in stopping the machine. I do think it is absolutely necessary to live as simply as possible, but we must combine this with organized, strategic direct action. If we reduce our political agency to buying certain products and avoiding others we restrict ourselves to mere consumers. The powers-that-be would love nothing more than to see serious environmentalists take themselves off the grid in a spirit of personal moral purity because that would render the environmental movement utterly ineffective.
There are so many other actions possible from non-violent civil disobedience to underground sabotage of infrastructure. I think we need it all.
The clock is ticking. Another 200 species went extinct today. We need the most effective actions and we need them now. I do not think individuals choosing the simplest life possible is going to slow the machine.
Orlene Martens says
Points are well taken in all the articles. There is one flaw. Feeding depression and suicide is not the answer. Take time to enjoy today and yes, work for tomorrow. We can win! We must all work happily for a better earth and speak kindly to those in it who believe a better tomorrow is possible. Where is Occupy – Idle No More? We should not lose momentum. For 3 generations humans continued to enter a world of “money” that sucks all in to poor values and away from sustaining a natural world. Convince those “with money” that putting it into a sustainable earth will change the world, even when governments are going astray. Rise above the poor decision makers. Economy and jobs that take the earth down are NOT first. But a sustainable earth is our “New Economy” and creates “New jobs”. Tell the hockey players, football players, soccer players, entertainers, musicians, kings and queens, princes – the billionaires and trillionaries – they need to come aboard with their intelligence and funds. Speak with people like Desmond Tutu, Randy Backman, and Neil Young. Follow the leadership of people like David Suzuki. Focus on ONE channel to send funds for the earth. There are too many confusing directions. Above all, DO NOT get depressed as that is a way of losing momentum and the poor decision makers will win. Find ways to stay healthy while helping the earth. Enjoy today – gain momentum for tomorrow!