PODCAST: Acting against a (self) destructive culture – An interview with Derrick Jensen

Derrick Jensen is the author of many books which are both wonderful and, at times, difficult to process due to the heavy and unapologetic dose of reality he places at the forefront of all his work.

When I was about 25, a friend suggested I read one of those works: A Language Older Than Words. The book really moved me and ending up leading me to quit my job and escape from city life, temporarily, to a small, rural island. While small town life wasn’t all I had imagined it to be, I do count Derrick’s work as being among some of that which has had a significant impact on my life so far.

Derrick is the author of a number of other works, including: A Culture of Make Believe and Endgame, a book that inspired the production of a documentary called END: CIV. The film examines, similar to that which the book does, “our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations.”

I’ve long wanted to find an opportunity to interview Derrick and was grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with him this past week.

For more on Derrick Jensen’s work, find him online at: derrickjensen.org

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Great interview. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Glad you enjoyed it, XenitH!

  • Henke

    Wonderful interview. Really liked the perspective on technology.
    Thank you so much for posting this!

  • Sabrina L.

    I wish he had given examples of how we see civilization collapsing…I guess I’ll have to read his books!

    • Andrew

      Sabrina, What We Leave Behind is the book of Derrick’s (co-written with Aric McBay) that addresses collapse scenarios most directly. It works its way through several different possibilities – business as usual, technotopia, etc. It’s great stuff.

  • Josh K

    I, also, was lucky enough to interview Derrick Jensen. I was also graced with the presence, at the same interview, of Lierre Keith. I wish I had more time. I could have talked to them for hours. Great interview!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes, we could have talked for hours…I will be interviewing Lierre in the near future as well! Stay tuned!

  • marv

    I hear Derrick Jensen saying that local governance within a framework of human/species rights and ecological liberation is the remedy to the demise of the earth by global capitalism, industrialism and state complicity, in a word civilization. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Realistically I doubt that local democracy, sovereignty and equality could flourish without the binding authority and enforcement of international human rights vehicles and instruments. Eco-communities are highly susceptible to sexism, colonialism, homophobia, conservatism/liberalism, parochialism, xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiments despite their best intentions. Romanticism for moving “back to the land” is a dangerous ideology which can easily put women back into the kitchen via a return to traditional gender roles. Agrarianism, like environmentalism on its own is not a progressive cause. A world body with overseeing power would be essential to guaranteeing equality especially since feminist values have so little foothold in any local community on the planet. So, localism yes, but not alone. Otherwise we would be better off taking our chances with civilization. Feminists have worked too hard to strengthen international law to simply devolve it to a myriad of cultural entities.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Great points, marv! I share your concerns.

  • womononajourney

    Thanks, as always, for your brilliant interview, Meghan. Even if one doesn’t like Derrick’s argument, it is impossible to argue against what he is saying.

  • BlancheDevereaux

    I share and echo Marv’s concerns about Jensen’s ideology. We are not on equal footing as it is, so you can’t just tear down what we have built and call it even, a fresh start. It’s a great fantasy, but I don’t think it works that way. I got assaulted by a man a couple of years ago. I couldn’t move and had to be taken away in an ambulance. I couldn’t walk without help for about a month afterward (and the guy only got five days community service, thanks to the sexist justice system). If it weren’t for the police I may even be dead. In Jansen’s fantasy utopia, everyone is humanitarian and all is well because “Civ” is destroyed. Well, I think that is actually a kind of dissociative thinking, because things aren’t black and white like that. If it weren’t for “Civ” I may not be here today because “someone” felt like killing me. So as much as I do agree with what I take to be the basic motivations behind Jensen’s ideas, I just can’t get on board the whole “end civ” thing. Because it’s just much more complicated than that.

    • BP

      What he means is the Industrial Civilisation needs to end. If it weren’t for Industrial Civ, the between 150 and 200 species that became extinct the last 24 hours may have had still been here. I´m not attacking you but non of our individual lives are more precious than life on the planten.
      It´s the Industrial Civ that will end – with or without a push. People could still maintain the peace (at least as good as the police) without toxifying the air, without toxifying the earth and the water, without messing with our DNA, without building 80 000 atomic weapons, without forcing us to pay to live on the planet…
      I think it would be fairly easy to end Industrial Civ. Think of how much life-enrgy is needed to be sacrificed to maintain it.
      I would agree it mitgh be complicated to change the dominant culture but it´s gonna change, whether it dies out or accepts reality.

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  • Stephen Fucking McRae

    I love Derrick Jensen!!!!!!

  • Gale Vilain

    Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.