BOOK REVIEW: "Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It"
Reviewed by George Price
June 26, 2021
Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It, by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert, will probably be the most important book published anywhere in 2021, on the most important issue facing all Life on Earth—why we must end the prevailing human economic and industrial practices and the anthropocentric cultural worldviews. It will probably also be the most reviled, attacked, suppressed, censored, dismissed, misrepresented, and slandered book published this year, as well, for some of the same reasons that many people virulently attacked and censored the documentary film, “Planet of the Humans,” last year. Why?
The authors answer the question of why these facts are so difficult to hear, and why they are also so difficult for many of us reluctant messengers to tell, at many points throughout their book, including this passage from the chapter on green energy storage:
“We are being sold a story, and we are buying it because we like it. We want it to be true. We want to believe that our lives can go on with all the ease and comfort we accept as our due. How painless to believe that a simple switch of wind for oil and solar for coal and we can go on with our air conditioning and cell phones and suburbs. Every time we hit a trip wire of unsettling facts or basic math, we soothe ourselves with our faith in technology. If all that stands between us and the end of the world is a battery that can store 46 MJ/kg, surely someone is working on it.”
Most modern humans have been taught all of their lives, by most of the voices of their culture, that their own comfort, pleasure, purpose, social standing, legacy, avoidance of pain, and continued survival depend upon the perpetuation of, and their conformity to, western industrial technological capitalist civilization. That teaching has been reinforced within their psyches by a long series of painful and pleasurable personal experiences. Therefore, they do not want to hear convincing, factual arguments which clearly demonstrate that nearly everything that they have been taught to value and have devoted their lives to is intertwined within a path toward the imminent destruction, collapse, and extinction of not only their so-called “way of life,” but also the real, natural world upon which all biological life on Earth depends.
Besides that, most humans of this culture and era do not want to hear that there is no viable and actually existing technological “fix” for this predicament—which the authors of Bright Green Lies make painfully clear—and many do not want anybody else to hear or declare that either. In addition to all of that, most modern, capitalist, technophile humans are not (yet) prepared to engage with the solutions offered in this book: ending most industrial technological activities and allowing Nature and the few humans who still have such knowledge to teach us how to live without those destructive entities, by her truly sustainable laws and systems, (like we did for 97% of the time of our species’ existence), thus enabling all that remains of natural Life to heal and continue. Bright Green Lies also asks its readers—especially those who identify themselves as “environmentalists” or “environmental activists”—to face up to the fact that they must choose whether they value and seek to protect what the authors refer to as the “real world” (the natural, life-giving, life-sustaining world), or, instead, protect the human-made civilizations that order and constrain their lives, because, with what the world has now come to, we cannot save both. Is such a potentially life-shattering choice more than most people can deal with, even when presented with an overwhelming preponderance of factual evidence persuading them that the choice is unavoidable?
Putting aside (for now) the human tendencies toward acting on faith, auto-conformity, or the herd mentality, and assuming that when making the most serious, life or death, joy-or-perpetual-misery types of decisions, most people will still place some value in actual facts and bother to do a little research, we should expect such people to proceed with such appropriate caution when determining how to answer the challenges presented in this book. Knowing that, and being acutely familiar with the reactions of many politically moderate/liberal, save-civilization-first (before the natural world) people to their previous publications and to similar publications by others, such as Ozzie Zehner’s Green Illusions, back in 2012, and to Jeff Gibbs’ Planet of the Humans documentary, the authors of Bright Green Lies obviously “did their homework,” while drawing also from their decades of expertise on these topics. Nearly every one of the 478 pages in this illuminating volume contain several footnotes citing a variety of relevant and reliable sources for the multitude of little-known, seldom-mentioned facts about the extent of toxic destruction and ecocide that are routine impacts from our commonly-engaged industrial technologies, as well as from the production of solar panels, wind turbines, lithium batteries and other products that are alleged to be “green” and even “100% renewable!” Beginning with solar power, and moving on from there to wind turbines, “green energy” storage (especially lithium), “efficiency,” recycling, “green” cities, “green” electric grids, hydropower, carbon capture, geoengineering, and several other false and misrepresented “solutions,” Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert repeatedly and clearly assist us in the difficult process of discerning and untangling truth from lies.
Here is a summary outline of some of the more potent revelations (for the not-yet-informed) brought forth in this book:
(If you look for charts like this on the internet, you will have a hard time finding ones that end at 2019. Instead, you will see many charts that project beyond, usually up to 2050, showing that somehow the dismal reality portrayed above will magically explode into a dramatic increase in the use of solar and wind technology, even with industrial capitalism remaining intact. They do concede, though, that fossil fuel use—and, of course, CO2 emissions—will still be a considerable part of the picture by then, because of the energy “needs” of industrial capitalism that renewables just cannot provide. That is a difficult fact to admit, but the main reason that it must be faced is found in a combination of basic physics and the capitalist imperative for the maximization of profit. The physics can be summed up in the fact that the average energy density for fossil fuels is 46 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) and “the best lithium battery can only store 1 MJ/kg.” The authors also report that “a diesel semi-tractor can haul 60,000 pounds of freight 600 miles before refueling. To get a similar range [with an imaginary, not-yet-invented electric semi-truck], that tractor would have to have about 55,000 pounds of batteries.” So, which truck would any capitalist distributor of products who wants to maximize efficiency and profit prefer to use? In addition to all that, many climate scientists now say that still using fossil fuels past 2030 means unstoppable bio-system collapse. But people have to have something they can believe in, right? And they cannot be allowed to believe in an end to capitalism or replacing that system with many local, truly democratic, community economic systems that are based in cooperation with Earth ecosystems and Nature’s laws.)
6/30/2021 09:31:00 pm
George, Thank you for the very clear and disturbing summary of this book! I am one of those people who care deeply about the survival of creation and yet have wrestled mightily with the ideas presented in this book. At 73 years old I know how much denial and bargaining go on in my own mind and how colonized my thinking is when it comes to significantly altering my level of comfort and convenience. I fear I can not do it alone and need a community and a spiritual tradition to support me in my "conscious desire" to help heal Mother Earth. As an old Hippie I was drawn to the communal /sustainable / back to the Land Myth that I now see is closer to where I need to be, now that I have traveled so far away for my youthful vision of a just and sacred life. I appreciate your offering this to the group and hope I can begin with other's help to begin again living a more sustainable life. Namaste, Awh Ho.
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