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New Videos for a New Pamphlet

Adam Krause

With today's release of Walking Each Other Home comes the release of two related videos. The first has original music by the author and some very amazing guest vocalists. The second has slightly less original music, but you'll still probably really get a kick out of it (and in a quick message to all the copyright lawyers out there, it almost certainly falls under fair use).

Walking Each Other Home

Adam Krause

IMG_2402.jpg

We are pleased to announce a new pamphlet. It is called “Walking Each Other Home,”  and was written by Adam Michael Krause.

It is an essay exploring “home.” What is a home? Why is it so important? What does it mean to be homeless? What's up with borders? How can anyone be “illegal”? Hand-stitched binding, block printed covers, a pop-up house in the middle, and a postcard that will help you download a song that is also called "Walking Each Other Home." The song features guest vocals by Todd Umhoefer, Mark Waldoch, Vanessa Parker, and Marielle Allschwang.

Find the essay here:

http://www.redearthpress.org/products/walking-each-other-home-by-adam-michael-krause

Hear the song here:

https://adamkrause.bandcamp.com/album/walking-each-other-home

 

Why? What? How? Who? What If? A Podcast Interview With Adam Michael Krause

Adam Krause

Friends,

Red Earth Press founder Adam Michael Krause recently appeared as a guest on a wonderful podcast, where he spoke with avant-garde renaissance man, experimental music legend, and all-around great interlocutor Andrew McKenzie to answer the seemingly simple (but surprisingly difficult to answer) questions of Why? What? How? Who? What If?

Mr. McKenzie has created a clever concept for these interviews. Rather than talking about someone's latest book or record, the topic becomes why do you even make books or records? Who are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? The questions are all one word long, until you get to the last one, which is two.

Listen Here.

Listen, share, and be sure to check the other episodes. Thank you, and have a wonderful day!

The Mister Rogers of Anarchism

Adam Krause

In Turtle Island, Gary Snyder writes, “the ‘revolution of consciousness’ will not be won by guns but by seizing key images, myths, archetypes… so that life won’t seem worth living unless one is on the transforming energy’s side.”

This is important to remember. I’m against a lot of things. I’m against pipelines. I’m against racists. I’m against militarized and murderous cops. So much energy is spent opposing things that it’s easy to forget that there’s a vision of a better world motivating all that opposition. I’ve glimpsed that better world at DIY shows, community gardens, shared art spaces, and other endeavors meant to create collective utility and beauty rather than filthy loot for a few. These glimpses have been wonderful. They have propelled me onward in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles for decades now.

The current, dominant ways of being are actually pretty unpleasant. Living in fear of everyone unlike yourself and competitively clawing your way to the top of the capitalist shit-heap is not fun. Consider the following. Martin Luther King Jr. dodged bricks and rocks and was taken down by a bullet because he demanded equality and hated war. His life was fraught with danger and he had a lot to be angry about. But in archival clips of marches, he always seems to be laughing and smiling with those around him. But Fox News hosts always appear to be on the verge of rage-induced collapse. Bill O’Reilly, rich and comfortable, seems only able to yell. Possessing a love for the world, an attitude of openness, and demanding the best for everyone is a great way to live. Endless anger is unpleasant.

The left, and the anarchist left in particular, offer a way of being more wonderful and more enjoyable than anything else available. Just try reading Peter Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread without thinking, “Wow, that sounds nice.” We should transform self and society into something so egalitarian and open that anyone remaining on the outside looking in will have no choice but to want to enter. I wrote a book called The Revolution Will Be Hilarious. I wasn’t joking. A better world will be joyful and full of laughter. Bringing it into being should also be delightful.

People often object to philosophies like the one laid out in The Revolution Will Be Hilarious on the grounds that such openness and malleability is morally relativistic. Without an absolute “Truth” to appeal to, how can we (for instance) tell racists they’re wrong? Well, it will not be done by spouting our “Truths” and appealing to first principles. Racists have built their own seemingly sound bodies of thought on first principles of their own. They have their worldview. We have ours. There is rarely enough common ground to really have a debate. But worldviews are simply ways of describing and understanding. They are tools that allow us to navigate the world. We ultimately utilize or discard them, not based on their level of “Truth,” but because of their utility. So we don’t need to out-debate racists. We need to re-describe and re-structure the world in a better, more useful way.

When I first started working on what will be my next pamphlet, “Walking Each Other Home,” I was uncomfortable with where it was headed. It seemed so positive, so full of hope and demands for universal love that I thought I was losing my edge. Where was my catalog of complaints? A little voice in the back of my head declared me “The Mister Rogers of Anarchism.” I don’t know where it came from. Some deep recess of my own mind lobbed it out at my conscious self. It was meant as an insult. But it’s a compliment. I should probably make it a life-goal to get someone other than my subconscious to call me that.

Because beyond opposing every pipeline, every war, every ugly measure that ruins lives and despoils the planet, fostering love and positivity is among our most important work. I’ll admit I watched a good dozen different videos of Richard Spencer getting punched. I put one together myself.

It’s easy to get caught up hating and arguing with forces of fascism and regression. But building a world based on love would marginalize those hateful voices until they are rendered irrelevant and ridiculous. We can’t lose sight of just what it is we want. The transforming energy that will move humanity forward provides an intense and wonderful whirlwind to inhabit. Find it. Move in. Widen its scope “so that life won’t seem worth living unless one is on the transforming energy’s side.” That’s how we will win.      

-Adam Michael Krause

One Word. Plastics.

Adam Krause

In The Graduate, at a party given by his parents to celebrate his recent graduation, Benjamin Braddock is pulled aside for an important talk about his future by a man named Mr. McGuire.

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes I am.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Benjamin: Yes I will.

Mr. McGuire: Shhh. Enough said. That’s a deal.

The Graduate was released in 1967. Fifty years later, Mr. McGuire’s advice has not aged well.

Henderson Island, a remote and uninhabited island in the South Pacific, which we might assume would be pristine, has at least 38 million pieces of plastic that have washed up on it—bits of plastic in which crabs often make their homes. Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies “has found hundreds of crabs living in rubbish such as bottle caps and cosmetics jars, and has been told of one living inside a doll’s head.”

And very deep ocean waters, such as the Mariana Trench “have been considered as pristine environments, but also (given their locations and topography) as likely sinks for contaminants that enter the marine environment,” according to Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University. Jamieson found PCPs and PBDEs, two particularly toxic POPs (persistent organic pollutants) at incredible depths there.  As he writes, “The salient finding was that PCBs and PBDEs were present in all samples across all species at all depths.”  

So from remote islands to the deepest seas, plastic is present. We produce it. We discard it. It sticks around. It gets everywhere.

A paper published by The Royal Society states, “Within just a few decades since mass production of plastic products commenced in the 1950s, plastic debris has accumulated in terrestrial environments, in the open ocean, on shorelines of even the most remote islands and in the deep sea.” This debris often breaks down in the presence of UV light. But “breaking down” does not mean “going away.” And when plastic breaks down, it can become even more dangerous. As the paper goes on to state, “Some of the first evidence of accumulation of plastic fragments in the environment came indirectly from examination of the gut contents of sea birds in the 1960s. Later, in the early 1970s, small fragments of plastic were observed in seawater collected with plankton samples from the North Sea and were subsequently reported on much broader scales in the northwestern Atlantic.” These small fragments are much more difficult to remove and can be ingested by a wider range of organisms. Moreover, due to their greater surface area to volume ratio, tiny pieces of plastic can also have greater levels of toxicity.

It is hard to express how terrible this is for wildlife. To try to get some idea, here’s a long passage from José Derraik in The Marine Pollution Bulletin cataloging just some of the dangers: “Seabirds with large plastic loads have reduced food consumption, which limits their ability to lay down fat deposits, thus reducing fitness. Connors and Smith (1982) had previously reached the same conclusion, as their study indicated that the ingestion of plastic particles hindered formation of fat deposits in migrating red phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius), adversely affecting long-distance migration and possibly their reproductive effort on breeding grounds. Spear et al. (1995) however, provided probably the first solid evidence for a negative relationship between number of plastic particles ingested and physical condition (body weight) in seabirds from the tropical Pacific. Other harmful effects from the ingestion of plastics include blockage of gastric enzyme secretion, diminished feeding stimulus, lowered steroid hormone levels, delayed ovulation and reproductive failure (Azzarello and Van-Vleet, 1987). The ingestion of plastic debris by small fish and seabirds for instance, can reduce food uptake, cause internal injury and death following blockage of intestinal tract (Carpenter et al., 1972; Rothstein, 1973; Ryan, 1988; Zitko and Hanlon, 1991).” The list goes on. The dangers of plastics are legion.

A few days ago, on “World Emoji Day,” which is already one of the dumbest things imaginable, someone at Exxon decided it would be great to join in the fun and post this to their Twitter page:

In addition to my own emoji-heavy reply, many others joined in the pictographic fun, mocking Exxon’s attempts to make its business appear anything other than evil. But there were some replies that I found quite confusing. In this two-parter, someone called “Connor” says, “Using fossil fuels to create plastic is a lot different than using them for energy that is burned releasing harmful emissions so I’m against using fossil fuel for energy [because] of emissions and the fact that there are clean alternatives. Using them for plastic is fine.”

Using fossil fuels for plastic is not “fine.” Plastics are causing irreparable damage to the planet. Everything made from fossil fuels needs to go. The negative side effects of digging up oil to make anything overwhelm any possible positives. Too much damage has already been done. Connor is wrong and so is Mr. McGuire. Plastic is a terrible invention.

So in my first attempt at fan fiction, please allow me to rewrite that scene from The Graduate:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes I am.

Mr. McGuire: Actually, never mind, what I was going to say was really dumb.

Benjamin: OK.

The rest of the movie is fine.

-Adam Michael Krause

 

A Few Thoughts on “The Uninhabitable Earth” or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Got to Work

Adam Krause

Last Monday, David Wallace-Wells published “The Uninhabitable Earth,” an essay detailing worst-case climate change scenarios. It freaked a lot of people out. It is, as he writes, “a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action.” A lot of it is very scary.

 

Here are a few of the scariest parts. “Two degrees of warming used to be considered the threshold of catastrophe: tens of millions of climate refugees unleashed upon an unprepared world. Now two degrees is our goal, per the Paris climate accords, and experts give us only slim odds of hitting it.” And just how fast are we warming the Earth? 252 million years ago, the release of greenhouses gases warmed the Earth and killed 97% of all life. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere about ten times faster than that. And many of the effects of climate change are already upon us. “In case you haven’t heard, this spring has already brought an unprecedented quadruple famine to Africa and the Middle East.” We have provoked nature. Forces beyond our control will soon rage all around us. Awful events are impending, inevitable, and in some cases, already happening.

There is much more. A lot of it is terrifying. It is definitely worth reading if you have not.

It has also been widely criticized. The Headline to Daniel Aldana Cohen's critique in Jacobin declares it disaster porn." His opening sentence contends that the piece selectively fetishizes natural science and is socially and politically hopeless." Writing in Vox, David Roberts cites various tweets accusing Wallace-Wells of overstating the case to make climate change so frightening that people will just become discouraged and despondent. One tweet states: Irresponsible in that it leans very hard on the EXTINCTION PORN angle, and almost not at all on the BUT HERE'S WHAT WE DO angle." As Roberts writes, The theme of all these critiques is that bad, scary news doesn't help. It terrifies and paralyzes people." Aside from the confusing piece of news (to me) that many people apparently find massive environmental devastation pornographic, it also ignores what Wallace-Wells clearly states is his intention. After all, he declares his piece a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action." Humans will do something. Our actual future will be different from the scenarios he sketches. But he is showing our current trajectory if we do nothing more. Yet even if we do something, it could still be far worse than most of us imagine.

The Uninhabitable Earth" has not just been criticized for ignoring all the good things people might do. It has also been criticized for ignoring all the terrible things people will do. According to Cohen's critique in Jacobin, The actually realistic danger zone is a combination of too little decarbonization, too late, in the context of hardening inequalities of class, race, and genderin short, eco-apartheid. Those brutal inequalities, and the bullets that maintain themnot molecules of methaneare what kill people." Wars, famine, inequality, and the selfish refusal to help others will compound and intensify the damage done by climate change. Long before death by dehydration starts killing everyone, wars over water and fights over food will take a lot of lives. According to Cohen, the real danger is a vicious right-wing minority imposing the privilege of the affluent few over everyone else. That's the real and scary (and political) story."

Fossil fuel barons and the politicians who enable them are hell-bent on making the most money for the fewest people (i.e., themselves) in the shortest time possible. Everything else is irrelevant and everyone else is a historical footnote. And if shit gets really bad, they can always retreat to palatial estates on mountaintops, sip cognac from diamond-encrusted goblets, and sleep soundly on expensive mattresses while the rest of us deal with super-viruses, famines, droughts, wars, and plagues.  

There are thus two critiques of “The Uninhabitable Earth.” First, Wallace-Wells fails to account for all the positive environmental actions we’re going to take. He also ignores the negative political actions that are bound to occur. But something is missing here. These two critiques don’t go well together. It just doesn’t make sense that we could make major reductions in emissions with the same old “vicious right-wing minority” in power. If they’re still in charge and pushing wars, we’re screwed. It seems obvious, but apparently bears repeating: environmental change requires political change. Capitalism fuels environmental devastation. We will only halt environmental devastation if we dismantle capitalism.

And if “a vicious right-wing minority” is still imposing “the privilege of the affluent few over everyone else,” then the doomsday scenarios Wallace-Wells describes remain likely. Curbing emissions enough to ensure the survival of life on Earth will require taking power away from that vicious minority. The extractive imperialism and vast inequalities that help the rich stay rich are warming the globe and destroying our air, water, and agriculture. We cannot reduce emissions without taking their power away.

Learning to inhabit a world of equals, free from borders and hatred, a world of mutual aid and an economics based on everyone’s survival rather than a few people’s wealth, cannot be separated from the creation of an ecological society. In fact, this is a description of an ecological society. Clean air and water are just wonderful corollaries of those other things. Fossil fuels and extractive, aggressive imperialism made capitalism possible. Abolishing them will make capitalism impossible and a better world attainable. (If we don’t manage to abolish fossil fuels and aggressive imperialism, there’s an essay called “The Uninhabitable Earth” you ought to read, just so you know what’s coming.)

So to say that Wallace-Wells should admit that models based on doing nothing more than what we are currently doing are misleading (because of course we’re going to do so much more), and to also say he should account for the “vicious right-wing minority” that will continue demanding that everyone kill everyone else on their behalf, well, that merely muddles up the actual issues. If those assholes are still ruling the Earth, then we’re almost certainly not reducing emissions. After all, why have the wealthy been waging all these wars? They want fossil fuels extracted and burned. They want control over all the resources and to remain absurdly wealthy. If we try to reduce emissions without revoking their power, we will fail miserably. If the status quo survives, we’re doomed. Death to the status quo.  

-Adam Michael Krause

Radical is the New Reasonable

Adam Krause

According to a recent report from Carbon Tracker, prepared along with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Yale University, if fossil fuel emissions are not drastically reduced by 2020, catastrophe will become inevitable. Actions that might be effectual now will become useless. Other recent research demonstrates that our climate models, when updated to reflect the gradual warming of the oceans and the concomitant reduction of cloud cover over the southern Ocean, make a six degree Celsius increase in global temperature quite possible within the century. This is terrifying. 

Meanwhile, as our time runs out, the President of the United States pushes coal, destroys the EPA, and exits the Paris Climate Accord. The main opposition party doesn't really oppose these actions in any meaningful way, but simply seeks to regain power mainly so they can destroy the planet in a less gaudy and garish way. The same people would still profit. We would all still be doomed. But the president would be able to speak extemporaneously and probably wouldn't be orange. No one with any kind of actual power is doing anything that might help. Centrist Democrats will not save us. Republicans will definitely kill us. This duopoly of misguided political parties offers no one anything they need.

Neoliberal centrist Democrats are not the sensible grown-ups they like to portray themselves as. They are more like obstinate children in denial of the dangers we face. Bold actions designed to stop industrial capitalism are the reasonable responses. Continuing with our current trajectory is absolute madness. Either the status quo goes or humans do.

Radical is the new reasonable. 

-Adam Michael Krause

 

 

Debut ep from snag.

Adam Krause

Danielson Murphy, author of Overburden, available from Red Earth Press, also plays in a band called snag. Their debut ep is out now. It is very good. If you enjoy aggressive hardcore about the environment, or think you might, please give it a listen.

Happy May Day!

Adam Krause

The reinvention of daily life means marching off the edge of our maps.

-Lucy Parsons

Trump Has Asked Polluters Just Which Regulations They Could Do Without.

Adam Krause

Imagine if this actually happened!

Imagine if this actually happened!

Apparently, upon taking office in January, our wonderful new president asked American manufacturers just which regulations they would like to have removed. He got some good answers. The paving industry would like to halt investigations into the dangers of coal tar. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce would like to stop having to publicly report injuries and illnesses. But best of all, BP would like to make it easier to renew leases for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. OK. Let that sink in. BP WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT EASIER TO RENEW LEASES FOR DRILLING IN THE GULF OF MEXICO.

There was a recent movie you may have heard about called Deepwater Horizon starring Marky Mark of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch that imagined the dangers that could arise if BP were allowed to drill in the Gulf of Mexico with minimal government oversight. It depicted a massive explosion on a floating drilling facility that flooded the Gulf of Mexico with crude oil and took a very long time to plug while more and more oil poured into the Gulf endlessly for weeks. Imagine if that awful scenario became reality. Wait? What's that? It was a based on a real event? One that occurred a mere SEVEN FUCKING YEARS AGO?!?! One that was quite possibly the greatest environmental disaster in US history!?! Why would you let BP make it easier to do that again? That's a terrible idea!

-Adam Michael Krause

Buy the Land then Buy the Light: The Emergence of Private Property & the Purchase of Stars

Adam Krause

This essay was originally presented by Adam Michael Krause at the Ecological Challenges Conference at the University of Oslo in February 2017.

Johann Bayer

Johann Bayer

In 1603, Johann Bayer introduced one of the oldest star naming systems still in use. In Bayer’s system, the visibly brightest star in each constellation is named Alpha, the second Beta, and so on through the Greek alphabet, giving us names like Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri. There are other systems, such as the Henry Draper Catalog, which identifies over 300,000 stars by number. For instance, Alpha Centauri is known there as HD 125823. Betelgeuse, or Alpha Orionis, is HD 39801.

Henry Draper

Henry Draper

Like Betelgeuse and Alpha Centauri, many stars have multiple names. And although the International Astronomical Union recognizes most star names, even they have their limits. Their website states, “The IAU frequently receives requests from individuals who want to buy stars or name stars after other persons. Some commercial enterprises purport to offer such services for a fee. However, such ‘names’ have no formal or official validity whatsoever.”[1]

The most well-known of the star-selling enterprises that so irks the International Astronomical Union is the International Star Registry. Founded in 1979, the Star Registry allows people to pay to name a star whatever they want. In addition to a star name, customers also receive a parchment certificate and a map with coordinates. It’s quite the deal.

The Star Registry’s website admits that “International Star Registry star naming is not recognized by the scientific community.”[2]

But the thing is, stars don’t care what we call them. They don’t recognize the Star Registry or the scientific community. There’s a star in the Andromeda Constellation we could either call HD 10307 or Margaret Thatcher.

It was burning back when our most advanced ancestors were single-celled organisms. It will still be burning when cockroaches inherit the Earth. And it is very, very far away. We are entirely irrelevant to this star. Beyond the bounds of Earth, neither name has any more validity than the other.

So my problem is not that the people at the International Star Registry think they can, like the International Astronomical Union, name stars. Of course they can name stars. They do it all the time. What bothers me is that they can make a successful business out of it. A world where purchasing points of light makes perfect sense, and where the International Astronomical Union “frequently receives requests from individuals who want to buy stars,” is a world with its goals and values wildly misaligned. Now may be the only moment in human history when selling stars would sound anything but absurd. But what has changed? How could a business, inconceivable in any other era, survive for decades?

To answer that, we need to pivot from purchasing stars to purchasing property. Given what follows, using the Star Registry as a set-up may seem unfair. New notions of ownership that emerged in the last few centuries made the International Star Registry possible. These notions were instated through destruction and genocide, and were then used to justify further destruction and genocide. But it was a chance encounter with the Star Registry’s website that led to the rest of this research. And that initial question remains interesting. Just what happened to make such a business even possible?  

The development of exclusive private property provided the context in which the Star Registry could come into being. Exclusive private property is a surprisingly recent phenomenon that emerged as Europeans, particularly the English, colonized North America. The practices that emerged as they divided and sold an entire continent—empty except for all the people living on it—ushered private property into existence, along with the new idea that anything we survey can become our own personal possession.

And as those colonizers divided that not-so-empty continent, a whole lot of surveying went on. It was a very popular profession. For example, three of the four U.S. presidents whose faces are carved into Mount Rushmore worked as surveyors. George Washington was sixteen when he accompanied George William Fairfax on a surveying expedition in the Shenandoah Valley, becoming one of the continent’s youngest professional surveyors.

Thomas Jefferson served as the county surveyor of Albemarle County in 1773. His father, Peter Jefferson, had also been a surveyor.

Later, after the frontier shifted from Virginia to Illinois, a young Abraham Lincoln took up the profession. “New Boston, Bath, Petersburg, and Huron were among the towns that he laid out.”[3]

And even if Theodore Roosevelt, that fourth face carved into Mount Rushmore, never worked as a surveyor, he still loved to see land divided and sold. He claimed that “civilization” ought to be spread by “the order-loving races of the earth doing their duty” and acquiring “the world’s waste spaces.”[4]

There are reasons why there were suddenly so many surveyors once the English started colonizing North America. In 1620, the same year the Mayflower set sail with some of England’s earliest committed colonizers, the mathematician, geometer, and astronomer Edmund Gunter introduced Gunter’s chain. Sixty-six feet long, ten of his chains by ten of his chains mark ten acres.

Together with his new triangulation methods, surveying became a science. This allowed land to be more accurately quantified and commodified, and made strict property lines possible. Trespassing became an enforceable offense. In tandem with the new notions of ownership that appeared as the United States became a nation, a world emerged in which any land could become exclusively held and forcefully defended.

Exclusive private property was a new development. Although many of the English colonizers immediately and irrevocably perceived the indigenous as “savages,” tribal land management along the East Coast was not remarkably different from the English feudal-era methods the colonists brought with them. Among natives along the East Coast, land was ultimately held and managed by a chief or other powerful figure, but this did not constitute “ownership” by that person, just the power to allocate resources. This person granted tribe members access to certain things at certain times of the year. Yet this was still not “ownership.” Land was not “owned,” just used. In addition to this rotating access to resources, there were also common areas and shared supplies.

In the English system, everything was ultimately held by the crown, and a lord or earl granted land and materials as needed. There were common areas and shared resources here as well. The English had much more of a tendency to stay put for centuries, but the indigenous people and the colonists managed their land similarly. Early New England settlements had a village green, or common area, usually just a few acres, in the center of town. There was rarely enough space for all the village livestock to graze there, but there were common pastures outside of town. “Children brought their family cow or horse to the green and left the animal in care of the town herdsman, who then led the herd to a distant piece of common ground. Late in the afternoon the herdsman returned with the livestock, and the children came to the green to fetch home their own animals.”[5] Gristmills and sawmills operated as public utilities, not private businesses. Besides some common-field agriculture, there were also shared woodlands for lumber and hunting.

But when the United States seceded from England, the crown no longer owned the land. It could become anyone’s. Everyone could be their own earl. This was part of an understandable attempt to undermine centuries of aristocratic control exerted by a few families. But combined with Gunter’s new systems of surveying, exclusive private property came rushing into history. Lines were drawn. Trespassers were prosecuted. The commons disappeared and were soon forgotten. Rather than a shared resource outside of town, land became a commodity—one person’s private possession to be bought and disposed of in any way.

And when the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1791, the change became complete. The “takings clause” of that amendment stipulates that the government will give “just compensation” if private land is taken for public use. By making a law about how a government purchases land from its citizens, exclusive private property rights became official. The indigenous people, now more than ever, could be portrayed as outliers to civilization. They had no fences. They shared their resources. It was all suddenly unthinkable.

The United States, with a new relationship to land, created new arguments to justify grabbing every bit of soil on which the original occupants stood. In 1823, the case of Johnson v. M’Intosh came before the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas Johnson had bought land from the Piankeshaw Tribe. William M’Intosh had supposedly received a land grant for some of the same land from the Federal Government, although it turns out that the two parcels did not actually overlap. But the facts were accepted as presented and the ruling stands. Chief Justice John Marshall, writing for a unanimous court, declared that, “While the different nations of Europe respected the rights of the natives as occupants, they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves, and claimed and exercised, as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil while yet in the possession of the natives.”[6]

The indigenous people were suddenly subsumed and consumed by a legal system that enshrined private property, especially if any white people wanted their land. They soon found themselves dispossessed with increasing frequency and violence. In 1864, to mention an especially egregious example, the U.S. Army descended on a Cheyenne and Arapaho village at Sand Creek, Colorado, killing and mutilating as many as 150, most of whom were women and children. The mistake the Cheyenne and Arapaho made was signing a treaty for land that turned out to have gold in it.

It seems like colonizers love gold. An 1868 treaty had given the seemingly worthless Black Hills to the natives in perpetuity. But in the mid-1870s, with the discovery of gold, perpetuity lost its meaning. As the Sioux holy man Black Elk said, white people “had found much of the yellow metal that they worship and that makes them crazy, and they wanted to have a road up through our country to where the yellow metal was.”[7] The Sioux and Cheyenne refused to sell any land or lease mineral rights. They were deemed “hostile” by the government, and the army moved in to make the land safe for gold-miners.

In June 1876, General Custer and his cavalry attacked a native encampment, but neither Custer nor any of his soldiers survived the attack. For the natives, it was a successful act of self-defense. For the U.S. Government, it was an unconscionable massacre of their troops. Secretary of War William Tecumseh Sherman declared that the tribes had violated the treaty of 1868 by going to war with the United States. The Cheyenne and Sioux, having been invaded, were justifiably confused. But with the treaty supposedly broken, the army really poured in. Everyone was disarmed and forced onto reservations. Fugitive bands were hunted down, slaughtered, or arrested. Sitting Bull fled to Canada. Crazy Horse was caught and stabbed with a bayonet while in captivity and died. Then the U.S. Government carved the faces of some of its most powerful surveyors into a mountain.

More than a century later, dispossession and disregard continue apace, but now it’s not just gold driving injustices against the indigenous, but fracked oil as well. And private property laws are one of the main tools used to make this happen. The Dakota Access Pipeline, designed to move crude oil from the Bakken Formation in western North Dakota, through both Dakotas, Iowa, and into Illinois where it might become less crude and more refined, was going to cross under the Missouri River north of the mostly white city of Bismarck. But the citizens complained that this could destroy their drinking water. The route was changed so that it passed under the river a half-mile north of the Standing Rock Reservation through land and under water that had been seized against the tribe’s will in September 1958, through legislation passed by Congress that stated, “Any interest Indians may have in the bed of the Missouri River so far as it is within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Reservation, are hereby taken by the United States for the Oahe Project on the Missouri River.”[8] When the Dakota Access Pipeline was rerouted through land that was “hereby taken,” the people on the reservation, like the people of Bismarck, complained about threats to their water. But rather than another rerouting, they were met with pepper spray, rubber bullets, and attack dogs.

In September 2016, Judge James Boasberg ruled that the tribe had been sufficiently consulted and the pipeline could proceed. His statement claims that “A project of this magnitude often necessitates an extensive federal appraisal and permitting process. Not so here. Domestic oil pipelines, unlike natural-gas pipelines, require no general approval from the federal government. In fact, DAPL needs almost no federal permitting of any kind because 99% of its route traverses private land.”[9] So if you own a piece of land, pretty much as long as you’re not sacrificing children or making methamphetamines, you can do whatever you want and no one can stop you. James Boasberg is a judge. It’s his job to interpret the law. He ruled that “the Tribe has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue.”[10] In a technical, lawyerly sense, he may be correct. Put a pipeline through private land, and no one can legally complain. But from the perspective of the Earth and its inhabitants’ common interests, he is completely wrong—especially since the laws and precedents he is interpreting were made in the aftermath of atrocious and embarrassing cases like Johnson v. M’Intosh. As Kiana Heron writes, the “protests at Standing Rock today can only be fully understood in light of this colonial legacy, which from the beginning proclaimed that native lands were empty, and that native people, were, in effect, nothing more than the rocks, the trees, the water that they now so valiantly strive to protect.”[11]

The very same day Judge Boasberg issued his ruling, a pipeline in Alabama broke and spilled 250,000 gallons of oil. The governor declared a state of emergency.[12] The very next day, a pipeline in Texas leaked about 33,000 gallons of oil.[13] And this is not just some strange coincidence. Angry gnomes were not trying to make this judge look foolish. Pipelines fail almost constantly. According to the United States’ Pipelines and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration, there have been more than 10,000 pipeline failures already this century. Pipelines are a terrible invention, even exempting the fracking that fills them or the fossil fuels they bring us to burn. They just break all the time. But if they’re built on private property, no one can complain. Private property is sacrosanct. It’s your land, do as you will.

But maybe instead of worrying about one person’s supposed right to profit off private land, maybe we should worry about how we can all continue to live on our shared planet. To quote Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, “Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred.”[14]

I was at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in Standing Rock in November 2016, which is situated on the disputed land “hereby taken” in 1958, and meant to obstruct the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The very same day The Army Corps of Engineers issued the camp an eviction notice, one of the water protectors pointed out to me the ways the government had closed roads and seized hills so that “They are leaving us with no option but to trespass.”[15] Police and National Guard stood along arbitrary and debatable boundary lines. Behind those police, the pipeline was being laid. Anyone who crossed onto that land could be arrested for trespassing. No other crimes were required.

The sheer volume of law enforcement brought in to protect a pipeline by enforcing trespassing laws was outlandish. The night we arrived, it was too late and too dark to drive to the camp and set up a tent without being a nuisance to people trying to sleep off the sting of rubber bullets. We stopped in Bismarck, pulled into a hotel, and saw more than half the parking lot was filled with police vehicles. Scared, we went to another hotel. This one was better. Instead of more than half, slightly less than half the parking lot was cop cars. It seemed marginally safer. We stayed there. The next day, trying to get to Standing Rock, we encountered a roadblock, turned around, and took a different route. Trucks heading toward the camp were pulled over and searched. Military helicopters flew above. Trespassers beware.

An entire continent has been surveyed, sold, and turned into private property that can be ripped up and turned into rubble. If anyone objects, the police turn up to protect the right to make rubble. Our collective needs don’t matter. The commons have become a piece of the past, receding from lived experience and into the history books. Need, intent, and collective interest have become irrelevant to land use. Who bought it? That’s all anyone needs to know.

We’re told this is normal. This is reality and we had better get used to it. But now is the aberration. The commons existed for millennia. Private property has existed for a few centuries. Our current system is the anomaly. We do not need to live this way.

So it is perhaps only now that someone could sell the stars and no one would think it’s all that weird, when the Earth is no longer our common inheritance, but a conglomerate of commodities circling the sun. We divide it up and do as we will. And at night, we look into the sky and watch distant products twinkle. But why not? If we can buy and sell almost any piece of the Earth, why not buy the rest of the Universe?

Of course, what the International Star Registry does is pretty harmless, especially compared to buying land to put in a leaky pipeline. People don’t destroy their stars after purchasing them. They just show their friends their parchment proofs of purchase and their maps of coordinates. But the very fact that the International Star Registry could be conceived and continue to exist says a great deal about how far we are from having a reasonable approach to living. 

If we don’t eradicate the mentality that makes the International Star Registry possible, if we continue to slice up our planet, and declare this chunk yours and that chunk mine, we’ll just slice it up until there’s nothing left but dust. We certainly don’t need to return to feudal or tribal systems of land management. The future will be different from any past or present. But we don’t need to accept what we have. A planet composed of private land, surrounded by stars for sale, is not one we have to tolerate. Exclusive private property is relatively new. We can make it history.     

-Adam Michael Krause   

 

 

 

[1] www.iau.org/public/themes/buying_star_names/

[2] www.starregistry.com

[3] David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 52.

[4] Theodore Roosevelt quoted in Kathleen Dalton, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (New York: Knopf, 2002), 126.

[5] John R. Stilgoe, Common Landscapes of America, 1580 to 1845 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 48.

[6] Johnson & Grahm’s Lessee v. M’Intosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543, 574 (1823).

[7] Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (1932: Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961), 9.

[8] Public Law 85-915, September 2, 1958.

[9] Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, United States District Court for the District of Coulmbia. Civil Action No. 16-1534 (JEB), 2.

[10] Ibid., 1-2.

[11] Kiana Herold, “Terra Nullius and the History of Broken Treaties at Standing Rock,” Intercontinental Cry, November 14, 2016.

[12] “State of emergency declared after crucial oil pipeline leaks 250,000 gallons in Alabama,” KFOR, September 16, 2016.

[13] “U.S. regulator orders inquiry, repairs after Sunoco’s Permian leak,” Reuters, September 15, 2016.

[14] “Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations,” Reuters, December 5, 2016.

[15] Personal conversation, recorded November 25, 2016.

Highlights from the Signing of the Energy Independence Executive Order

Adam Krause

Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order deregulating the fossil fuel industry and revoking guidance from the President's Council on Environmental Quality. So as the climate careens out of control, the United States is apparently going to do everything it can to make matters worse. This is a very ugly and embarrassing executive order.

Here are some clips from the signing:

Jim Inhofe Thinks the EPA Brainwashes Kids

Adam Krause

Recent photo of Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe

Recent photo of Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe

Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Senator, author of the book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, and the guy who misunderstands the difference between weather and climate so fundamentally that he brought a snowball (in February) to the Senate floor to prove that global warming wasn't happening, has now declared that the proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency are good because the EPA is brainwashing our kids. EPA guidelines are based on peer-reviewed science and usually take years and years to put into place. (And usually do far too little anyways.) This may be the dumbest thing Inhofe has said since You know what this is? It's a snowball. That's just from outside here. So it's very very cold out.

Watch him talk about the EPA's supposed brainwashing here:

Then watch him take a snowball out of a plastic bag here:

“The End Is Near” Promotional Video

Adam Krause

Just over a year ago, as we prepared to release our first book, Sean Williamson of Worldwide Dirt made this promotional video for the release show, documenting some of the production of the book, set to the sounds of some of its words. It's a shame it took so long to get it on the website.

Toward an Economy of Repair

Adam Krause

This essay by Adam Michael Krause attempts to look at the basics of our very real biology, rather than our artificial economies, to determine how we ought to proceed. It was originally presented as a lecture at the University of Oslo in 2014 and published in the book Social Ecology and Social Change, available right here: https://www.amazon.com/Social-Ecology-Change-Eirik-Eiglad/dp/829306434X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427053733&sr=8-1&keywords=eirik%20eiglad

Toward an Economy of Repair
Adam Michael Krause

We see ourselves acting upon the world. There is subject and object. Action upon. Separation. We do things to things. But this view obscures the active role of the non-human. The world also acts. And the boundary between that active world and human beings is porous and fluid.
In some ways this is obvious. We inhale and exhale. We eat things and they become us. We excrete what we cannot use, and it rejoins the world. There are also hundreds of microbial species in our stomachs that help us digest our food. We could not do it without them, yet they are not us. Or are they? Are we a single organism or many?

And our skin, the apparent boundary between us and the world, is similarly teeming with microorganisms, many of which are essential to our health. The normally benign Staphylococcus epidermidis makes fatty acids and glycerol out of the lipids our sebaceous glands release. This is an important process. And this same species helps produce anti-microbial peptides, antibiotic-like substances that prevent pathogens from colonizing our flesh.

Essential elements of our existence are performed by separate organisms. Our boundaries are ambiguous. We are not discrete beings navigating an environment. We are assemblages operating along the border of self and other. There is not organism and environment. There is no and. A human is like a house with no roof, walls, or floor. We are but the barest of structures, interpenetrating whatever environments we inhabit. We realize we are just a few planks of wood, a series of thoughts, and a lot of empty space. A bird flies through.

These assemblages we call our selves were composed from materials we did not choose, through a process we were not there to control. For example, cyanobacteria evolved about 2.5 billion years ago. These organisms were the first to perform oxygenic photosynthesis, and now, thanks to the process they introduced, our planet has the most oxygen-rich atmosphere in the known Universe. About a billion years later, massive movements of Earth’s tectonic plates washed minerals like calcium carbonate into the oceans. Some organisms assimilated these minerals to make exoskeletons and endoskeletons, putting Earth’s inhabitants on the path to possessing bones.

We emerged from earth, water, sun, and air. But the journey from soil to cyanobacteria to cities started very slowly, and eventually accelerated. The Earth formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Photosynthesis emerged 2.5 billion years ago. But it was not until about 550 million years ago that the first fish appeared. Mammals showed up about 300 million years after that. Anatomically modern humans evolved roughly 200,000 years ago, and it was a mere 5000 years ago that the Mesopotamians developed the first written language.

The bulk of history, as well as human history, has been spent developing the physically grounded part of animal systems—the part that perceives and navigates the world. Linguistic and symbolic representations of reality are a relatively recent acquisition. As we perform our daily movements, as we yawn and we stretch, we don’t make symbols to represent what we’re doing. We dig much deeper into our evolutionary past, and employ functions developed by our most ancient ancestors. For most activities, the world is its own best map. We just perceive it and deal with it.

But it is an unpredictable map in perpetual motion. We are surrounded and filled with materials that transcend our wills and the roles we assign them. The outside world, wherever that begins, is not a mere mechanical automaton, but a swirling sea of things, each with a vitality of its own. And this is not just true of other organisms. There is the chaos of water and weather, and electricity that can reverse directions and ignore the path humans put it on. Electricity seeks its own balance and always finds it. Fallen lines have caused sudden power reversals, leading to overloads and outages that no human foresaw.

We are coextensive with a world we cannot completely command. This is nothing new. But there is an update. We are coextensive with a world we cannot completely command that is falling apart. There are now more than 200 dead zones in the oceans. Ninety percent of the large predator fish are gone. In May 2014, the collapse of the western Antarctic ice sheet began. It cannot be halted. Between 2010 and 2014, the Antarctic ice-melt rate doubled. Things are looking increasingly cataclysmic, and the more sudden and dramatic the changes, the less likely it will be that plants and animals will be able to adapt. The world is crumbling, and the biology of our being is connected to it. We are consuming, discarding, and destroying the basis of our being.

Our expanding populations and increasing consumption levels are driving this destruction. Following centuries of fairly steady populations and economies, we discovered fossil fuels, free markets, and imperialism. That’s when things really took off. In 1820, there were about 1 billion people on the planet with a combined annual economic output of roughly $690 billion. By 2000, there were more than 6 billion people and economic output was a staggering $40 trillion. Since just 1960, the world economy has doubled its annual output. In the United States, where bigger is always better and the biggest is undoubtedly the best, the size of the average home has nearly doubled since 1970. At the same time, population increased by 100 million. There are more people, and they apparently need more space than anyone did before. But it’s still not enough space for all their things. The first storage facilities—extra space people can rent to store all their extra stuff—appeared in Texas in the 1960s. There are now nearly 2 billion square feet of storage space all across the United States.

Human insecurities fuel competitive consumption, which yields more insecurities and more consumption. The stagnant or falling real wages of the last several decades have not slowed our purchases, but merely increased our debts. We spend money we never had to buy things no one should have made. We are eating the Earth alive in the process.

And we really are destroying the world to make things we simply do not need. The ancient Egyptians believed gold was “the skin of the gods,” in particular, the sun god Ra. And although this belief is no longer widely held, gold has somehow retained its popularity. Keeping new gold on the market to meet its demand involves bulldozing rainforests, removing the soil, then sifting through that soil to find a bit of gold, while filling the surrounding rivers with mercury, cyanide, and other pollutants.

Gold dust bonds to mercury, and its use in mining dates back at least to the Romans, who even banned it for a while, due to its obvious environmental impacts. But cyanide works even better, since it can amalgamate even microscopic gold particles into usable chunks, and the modern miner much prefers cyanide to mercury. Each gram of successfully extracted gold requires the use of about one and a half tons of pollutants. So any piece of the planet can become our private property, no matter how small and hard to locate it might be. We may need to ruin a river or two in the process, but at least the market survives.

And we do love our market. Economic growth, the quest for wealth, and the glories of owning have become the central tenets in a secular religion that revolves around consumption. It is bolstered and encouraged in countless ways.

Economic growth is the central tenet in this belief system. It is frequently presented as a cure for all sorts of ills. How’s the economy doing? Good? Then we should be fine. Not much stops a piece of legislation as quickly as the claim that it might slow the economy. Economic growth is monitored to the decimal point and endlessly analyzed in the news. When a business stops growing, that is, if it fails to sell more and more products every quarter, investors panic and flee. We get worried when growth slows. We forget that our ancestors managed to eat.

Adam Smith, one of the earliest theorists of capitalism, saw “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another,” and “the uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition,” as the defining human characteristics. But Smith failed to recognize that these supposedly natural characteristics arose in a very specific historical milieu. The drive for never-ending economic growth arose along with the changed circumstances that made capitalism possible. It is a relatively recent historical development. And in the early decades of capitalism’s ascendance, there was resistance to the new values and practices it was introducing. Its global dominance was never assured. Our current propensity toward gathering more, more, more, and then a little bit more after that, is not human nature, but a social circumstance made possible by the rise of the market economy.

Wrapped in these social circumstances, we lose sight of the physical and biological contingencies that sustain our activities. Yet no matter how disconnected we appear to be, we remain attached to our planet. Even while driving down a road, trading stocks on a cell phone, we remain firmly embedded in the physics and biology of Earth. Rubber tires, once made from trees, now made from petroleum, spin along a mixture of crushed limestone, sand, and gravel. Electricity moves through mined copper, bearing bad news about the state of the stock market. Meanwhile, photosynthesized oxygen travels the bloodstream, bones of ancient rock keep hands on the wheel, and microorganisms ride along in the stomach and on the flesh. The line between the human and non-human cannot be drawn. And as we subsume and consume these surroundings, we remove the very basis for our being.

Why do we do this? Why do we continue to sacrifice the world at the altar of the market? “Oh great god Mammon,” we cry, “Take this burnt offering of a ruined planet and bestow upon us a good crop of growth this year. For a healthy economy is a healthy humanity. Amen. Let us now sing a sacred song to money.” But we made up money. We invented the economy. We dote upon these human contrivances, but forget about the world that was fertile enough to allow for their creation in the first place.

Although our economies are socially fabricated, and our money is made up, these things are still based on the movements of actual goods and services. And all those goods and services are created and performed by utilizing bits and pieces of our planet. And it seems the bout of economic turmoil we are currently encountering is based on the very real destruction of the Earth. Our made up money is doing poorly because our very real planet is doing worse. We are asking the impossible of it. It would take six to eight Earths to give everyone on just this one a North American level of consumption.

According to the laws of thermodynamics, matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, just used and dissipated. There is thus an inverse relationship between a system’s sustainability and the volume of matter and energy it utilizes. Just based on physics, our current trajectory is ascending toward collapse. Entropy is a law of nature. We can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away.

We may be meeting the limits of growth. An economic recovery for our current system may no longer be possible. The planet is nearly plundered. Affordable and accessible resources for industrial production are diminishing. Copper, zinc, iron, and other metals are growing harder to find and extract. Gathering them requires increasingly massive amounts of energy—energy that almost invariably comes from fossil fuels collected from deeper and deeper sea beds, or by hydraulically fracturing rocks. The world’s supply of enriched uranium has, much like oil, passed its peak. Solar and wind power may produce electricity, but industrial capitalism requires vast supplies of stored and transportable energy. Fossil fuels come conveniently pre-packaged as stored energy, and their use helped make our industrial expansion possible in the first place. But existing methods for storing solar and wind power as liquid hydrogen are so energy intensive that the whole process yields a net loss. Our current methods of living cannot last long. We won’t have the energy or the resources.

Of course, the collapse of capitalism has been declared imminent for about as long as it’s been an “ism,” and that collapse has been watched for with a fervor rivaled only by the second coming of Christ. Yet the collapse has not come. Why is this? There are many reasons, including the fact that the market economy is incredibly mutable and adaptive. Business practices have been revolutionized generation after generation. And it is also a complex and deeply embedded social system that actually manages to supply basic needs for enough people that only a small minority ever hit the streets. And the truly destitute rarely get organized. Just surviving requires too much time and effort.

So while the collapse of capitalism may seem increasingly imminent, it may not be imminent enough to prevent the pillage of our planet. There is still a lot of money to be made. We will cut the tops off mountains to find minerals, pump water into rocks to release every drop of oil and gas, drill deeper into the oceans, chop down all the trees, and eat all the fish, just to keep economic growth where the economists say it ought to be.

We cannot go on like this, but many of our fellow humans seem determined to go on exactly like this. And those with the most interest in perpetuating our present patterns are those with the most power to do the perpetuating. The preservation of our planet will require total determination and stubborn perseverance in the presence of such entrenched power.

We need truly radical solutions. And I mean “radical” in the radical sense of the word—tracing its etymology back to the Latin radix, meaning “root.” And also radish, or the foot of a hill, or a base, foundation, or origin. We should remember and remain aware of the physical and biological roots of our being. We came from Earth and live on Earth. We’re not so different from radishes, really. We need good soil and clean water to stay alive. If we want to ever have those things again, we will need to radically rethink everything we do. We should put our roots back down.

We currently produce, consume, and discard more than the world can handle. Obsolescence is built into many of the things we buy. But producers of consumer goods do not want to create objects with longer lifespans. Goods need to be used up, become outmoded, or fall out of fashion. If objects were made to last, their producers would quickly put themselves out of business. And we are not encouraged to repair our broken things. We can often acquire new items more cheaply and easily than we can fix old ones. We consume and discard and consume again. We feel proud of our purchasing power as we confidently send one item to a landfill and buy another to replace it.

Does this mean we are too materialistic? If materialism is used in its ordinary sense to mean valuing wealth, possessions, and their acquisition over other values, then we are way too materialistic. But materialism has another meaning—the belief that everything that exists is matter, or dependent on matter for its existence. Taken to its logical conclusion, this latter type of materialism would discourage treating every piece of the planet as a resource for the taking, and would encourage handling the physical world and other organisms as fellow travelers on Earth—essential companions instead of guilty indulgences.

The reality of our being should inform our modes of being. We could create an economy of repair—one based on respect for the world and its materials. We should have what we need and fix what we have. Durability and quality ought to replace fashion and newness as the most appealing elements of any object. Learning to create and maintain long lasting items would be the most important skills one could have. Carefully crafting, repairing, and maintaining these things could become the basis of our economies. There would be far less production, consumption, and waste if we just bought better, bought less, and made it last.

It should be apparent that this new materialism would not require an ascetic renunciation of the pleasures of living, but rather, a re-enchantment of the world, and a rediscovery of the child’s
eyes that see wonders everywhere. We would find ourselves a new kind of unhappy if we replaced over-consumption with austerity. It would be like abstinence education for teenagers. Self-denial sells poorly without a more appealing alternative. Luckily, this redefined materialism would encourage living with our minds and senses more fully engaged. A move in this direction would actually enhance happiness and well-being.

Knowing how things work attaches us to the things we have. Careful craftsmanship requires time and attention to detail. This care becomes embodied and perceived in the finished product. The maker and the user feel closer to the materials involved. Just think about our relationship to food. The more we understand the process that brought it there, the more we appreciate what’s on our plates.

This is more than a request that we all support our local cobblers, carpenters, and tailors, although we can and should. So much more is required. We need a complete paradigm shift. Everything we do should be reassessed. We must live in new ways, and create possibilities for others to do the same. Ignore and avoid the economy of consumption. Create and encourage the economy of repair. Make it a reality.

With the breakdown of capitalism spotted on every horizon for well over a century, the question that almost inevitably follows each declaration of this supposedly imminent event is, so what could we do after capitalism? How would we survive? We have at least part of an answer. To put it quite simply, we could tend to the world and its materials. We could take care of things. We could base our economies around maintaining what we have. There would be plenty of work to do.

Of course, many nagging questions remain. I’ve probably raised more questions than I’ve actually answered. There is one question in particular I would like to address, as it highlights the depth of the paradigm shift required to create the economy of repair. How many items are we mentally capable of valuing? Is caring for things like caring for other humans? After friends and family, our ability to empathize diminishes drastically, until we can hear about massive amounts of death on the other side of the globe and feel no real sense of loss. Could we really learn to care about everything if we can’t even care about everyone?

What I am proposing here will require a form of mental jujitsu—a complete flip in how we perceive and behave toward the world. We construct our egos and define ourselves largely through the things we buy. So to change our relationship to the world, we not only need to dismantle our socially constructed selves, but actually change the way we construct those selves. Our minds have been so conditioned by capitalism that this may seem to fall somewhere between daunting and impossible. But the market economy molded and shifted our values. Why couldn’t the rise of the repair economy do the same? So here’s to hoping we can change our minds. Death to materialism. Long live materialism.

-Adam Michael Krause

 

Radio Interview With Adam Michael Krause

Adam Krause

Adam Michael Krause, the founder of Red Earth Press, sat down with Bill “DJ Faux Eyes” Rouleau of WMSE earlier today to discuss his new book, The Revolution Will Be Hilarious & Other Essays (New Compass Press, 2017).