desert (2011) by anonymous – via kindle version from anarchist library [https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/anonymous-desert]
notes/quotes from 66 pgs:
1. A barren or desolate area, especially: a. A dry, often sandy region of little rainfall, extreme temperature, and sparse vegetation. b. A region of permanent cold that is largely or entirely devoid of life. c. An apparently lifeless area of water. 2. An empty or forsaken place; a wasteland: a cultural desert. 3. Archaic A wild, uncultivated, and uninhabited region.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin desertum, from neuter past participle of deserere, to desert; see desert2.]
I have written Desert as a nature loving anarchist primarily addressing others with similar feelings. As a result I have not always explained ideas to which I hold when they are, to some extent, givens within many anarchist and radical environmental circles. Hopefully I have written in an accessible enough manner, so even if you don’t come from this background you will still find Desert readable. While the best introductions to ecology and anarchy are moments spent within undomesticated ecosystems and anarchist communities, some may also find the following books helpful — I did.
- Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: HarperCollins, 2008).
- Fredy Perlman, Against His-story, Against Leviathan (Detroit: Black & Red, 1983).
- Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1990).
- Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World (London: Penguin Books, 1991).
demanding the impossible.. against his story
Something haunts many activists, anarchists, environmentalists, many of my friends. It haunted me. Much of our subcultures tell us it’s not there, that we can’t see it, hear it. Our best wishes for the world tell us not to see it. But for many, despite their best efforts — carrying on with the normal activism, the movement building, living both according to and as an expression of their ethics — despite all this, the spectre gains form. The faint image grows more solid, more unavoidable, until the ghost is staring one in the face. And like many monsters of past tales, when its gaze is met — people freeze. Become unable to move. Give up hope; become disillusioned and inactive. This malaise, freezing, not only slows ‘activist workload’, but I have seen it affect every facet of many of my friends’ lives.
The spectre that many try not to see is a simple realisation — the world will not be ‘saved’. Global anarchist revolution is not going to happen. Global climate change is now unstoppable. We are not going to see the worldwide end to civilisation/capitalism/patriarchy/authority. It’s not going to happen any time soon. It’s unlikely to happen ever. The world will not be ‘saved’. Not by activists, not by mass movements, not by charities and not by an insurgent global proletariat. The world will not be ‘saved’. This realisation hurts people. They don’t want it to be true! But it probably is.
unless it’s not (if we do something legit diff).. ie: a nother way – aka: org around legit needs
but get it.. ie: warning ness et al.. and costello screen\service law
These realisations, this abandonment of illusions should not become disabling. Yet if one believes that it’s all or nothing, then there is a problem. Many friends have ‘dropped out’ of the ‘movement’ whilst others have remained in old patterns but with a sadness and cynicism which signals a feeling of futility. Some hover around scenes critiquing all, but living and fighting little.
“It’s not the despair — I can handle the despair. It’s the hope I can’t handle.”
*The hope of a Big Happy Ending, hurts people; sets the stage for the pain felt when they become disillusioned. Because, truly, **who amongst us now really believes? How many have been burnt up by the effort needed to reconcile a fundamentally religious faith in the positive transformation of the world with the reality of life all around us? Yet to be disillusioned — with global revolution/with our capacity to stop climate change — should not alter our anarchist nature, or the love of nature we feel as anarchists. ***There are many possibilities for liberty and wildness still.
*costello screen\service law et al.. warning ness et al
**i do.. but sounding like not the same as what you’re talking about
***esp today.. with what we can use tech for (as it could be) and things like to (virus) leap and virus noticings
What are some of these possibilities and how can we live them? What could it mean to be an anarchist, an environmentalist, when global revolution and world-wide social/eco sustainability are not the aim? What objectives, what plans, what lives, what adventures are there when the illusions are set aside and we walk into the world not disabled by disillusionment but unburdened by it?
ie: in the city.. as the day.. via a nother way
1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b legit free people
1. No (Global) Future
Religious myths: progress, global capitalism, global revolution, global collapse
The idea of Progress was central to the modern Western paradigm and the presumption that the entire world was moving ever onwards to a better future was dominant. The idea of the inevitability or possibility of a global libertarian future originates from that belief.
In many ways Anarchism was/is the libertarian extreme of the European Enlightenment — against god and the state.
The illusory triumph of capitalism following the destruction of the Berlin Wall lead to the proclamation — more utopian than real — of a New World Order — a global capitalist system. The reaction of many to globalisation was to posit one from below, and this was only re-enforced by the near simultaneous public emergence of the Zapatistas and the invention of the Web. The subsequent international action days, often coinciding with summits, became the focus for the supposedly global anti-capitalist ‘movement of movements’. The excitement on the streets enabled many to forestall seeing the spectre by looking in the direction of the ‘global movement’. But there never was a global movement against capitalism, then, or ever, just as capitalism itself was never truly global. There are many, many places where capitalist relations are not the dominant practice, and even more where anti-capitalist (nevermind anarchist) movements simply don’t exist.
Amidst the jolly unreality of this period of ‘Global Resistance’ some could get really carried away: “We have no interest in reforming the World Bank or the IMF; we want it abolished as part of an international anarchist revolution.” Such statements are understandable if written in the drunk-like exuberance one can sometimes feel on having defeated the police, but they are found more commonly. The self-description of one Anarchist Federation reads: “As the capitalist system rules the whole world, its destruction must be complete and worldwide”.
perhaps let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence w/ubi as temp placebo.. where legit needs are met w/o money.. till people forget about measuring
The illusion of a singular world capitalist present is mirrored by the illusion of a singular world anarchist future.
that’s why we go for neither.. we go for something everyone already resonates with.. everyone already craves.. everyone already groks deep within
I love us, there’s so much we can do and be, but there are limits
Anarchists are growing in number. Groups and counter-cultures are appearing in countries where there were few, or no, social movement anarchists previously. Yet an honest appraisal of our strengths and prospects, and those of the communities and classes we are part of, would show clearly that we are not growing “the new society in the shell of the old”, that someday will liberate the world in a moment of rupture. The earth has a lot of places with a lot of people; a reality that can increasingly easily get lost in the web-encapsulated global (activist) village. To want to rid the world of capitalist social relations, or further still civilisation, is one thing. To be capable of doing so is something else entirely. We are not everywhere — we are rare.
this is one of the main reasons we haven’t yet gotten to global equity.. we have to let go of the old.. shell and all..
Actions, circles of friends, social centres, urban guerrilla cells, magazine editorial groups, eco-warriors, housing co-ops, students, refuges, arsonists, parents, squats, scientists, peasants, strikers, teachers, land based communes, musicians, tribespeople, street gangs, loving insurgents and so, so much else. Anarchists can be wonderful. We can have beauty, and self-possessed power and possibility in buckets. We cannot, however, remake the entire world; there are not enough of us, and never will be..t
again.. why we can’t do it if we’re still us & them ing..
we need a problem deep enough to resonate w/8bn today.. a mechanism simple enough to be accessible/usable to 8bn today.. and an ecosystem open enough to set/keep 8bn legit free
what the world needs most: the energy of 8b alive people
To give up hope for global anarchist revolution is not to resign oneself to anarchy remaining an eternal protest. Seaweed puts it well:
Revolution is not everywhere or nowhere. Any bioregion can be liberated through a succession of events and strategies based on the conditions unique to it, mostly as the grip of civilisation in that area weakens through its own volition or through the efforts of its inhabitants… Civilisation didn’t succeed everywhere at once, and so it’s undoing might only occur to varying degrees in different places at different times.. t
but a legit global re\set is nothing like the morph/increment-ism of civilization ness et al.. for (blank)’s sake
humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..
Even if an area is seemingly fully under the control of authority *there are always places to go, to live in, to love in and to resist from. And we can extend those spaces. The global situation may seem beyond us, but the local never is. As anarchists we are neither entirely powerless nor potentially omnipotent, thankfully.
*not for everyone.. we need to try something legit diff.. part\ial ness is killing us..
ie: org around a problem deep enough (aka: org around legit needs) to resonate w/8bn today.. via a mechanism simple enough (aka: tech as it could be) to be accessible/usable to 8bn today.. and an ecosystem open enough (aka: sans any form of m\a\p) to set/keep 8bn legit free
endnote 11: Sure the web connects the globe, *but most of us end up hearing mainly people just like ourselves: “We end up within these filter bubbles… where we see the people we already know and the people who are similar to the people we already know. And we tend not to see the wider picture.” Ethan Zucker-man, Listening to Global Voices, TED, (www.ted.com).
*even deeper.. too many can’t even use the web as it is.. not to mention.. as it could be
ethan zuckerman – imaginary cosmopolitanism et al
From anti-globalisation to climate change
..in the last few years, an attempt to resurrect the ‘global movement’ appeared amongst us once again — this time around climate change.
The mobilisation at the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference was billed by many as the next Seattle and some groups have claimed they are “building a global movement to solve the climate crisis.” Greenpeace, for instance, says “climate change is a global public ‘bad’. To solve it requires global collective action… *We have no alternative but to build a global grassroots movement, move politicians forward, and force corporations and banks to change direction.” I’ll take it as a given that you the reader understand the naive unreality of such lobby groups but it’s worth looking at those at the less institutionalised end of climate change campaigning.
[When activists] try to convince us that it’s the ‘last chance to save the earth’… it’s because they’re trying to build social movements… There is a growing and disturbing trend that has been lingering around radical circles over the last few years, based on the idea that blind positivity can lead to interesting and unexpected successes. Michael Hardt and Tony Negri’s books have provided some of the theoretical bases for this, and it has been taken up by some who want to unite the masses under the banner of precarity, organise migrants and mobilise for summits. For many coming from the left wing tradition, it has been the message of hope that they were wanting to hear, at a time when their ideologies seemed more moribund than ever.
*Given our obvious inability to re-make the entire world the way we might like it to be, some replace the myth of ‘global revolution’ with a belief in imminent ‘global collapse’ — these days usually some mix of climate change and peak oil. As we shall see later (both in the next chapters and our future years) global heating will severely challenge civilisation in some areas and probably vanquish it in others. Yet in some regions it will likely open up possibilities for the spread of civilisations rule. Some lands may remain (relatively) temperate — climatically and socially. As for civilisation, so for anarchy and anarchists — severely challenged, sometimes vanquished; possibilities for liberty and wildness opening up, possibilities for liberty and wildness closing. The unevenness of the present will be made more so. There is no global future.
2. It’s Later Than We Thought
Observed climate change is faster than expected
Ghost acres feed population overshoots
Integral to the growth of industrial capitalism has been a vast increase in human population. There are now around seven billion of us compared to around 600 million at the beginning of the 18th century. That jump has happened in 13 generations  and in large part it was no accident. Silvia Federici has clearly laid out that a key foundation of early capitalism was the destruction of women’s control over their own fertility: “…wombs became public territory, controlled by men and the state, and procreation was directly placed at the service of capitalist accumulation” (see box below). While it was capitalism that first enforced and then enabled this most recent mass expansion, in doing so it was/is singing an older anthem of civilisation — this time, though, with mechanical amplification
It would be hopelessly Utopian to believe that hunger could be exiled from the human condition but mostly those dying today of starvation do so whilst others in their societies keep eating. Hunger is the language of class warfare. Power has many levels and amongst much of the poorest starvation in the future is likely to be played out as gendered violence, as it is now.
Climate change brings possibilities as well as closures
The very nature of states is to control populations, but many of the billions will not hunger quietly. Yesterday the late Victorian holocausts triggered millenarian uprisings amongst those being swept away by the spreading flood waters of the ‘world system’. Tomorrow, as the tide retracts and surplus populations are left on the (desert) sand, we seem set for yet another, if anything more brutal, century of wars and insurrections.
3. Desert Storms
The military looks to the future
Climate Change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world. Many governments in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are already on edge in terms of their ability to provide basic needs: food, water, shelter and stability. Projected climate change will exacerbate the problems in these regions and add to the problems of effective governance. Unlike most conventional security threats that involve a single entity acting in specific ways at different points in time, climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame. Economic and environmental conditions will further erode as food production declines, diseases increase, clean water becomes increasingly scarce, and populations migrate in search of resources. Weakened and failing governments, with an already thin margin of survival, foster the conditions for internal conflict, extremism, and movement towards increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies…
Hot wars and failed states
Unfortunately, in most places, rebel movements are more likely to be statist than anarchist. This is partly thanks to the large number of established authoritarian political gangs compared to libertarian ones, but also because in extreme situations people turn to extremist solutions. In some places this might be self-organisation, decentralisation and mutual aid, but in many there will be no social solution possible, just the false promises of despots and prophets.
Peacekeepers in the graveyard of the living
Randolph Bourne was right when he said “war is the health of the state” but this other driver is at work too, especially where the ‘sides’ are no longer states. French anarchist anthropologist Pierre Clastres’ description of war among Amazonian tribes is not directly transferable to inter-ethnic conflicts involving non-anarchist peoples but nevertheless an echo does resonate:
What is the function of primitive war? To assure the permanence of dispersal, of the parcelling out, of the atomization of groups. Primitive war is the work of a centrifugal logic, of a logic of separation which expresses itself from time to time in armed conflict. War serves to maintain each community in its political independence...
From (food) Riots to Insurrection
Climate wars to come may wipe out many anarchists but is unlikely to kill off Anarchism, which as a political movement has survived significant culls of its adherents in past local apocalypses. Despite all the horrors of the last 200 years, Anarchism is, as the New York Times put it, “the creed that won’t stay dead.” This is heartening, but we are not ideological machines. It does matter that anarchists themselves — i.e. you, me, our families and friends we have yet to meet — keep on living — not just ‘the ideal’. It matters to me! Give or take the particularities of the local, we may have twenty years (probably more) to prepare for these ruptures, not as an alternative to other tasks at hand, but as an integral part of a long term multi-pronged strategy. For some, it will also be a matter of life or death.
What actual practical stuff needs to be done will depend largely on where and who you are. While we may have some shared aspirations, climate change reinforces the basic truth that we do not have one shared global future. While everywhere the enemy is estrangement and domestication, the situations in Basingstoke and Bangladesh are different in the present and will be in the future.
During his lecture at the Royal Society, Lovelock stated:
We now face the stark choice between a return to a natural life as a small band of hunter gatherers or a much reduced high tech civilisation…
Rather than a choice, there is likely to be both sorts of survivor (as there is now) — high-tech industrial citizen and low-tech gatherer-hunter anarchist. In between these two extremes will lie, buried or hungry, the “much reduced” (many from climate wars) along with those eking out a possibly freer (or not) life on the margins of agricultural/pastoral viability. Let’s look then at what possibilities there may be for liberty and wildness in some of these diverging life ways.
ie: imagine if we listened to the itch-in-8b-souls 1st thing everyday & used that data to connect us (tech as it could be.. ai as augmenting interconnectedness)
4. African Roads to Anarchy
Anarchic elements in everyday (peasant) life
To examine future possibilities for liberty in peasant life, let’s, as an example, look to the continent most often written off. These days “Africa has an image problem”: war, famine, disease and charity appeals. As time goes on, this skewed view of a diverse continent will be further exaggerated by worsening climate change and the interventions of disaster capitalism.  In the previous sections we saw that climate change will cause and exacerbate civil wars largely through increasing the scarcity of food, water and cultivatable soil. Many envision these future conflicts as a generalisation of the image they hold of present day Africa. In doing so they are mostly mistaken.
endnote 63: See: Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (London: Penguin, 2008).
naomi klein.. shock doctrine.. naomi on shock doctrine
Most of Africa’s wars today are fuelled more by the presence of resources and less their scarcity..t  Retractions in global trade should deny oxygen to some of these fires. For instance, as the oil runs out, areas such as the Niger Delta, under siege by state/corporate oil interests, are likely to become once again backwaters rather than battlegrounds. I take it as a given that we will not see an African-wide conversion to Western-originated Anarchism, so what societies evolve into will, in large part, be defined by what they are now. And here is some good non-news from Africa — in many places and on many levels its cultures have significant anarchic characteristics, with a minority being functioning anarchies. I’ll hand over for a moment to Sam Mbah, a Nigerian anarcho-syndicalist:
endnote 64: Contrary to the idea that a decrease in resources is likely to result in increased conflict many surveys have shown that increased resources result in increased conflict. Conflict can be caused by a combination of greed and grievance and often greed is the motor while grievance is the justification. “This suggests that the resource curse, by exposing those in power to the temptations of great wealth, is the most powerful driver of violence and conflict.” — Camilla Toulmin..t, Climate Change in Africa (London: International African Institute and Zed Books, 1999), p. 118
To a greater or lesser extent… [many] traditional African societies manifested an anarchic eloquence which, upon closer examination, leads credence to the historical truism that governments have not always existed. They are but recent phenomena and are, therefore, not inevitable in human society. While some anarchic features in traditional African society existed largely in past stages of
development, some of them persist and remain pronounced to this day. What this means is that the ideals underlying Anarchism may not be so new in the African context. What is new is the concept of Anarchism as a social movement ideology. Anarchy as abstraction may indeed be [largely] unknown to Africans, but is not at all unknown as a way of life…
Manifestations of anarchic elements in African communities… were and to some degree still are pervasive. These include the partial or complete absence of hierarchical structures, state apparatuses, and the commodification of labor. To put this in positive terms, [some societies] were (and are) largely self managed, egalitarian and republican in nature.
The extent to which Africa is viewed as a ‘basket case’ in ‘world opinion’ is in part the extent to which its societies are anarchic and not fully enclosed within capitalist relations..t
Why have anarchic social relations survived in Africa to such a degree? Jim Feast, writing for the American anarchist magazine Fifth Estate, has some answers:
In sub-Saharan Africa, aside from in the minority of countries with a large, white settler population and valuable resources (such as diamonds or copper), there was little penetration of capitalist agricultural forms or government into the interior. In the colonial era… the imperial powers had only limited goals. There was no desire to invest resources to ensure the state could project its authority into every corner of the new colonies… And, after independence, settler states excepted… Africans remained only marginally affected by the market. They increasingly traded in the market, but their base was still a homestead and family farm where a subsistence ethos prevailed… The salient points are these. No matter how wide the impact of world capitalism, much of sub-Saharan Africa has not been effectively shaped by state or market power. Moreover, while in … [many parts of the planet]… there is a struggle to develop an alternative economy, in the parts of Africa under discussion, a robust subsistence economy, unconcerned with profit and capital expansion continues to exist.
Peoples without governments
While anarchic elements are pervasive in Africa there are also entire anarchist societies.  Some of these exist surrounded by more incorporated populations, while others are truly remote from external power — through luck or active avoidance. Environments which are not conducive to empire are a significant factor behind the survival of some of these cultures and their ability to defend their autonomy.
endnote 67: For a good overview of some lived, rather than imagined, anarchies both in Africa and elsewhere see: Harold Barclay, People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy (London: Kahn SrAverill, 1990).
not in anarchist library
A number have remained anarchic within themselves whilst superficially accepting outside power. This should not necessarily be seen as assimilation. Governments don’t like to let outright opposition go unpunished lest it encourage others. Yet they don’t always have the capacity to fully internalise pre-existing or maroon societies, especially wily ones. For the community, the “state power and the alien political culture… are so different and so powerful that… direct resistance soon proves to be unaffordable; passive accommodation is impossible as well. The most acceptable possibility is some kind of collaboration that allows things to continue almost as before, with the idea that ‘we were here before them and we will be here after them’” In some situations this is as simple as unspoken contracts approximate to ‘We’ll pretend you’re governing us, you pretend to believe it’. In other situations ‘outwitting the state’ may involve a complex set of tactics including providing key functions, retraditionalisation, regular movement and manipulating the balance of competing external powers.
*lost people et al
Some may object that these anarchies are not those ‘we’ would design if ‘we’ were to sit down and plan the ‘ideal’ society for them — but they are anarchies none the less. Though far more egalitarian than surrounding societies, they usually have some level of sex and age stratified power relations, a division of labour and sometimes rely on animal slavery. I don’t view any of these things as good but it should be remembered that to differing extents these are aspects of all civilised societies. At least these cultures don’t have class warfare or the state! In this sense they are anarchies even if they don’t conform to all the aspirations of ‘our’ western originated Anarchisms. They should not be idealised (any more than present day Chiapas or 1936 Barcelona) and you don’t have to ‘support them’. But these are existing anarchies, the active social creation of millions of people through time resisting the concentration of power. Any overview of possibilities for liberty would be foolish to ignore them. Those of us who are freeing ourselves from authority can find insights, inspiration and warnings from their examples.
Commons resurgent as global trade retracts
For those in Africa, the fact that anarchies exist and some anarchic tendencies remain widespread beyond them leaves routes of escape and survival open which can be utilised as authorities collapse, retract or are destroyed. It should be noted that many commons-based societies within Africa are fall-back positions turned to after complex kingdoms collapsed or were dismantled by invading empires (both Western and African).
Another loss of state power is the inability of it to provide minimal welfare to the citizenry, such as education and medical care, which structural adjustment programs eliminate as too costly. While some of these services are taken over by international relief organizations, most that are continued are done so by groups from the distressed society itself. In other words, as Thomson puts it, ‘Declining state capacity required civil society to increase its self sufficiency.’ The once-repressed women’s groups, trade unions, farmers associations, and other grassroots networks are assuming greater responsibility in social and economic life…
[So maybe here we are seeing an African road to Anarchism] ‘whereby the money economy and the state, which are in a condition of partial collapse or withdrawal, cede more and more functions to non-monetarized, non-statist village communities that are organized on the basis of mutual aid?’
Outwitting the state
As well as those we could mischievously label lifestyle anarchists,  Africa has a growing, though still small, number of groups organising under the banner of Anarchism. These are unlikely to change the face/s of the entire continent but may play significant roles in emergent movements and struggles.
endnote 73: A cheap joke at the expense of Murray Bookchin’s ridiculous, ‘Social Anarchism vs Lifestyle Anarchism’, dichotomy.
murray bookchin.. post scarcity anarchism
While a surprising number of African dirt roads lead to anarchy much of what we have touched on here relates to many rural areas across the planet to differing degrees. For instance, in his excellent, The Art of Not Being Governed, James C. Scott recounts numerous examples of lived anarchies in upland Southeast Asia. Even outside of anarchies, peasant communities whose self-sufficiency have not been entirely vanquished, still often retain high levels of autonomy — Land is Liberty!  Sadly in many places communal traditions have been eradicated, the ‘commons’ (or ‘wilderness’) enclosed and farmers forcefully transformed into wage labourers. In others however, they have not, for a diverse set of reasons, not least of which is resistance. States do not always get their own way.
endnote 77: If you doubt this why not try a pleasurable experiment and get a taste of freedom by eating food not bought with sold time but grown with one’s own hands. I suspect the experience will convince you that land is liberty and make you desire more of both. For those who like book references as well as soil under their fingernails see: The Ecologist, Whose Common Future? Reclaiming the Commons (London: Earthscan, 1993)
not in anarchist library
The tide of Western authority will recede from much, though by no means all of the planet. A writhing mess of social flotsam and jetsam will be left in its wake. Some patches of lived anarchy, some horrible conflicts, some empires, some freedoms, and of course, unimaginable weirdness. As states recede and ‘fail’ — through *entropy, stupidity, revolution, internal conflict, climate stress — people will continue to dig, sow, herd and live — most, admittedly, in vastly more challenging climates, and few with the guarantee of a peaceful life. In many places commodified land will be reclaimed as commons and new communities will be formed by refugees from the collapsed economies. Anarchic societies — old and new — will need to **defend their liberty and lives, through avoidance, arms, flight and ‘outwitting the state’.
*to me.. failure thru anti entropy ness.. ie: carhart-harris entropy law et al
**to me.. cancerous distraction.. need a legit nother way
We have glimpsed some of the possibilities opened up (and closed) by both future climate wars and the retraction of state governance from rural communities — but what about liberty at the shifting outer borders of civilisation? And what of liberty beyond those borders — in the wild?
ie: a nother way
5. Civilisation Retreats, Wildness Persists
Empires spread deserts which they cannot survive
Read it in the ruins of Ur and Mu Us, the desertified fields of Wadi Faynan and the Techuacan Valley. Empires spread deserts which they cannot survive. Raids, insurrections and desertion often mark the fall of civilisations but the real ground work for their destruction has always been done by their own leaders, workers and zeks. We are all working towards the destruction of our civilisations.
“Civilised man has marched across the face of the earth and left a desert in his footprints.”
The extent to which global heating will cause the expansion of hot deserts is unknown but that they will do so — and drastically — is a pretty safe bet. The interaction of soil, climate and civil power will continue to be a dominant factor determining both history and the opening up of territory for freer lives. That agricultural systems will fail as the arid worlds spread means that, once again, civilisations will have to retreat from much of their previously conquered lands. In some places this will be total, in others a matter of degrees.
In my mother tongue deserts are uninhabitable, abandoned, deserted ; but by whom? Not by the coyotes or the cactus wrens. Not by the harvester ants or the rattlesnakes. Not by the namib quicksteps, the meercats, the acacias, the tahrs, the sandgrouse and the red kangaroos. Deserts and arid environments generally are often biologically diverse, though by their nature, the life is sparser than in other biomes. While some desert areas are lifeless, in most communities of animals, birds, insects, bacteria and plants run, fly, crawl, spread and grow in lives unordered, undomesticated by civilisation. Wildness is in us and all around us. The battle to contain and control it is the constant labour of civilisation. .. t When that battle is lost and the fields are deserted, wildness persists.
millman never nothing law et al.. domesticate ness.. jensen civilization law et al.. wildness
Nomadic freedoms and the collapse of agriculture
overall the more nomadic a people the more independent they are likely to be. Governments know this as can be witnessed by the widespread attempts to settle their desert nomad problems.
Helene Claudot-Hawad says in a discussion of Tuareg conflict with modern states that: “State boundaries have by definition a fixed, immovable and intangible line, and are purposefully made not to be transgressed. They separate what are meant to be mutually opposing entities.” That the resistant independence of nomads is often mixed with a practical disbelief in borders makes them threatening to the very ideological basis of governments..t
siddiqi border law et al
Sandgrouse and creosote
On a more general level, many of those with a longing for wildness and a need for freedom from authority have gravitated towards the frontiers often hot deserts and semi-arid regions.
Such possibilities are present — and will be more so — in many regions, Even for those within the walls of the supposed global powers, there will be an expanding outside. In the already water stressed areas of southern Europe, deserted farms and villages have been re-inhabited by anarchists, hippies, cults and others wishing to flee the direct gaze of authority and desert the prison of wage labour. Similar ‘drop out’ situations are present in the drying heart of Australia and the western deserts of North America. Here, importantly, aboriginal communities persist or are re-establishing. The long indigenous strategy of survival — “we were here before and will be after” — may bear desert fruit. As numerous contemporary struggles illustrate, anarchists and native peoples can make good allies.
For free peoples and wild-life the harshness of our cultural desert is a most threatening of environments..t
hari present in society law et al
6. Terror-Nullius Returns
Civilisation expands as the cold deserts thaw
It’s a dirty secret that many Northern governments are actively looking forward to the effects of climate change on the lands they occupy, at the moment often only symbolically. There will be some winners in the (increasingly) water rich, thawing Far North just as there will be many, many losers in the water-stressed hot regions. Climate doesn’t believe injustice. “Some… regions of the world… may experience gains from global warming in the next 20 to 30 years, such as more favourable farming conditions in some parts of Russia and Canada.” “The northern quarter of our planet’s latitudes will undergo tremendous transformation over the course of this century, making them a place of increased human activity, higher strategic value, and greater economic importance than today.”
This transformation will be fuelled by the climatic effect of fossil fuel burning and the opening up of new reserves. “The region could be home to 90 billion barrels of oil — worth a whopping $7 trillion at the current oil price — and 30 percent of the planet’s untapped gas reserves, according to the US Geological Survey.”
There is a lot of ice on Antarctica and significant disputes are unlikely to hit until mid-century if not much, much later, but that does not mean states are not laying foundations. It is a cruel irony that much of the science that has enabled awareness of climate change and allowed glimpses of past climates has come through the sterling efforts of scientists working in state institutions — the British Antarctic Survey for example, whose presence in Antarctica is in large part funded to underline imperial claims over a continent true conquest and domestication can only come through massive climate change In the meantime the seas of the Far South — especially around the disputed Falkland Islands — are increasingly party to oil prospecting.
Ecocide and genocide in the ‘empty’ lands.
When the British state declared Australia ‘terra nullius’ it was defining the land as empty. The peoples, the wildness, were to be made invisible, unbearable. If perceived at all, they were seen, correctly, as obstacles to progress. In the Far North, as in colonies generally, much of the land is already peopled and from a wider perspective, animaled. There are wonders in the tundra that civilisation must lay to waste in the cause of emptying and occupation.
The present scale of industrial invasion is merely a portent of the coming ecocide engendered, as the high latitudes warm, by the peppering of the Far North with more cities, roads, installations, fields and factories. This process will also be one of attempted genocide. Herders such as some of the Sami of Lapland and indigenous of Siberia will likely find their homelands increasingly fragmented and polluted whilst those communities living on resource rich land will face eradication — either by simple dispossession or by assimilation into the industrial culture 
endnote 107: When an indigenous people ceases to exist and becomes instead part of the wider culture is a question I will leave to the peoples themselves. That such assimilation is deeply painful can be seen both in the staggeringly high suicide rates amongst many newly settled communities and in the self harm and suicide rates more generally as children worldwide are formed into adult cogs and microprocessors.
While there have been — and will be — victories in the battle to stop the northern spread of empire and its infrastructure, even the most resolute peoples cannot halt climate change itself. Indigenous peoples report that lives, and the survivability of life-ways, are already being affected. As Violet Ford, an Inuit, says: “We can’t predict the weather anymore, so it’s very difficult to plan our hunting. It puts a lot of stress and fear into our communities.” Similar reports come from the ‘Russian’ Arctic as well, where changes in ice and snow melting is causing culture change and endangering the reindeer herding lifestyle of the Nenet herders on the Yamal Peninsular.
On a bright day on a storm tossed cape I walked with a friend surrounded by forest, waves, osprey, and orcas. Far from any road or village, the place felt pristine, but amongst the trees were the rotting remains of a school. Rusting farm implements littered the undergrowth and former fields were now the hunting grounds of cougar. Remoteness from markets, the illogic of politics, and land unsuited to colonisation by an imported model had led to the evacuation of this coast. It reminded me that despite the wishes of those who plan worlds, settlement sometimes fails and the wild wins. This will continue to be true.
It would be lovely to think that a thousand anarchist log huts will bloom but more prevalent are likely to be workcamps and farmlands resembling something between Dubai’s modern gulags and the new Chinese farming and logging colonies of Siberia. In the UAE desert migrant workers live in horrific conditions and are bussed in and out of Dubai daily to build the new super city. They have no rights of citizenship, no rights to stay beyond a fixed term contract, almost no spouses (or right to marry or co-habit), families rarely exist, no official unionisation. Frightened by an ‘Indian Demographic Time-Bomb’ Dubai’s rulers have initiated a complex immigration quota system where migrants are brought in from diverse countries to keep workers socially divided. In Siberia 600,000 Chinese workers cross the border in seasonal migration every summer to work the new fields.
refugee camps et al
So there will be lives of slavery as well as liberty on the new frontiers and with worsening prospects in much of the warming world and the promise of hard currency many will choose them.
7. Convergence and the New Urban Majorities
Life expectancy and expectations of ‘modern life’
In 2008 humanity passed a significant milestone — more of our species now live in cities than outside of them..
As Mike Davis puts it;
Very large cities — those with a global, not just regional, environmental footprint — are thus the most dramatic end-product, in more than one sense, of human cultural evolution in the Holocene. Presumably they should be the subject of the most urgent and encompassing scientific inquiry. They are not. We know more about rainforest ecology than urban ecology.
Survival in the slums
While different places are, by nature, different, one near constant across the burgeoning metropoli are the slums. At least one billion people already live in them, a figure expected to rise to two billion within two decades and three billion people by mid-century. This means one in three people on earth could be living in non-formalised urban terrains, in shacks, tents, corrugated iron, tenement and rubbish. Already in many countries slum dwellers make up the majority of urbanites. 99.4% in Ethiopia and Chad, 98.5% in Afghanistan and 92% in Nepal. Bombay is the global slum capital with 10–12 million squatters and tenement dwellers followed by Mexico City and Dhaka with 9–10 million each, then Lagos, Cairo, Kinshasa-Brazzaville, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Delhi all with 6–8 million. [
8. Conservation Amidst Change
We already know some of what this will begin to look like — just look at the incredibly interventionist nature of most of British conservation. The bioregion where I live is, in the context of temperate Europe, bio-diverse but it is heavily managed, in part by conservationists. Given the fragmentation of existing habitat it would probably be disastrous if such management stopped. Effectively, in my bioregion it is a ridiculous choice between wild (i.e. self-willed) land and biodiversity. From a radical environmental perspective (not to mention one with an eye to island biogeography) *the solution would be rolling back human management of habitat over a large enough area that the ecosystems could function effectively. Realistically it now looks more probable that much of the world’s wildernesses will increasingly resemble my bioregion than my bioregion resemble the world’s wildernesses.
*what we need for global re\set.. to get back/to and undisturbed ecosystem.. aka: an unmanaged one.. any form of m\a\p
There is likely to be plenty of work for those conservation managers with a stomach for the needed endless interfering, but it’s not the kind of conservation Aldo Leopold would recognise. Even if such massive expansion of governance by conservationists over humanity and protected areas is carried out (doubtful), unless there is a significant slowing of climate change (which I suspect will not happen any time soon) biodiversity will be affected “in ways that will eventually become impossible to manage.”
A few years back an old friend and comrade told me, with obvious sadness in his eyes, that the earth will need active management for the next 1,000 years. In some senses he’s probably right; the trick of government has always been that it creates problems to which only it can be the solution. While doubting its efficacy, I for one will not condemn those who — motivated by biocentric passion — take this path. However, for those unwilling to step away from their core ethics around liberty/wildness/anarchy, other options remain, narrowing though they are.
Advantage — The situation is dire
One can’t really make the situation much worse, and one’s actions could help make a real difference in struggles to defend wildness and liberty.
An obvious criticism of damage control is that it could be seen as treating the symptoms and not the root cause. Diagnosis of the malady is clear but it would be deluded to believe one had (or more ominously was) the cure. .
Nature bats last
Nature’s incredible power to re-grow and flourish following disasters is evident both from previous mass extinctions and from its ability to heal many lands scarred by civilisation. Its true power is rarely considered within the sealed, anthropocentric thinking of those that would profit from the present or attempt to plan the future. Yet the functioning of the Earth System is destructive as well as bountiful and it is not a conscious god with an interest in preserving us or its present arrangement — something we may find out if the Earth is now moving to a new much hotter state. With us or without us, “while the class war is vicious — there can be only one winner, the wild.” In a sense there is solace in this, but we should not look to such ‘victory’ as Christian Fundamentalists look to their ‘rapture’, for those species that have been pushed to oblivion will not rise from the dead and neither shall we. Nevertheless, nature bats last.
9. Anarchists Behind the Walls
Social war in temperate climates
James Lovelock says that in the “predicted climate catastrophe… what is at risk is civilisation.” I am unfortunately less optimistic — civilisation in some form or other will persist, at least in many regions. It is no accident that the first civilisation to spread globally originates in temperate Europe. Many other civilisations raised up empires only to destroy their environments and collapse.
jensen civilization law et al
While those of us living ‘behind the walls’ may be shielded from some of the more overt and large scale conflicts — and opportunities — that are likely to characterise this century, the social war is all around us. The lack of overt civil war is merely a sign of the depth of our domestication, as in most places, the policing needs only be sporadic. Pecking orders are almost everywhere, and from the boredom, pain and indignity of wage labour to our exclusion from the land community, we live in (and are) occupied territory..t If we disregard the illogic of private property and take food or shelter when needed we risk facing security guards, bailiffs, police and prisons. Though largely absent from the spectacle the class casualties mount up — in my country the richest live on average 10 years longer than the poorest and one of the greatest single predictors of fatal heart disease — thanks to social stress — is how low one is in a hierarchy. Just as worldwide more people kill themselves than get killed in wars and through interpersonal violence, in Britain suicide remains the highest single cause of death for both males and females aged 15–34.. t Assimilation is painful and trauma, self-harm, abuse and addiction are rife. As Raoul Vaneigem said, for many, “the greatest kept state secret is the misery of everyday life.”
revolution of everyday life et al
hari present in society law et al
Our lives can be better, freer, and wilder than this and as anarchists we do our utmost to make them so, not in the ever-after of post-revolutionary heaven, but now. Nevertheless despite being anarchists many of us find ourselves in relatively temperate social climates far from overt conflict on the scale likely to be seen beyond the walls. This brings both advantages and disadvantages.
Surveillance states & security cultures
New communication technologies = New ways of making us talk.
if only.. ie: self-talk as data et al.. idiosyncratic jargon et al..
When these new technologies are combined with old fashioned ‘human intelligence’ gathered by informers and infiltrators operating within resistant communities, states and corporations can gain a level of oversight that would have been unthought-of even a few decades ago. Whether or not control technologies converge to create an intelligence state that understands everyone rather than merely gathers data on them is yet to be seen; but against those pre-existing cultures of opposition the lenses are very much already focused. Sadly, much of the focusing is done by us.
matters little if non legit data.. ie: data from whalespeak et al
The fact that our tyrannical enemy no longer draws its power from its ability to shut people up, but from its aptitude to make them talk — i.e, from the fact that it has moved its centre of gravity from its mastery of the world itself to its seizure of the world’s mode of disclosure requires that a few tactical adjustments be made.
— “Silence and Beyond”, Tiqqun 1
A limited response would be (along with abandoning any dialogue with power and spectacle) relinquishing the use of new near universal communication technologies. Though this may have wider lifestyle benefits, it may also increasingly make oneself stand out. According to a UK military mid-term future projection: “By the end of the period  it is likely that the majority of the global population will find it difficult to ‘turn the outside world off.’ ICT [information and communication technology] is likely to be so pervasive that people are permanently connected to a network or two-way data stream with inherent challenges to civil liberties; being disconnected could be considered suspicious.” We are moving to such a future fast. When the French anti-terrorist police invaded the land community in Tarnac in 2008 one of the public justifications they gave for suspecting that a terrorist cell was forming was that few on the land had mobiles!
again.. matters little of ict is all about whalespeak
The agreed convention is that the first step for those who, having planned the future, now wish to bring it about is to make oneself known, make one’s voice heard — speak truth to power. Yet “the listener imposes the terms, not the talker.” Much of the low-level contestation that characterises activism, and the limited social spaces that make up counter-cultures, actively mark out areas, and people, in need of potential policing. That’s *not to say that all resistance is futile (if meaningful, achievable objectives are kept in mind, and tactics not transformed into aims),
i’d say *resistance isn’t just futile.. but a cancerous distraction.. for (blank)’s sake
Yet, despite this contradiction, if we don’t believe in a global revolutionary future, we must live (as we in fact always had to) in the present. Shelves overflow with histories of past struggles and hallucinations of the post-revolutionary future whilst surprisingly little has been written about anarchist life under, not after, capitalism. Yet that is where most of us in temperate regions are, and where most of us are likely to remain.
The state is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.
— Gustav Landauer
imagine if we listened to the itch-in-8b-souls 1st thing everyday & used that data to connect us (tech as it could be.. ai as augmenting interconnectedness
When we choose which interventions/campaigns/struggles to fight, and which locations to live in, we should select them, where we can, partly on their potential for social contagion. For the presence of factors that link us, and our desires, ethics and needs, to those of the surrounding society. Doing so is self-protective. Beyond our own security, choosing battles based on where people already are, and linking the anarchies we are growing with existing ecologies, social relations and gains from previous struggles, has the significant advantage of making anarchy more translatable. As Colin Ward said:
maybe protective to a degree.. but cancerous distraction from being legit free
Resist much, obey little
david on creative refusal et al
Love, health and insurrection
Too often some people’s activism resembles the manic phase of bi-polar disorder.
We are anarcho-syndicalists on the shop floor, green anarchists in the woods, social anarchists in our communities, individualists when you catch us alone, anarcho-communists when there’s something to share, insurrectionists when we strike a blow.
An Anarchism with plenty of adjectives, but one that also sets and achieves objectives, can have a wonderful present and still have a future; even when fundamentally out of the step with the world around it. There is so much we can do, achieve, defend and be; even here, where unfortunately civilisation probably still has a future.
Here I have tried to map present and plausible futures whilst calling for a desertion from old illusions and unwinnable battles in favour of the possible. I would hope that the implicit call throughout, for us to individually and collectively desert the cause of class society/civilisation, was clear. Yet I can already hear the accusations from my own camp; accusations of deserting the cause of Revolution, deserting the struggle for Another World. Such accusations are correct. I would rejoin that such millenarian and progressive myths are at the very core of the expansion of power. We can be more anarchic than that.
Much of this piece has been ‘big picture’, but that should not detract from the true value of the hands on, the local, our emotional relationships and day to day projects. The future should not be allowed to foreclose on today, even if today is foreclosing some possibilities in the future. No future is worth living or fighting for that is not existent in the present.
imagine if we listened to the itch-in-8b-souls 1st thing everyday & used that data to connect us (tech as it could be.. ai as augmenting interconnectedness)
To be disillusioned — with ‘Global Revolution’ and with our capacity to ‘Save the Earth’ — should not alter our anarchist nature, or the love of nature we feel as anarchists. There are many possibilities for liberty and wildness still. What are some of these possibilities and how can we live them? What objectives, what plans, what lives, what adventures are there when the illusions are set aside and we walk into the world not disabled by disillusionment but unburdened by it?
need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature so we can org around legit needs