[Note: JZ is too timid for our taste but I guess he can serve as a gateway for people completely out of the loop on AnPrim thinking]
Eugene is home to notable anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan, who’s recently released a collection of essays about civilization
Zerzan is famous as one of the major developers of the anarcho-primitivism worldview and in 2014 spoke out against a group that tried to inject transphobia into the theory. Put simply, anarcho-primitivism is anti-technology and calls for the abolition of the large-scale industrialization that has distanced humans from our nature. It’s an ideology that was thrown into the mainstream by Ted Kaczynski (also known as the Unabomber), with whom Zerzan had shared anticivilization ideas during his high-profile trial and while in prison.
“I think there’s only one civilization left, and this is it, and it’s failing,” Zerzan says. “Maybe we look at certain things anew in that light.”
With the urgency of climate change, Zerzan says civilization needs to reconsider itself and the technologies it relies on because time is running out. “If we plod along as business as usual, it’s a course of suicide,” he says.
I would not normally write to you in this way. I would not normally write to anyone in this way. I gave up writing letters some years ago after my correspondents mostly stopped replying. When one of my friends sent me a two-line text message in response to a five-page, handwritten letter—to add insult to injury, it even had one of those smiley face things at the end—I knew the game was up. I am not convinced that people know how to write letters anymore, or even to read them. I won’t bore you with the facts about the ongoing measurable decline in our ability to concentrate. You of all people know what the screens are doing to our minds.
That, as you might already have guessed, is the subject of this letter.
[While I find this article interesting, it is, in the end, a lot of “angels dancing on the head of a pin” speculating because of the basic supposition that the longtermist are making that humanity should be saved. If you’ve been reading his site very long, you know that I do not think that is the case. However, it is an interesting read. Humanity’s ability and even desire to delude themselves into thinking we have a chance of survival or even that we should try is always amusing. Wouldn’t it be deliciously funny if adherence to this doctrine leads to the total annihilation of humanity? ]
It started as a fringe philosophical theory about humanity’s future. It’s now richly funded and increasingly dangerous
But reflect for a moment on how humanity got itself into the current climatic and ecological crisis. Behind the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, decimation of ecosystems and extermination of species has been the notion that nature is something to be controlled, subjugated, exploited, vanquished, plundered, transformed, reconfigured and manipulated. As the technology theorist Langdon Winner writes in Autonomous Technology (1977), since the time of Francis Bacon our view of technology has been ‘inextricably bound to a single conception of the manner in which power is used – the style of absolute mastery, the despotic, one-way control of the master over the slave.’ He adds:
There are seldom any reservations about man’s rightful role in conquering, vanquishing, and subjugating everything natural. This is his power and his glory. What would in other situations seem [to be] rather tawdry and despicable intentions are here the most honourable of virtues. Nature is the universal prey, to manipulate as humans see fit.
This is precisely what we find in Bostrom’s account of existential risks and its associated normative futurology: nature, the entire Universe, our ‘cosmic endowment’ is there for the plundering, to be manipulated, transformed and converted into ‘value-structures, such as sentient beings living worthwhile lives’ in vast computer simulations, quoting Bostrom’s essay ‘Astronomical Waste’ (2003). Yet this Baconian, capitalist view is one of the most fundamental root causes of the unprecedented environmental crisis that now threatens to destroy large regions of the biosphere, Indigenous communities around the world, and perhaps even Western technological civilisation itself. While other longtermists have not been as explicit as Bostrom, there is a clear tendency to see the natural world the way utilitarianism sees people: as means to some abstract, impersonal end, and nothing more. MacAskill and a colleague, for example, write that the EA movement, and by implication longtermism, is ‘tentatively welfarist in that its tentative aim in doing good concerns promoting wellbeing only and not, say, protecting biodiversity or conserving natural beauty for their own sakes.’
A vicious cycle linking the depletion of natural resources with violent conflict may have gone past the point of no return in parts of the world and is likely to be exacerbated by climate change, a report said on Thursday.
Food insecurity, lack of water and the impact of natural disasters, combined with high population growth, are stoking conflict and displacing people in vulnerable areas, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) think-tank said.
IEP uses data from the United Nations and other sources to predict the countries and regions most at risk in its “Ecological Threat Register”.
Serge Stroobants, IEP director for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa said the report identified 30 “hotspot” countries – home to 1.26 billion people – as facing most risks.
This is based on three criteria relating to scarcity of resources, and five focusing on disasters including floods, droughts and rising temperatures.
“We don’t even need climate change to see potential system collapse, just the impact of those eight ecological threats can lead to this – of course climate change is reinforcing it,” Stroobants said.
Afghanistan gets the worst score on the report, which says its ongoing conflict has damaged its ability to cope with risks to water and food supplies, climate change, and alternating floods and droughts.
Conflict in turn leads to further resource degradation, according to the findings.
Six seminars including governments, military institutions and development groups last year returned the message that “it is unlikely that the international community will reverse the vicious cycles in some parts of the world”, IEP said.
This is particularly the case in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, which has seen more and worsening conflicts over the last decade, it said.
“With tensions already escalating, it can only be expected that climate change will have an amplifying effect on many of these issues,” the report said.
(This story corrects to remove extraneous word from headline, no change to text.)
“HELLO FELLOW TRIBE MEMBERS.” The friendly greeting is superimposed over a familiar image of a rust-colored A-frame cabin with a green roof. Below it, a teen waves and strikes poses along with the on-screen text while percussion music plays in the video’s background. “Some of my beliefs: unga bunga > ooga booga. the industrial revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. anti civ CHAD. i cannot wait to tear down some power lines with you guys!”
Of all the contemporary internet’s innumerable hovels, few are as bewildering as the shambly shanty of Tedpilled TikTok. There, content creators meet the platform’s trending memes in a densely ironic effort to elevate Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Through song imitations, dialogue reenactments, reaction videos, voiceovers, and dances, TikTokers broadcast the incarcerated terrorist’s views about the necessity of dismantling industrial society through property destruction and murder.
Using the hashtags #tedpill, #tedk, and #tedkazcynski—which have collectively garnered millions of views—the Tedpilled place photographs of the Unabomber in “duets” with other videos, creating a counterpoint between Kaczynski’s views and the supposed excesses of influencer culture. With the Wombo.AI, they face-morph Kaczynski into goofily singing songs about Fortnite. Elsewhere, shaggy anarchists riff on the #DontBeSurprised trend—in which TikTokers share images representing their hopes and dreams with the text “Don’t be surprised if one day I just . . . ”—juxtaposing the peppy indie-folk song “Go Down On You” by The Memories with pictures of Ted Kaczynski standing next to his off-the-grid cabin. Light-hearted jokes about personal body counts and depopulation fantasies coexist alongside more earnest defenses of anarcho-primitivist politics.
To swallow the “Ted pill” is to embrace the romance of a return to a pre-industrial, hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
It’s a strange, if organic, world. It blurs the line between the hyperbolic adoration of online stan culture and a critique of the same, all unfolding in the vernacular of the young and extremely online: Ted was right. Ted is daddy. Ted is a based God. In one since-deleted video, a mop-topped kid mouths along to a hip-hop song and points to a text bubble reading, “the Industrial Revolution lowkey be cringe,” followed by a string of emojis. Another entry in the canon is labeled “ted is so fine i’m sorry”; in it, a doe-eyed teen who has superimposed herself over a photo of a young, fresh-faced Unabomber sits in front of the stars-and-stripes while lip-syncing the Counting Crows “Accidentally in Love” (originally composed for the motion picture Shrek 2).
To swallow the “Ted pill” is to embrace the romance of a return to a pre-industrial, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. It is to reject modernity, agriculture, and civilization itself. It offers a dystopian diagnosis of modern life, embracing a utopian fantasy of some prelapsarian state-of-nature. More paradoxically, Ted-pilling means using TikTok—a culturally dominant, globalized, Chinese-owned social networking techno-bauble—as a means of agitating for a radical political philosophy that is, among much else, vehemently anti-technology.
Rupert Read, Environmental Philosopher and Chair of Green House Think Tank.
The Paris Agreement explicitly commits us to use non-existent, utterly reckless, unaffordable and ineffective ‘Negative Emissions Technologies’ which will almost certainly fail to be realised. Barring a multifaceted miracle, within a generation, we will be facing an exponentially rising tide of climate disasters that will bring this civilization down. We, therefore, need to engage with climate realism. This means an epic struggle to mitigate and adapt, an epic struggle to take on the climate-criminals and, notably, to start planning seriously for civilizational collapse.
Dr Rupert Read is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. Rupert is a specialist in Wittgenstein, environmental philosophy, critiques of Rawlsian liberalism, and philosophy of film. His research in environmental ethics and economics has included publications on problems of ‘natural capital’ valuations of nature, as well as pioneering work on the Precautionary Principle. Recently, his work was cited by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in their landmark decision to ban the cultivation of GM aubergine. Rupert is also chair of the UK-based post-growth think tank, Green House, and is a former Green Party of England & Wales councillor, spokesperson, European parliamentary candidate and national parliamentary candidate. He stood as the Green Party MP-candidate for Cambridge in 2015.
About the series
Shed A Light is a series of talks that seek to present alternative framings of future human-nature interactions and the pragmatic solution pathways that we could take to get there.
By recognising the interlinkages between struggles for ecological, social and economic justice in addition to the desperate need for immediate societal transformation, Shed A Light aims to engage everyone with the green agenda and prompt broad-based discussions on sustainability issues.
Writing about climate change can be challenging, especially if the desire is to raise serious alarm but offer some solutions and hope. No one has done that better than DAVID WALLACE-WELLS, whose recent book, The Uninhabitable Earth, has been called “this generation’s Silent Spring.” He alerts us to the human effects on our planet, the ways that environmental damage is transforming nature, influencing global politics, threatening capitalism and, indeed, human progress. But—as the author will explain—his book is also an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation—today’s. Guiding us forward, Wallace-Wells will also lay out some of the dramatic actions we could take to build a livable, prosperous world in the age of global warming.