Derrick Jensen
Overview
 
Derrick Jensen is an American
People of the United States
The people of the United States, also known as simply Americans or American people, are the inhabitants or citizens of the United States. The United States is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds...

 author and environmental activist living in Crescent City
Crescent City, California
Crescent City is the county seat and only incorporated city in Del Norte County, California. Named for the crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach south of the city, Crescent City had a total population of 7,643 in the 2010 census, up from 4,006 in the 2000 census...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. Jensen has published several books questioning and critiquing modern civilization and its values, including A Language Older Than Words
A Language Older Than Words
A Language Older Than Words is a non-fiction book by Derrick Jensen, first published in 2000. The author uses his own personal experience of abuse as a springboard for looking at civilization as a culture of abuse, exploring the connections between various atrocities...

, The Culture of Make Believe
The Culture of Make Believe
The Culture of Make Believe is a non-fiction book by Derrick Jensen, first published in 2002. In the book the author explores the origins of human destructiveness, primarily through the lens of racism, using historical psychological, sociological, anthropological, and personal anecdotes as tools...

, and Endgame
Endgame (Derrick Jensen books)
Endgame is a two-volume work by Derrick Jensen, published in 2006, which argues that civilization is inherently unsustainable and addresses the resulting question of what to do about it. Volume 1, The Problem of Civilization, spells out the need to immediately and systematically destroy civilization...

. He holds a B.S. in Mineral Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines
Colorado School of Mines
The Colorado School of Mines is a small public teaching and research university devoted to engineering and applied science, with special expertise in the development and stewardship of the Earth's natural resources. Located in Golden, Colorado, CSM was ranked 29th, in America among national...

 and an M.F.A.
Master of Fine Arts
A Master of Fine Arts is a graduate degree typically requiring 2–3 years of postgraduate study beyond the bachelor's degree , although the term of study will vary by country or by university. The MFA is usually awarded in visual arts, creative writing, filmmaking, dance, or theatre/performing arts...

 in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University
Eastern Washington University
Eastern Washington University is an American public, coeducational university located in Cheney, Washington.Founded in 1882, the university is academically divided into four colleges: Arts and Letters; Business and Public Administration; Science, Health and Engineering; and Social & Behavioral...

. He has also taught creative writing at Pelican Bay State Prison
Pelican Bay State Prison
Pelican Bay State Prison is a supermax California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state prison near Crescent City in unincorporated Del Norte County, California. The facility is explicitly designed to keep California’s alleged “worst of the worst” prisoners in long-term solitary...

 and Eastern Washington University.
Jensen's work is sometimes characterized as anarcho-primitivist
Anarcho-primitivism
Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation...

, although he has categorically rejected that label, describing primitivist as a "racist way to describe indigenous peoples".
Quotations

A very poor kid came up to me after a talk and said 'I want to go blow up a factory.' I asked how old he was and he said 17. I said 'have you ever had sex?' He said 'no.' I said 'just remember if you get caught you aren't going to have sex for twenty years at least.' That's not saying that one person having sex is worth the salmon. I'm not saying it's a reason not to act, I'm saying don't be stupid.

Interview with The A Word Magazine, March/April 2005.

Jeanette [Armstrong, "a traditional Okanagan Indian"] said, 'Attitudes about interspecies communication are the primary difference between western and indigenous philosophies. Even the most progressive western philosophers still generally believe that listening to the land is a metaphor.' She paused, then continued emphatically, 'It's not a metaphor. It's how the world is.'

p. 24

I sat at the computer at work, debugging. I was bored. It was afternoon. I was twenty-two. It was June. Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, thunderheads move in almost every afternoon between May and early July. They materialize, darken the day, spit a few drops, open the sky with lightning, then disappear like so many dreams.

I remember staring at the computer screen--light green letters on dark--then at the clock, and finally at my outstretched fingers held a foot in front of my face. And then it dawned on me: selling the hours of my life was no different from selling my fingers one by one. We've only so many hours, so many fingers; when they're gone, they're gone for good.

I quit work two weeks later--having sold another eighty of my hours--and knew I could never again work a regular job.

p. 110-111

In order for us to maintain our way of living, we must, in a broad sense, tell lies to each other, and especially to ourselves. It is not necessary that the lies be particularly believable. The lies act as barriers to truth. These barriers to truth are necessary because without them many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

Encyclopedia
Derrick Jensen is an American
People of the United States
The people of the United States, also known as simply Americans or American people, are the inhabitants or citizens of the United States. The United States is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds...

 author and environmental activist living in Crescent City
Crescent City, California
Crescent City is the county seat and only incorporated city in Del Norte County, California. Named for the crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach south of the city, Crescent City had a total population of 7,643 in the 2010 census, up from 4,006 in the 2000 census...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. Jensen has published several books questioning and critiquing modern civilization and its values, including A Language Older Than Words
A Language Older Than Words
A Language Older Than Words is a non-fiction book by Derrick Jensen, first published in 2000. The author uses his own personal experience of abuse as a springboard for looking at civilization as a culture of abuse, exploring the connections between various atrocities...

, The Culture of Make Believe
The Culture of Make Believe
The Culture of Make Believe is a non-fiction book by Derrick Jensen, first published in 2002. In the book the author explores the origins of human destructiveness, primarily through the lens of racism, using historical psychological, sociological, anthropological, and personal anecdotes as tools...

, and Endgame
Endgame (Derrick Jensen books)
Endgame is a two-volume work by Derrick Jensen, published in 2006, which argues that civilization is inherently unsustainable and addresses the resulting question of what to do about it. Volume 1, The Problem of Civilization, spells out the need to immediately and systematically destroy civilization...

. He holds a B.S. in Mineral Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines
Colorado School of Mines
The Colorado School of Mines is a small public teaching and research university devoted to engineering and applied science, with special expertise in the development and stewardship of the Earth's natural resources. Located in Golden, Colorado, CSM was ranked 29th, in America among national...

 and an M.F.A.
Master of Fine Arts
A Master of Fine Arts is a graduate degree typically requiring 2–3 years of postgraduate study beyond the bachelor's degree , although the term of study will vary by country or by university. The MFA is usually awarded in visual arts, creative writing, filmmaking, dance, or theatre/performing arts...

 in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University
Eastern Washington University
Eastern Washington University is an American public, coeducational university located in Cheney, Washington.Founded in 1882, the university is academically divided into four colleges: Arts and Letters; Business and Public Administration; Science, Health and Engineering; and Social & Behavioral...

. He has also taught creative writing at Pelican Bay State Prison
Pelican Bay State Prison
Pelican Bay State Prison is a supermax California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state prison near Crescent City in unincorporated Del Norte County, California. The facility is explicitly designed to keep California’s alleged “worst of the worst” prisoners in long-term solitary...

 and Eastern Washington University.

Themes in Jensen's work

Jensen's work is sometimes characterized as anarcho-primitivist
Anarcho-primitivism
Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation...

, although he has categorically rejected that label, describing primitivist as a "racist way to describe indigenous peoples". He prefers to be called "indigenist
Indigenism
Indigenism, Native nationalism, or Indigenous nationalism is a kind of ethnic nationalism emphasizing the group's indigeneity to their homeland...

" or an "ally to the indigenous," because "indigenous peoples have had the only sustainable human social organizations, and... we need to recognize that we [colonizers] are all living on stolen land."

Jensen sees civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 to be inherently unsustainable and based on violence. He argues that the modern industrial economy is fundamentally at odds with healthy relationships, the natural environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

, and indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

. He concludes that the very pervasiveness of these behaviors indicates that they are diagnostic symptoms of the greater problem of civilization itself. Accordingly, he exhorts readers and audiences to help bring an end to industrial civilization.

In A Language Older Than Words and also in an article entitled "Actions Speak Louder Than Words", Jensen states "Every morning when I awake I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam. I tell myself I should keep writing, though I'm not sure that's right".

Jensen proposes that a different, harmonious way of life is possible, and that it can be seen in many societies including many Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 or other indigenous cultures. He claims that many indigenous peoples perceive a primary difference between Western and indigenous perspectives: even the most progressive Westerners generally view listening to the natural world as a metaphor, as opposed to the way the world works. Furthermore, these indigenous peoples understand the world as consisting of other beings with whom we can enter into relationship; this stands in contrast to the Western belief that the world consists of objects or resources to be exploited or used.

Writings

A Language Older Than Words uses the lens of domestic violence
Domestic violence
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence , is broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation...

 to look at the larger violence of western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

. The Culture of Make Believe begins by exploring racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 and misogyny
Misogyny
Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Philogyny, meaning fondness, love or admiration towards women, is the antonym of misogyny. The term misandry is the term for men that is parallel to misogyny...

 and moves to examine how this culture’s economic system leads inevitably to hatred and atrocity. Strangely Like War is about deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

. Walking on Water is about education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

 (It begins: "As is true for most people I know, I’ve always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?"). Welcome to the Machine is about surveillance
Surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

, and more broadly about science and what he perceives to be a Western obsession with control.

Endgame is about what he describes as the inherent unsustainability of civilization. In this book he asks: "Do you believe that this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?" Nearly everyone he talks to says no. His next question is: "How would this understanding — that this culture will not voluntarily stop destroying the natural world, eliminating indigenous cultures, exploiting the poor, and killing those who resist — shift our strategy and tactics? The answer? Nobody knows, because we never talk about it: we’re too busy pretending the culture will undergo a magical transformation." Endgame, he says, is "about that shift in strategy, and in tactics."

Jensen's writing uses the first-person
First-person narrative
First-person point of view is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive "voice" and represents point of view in the...

 and interweaves personal experiences with cited facts to construct arguments. His books are written like narratives, lacking a linear, hierarchical structure. They are not divided into distinct sections devoted to an individual argument. Instead, his writing is conversational, leaving one line of thought incomplete to move on to another, returning to the first again at some later point. Jensen uses this creative non-fiction style to combine his artistic voice with logical argument. Jensen often uses quotations as reference points for ideas explored in a chapter. (For example, he introduces the first chapter of Walking on Water with a quote from Jules Henry
Jules Henry
Jules Henry was a noted American anthropologist.After studies at the City College of New York, Henry earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University in 1935. His classmates included Irving Goldman, Ruth Landis and Edward Kennard...

's book Culture Against Man.)

Jensen wrote and Stephanie McMillan illustrated the graphic novel
Graphic novel
A graphic novel is a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics format...

s As the World Burns (2007) and Mischief in the Forest (2010).

Resistance Against Empire consists of interviews with J. W. Smith
J. W. Smith
J. W. Smith is an independent economist with a PhD in Political Economics from Union Institute and University, Cleveland, Ohio. Smith has written six books on the elimination of poverty and war, and Smith also founded and presides over the Institute for Economic Democracy to promote theories and...

 (on poverty), Kevin Bales
Kevin Bales
Kevin Bales is an expert on modern slavery and President of Free the Slaves. Free the Slaves is the US sister organization of Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organization. He is currently based in Washington, D.C....

 (on slavery), Anuradha Mittal (on hunger), Juliet Schor
Juliet Schor
Juliet Schor is a Professor of sociology at Boston College. She studies trends in working time and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women's issues and economic justice. She received her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University and her Ph.D in economics from the...

 ('globalization' and environmental degradation), Ramsey Clark
Ramsey Clark
William Ramsey Clark is an American lawyer, activist and former public official. He worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, which included service as United States Attorney General from 1967 to 1969, under President Lyndon B. Johnson...

 (on US 'defense'), Stephen Schwartz (editor of The Nonproliferation Review, on nukes), Alfred McCoy
Alfred W. McCoy
Alfred William McCoy is a historian of Southeast Asia. He is the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. McCoy graduated from the Kent School in 1964. He earned his B.A...

 (politics and heroin), Christian Parenti
Christian Parenti
Christian Parenti is an American investigative journalist and author. His books include: Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis , a survey of the rise of the prison industrial complex from the Nixon through Reagan Eras and into the present; The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America...

 (the US prison system), Katherine Albrecht
Katherine Albrecht
Katherine Albrecht, EdD is the founder of CASPIAN , a national consumer organization created in 1999 to educate consumer-citizens about shopper surveillance. She is a consumer privacy advocate and anti-RFID spokesperson...

 (on RFID), and Robert McChesney
Robert W. McChesney
Robert Waterman McChesney is an American professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication. His work concentrates on the history and political economy of communication, emphasizing the role media play in democratic...

 (on (freedom of) the media) conducted between 1999 and 2004.

Dreams draws on the mythologies of ancient cultures and the wisdom of contemporary thinkers like Jack Forbes, Waziyatawin (Dakota activist), Paul Stamets
Paul Stamets
Paul E. Stamets is an American mycologist, author, and advocate of bioremediation and medicinal mushrooms.- Research and advocacy :...

, and Stanley Aronowitz
Stanley Aronowitz
Stanley Aronowitz is professor of sociology, cultural studies, and urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is also a veteran political activist and cultural critic and an advocate for organized labor.-Social Text:...

 and is Jensen's challenge to the view that there is no knowledge ouside that gained by science.

Documentaries

Jensen was featured in the documentaries What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire
What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire
What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire is a 2007 documentary film about the current situation facing humanity and the world. It discusses issues such as peak oil, climate change, population overshoot and species extinction, as well as how this situation has developed...

(2007), Blind Spot (2008), First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture (2009), Call of Life (2010) and END:CIV (2011).

Awards and acclaim

  • 2008: Named a “visionary” as one of Utne Reader
    Utne Reader
    Utne Reader is an American bimonthly magazine. The magazine collects and reprints articles on politics, culture, and the environment from generally alternative media sources, including journals, newsletters, weeklies, zines, music and DVDs...

     magazine’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World.”
  • 2008: Grand Prize winner, Eric Hoffer Book Award for Thought to Exist in the Wild, Derrick Jensen, Photographs by Karen Tweedy-Holmes.
  • 2006: Named "Person of the Year" by Press Action for the publication of Endgame.
  • 2003: The Culture of Make Believe was one of two finalists for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize.
  • 2000: Hackensack, NJ, Record declared A Language Older Than Words its best book of the year.
  • 2000: Language was nominated for Quality Paperback Book Club's New Vision Award.
  • 1998: Second Prize in the category of small budget non-profit advertisements, as determined by the Inland Northwest Ad Federation, for the first ad in the "National Forests: Your land, your choice" series.
  • 1995: Critics' Choice for one of America's ten best nature books of 1995, for Listening to the Land: Conversations About Nature, Culture, and Eros.

Books

  • 1995, Listening to the Land: Conversations about Nature, Culture, and Eros (with George Draffan and John Osborn), Sierra Club Books
    Sierra Club Books
    Sierra Club Books is the publishing division of the Sierra Club, founded in 1960 by then Sierra Club President David Brower. Volumes intended for club members had been published prior to 1960. In addition, books under their name had been published before 1960, but done through already established...

    , ISBN 0-87156-417-3 Republished 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1931498562
  • 1995, Railroads and Clearcuts: Legacy of Congress's 1864 Northern Pacific Railroad Land Grant (with George Draffan and John Osborn), Keokee Company Publishing, ISBN 1-879628-08-2
  • 2000, A Language Older Than Words
    A Language Older Than Words
    A Language Older Than Words is a non-fiction book by Derrick Jensen, first published in 2000. The author uses his own personal experience of abuse as a springboard for looking at civilization as a culture of abuse, exploring the connections between various atrocities...

    , Context Books, ISBN 1-893956-03-2 Republished 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1931498555
  • 2002 The Culture of Make Believe
    The Culture of Make Believe
    The Culture of Make Believe is a non-fiction book by Derrick Jensen, first published in 2002. In the book the author explores the origins of human destructiveness, primarily through the lens of racism, using historical psychological, sociological, anthropological, and personal anecdotes as tools...

    , New York: Context Books, ISBN 1-893956-28-8 Republished 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1931498579
  • 2003, Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests (with George Draffan), Chelsea Green, ISBN 978-1931498456
  • 2004, Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control (with George Draffan), Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 1-931498-52-0
  • 2005, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, Chelsea Green, ISBN 978-1931498784
  • 2006, Endgame
    Endgame (Derrick Jensen books)
    Endgame is a two-volume work by Derrick Jensen, published in 2006, which argues that civilization is inherently unsustainable and addresses the resulting question of what to do about it. Volume 1, The Problem of Civilization, spells out the need to immediately and systematically destroy civilization...

    , Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization
    , Seven Stories Press, ISBN 1-58322-730-X
  • 2006, Endgame, Volume 2: Resistance, Seven Stories Press, ISBN 1-58322-724-5
  • 2007, Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos (with Karen Tweedy-Holmes), No Voice Unheard, ISBN 978-0972838719
  • 2007, As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial (with Stephanie McMillan), Seven Stories Press, ISBN 1-58322-777-6
  • 2008, How Shall I Live My Life?: On Liberating the Earth from Civilization, PM Press, ISBN 978-1604860030
  • 2009, What We Leave Behind (with Aric McBay), Seven Stories Press, ISBN 978-1583228678
  • 2009, Songs of the Dead, PM Press, ISBN 978-1604860443
  • 2010, Lives Less Valuable, PM Press, ISBN 978-1604860450
  • 2010, Resistance Against Empire, PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-046-7
  • 2010, Mischief in the Forest: A Yarn Yarn (with Stephanie McMillan), PM Press, ISBN 978-1604860818
  • 2011, Dreams, Seven Stories Press, ISBN 978-1-58322-930-9
  • 2011, Deep Green Resistance (with Lierre Keith
    Lierre Keith
    Lierre Keith is an American writer, radical feminist, food activist, and radical environmentalist.-Biography:Keith began her public involvement in the feminist movement in high school, where she was the founding Editor of Vanessa and Iris: A Journal for Young Feminists , at Brookline High School in...

     and Aric McBay), Seven Stories Press, ISBN 978-1-58322-929-3
  • 2011, Truths Among Us: Conversations on Building a New Culture, PM Press, ISBN 978-1604862997

Spoken word on CD

  • Derrick Jensen Standup Tragedy (live double CD), 2002
  • ---- The Other Side of Darkness (live CD), 2004
  • ---- Now This War Has Two Sides (live CD), PM Press
    PM Press
    PM Press is an independent publisher that specializes in radical, Marxist and anarchist literature, as well as crime fiction, graphic novels, music CDs, and political documentaries...

    , 2008

See also

  • Deep Green Resistance
    Deep Green Resistance
    Deep Green Resistance is a perspective emerging from the current environmental movement that views mainstream environmental activism as being largely ineffective.- Beliefs :...

  • Lierre Keith
    Lierre Keith
    Lierre Keith is an American writer, radical feminist, food activist, and radical environmentalist.-Biography:Keith began her public involvement in the feminist movement in high school, where she was the founding Editor of Vanessa and Iris: A Journal for Young Feminists , at Brookline High School in...

  • John Zerzan
    John Zerzan
    John Zerzan is an American anarchist and primitivist philosopher and author. His works criticize agricultural civilization as inherently oppressive, and advocate drawing upon the ways of life of prehistoric humans as an inspiration for what a free society should look like...

  • Kevin Tucker
    Kevin Tucker
    Kevin Tucker is an anarcho-primitivist writer and speaker who lives in rural Pennsylvania. He is the editor of Species Traitor, an insurrectionary anarcho-primitivist journal, an editor and contributor to Green Anarchy magazine, and co-founder of the Black and Green Network...

  • Wolfi Landstreicher
    Wolfi Landstreicher
    Wolfi Landstreicher is the former nom de plume of a contemporary anarchist philosopher involved in theoretical and practical activity...

  • Deep Ecology
    Deep ecology
    Deep ecology is a contemporary ecological philosophy that recognizes an inherent worth of all living beings, regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs. The philosophy emphasizes the interdependence of organisms within ecosystems and that of ecosystems with each other within the...

  • Anarcho-Primitivism
    Anarcho-primitivism
    Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation...


External links

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