Chapter 16

Making The Change


Where do we need to end up? I suppose the best answer I can give you at this stage is, humanity in a state of connection with the world around it, living with a dramatically reduced impact such that the Earth’s natural systems can once again function normally – any further and things start to get much more difficult to predict. In many ways that simple, non-prescriptive statement is exactly how it should be. My decision not to offer you a fully mapped out, single new way of living, beyond the wonderful state of being connected was inspired by Daniel Quinn:

There is a clear sense in which ours is just a special case of a much wider story, written in the living community itself from the beginning, some five billion years ago: There is no one right way for ANYTHING to live.

This is how we humans got from there to here, by enacting this story, and it worked sensationally well until about ten thousand years ago, when one very odd culture sprang into being obsessed with the notion that there must be a single right way for people to live – and indeed a single right way to do almost everything.[i]

You realise now that our disconnected state is the outcome of this sprawling homogenous system that has one aim: to have more of everything. The way the vast majority of us are living has been decided for us by the culture that we live in, of which we are an intrinsic part. Because they are only present in civilizations, neither governments nor corporations have any part to play in the solution. Despite the protestations of the mainstream environmental movement, it is obvious now that the best thing corporations and governments can do is to shut up shop and leave humans to go back to the emphatically less destructive beings they were before Industrial Civilization took control. My job is in all of this is to get us to a point where we can make the decision to change for ourselves – with a clear, open, connected mind; unfettered by blind ambition; uncontaminated by civilization.


Level One: Ways To Live

Given that this book’s aim is to regain our lost connections with the real world, and given what I have said about the superficial nature of “green” lists, it might seem odd that I am now going to describe some key “greening” actions: actions that will dramatically reduce our impact on the natural environment. The reason for this is that I believe the best actions are those with multiple impacts – the direct impact of the actions I am going to propose is, indeed, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted by human activity, reduce the amount of ecological degradation taking place, and to allow the Earth’s natural biological and chemical processes to begin to return to a stable state. The very welcome side effect of these actions is they trigger the rapid reversal of the industrial or capital-based economy.[ii] Just as the success of Industrial Civilization is defined in terms of economic growth, a lack of economic growth will cause Industrial Civilization to break down[iii]:

Modern capitalism’s stability – and increasingly the global economy’s stability – requires the cultivation of material discontent, endlessly rising personal consumption, and the steady economic growth this consumption generates.[iv]

The author of this statement goes on to insist that a failure to grow will result in rapid and fierce societal breakdown: a “zero-sum conflict” (i.e. a battle to gain the most of a finite resource). To a person rooted in the Culture of Maximum Harm, that sounds like a good reason to maintain economic growth forever; to ensure there is always enough to go round to satisfy an insatiable desire for more of everything. To me this sounds like a system that is fatally flawed and needs to be removed from the face of the Earth, before the inevitable ecological collapse brings it down in far more horrible circumstances. Whether you agree with this thesis depends on whether you place any value on having a liberated, connected and survivable future.

There is a third role that these actions fulfil, and that is of engaging individuals with their actions; in other words, allowing people to think about the impact – both positive and negative – of the things they do. As an example, simply by localising your food supply, you have to understand the processes by which your food gets to you, and thus you become engaged. Even deciding not to do something (by which I mean, making a conscious decision to reject a suggestion), you still have to engage your thought processes in the issues. Not surprisingly, this works at many levels, particularly Level Three: Influencing, which we will come to later on.

The following list is not exhaustive, but based on my own work, and that of countless other writers, scientists and thinkers; they are the things, which I believe to be potentially most effective in fulfilling the joint purpose set out above. The quicker and more thoroughly the suggestions are followed, the more rapid the impact will be. I have intentionally left out the act of Connecting from this list as it is implicit in everything that humans do in their lives – if you need a reminder on the reasons for connecting and how to do it, please read Chapters Eleven and Twelve. Finally, there is one more item, near the end of the list which may not seem to fit in with the rest – the act of sabotage – but in leaving it out I would be ignoring an essential tool in the armoury of anyone serious about reclaiming their liberty: it is as much a constructive action as all of the rest I have listed.



There are commonly thought to be three R’s in environmental parlance: reduce, reuse and recycle. Except, very few people in this culture bother doing the first two because we have been led to believe that doing the last one is enough – which would be funny if it weren’t so serious. It’s time to add a couple more R’s to the list, and get rid of one: here are my four:

Reduce: Do I need to buy this thing at all?

Repair: Can I repair or refurbish this thing, or have somebody do it for me?

Reuse: Can I buy or obtain this thing, or something similar, pre-owned?

Respect: Can I look after this thing better?

To take the simple act of reducing: if every person in Industrial Civilization were to reduce their consumption of all goods and services by 25 percent, this would cause a contraction in the size of the economy (in fact, even if everyone just bought the same amount of stuff each year the economy would start to sputter!) sufficient to cause serious problems for speculators and governments alike. If you focus that overall reduction on non-essentials – such as consumer electronics, leisure goods and services, and cosmetic home improvements – then those parts of the economy will fall apart rapidly. It is those parts of the industrial economy that maintain overall economic growth, because they take up the slack left by the “essential”[v] economy (staple food, healthcare, utilities, education etc.) that, because of its non-consumer nature, grows very little or not at all. Giving up a new TV or a cinema trip won’t do anything to save the world, but it will curtail overall economic growth and also hit advertising and promotional (i.e. tools of disconnection) budgets. That said, reducing your consumption of “essential” items, such as energy, also has an obvious environmental benefit, and again helps to move the economy in the right direction. It is vital to remember that we are not consumers; we are individuals who may or may not choose to buy things – individuals who cannot be pigeonholed into convenient categories for the benefit of the economy.

Repairing, which includes refurbishing and renewing parts of the things that you already have, makes the act of reducing the purchase of new things far easier. Of course, Industrial Civilization will try and convince you that you need to upgrade that thing because having the latest thing is part of living the consumer dream: but there is more to repairing than just keeping the same thing functional – it also brings a sense of pride and ownership. A chair with a broken leg is, in the eyes of the consumer culture, crying out to be replaced with a new chair – hell! Go and by a whole set of them! But if you insert a small piece of dowel, and then glue or screw the leg back in place, you now have a chair that you repaired. How could you just throw it away now? Repairing and building from scratch – things we have clearly forgotten how to do, by virtue of the off-the-shelf economy – are ways of connecting with the belongings you have: they allow you to Respect what you have. Once you start to respect the things you have, then you don’t want to throw them away – and you treat them with care. Manufacturers may give goods “planned obsolescence”, so that they stop working after a short time, but you can extend the lifetime of something indefinitely if you look after it.

Then there is the important act of Reusing. Logging onto eBay, or going to the charity shop is certainly one way of reusing pre-owned goods – again, this results in the reduction of goods that are bought new, causing the economy to contract – but these activities can be brought closer to home by selling things directly that you no longer need, or just giving them away. Two simple activities are almost absent from the money-based lives we now lead: donation and bartering. Donation is just giving something away – don’t want that table that has been cluttering up the shed, just give it to someone; want a bicycle but don’t even have a broken one to repair – go and see what other people have thrown out in their skip or dumpster. Donation can work both ways. Barter, on the other hand, always works in two, or more ways: if you have a service you can offer, or something you have made or grown, then exchange it for something someone else has. I may have a glut of tomatoes this summer from my garden, and someone up the road has some seasoned firewood I could use in my burner – guess what I’m thinking.

Donation and barter are invisible activities as far as Industrial Civilization is concerned, because they have no economic value; but they are perfect as tools for beginning a new way of life that doesn’t require the exchange of cash, or the needless production of goods. One measure of how threatened a civilization is, is the laws it makes: George Bush Jr. and his economic advisors may have found it prudent in 2008 to bribe middle and high-income earners to spend more money on consumer goods[vi], but the moment certain activities start to threaten the industrial economy you can be sure they will be made illegal. I am not allowed to remove unbroken plates or perfectly good books from the dumpsters at my local recycling site: this is nothing to do with liability; it is everything to do with threatening economic growth.

In all cases where an activity has a negative impact on the natural environment, and hence human survival, the act of reducing must always be the first option in the decision making process.



There are three facets to eating that should all be taken into account: how much you eat, what you eat, and how it is produced. It would be easy to fill an entire book with analysis on this very emotive subject – emotive because what you put in your body, in a very real sense, defines what you are – but a few words on each should be sufficient to make things clear. First, how much you eat goes back to the last section on consuming. Obviously the less you eat, the less energy, soil, chemicals and labour is required to produce it; but there is clearly a minimum amount of food that can be healthily consumed depending on what kind of life you lead – it’s about 2500 kilocalories for a man, and 2000 for a woman. If you are eating more food than you need then reducing it will go some way to reducing your impact, but not very far.

Obesity is a major health issue for societies not just in highly Westernised areas, but also in those areas just beginning to be touched by the aggressive hand of commercialism: why eat a sandwich when you can have a Big Mac; why have a glass of water when you can have a Coke? Overweight and obese people, surprisingly, aren’t eating more calories than those people of a healthy weight – they may even be eating fewer, as those with very physical lives have to consume more to stay healthy – but they are eating more calories contained in fats[vii] and processed sugars. Obesity is a symptom of the lifestyle that most benefits the consumer culture: sedentary, digital and mechanised living; a diet dominated by processed, high profit foods. What you eat, the second facet is very important here.

As I showed earlier, unless you are self-sufficient, a diet containing a high volume of meat is environmentally unsustainable; so the first, and simplest way of reducing the environmental impact of a diet is to reduce the amount of meat contained in it. As I also alluded to in Chapter Fourteen, a diet dominated by meat or processed foods requires far more stages of production than a diet which is based around things that come straight out of the ground and into your mouth. Obviously some element of processing is required for many foods, but the fewer stages that are required, the lower the environmental impact of that food, and the less the user of that food depends upon the industrial food processing system.

This takes us neatly into the third facet: how your food is produced. Recently, I have started saying to people that there are three skills that every person will have to have in order to survive the future (whether it changes by accident or design): the ability to make simple things, including structures, from scratch; the ability to cook good, nutritious meals from basic ingredients; and the ability to grow, and rear if necessary, your own food. Step back only a few decades and it would have been unthinkable to not be able to do these things, yet it seems that part of the disconnection that civilization has forced upon us is to make us lose these critical life skills. We have become dependent upon the various systems of this culture to provide us with what we, until recently, could provide for ourselves: right down to the insipid, packaged ready-meals that masquerade as food.

Since giving up paid work as part of the industrial economy a year ago – making myself no longer “economically viable” – I have learnt to repair and make lots of things from scratch; cook a huge variety of meals with whatever food is local, in season and from my store cupboard; and, starting with herbs and leafy vegetables, have gradually learnt how to grow my own food. Taken together, these three things have made me feel extraordinarily liberated and given me the confidence to do more. Not surprisingly, I have also become connected with the things I have made, the food I use, and the small patch of earth that will be providing my family with more and more good stuff as time goes on.

I wonder how long it will be before growing food in back yards is made illegal.



There are two major types of transport: motorised and non-motorised. They are easy to distinguish, especially in the eyes of a child who hasn’t yet been indoctrinated in the ways of the machine: cars, trucks, trains, aeroplanes, mechanised boats, motorcycles and coaches are all motorised; legs, bicycles, sailboats and animal-drawn vehicles are not motorised. Deciding between a mode of transport that is very energy efficient (non-motorised) and one that is not (motorised) is simple, really; although you would be forgiven for thinking it is not. You see, manufacturers, and all of the other vested interests involved in a particular mode of transport – especially the money-rich car and air industries – will do anything to ensure you stick to that mode of transport. Aircraft manufacturers make a big deal of the energy saving potential of the new Airbus-A380 or Boeing 787, whilst conveniently glossing over the need to burn tonnes of fuel to keep an enormous lump of metal in the air. Car manufacturers (along with their good friends in the oil industry) bring out all sorts of new “green” vehicles, whilst at the same time fighting to ensure that fuel economy regulations are kept strictly voluntary.[viii] Changing the way we travel is about far more than changing the model of vehicle or the airline we use – these are blatant distractions from the real issue – it is about the method of transportation we use, and the distance and rate by which we travel in the first place.

In essence, the method we use to get around is far more important than distinguishing between different versions of the same method. Some recent work concluded that the humble bicycle was the most efficient (land based) form of transport by a long way[ix], which makes perfect sense when you consider the combination of gear system, efficient traction wheels and most importantly, being powered by a human being, rather than a combustion or electrical engine. Human beings produce only 100g of CO2 in their breath cycling or walking twenty kilometres, compared to a car producing between three and six kilograms of carbon dioxide.[x] However, this kind of exertion would require about 500 kilocalories, which if taken in the form of beef would emit around seven kilograms of carbon dioxide.[xi] This latter information has, not surprisingly, been used as a reason to drive rather than walk[xii] – assuming people eat nothing but beef. If you have an average global diet, though, with only 15 percent of your calories from meat, then the total carbon dioxide emissions of human and bicycle (or on foot) are well under a kilogram.

The point of this analysis is not only to debunk some of the more fatuous arguments put forward by transport industry lobbyists, but also to show how obvious it is – by using a little bit of common sense – that motorised transport is not the way forwards, regardless how “green” a manufacturer may claim their vehicle is. Bear in mind, also, that a vegan (based on discussions in Part One) would emit less than half a kilogram of carbon dioxide all-in over that twenty kilometres: far better than a fully laden bus or coach. Self-propelled, non-motorised transport is a threat to civilization; which is the perfect reason to switch the engine off for good:

The cyclist creates everything from almost nothing, becoming the most energy-efficient of all moving animals and machines and, as such, has a disingenuous ability to challenge the entire value system of a society. Cyclists don't consume enough. The bicycle may be too cheap, too available, too healthy, too independent and too equitable for its own good. In an age of excess it is minimal and has the subversive potential to make people happy in an economy fuelled by consumer discontent.[xiii]

More important even than method, though, is distance and speed. Culturally, the world is getting faster, not only in terms of transportation but also the accelerating flow of information intended to keep us consuming, and keep us disconnected from the real world. The automobile made door-to-door rapid transportation possible, as well as being responsible for a large proportion of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. In every industrial nation, the car is king, with the aeroplane coming up a close second – able to take people further and more quickly than any other form of mass transport. The “need for speed” is a symptom of our perceived lack of time: no longer is the journey part of the experience; it is merely an adjunct to the destination we must reach. The relationship between speed and distance is two-way, with great distances being achievable due to the great speeds we can attain, and great speeds being “necessary” due to the great distances we wish to travel. Neither the desire for speed, nor the desire for distance is natural – Industrial Civilization, wishing to squeeze more and more profit out of synthetic desires, has placed them in our minds. The reason speed creates a thrill is because humans are, rightly, afraid of its potential to injure or kill – yet travelling faster than our legs can carry us is considered a positive thing, largely because there is money to be made out of it. The reason we desire to travel long distances is because the travel industry tells us we should.

About fifteen or sixteen years ago I made the decision to travel only within my own country: not for any jingoistic reason, but simply because I realised that there was so much to discover and enjoy close to home – I didn’t need anywhere else. Around the same time as making this decision, and perhaps they were related, I completed a transport study of the road network on the small island of Guernsey. What I discovered was that, before 1800 (around the time when roads were built to protect against Napoleonic invasion) the vast majority of travel took place within individual parishes, little more than a couple of miles across: a holiday was a week in a neighbouring parish. Travel took place from home to the market, to friends and family, to places of worship and to places of work – all of which were within easy walking distance.

The logical response to the immense pressure on us to travel further, faster and by more technically complex forms of transport is to draw back; to only travel where and in a way that you consider absolutely essential, not that which has been decided by civilization on your behalf. This is the way humanity was until very recently: having what we needed close to us (like food, family and friends), learning what the local environment had to offer and making the best of it. It may not be possible where you are to live in such a way, but then perhaps that is the best reason of all to step outside of the system and make your own decisions.



Everyone needs a place to call home, but not every place people call home is a place desirable to live in. Without clean water, clean air and an appropriate level of shelter and warmth, no one can reasonably be expected to live for long: yet across the world, the civilized world of cities, industry and democratic governments; people live in conditions that an Inuit, an Apache, a !Kung or a Taíno would never call “home”. Those at the bottom live in conditions of grinding poverty, kept afloat by the crumbs of the industrial economy and the daily promises of material fulfilment. Those at the bottom of civilization are far worse off for the real needs of humans than most of those who lived (and still live) “uncivilized” lives.

 Those above the breadline, living in Industrial Civilization, have the basic necessities of a fulfilled life: then they are exhorted to pack these lives out with excess as soon as a bit more money becomes available. The excess – the entertainment system, the air conditioning, the conservatory, the fully-fitted kitchen – provides some superficial pleasure, while at the same time driving a wedge between individuals, their families, their communities and nature. The plastic bubble of modern living provides the perfect cultural prophylactic: a barrier between you and the real world.

Is there no middle ground?

In this culture, I don’t believe there is, unless somehow you are able to distance yourself from every attempt to disconnect you. There reaches a point, though, when you can go no further: you cannot go beyond civilization if you exist within civilization[xiv]. When I suggest a raft of different means for reversing the damage and disconnection caused by our consuming, our eating and our travelling, I know that at some point we are all going to have to say, “I would love to, but I can’t, because the system doesn’t allow it.” That is the point at which you need to step outside of the system, and go beyond civilization.

If you consider the home; the typical brick, wood or concrete built home of a Western civilian, with space and water heating, running water and sewerage, lighting and various electrical appliances, certainly there are huge steps that can be made in order to reduce its environmental impact. There are huge steps that can be taken to reduce the dependency of that home, and that of the people living in it, on the infrastructure laid down by the various profit-making utilities – some of which are even recommended by authorities and suppliers. Most of these run off the tongue of the average Westernised civilian: turn your heating and your air conditioning down; switch off lights and appliances; buy energy efficient devices; have showers instead of baths; install double glazing and loft insulation. There are options for going a bit further, too: you can install solar heating and electricity; you can install a wood burner for space heating, and also use it to heat water; you can install ground or air-sourced heat pumps, wind turbines, combined heat and power; you can plant cooling greenery, louvres and shutters, passive solar capture systems. Use some common sense, and you can make quite a big difference.

But there is a catch: governments and utility companies assume that most people won’t do these things so the overall impact of these actions is minimal; as soon as the majority of people start doing these things, the energy companies start to cry foul – the grants dry up and the exhortations mysteriously stop. This suggests that, as with consuming, eating and travelling, a large number of people changing the impact of their daily lives will start to hurt the economy; and that is why governments, utilities and the environmental organisations that follow their lead, stop short of asking for major societal change in the way that people live within Industrial Civilization. It is not in their interests for things to change too much – in fact it would be commercial suicide.

Just how easy is it to really take yourself “off grid”? At what point do you decide that you don’t need mains water or sewage? When exactly do you ask the local authorities to stop collecting your trash? Just about the point at which your use of energy and water, and your production of waste, have dropped to less than the level of a “civilized” person. That’s the point at which you probably start experiencing freedom.



At what age do you think your working future is planned out for you? I think by now you wouldn’t be surprised that the answer is: “from birth”. There is a separate section in this chapter called Educating, but it’s nothing to do with the education system and it is nothing to do with on the job learning or career paths; after all, working is what people have been brought up to do in Industrial Civilization, and not just any old work. If you cast your mind back to Chapter Eight, where we thought about population, you will remember that it was the Industrial Revolution that was largely responsible for the beginning of the population explosion: a mass of willing slaves brought up in the cities to be components of the industrial machine. To create wealth you need product; to create product you need people.

There were a few who saw what was going on and realised that some of the most brutal aspects of physical work needed changing: the great philanthropists of the West – Titus Salt, Lord Leverhulme, Joseph Rowntree – bear the passing of time, mellowed into a whimsical tale of pure goodness; ignoring the fact that the philanthropists were largely ensuring that their workforces remained loyal and hard-working. To be blunt, working during the Industrial Revolution in the West was hell; working in the new Industrial Revolution in the sweatshops, mines and factories of China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam…different sets of eyes, but the same vision of hell. Time may have passed, but all that has really changed is the location.

Yet, incredibly, the participants see such conditions as a necessary evil. Unionisation, a living wage and the promise that the company will do its best not to shorten your life is the best that can be hoped for. Such “victories” make life tolerable for those people working to make the shoes you wear, the food you eat and the televisions you watch, but they do not change the fact that we are all part of the machine. The education system is where it starts.

For centuries governments and dictators have twisted a population’s knowledge base to their own ends. We may look back in history, and gape at the ritual burning or enforced suppression of the works of authors whose printed ideas did not match those of the accepted orthodoxy, but the flames are closer than we like to admit. The Nazi elite stirred up hatred of anti-Nazi materials in a coordinated “synchronization of culture”[xv], while only a decade later the US government elite stirred up hatred of left-leaning beliefs in a coordinated exhumation of so-called Communist sympathisers; the Chinese government installed the Great Chinese Firewall to suppress “immoral” Internet access, while at the same time the US government continue to control information coming out of wartime Iraq and Afghanistan through the use of “embedded journalists”. In the last few decades, stories of censored schoolbooks in far off lands[xvi] have made those in supposedly more enlightened nations cringe, yet in a culture that apparently promotes freedom of thought and expression, teachers are forced to become mouthpieces for the Culture of Maximum Harm:

The Government has worked with partners from the statutory and voluntary and community sectors to define what the five outcomes mean. We have identified 25 specific aims for children and young people and the support needed from parents, carers and families in order to achieve those aims…[xvii]

This is from the UK Government Every Child Matters programme, which “sets out the national framework for local change programmes to build services around the needs of children and young people so that we maximise opportunity and minimise risk.”[xviii] Twenty-five aims, supposedly to promote the well-being of children, yet containing the following items:

·        Ready for school

·        Attend and enjoy school

·        Achieve stretching national educational standards at primary school

·        Achieve stretching national educational standards at secondary school

·        Develop enterprising behaviour

·        Engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school

·        Ready for employment

·        Access to transport and material goods

·        Parents, carers and families are supported to be economically active

National educational standards; Enterprising behaviour; Ready for employment; Access to…material goods; Economically active – the progression is there for everyone to see. Even when veiled as being in order to “improve the lives of children”, the educational system is little more than an instruction manual for creating little wheels and cogs. I urge you to look at your own national curriculum, searching for words like Citizenship, Enterprise and Skills – it won’t take long to find the real motivation behind the education system where you live. “A child in the work culture is asked, ‘What do you want to be?’ rather than ‘What do you want to do?’ or ‘Where do you want to go?’ The brainwashing to become some kind of worker starts young and never stops.”[xix]

This is a wake up call: look at the work you do and how it neatly fits into the industrial machine, ensuring economic growth and continued global degradation; think about your job and what part it plays in ensuring we remain disconnected from the real world; read your children’s books, talk to their teachers – find out how your own flesh and blood is being shaped into a machine part. As we are encouraged to work more and more in order to feed our inherited desire for material wealth and artificial realities, we lose touch with the real world; we pack our children off to day centres and child minders in order that we can remain economic units, and stop being parents; most of us work to produce things that nobody needs, and we are unable to perceive the things that we do need – food, shelter, clean air, clean water, love, friendship, connection.

The vast majority of us don’t need to do the job we do. The lucky few, who through chance or design have found work that is a fulfilling part of their lives rather than their lives being a slave to work, provide examples for the rest of us. Once you decide to break out of this cycle for all the right reasons and reduce your expenses to the bare minimum by refusing to follow the instructions of civilization, leaving your job and taking on something that provides you with a real living becomes easy.



I’m rarely afraid of stating the truth, but some truths are far harder to give than others; one of them is that people will die in huge numbers when civilization collapses. Step outside of civilization and you stand a pretty good chance of surviving the inevitable; stay inside and when the crash happens there may be nothing at all you can do to save yourself. The speed and intensity of the crash will depend an awful lot on the number of people who are caught up in it: greater numbers of people have more structural needs – such as food production, power generation and healthcare – which need to be provided by the collapsing civilization; greater numbers of people create more social tension and more opportunity for extremism and violence; greater numbers of people create more sewage, more waste, more bodies – all of which cause further illness and death.

Civilization is defined, more than anything else, by the cities in which it primarily operates: as the cities get larger, they must import more and more energy, food, materials and finished goods from a larger area outside of the city; and they must also become more complex. You cannot simply make systems bigger to support larger numbers of people; above a certain threshold a “step change” is required, and a layer of complexity has to be added – such as requiring a distribution system to feed a million people, compared to a single farmer who can directly feed a few dozen people. This leads to considerable stresses. As Joseph Tainter writes:

More complex societies are more costly to maintain than simpler ones, requiring greater support levels per capita. As societies increase in complexity, more networks are created among individuals, more hierarchical controls are created to regulate these networks, more information is processed, there is more centralization of information flow, there is increasing need to support specialists not directly involved in resource production, and the like. All this complexity is dependent upon energy flow at a scale vastly greater than that characterizing small groups of self-sufficient foragers or agriculturalists.[xx]

 The city progressively becomes a helpless foetus feeding through the city’s umbilical linkages with itself and – particularly the energy gleaned from – the outside world. If those links are severed, or the multi-level systems that civilization depends upon start to break down, then the city becomes helpless: it starves to death. The more complex and dependent the systems required to support the larger number of people are – the more rapid and more intense the crash is likely to be. More fundamentally; the larger the city, the larger the mass of people in one dependent location and thus, the more people will be killed in one go by a catastrophic systemic failure. As Industrial Civilization becomes more urbanised, passing fifty percent of the global population and ninety percent of the population of many highly industrialised nations[xxi], the risk of catastrophic collapse continues to intensify.

In short, the greatest immediate risk to the population living in the conditions created by Industrial Civilization is the population itself. Civilization has created the perfect conditions for a terrible tragedy on the kind of scale never seen before in the history of humanity. That is one reason for there to be fewer people, providing you are planning on staying within civilization – I really wouldn’t recommend it, though.

The second reason is slightly more obvious and has been covered earlier in this book: the more people there are, the more resources they will use up, the more greenhouse gases they will release and the more damage they will do, as more people become consumers within the Culture of Maximum Harm. The plan, after all, is for every human on planet Earth to become a good consumer. Reducing the population in an increasingly resource hungry society is essential to prevent a net increase in environmental degradation. Even if you are planning to leave civilization it’s not the kind of thing you can rush into, and the vast majority of people walking the road from hell are going to spend a few years on that road. You will remain a de facto civilian until you leave and, within the system, are bound to create more waste, emissions and degradation than outside of it: Industrial Civilization makes a virtue of excess. Morally, fewer offspring is something you have to seriously consider until you are no longer dependent upon civilization.

A third, and rather more proactive reason to have fewer children, is to hasten the shut down of the industrial machine. This seems a little contradictory, considering that fewer children will reduce the intensity of societal collapse, but there is a big difference between wanting to bring down civilization in a measured way (well, as measured as we can manage, given its complexity), and wanting to ensure that millions of people die in a catastrophic implosion. I may be pragmatic, but I’m not that pragmatic! The key point here is that civilization needs people to keep it going: as I made clear in the last section, humans are the feedstock of the industrial machine. The fewer people there are, the fewer empty, consumer-driven “opportunities” can be filled. Of course, commerce being what it is, the desire for production will move from an area bereft of willing slaves to one where the population has been suitably primed to leap on the new positions being created – apparently for their benefit. But that is ignoring the fact that Western economies in particular, at least on a national scale, really do suffer when there is a drop in the availability of suitable local workers.[xxii] Not having children could be a very useful strategy, both for destabilising an economy, and removing the worries of bringing up children in a collapsing society.

There is a fourth reason, but it is nothing to do with living within civilization. Later on you will learn why balancing the number of children you have with the need to keep humanity going will be critical in ensuring you can thrive in a world outside of civilization. Let’s not go there for the moment – there is vital work to be done now.



The Earth’s natural systems will, over time, do a wonderful job of restoring the planet to a stable condition – providing civilization has gone. In the presence of Industrial Civilization, these systems are struggling to overturn the changes that our culture is heaping upon the planet. The increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases exceeds any previous increase in speed and intensity; the removal of forests and other critical ecosystems is – in any normal sense of the word – irreversible through natural processes; rivers, seas and groundwater are being toxified not only by excessive quantities of basic elements and natural molecules, but also by large amounts of synthetic chemicals for which there are no natural restorative processes. Civilization has placed a burden on the Earth that – if we are to survive beyond the next one hundred years – will have to be peeled back by humans.

There are two ways to do this: the first is a combination of Unloading and Setting Aside; the second is Active Restoration. Within the Culture of Maximum Harm the first option is impossible to achieve.

Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine. The process of ecological unloading is an accumulation of many of the things I have already explained in this chapter, along with an (almost certainly necessary) element of sabotage. If carried out willingly and on a sufficiently large scale, this process would require dismantling many of the key components of civilization; no person would be foolish enough to cut off their own limbs unless they were suffering from some kind of psychotic delusion, and no civilization would be willing to remove many of the pillars of its own existence. Looking from the outside, though, a civilization hacking off its own extremities would seem like exactly the right thing to do. It’s not going to happen, of course.

Setting Aside is similarly suicidal for civilization. In order to continue the upward spiral of economic development, acquiring all of the symbols and cultural attitudes that entails, an increasing amount of resources have to be used by civilization. For example, in order to support an increasing desire for a civilized diet containing fish, the oceans have to be stripped of life – yet, in order for the ocean’s natural balance to return to a semblance of its previous condition at least forty percent of its area would need to be set aside in perpetuity.[xxiii] Such a step is totally incompatible with the current ambitions of this culture: it will not happen. Similarly, if a third (to be conservative) of all of the major land habitats on Earth were to be set aside, not only would many of civilization’s processes have to halt, or at least contract significantly, but those countries with larger proportions of those key habitats within their borders would not accept having to take on the “burden” of setting aside potential economic resources. The extreme difficulty experienced by such groups as The Wilderness Society (in the USA and Australia), Greenpeace (in Brazil) and the International Conservation Union to increase the amount of land set aside from agriculture and other development, and strengthen the level of protection[xxiv] in the face of determined government and corporate opposition, makes this all too clear. Once again, though, Setting Aside is an inevitable consequence of following the suggestions set out in this chapter.

Active Restoration is all that is left; and you would be forgiven for thinking that there is hope for this methodology, given the types of suggestions coming from corporations, authorities, scientific institutions and other groups of people. Ideas include seeding the ocean with iron to restore levels of carbon absorbing plankton[xxv]; replanting rainforest areas with native species; sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and into the ocean basin[xxvi]; and instigating a process of “managed retreat” in salt marshes. Predictably, all of this is insufficient at best, and cynical profit-mongering at worst. The insufficiency is simply because the scale of environmental degradation being carried out in the name of economic growth dwarfs even the most ambitious plans of the proponents of active restoration. Much of the “restoration” work is in the form of the heralded “techno-fix”: the idea that the tools of Industrial Civilization can be used to build solutions to the problems of civilization[xxvii]. The two fundamental flaws with techno-fixes, though, are that (a) they are almost all profit-motivated, backed by corporations who have no intention of reversing the damage done and (b) they assume that technology is an adequate replacement for natural restorative processes, further widening the disconnection between humanity and the real world.

Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that restoration is unnecessary, nor is it the wrong thing to do, but it must be carried out in such a way that it complements natural processes. I have a small meadow at the bottom of my heavily-wooded garden, which I have planted with native grasses and flowers, and which I allow to grow in what ever way it likes – a tiny memento of the wide meadows that once crossed southern England, but something positive nonetheless. Managed retreat to restore salt marshes is a good thing, and I can think of few things more satisfying than breaching the sea walls that once allowed farmland to reign over the coastal ecosystem. Even some of the more unusual ideas, such as burying biomass in the form of whole trees[xxviii] or far more stable biochar (charcoal) have their merits but, as with the processes of unloading and setting aside, they are only going to achieve anything substantial in the context of Industrial Civilization becoming a thing of the past. Do what you think is right and encourage others to do the same; but never forget that restoration is just a stepping-stone to our real future.



Civilization is not going to go down without a fight, and the forces unleashed can be truly terrible if the past and current behaviour of governments, their corporate owners and their military marionettes is anything to go by. In Chapter Thirteen I wrote: “The laws in each country are tailored to suit the appetite of the population for change”. This statement is especially relevant to sabotage: if the ruling Elites feel that their beloved system is under threat then they will do their best to suppress this threat. This suppression may be carried out legally and visibly, or illegally and invisibly. Public activities that were once permitted will be criminalised, and anyone that directly challenges the stability of the machine will be taken out of harm’s way and, where necessary, made an example of.

It would be reckless of me not to tell you this.

The system has legitimised all of its efforts to fight back and suppress opposition because the vast majority of people who are subjected to its activities are fully paid up members of Industrial Civilization. It is “right” that civilization maintains its stability because without stability, civilization collapses and can no longer impose its will upon the population. Does that sound like a coherent argument to you? In all truth, that really is the best argument civilization has for its continued existence: it has to be maintained because it has to be maintained. Even a heroin addict, shooting up to get the fix that they agonisingly crave knows that their habit will eventually kill them. Even a lifelong nicotine addict will admit that smoking is bad for them and they should stop. Hands up if you think Industrial Civilization should be stopped.

*   *   *

I take no great pride in knowing that for a large part of my working life, over the last five or so years, I could have caused a breakdown in the global economy; yet I chose not to make this happen of my own accord. My position placed me in charge of key data centres, front line IT security and technical disaster recovery mechanisms, the failure of which would have caused major disruptions in the global financial trading engine. I could have been a hero of the anti-civilization movement: but no one would have known my name, and no one would have found out what I did. That’s not why I didn’t do anything, though.

My lack of motivation to make the change – to sabotage the global economy in some way – was largely down to living, for many years, the life of the industrial worker; a slave to my mortgage and to the system that told me that this was the way it had to be. I wasn’t connected enough; I wasn’t angry enough; I thought this was just the way it had to be.  I guess there are lots of people in the same situation I was: perfectly poised to screw up the system in some way, but not sure if it is the right thing to do.

Maybe you’re in that boat, but further down the river: informed, resourceful, connected, angry…how do you decide whether it’s the right thing to do?

It comes down to Risk and Reward: the Risk is essentially the sum total of the fallout that could occur as the result of your actions; the Reward is the extent to which Industrial Civilization and its ability to desecrate the Earth, has been weakened. When it comes to Risk, you must go into things with a clear mind – you may have a rabid hatred for some part of the system, but you still need to take responsibility for your actions: will anyone die or be seriously harmed as a direct result of what you do, and are you prepared to take on the responsibility for the harm you may cause? Reading ahead, for a moment, if you take Rule Four into account, you are very unlikely to encounter this kind of moral dilemma; the vast majority of acts of sabotage that are likely to be effective are small acts that are part of a larger, beneficial, whole – small acts that, in themselves do not cause moral dilemmas. If you do encounter difficult choices, though, then Reward can play a part.

Reward is a measure of the net improvement in the long-term survival of humanity; based upon the improvement in the condition of our natural life-support machine. It is most certainly not about fame and glory. Few, if any, people are qualified to judge whether an act of sabotage has sufficient reward to justify a high degree of collateral damage; the best advice I can give is that for all acts of sabotage – large or small, morally-complex or not – always abide by Rule One.

Rule One: Ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

Though the battle-worn troops of World War II resolutely denied Europe ever had a “soft underbelly”, Winston Churchill nevertheless piled the combined forces of the Western Allied armies into North Africa, across the Mediterranean and into southern Europe in 1943. The Russian forces, along with the Russian people, died in their millions to hold off a rampant Axis army on the Eastern Front; while all the time the Allies were working their way northwards, peeling off division after division of German soldiers, weakening the Nazi defences as they went. Only after Hitler’s fighting machine had been diminished through a combination of eastern attrition and southern guile was it possible for the D-Day landings to take place on the northern coast of France. Beating the unbeatable was a slow, but highly calculated process: at no point after the disastrous attempt to land at Dieppe, did the Allied forces ever attempt a direct assault upon a full-strength enemy.

A good computer hacker will spend a large amount of time not only planning the attack methodology (this is known as “scoping”) but also ensuring that once the attack has been completed, no trace of it remains. This is not too difficult if the attack is a quick “smash and grab” to extract information, change data or bring down all or part of an IT system; where it gets difficult is in the more destructive and less reversible hacks – those that install some kind of mechanism that allows the hacked system to be remotely controlled or re-entered easily though a “back door”, or those that are designed to keep on attacking the system automatically. The best way a hacker can cover his or her tracks is to make sure there is someone on the inside helping them. There is no way of telling how many times insiders have been used to assist with or wholly carry out such attacks, but you can be sure that it is far more than companies and government departments are willing to disclose: after all, who would want to reveal that their own employees can’t be trusted? In fact, because IT systems have become among the most critical components within all the major corporate and political institutions, Industrial Civilization is increasingly at the mercy of hackers and, by extension, keen saboteurs. There are many different types of sabotage: they all need to be carefully planned out.

Rule Two is: Don’t go blundering in – plan your approach.

I was in a perfect position to, at least partly, sabotage the economic machine, but I would have been a prime suspect due to my multiple positions of authority and my well-known environmental leanings: if caught my first action may well have been my last. The best large-scale saboteur has all of the assets mentioned earlier, but is also the one person whom no one will ever suspect – who has no obvious motive and is seen as unlikely to ever exploit his or her position. Dmitry Orlov, an authority on the collapse of the Soviet Union, describes it this way:

To do it right, you have to get paid to do it. Good industrial sabotage is indistinguishable from black magic: nobody should know that it was sabotage, or how it worked, especially not the person actually doing it. The absolutely worst thing that a half-competent saboteur can be accused of is negligence, but it really should be more of a "mistakes were made" sort of thing.[xxix]

It is no accident that the most effective forms of sabotage are carried out from inside – as Bruce Schneier writes: “Insiders can be impossible to stop because they’re the exact same people you’re forced to trust.”[xxx] Exploiting the trust of someone may feel morally reprehensible, but remember that you are being trusted by someone who is a willing (and possibly eager) participant in the most destructive culture ever seen on the face of the Earth.

The most recent UK Labour Government was almost brought down through leaks made by individuals within its own departments: the leaks concerned something that had forced countless people to reflect on their inner feelings about the morality of a single activity: the Iraq War. Dr David Kelly – the only named source in the revelation that a dossier, specifically produced for the Blair Government as a case for going to war, was hopelessly inaccurate – paid for his “going public” with his life. Whether he died at his own hands, or those of other agencies will never be known for sure, but Kelly was not the only source of leaks concerning the “Dodgy Dossier”, and was certainly not the only source of the many leaks, off-the-record conversations, anonymously sent memos and uncensored government files related to the Iraq War. When something like a questionable war, a genocide or a global ecological catastrophe invokes the morals of people in positions of trust, they can, and will use whatever tools they have at their disposal to undermine whatever is the cause of the problem. If the protagonist (or saboteur, if we are being accurate here) is able to remain in that position of trust, much as Cold War spies were able to pass on secrets for years undetected, then they are all the more effective.

Rule Three is: Don’t get caught.

But what kinds of sabotage are we talking about? No doubt it’s a major achievement to bring down a corrupt government, but it will only be replaced by one that operates along the same lines as its predecessor – to promote the “need” for economic growth and to spread the influence of Industrial Civilization around the world on behalf of its corporate masters. Bringing down an oil company or even a single refinery will, indeed, cause a halt in the production and sale of a large amount of climate changing hydrocarbons and, if the company or refinery is large enough, could trigger economic unrest; but there are other oil companies and many more refineries, and there are always powerful institutions, and huge numbers of deluded people, who will ensure that the oil keeps flowing – at least until it runs out. The primary targets for sabotage, if enough people are to carry out the tasks necessary to reclaim the Earth for those that actually want to survive, are the things that are stopping people from connecting with the real world: the Tools of Disconnection. If you read Chapter Thirteen, you will get a pretty good idea of the kinds of things that should be targeted.

Rule Four is: Concentrate your efforts on the Tools of Disconnection.

The first reason for this is that disconnection is the biggest problem humanity is facing, and we are trying to deal with the root of the problem here. It may be satisfying to burn down a garage full of SUVs if you have a virulent hatred of gas-guzzling road transport; but these places are insured and there are plenty more SUVs where they came from. In the context of reconnecting humanity, such actions are only symbolic. Far better to sabotage the advertisers and marketing media that encourages people to buy SUVs in the first place; far better to sabotage the government agencies and trade bodies that ensure that vehicle sales and production remain a high priority; far better to sabotage the efforts of the oil and motor companies in convincing people that climate change is nothing to do with them, and even if it is, the disappearing ice-caps are not really that much of a problem.

The second reason to concentrate on the Tools of Disconnection is that the laws that protect the global economy, and the forces that ensure the global economy remains the primary concern of humanity, are currently focussed on protecting the symbolic elements of Industrial Civilization. I don’t believe for a moment that these forces won’t move to protect the Tools of Disconnection if, and when, a concerted sabotage effort takes place; I don’t believe for a second that laws will not be made to ensure those of us who want to opt out of the system are “encouraged” to stay: but for the moment, it is the traditional targets of the symbolic protester – the buildings and vehicles and individual “elite” members of society, for example – that are best protected. If you attack a corporate headquarters or chief executive then you will be stopped and probably imprisoned; if you divert or copy all confidential documents coming out of a corporate lobby group to a publisher of “subversive” materials or a local friendly radio station then who is going to come off worse?

I am not going to dwell on the numerous methods of sabotage open to those who have the motivation and the means to carry them out – those people (of which you may be one of) are almost certainly far better equipped than me, and also know how to do it far more effectively and secretively than I could outline in a book of this nature – but I will reiterate what I think are the four key rules of sabotage, should you chose to take that path alongside the other things I have suggested in this chapter:

1.      Carefully weigh up all the pros and cons, and then ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

2.      Plan ahead, and plan well, accounting for every possible eventuality.

3.      Even if you understand the worth of your action, don’t get caught.

4.      Make the Tools of Disconnection your priority; anything else is a waste of time and effort.

*   *   *

One question still remains unanswered, but has been well covered by Derrick Jensen in his Endgame books: “How can just a few determined saboteurs make it easier for the rest of humanity to reconnect with the real world?” The simple answer is that far fewer people have to make the first move than you might suppose. As Jensen revealed during a conversation with a former military officer:

They don’t have to break everything in sight. All they have to do is give the first in each line of dominoes a hearty enough heave. Once the reaction has achieved a critical threshold a fire will feed itself and grow uncontrollably. Part of the key is winning the minds of the people who would otherwise plug all the machinery[xxxi] right back in again. Once they realize they can actually walk away, without repercussions, they’ll be able to exercise their human freedoms in prodigious ways.[xxxii]

If you hark back to the discussions about the fragility of civilization then it becomes less of a pipe dream and more of a reality to think that a few people can start the dominoes tipping. And anyway, who is to say that thousands of people are not already partaking in a healthy slice of disconnection sabotage? Even if you simply post a dodgy internal corporate memo to your local newspaper in an unmarked envelope in a post box far from your home, or even if you just paint “Liars!” on a billboard near a busy road junction in the dead of night, you are already joining the swelling ranks of the saboteurs.



Knowledge is power, and the greatest threat to Industrial Civilization is a knowledgeable population. As we saw in Part Three, the huge effort undertaken by countless authorities over many centuries to ensure that information is controlled, bears testament to the danger they see of information falling into the wrong (or rather, the right) hands. Remember, we are not talking about conspiracies and dark secrets here, but basic information about the way companies and governments operate on a day-to-day basis; objective information about the damage we are doing to the very environment we need to remain healthy in order for us to survive; the way in which we are being systematically disconnected from the real world; and the simple but devastatingly effective measures everyone can take to change all of this. But it doesn’t stop there.

Just as sabotage is vital in cutting the arteries of civilization’s disconnection machine, education in its purest form is vital in healing the deep divisions that have been created by that machine. Real education is a form of sabotage: it sabotages the education system that turns children into potential employees, potential voters and potential consumers. Children, and adults for that matter, need to become world-wise, connected and able individuals; they also need to become people who want to work together, not as economic units, but as communities of people striving to achieve something far more real than anything Industrial Civilization could ever offer them. Not only is such an education far more relevant to the real world, it is imperative that people are equipped with the skills to survive whatever will happen in the next few decades. David Orr, starkly laid out one of the future decisions we will have to make following the inevitable collapse of cities, in a 1994 lecture:

The choice is whether those returning to rural areas in the century ahead will do so, in the main, willingly and expectantly with the appropriate knowledge, attitudes, and skills…or arrive as ecological refugees driven by necessity, perhaps desperation. For all of the fashionable talk about cultural diversity, schools, colleges, and universities have been agents of fossil energy powered urban homogenization.[xxxiii] 

As a people, we are losing basic and vital skills with frightening ease; partly out of ignorance, but mainly because we have been made to believe that civilization will look after us, provide for our every need and make such skills as growing, building, cooking and caring obsolete. We have become incapable of looking after and thinking for ourselves. One of your tasks as an intelligent, knowledgeable and connected person is to ensure that useful information stays out there – in the minds of as many people as possible.

The classrooms in the education systems of Industrial Civilization only provide sufficient knowledge to turn humans into good workers; that is not where the educating should take place. It should take place in the homes of families and friends; in pubs and restaurants; in sports venues; at pop concerts and music festivals; in parks, woods, fields, beaches and on the street; in trains and buses; in offices, shops and factories; even in playgrounds. Person to person, unfiltered and uncensored – just information that can be discussed, debated, added to, written down, remembered and passed on again and again. You need to keep this information alive and accurate; you need to keep it interesting and relevant; you need to be a teacher because, like it or not, the system is not going to educate anyone on how to live in a world where the system is not in charge.


Level Two: Ways To Accelerate Change

This is the point when most environmental guide books tail off into a happy conclusion, generally along the lines of, “If we all follow these suggestions, the world will be a better place”. That is, of course, complete garbage. For a start, the recommendations in these guide books are generally no more radical than installing a wind turbine on your roof, or lobbying your government representative / friend of the global economy for change. Also, as I said in the last chapter, the assumption that everyone reading the book (let alone a large enough number of people to really make a difference) will follow the recommendations is foolish at best. A conclusion at this point would make no sense at all – you can’t change a society if only a tiny minority of people are prepared to change themselves. I know that the things I have suggested, as well as those I have warned against, will only initially be taken up by a very few people: what is needed is a way of propagating that change to a far larger group in the shortest time possible.


Innovators, Early Adopters, And The Rest

If you have read up to this point of your own accord, and are prepared to take on the challenge of using various methods to gradually crumble Industrial Civilization, then that makes you an Innovator. The first way of accelerating the change process is based upon the Diffusion of Innovations theory, which the American sociologist Everett Rogers developed into something far-reaching and rather brilliant.[xxxiv] An Innovation can be anything that has not been done before; whether that be adopting a new technology, watching a new television program or changing a society. Rogers proposed five different groups of people through which the innovation has to pass before an entire population can be said to have adopted it: Innovators (sometimes called Pioneers), which account for around 2.5 percent of the population; Early Adopters, 12.5 percent of the population; Early Majority, 35 percent; Late Majority, 35 percent and, finally, Laggards who are the last 15 percent of people to take on an innovation. The percentage figures can change depending on the type of innovation and also the nature of the population; but what is more important is that the five groups each describe a time-lag: the Early Majority will not adopt an innovation until the Early Adopters have, and so on.

On its own, that seems simple enough, but what makes things more complicated is that each individual within each group usually has to go through a number of different phases in order for their personal adoption to be achieved, as follows[xxxv]:  

1.       Knowledge – person becomes aware of an innovation and has some idea of how it functions,

2.       Persuasion – person forms a favourable or unfavourable attitude toward the innovation,

3.       Decision – person engages in activities that lead to a choice to adopt or reject the innovation,

4.       Implementation – person puts an innovation into use,

5.      Confirmation – person evaluates the results of an innovation-decision already made.  

People in one group are unlikely to start their adoption process until those in the previous group have, at least, started their Implementation phase, and probably not until the Confirmation phase: “Leaps of Faith” are as uncommon as they are risky. The Confirmation phase is when the adopter decides whether they are happy with the outcome of the adoption, and is in the best position to encourage others – friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and so on – to start the adoption process themselves. If the members of one group never reach the Confirmation phase, there is very little chance of the innovation passing to the next group.

With all that said, it sounds as though any major change in society towards a survivable future is going to take an age, especially when you consider the enormous pressure constantly placed on individuals to ensure that they don’t change at all. This is where you come in.

*   *   *

I said in the last chapter that some of this theory was a bit dry so, rather than plough on and risk losing you through sheer boredom; I’m going to explain how this needs to work in practice. I’m going to describe the most important innovation of all: the one that comprises the raft of different radical measures described in the last section; the one that people need to adopt in order for them to become part of the solution.

The difference between a population deciding to watch a new television programme and them taking on a completely new way of living is profound: for a start, switching over a TV channel, even arranging things so you are near to your television at the time the programme starts takes very little time – changing your life can take years, especially if you are a deeply ingrained “consumer”. More obviously, persuading someone to change their life as opposed to changing their TV channel requires a lot more effort: something I will deal with in the Level Three section. Figure 3 shows the process graphically, with the thin bands indicating the smaller population groups, and the increasing adoption time for each group indicating the additional effort required for a more ingrained person to change their life. The “Innovators / Pioneers” group is highlighted because nothing can happen until this group begins adopting the change. There is no absolute time scale; you will see shortly that it is almost impossible to predict how quickly the population will change because there are so many factors to consider.  

Figure 3: Simplified Diffusion of Innovations graph for fundamental life changes (Source: Author’s own image)

Consider lighting a fire: you can’t send a spark to a large, dense piece of timber and expect it to ignite – you have to start with the smaller, more reactive materials. First the newspaper or tinder catches; then the small sticks – the kindling – begin to burn; then the larger pieces of wood and, when the flames have reached a high enough temperature, the logs will start to burn. You end up with a powerful, intense fire, hot enough to set light to almost anything that is placed near to it. Now, what if you are lighting the fire under different conditions: in some cases your materials may be dry, you have a good air flow but not enough wind to blow the flames out; compare this to a fire made from slightly damp materials – it’s raining, the wind is blowing hard.

In Level One, I suggested lots of different changes; some of which are harder to achieve than others. Change isn’t going to happen in one big bang, even among the Innovators; it will require different levels of effort and different timescales, so it’s important to keep plugging on, even when you have made what you consider to be big changes in your life. When you have made a significant change – say you have stopped being a conspicuous consumer or you have stopped flying and driving entirely – that is a good point to start influencing the people in the next phase, while still continuing with your personal efforts. I know it sounds a bit convoluted, but it’s actually a very natural way of doing things; after all, your friend, who may be quite keen to change is more likely to be put off from changing when they see what a massive gulf there is between you and them. Instead, if you are in a position to guide your friend through the same change you have just completed, they are far more likely to go along with you; and also pass on their more comfortable (albeit quite radical) experience to others.

It is important to also understand that you are very unlikely to persuade someone to change if they are two or more phases behind you: I long ago gave up trying to discuss environmental and social changes with many of the people I knew – the conversation might have been interesting, but there was no chance of them agreeing to actually do anything about it. Miracles do happen and people do have moments of revelation, but the best strategy – as shown by the abject failure of groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to change a defiant public en masse – is to concentrate your efforts on those most likely to be persuaded. Any other approach flies in the face of social theory and, to be honest, common sense.

Finally, I just want to mention something that was pointed out by a close relation just a few days ago: how do you deal with the situation where someone is trying to persuade you not to change? This is all about peer pressure, and peer pressure can be extremely toxic at its worst. A person who decides to go vegetarian, for instance, will come up against not only the system itself, using its Tools of Disconnection, but lots of people who might persuade them to “just have a bit of meat” or to not change on the grounds of health, convenience and the multitude of other reasons people give for avoiding a change in their diet. I’m not suggesting for a second that you should avoid your friends or relations (although it might be a good time to consider who your real friends are), but I would say that times like this require a great deal of self-confidence, and not a little tact. It is possible that the people asking you not to change are actually closer to changing themselves than they will ever admit – as Carol Adams writes, with reference to people that try to sabotage vegetarians: “Saboteurs may be the group most truly threatened by vegetarianism. That’s the last thing they can admit to themselves or you.”[xxxvi]

Remember when I said earlier on that if you were not ready to take the plunge then you should take time out to reflect and re-read certain sections of this book? One reason is to ensure that you are in a position to disregard any potential distractions and plough your own furrow – there is little point going into this half-heartedly if a few days later you are going to be right back where you started because a relative told you that you were being foolish. Don’t get mad at someone because they don’t know any better: explain why you are doing what you are doing; describe what civilization is doing to humanity in the simplest terms; show them how your life has improved immeasurably because of the changes you have already made and, if that doesn’t stop them, just ignore them. I find that works very well!


Mavens, Connectors and Salespeople

It wouldn’t be fair of me to take the credit for this section, but I bet when he was writing about Sesame Street and Hush Puppies, Malcolm Gladwell never thought the ideas he proposed in The Tipping Point[xxxvii] would be used to try and bring down Industrial Civilization. If you create something compelling, effective and yet infinitely flexible, though, then it is bound to be used for things other than for which it was intended.

There are three key elements to The Tipping Point, each of which have their own relevance to triggering major change: the first is known as The Law of the Few. This presupposes that for each successful idea or innovation, to use the previous terminology, you have three different types of people involved. Mavens are people who identify trends and have an instinct for knowing when something is right. Connectors are those people who, usually through their job or social standing, are able to link together the kinds of people who can broadcast and propagate an idea to other similar people. Salesmen (or women) are those people who are experts in persuading large numbers of people that the idea should be adopted.

Who can we use to bring down civilization?

Well, it’s clear that, given what we are trying to get rid of, we are not talking about the usual network of fashionistas, marketing executives or used car salesmen – although such people might themselves be persuaded to join the other side. In fact we don’t actually need Mavens here because the idea has already been identified at Level One in this chapter: whether it is the kind of idea that is likely to succeed is a moot point – it has to succeed, which is why Connectors and Salespeople are so important.

The Connectors are pretty well established and, again, this is where you play your part if you are in a position to do so: bloggers with a readership consisting of other bloggers, along with a range of influential people; journalists and broadcasters not shackled by a particular editorial regime; people who are regular commentators on popular web sites, regularly published letter writers to newspapers and people who can get spots on radio and television shows; finally, people who have large social networks consisting of those people who are most likely to change themselves. If you are one of these types of people, or can persuade any that you know to be a Connector, then so much the better.

The Salespeople are such a diverse bunch that I’m not going to list them here, but they are essentially the kinds of people who are ready to make the change themselves, and are persuasive enough to get ideas across that would normally be anathema to this culture. We all know people who can sell things; they just need to be convinced that they have a far more important job to do than selling cars, vacations, houses or hi-fi equipment. More likely, the best people for the job are those that are already used to selling ideas rather than things – musicians, actors, teachers and lecturers for example[xxxviii] – but you never know who might be willing to help. If you are, or are good friends with a Salesperson who is also a Connector then you have a real star on your hands!

The second Tipping Point element is the Stickiness Factor. The message in this book is pretty simple, but takes quite a lot of digesting: what if the message could be presented in such a way that everyone gets it? At least it would give the largest number of people a chance of changing. The problem is that the message “Industrial Civilization must end” is not very sticky at all: the statement makes no sense to most people. Ok, it will appeal to the converted, the people who are already on their way down the path out of civilization, but those people are in such small numbers that they have little chance of triggering any kind of movement – the message needs to stick with enough people to create genuine momentum.

Paul Revere started a word-of-mouth epidemic with the phrase “The British are coming.” If he had instead gone on that midnight ride to tell people he was having a sale on the pewter mugs at his silversmith shop, even he, with all his enormous personal gifts, could not have galvanized the Massachusetts countryside.

The specific quality that a message needs to be successful is the quality of “stickiness.” Is the message memorable? Is it so memorable, in fact, that it can create change that can spur someone to action?[xxxix]

This is not a small book, and I would be fooling myself if I thought millions of people were going to read it; and even if they did, most of those people would be recreational readers with little intention of ever changing. The point is that, somehow, the key messages in this book need to be condensed down and conveyed in such a way that those messages stick with a large enough number of people. I had a go at this near the end of Chapter Fifteen, breaking what had been said into nine key points; but even that may be too much for some people to convey in a short time, and none of the summarised information is qualified in any way – you need to read the book for that. It’s a dilemma. At some point you’re going to have to decide which bits of the message are likely to stick with the people who are going to be the main recipients: the Connectors and the Salespeople, and key people in the next phase of Innovation. Already the need for a third level is emerging; and it is in that section that the nature of the message itself will be covered.

The third and last Tipping Point element is The Power of Context: whether the idea is relevant to the environment in which it is presented. We can bang on all we like about how the planet is being degraded by Industrial Civilization; about how we have been forcibly disconnected from wild nature; about how there are many ways to deal with this, most of which don’t follow the cosy ideology of the mainstream environmentalist – but unless the context is right then the message just won’t sink in. Here’s a quick example: last year I wrote a comment on an influential blog about Al Gore’s Live Earth concerts in which I said that they had almost no chance of influencing people due to their superficial nature. This comment was picked up by MTV, who called me for an interview, which duly appeared on the front page of the web site for over a week.[xl] Subsequently, I was interviewed by CBC, the Canadian broadcaster and appeared on their bulletins for the whole day that the Live Earth concerts were taking place.

This is not to say that my efforts and the criticisms of others had any impact on the public, although Al Gore was forced to develop a “7 Point Pledge” and defend the concerts publicly; the point is that I was asked to speak because the context was just right. Live Earth was happening, and my comments hit a nerve. The wider context of this book is that environmentalism is everywhere and we are being implored to “do something”[xli], but sadly that context is so broad as to be irrelevant: the general environmental context is not going to help push the necessary changes through society. Nevertheless, as the Live Earth example showed, it is possible to take advantage of particular events, especially those that are media friendly, and put an anti-civilization slant on them – this is where the Salespeople can really come to the fore. You can even force the context by associating or juxtaposing the ideas you want to get across with something of more interest to your audience: recycling is important to lots of people, so saying to a friend or colleague that recycling is largely a way of distracting people from actually doing something effective, after they tell you that they religiously recycle all their cans and bottles, will certainly be memorable.

The context of an idea and its stickiness are, regardless of the power of the idea, culture specific. If an idea is only relevant to a small sector of society then it will never make the leap to a wider audience without some form of cultural translation. Some of the examples of how companies have made cultural changes to their marketing to sell products are cringe-inducing, to say the least, and not a little cynical – well, all commercial marketing is cynical by its nature: the “World’s local bank”[xlii] campaign by HSBC springs to mind, but there are many others. Regardless of cynicism, though, subtle cultural adjustments do work; largely because, as we saw in Chapter Ten, there is already a dominant culture that most people on Earth are affected by. This book was originally written in English, and I have lived in the UK all my life, so many of the references and examples are close to home for me. That said; I have taken a global and culture-neutral viewpoint as far as my experiences allow, which is designed to appeal to a far wider audience. Ironically, the more people on Earth that experience the Culture of Maximum Harm, the more people the ideas in this book will be relevant to: but I would like to think that there are Connectors out there who can cross over the cultural boundaries that still exist (particularly in large, recently industrialised societies like India, China and Indonesia), and who can short-circuit this cultural dependency before the whole world loses its identity.


Gumming Up The Works

All the while phases are being considered and tipping points are being targeted there remains one big stumbling block: the one all the “how to save the world” purveyors manage (or more likely choose) to ignore. This is the elephant in the room that was discussed at length in Chapter Thirteen: the Tools of Disconnection. At Level One we cut across, showing the huge range of different things that need changing in our lives if we are to stand any chance of making progress with surviving the next century or more, while acknowledging the huge power that Industrial Civilization has over our activities. Educating outside of the educational system was shown to be a key way of subverting this control, and this educating effort – as you have seen in the last few pages – is a key part of the Diffusion of Innovations and Tipping Point concepts. By educating people about the power of the system and how it seeks to prevent change people can understand better how to reach each subsequent sector of the population. It’s still extremely difficult – the elephant is still there, glowering at all attempts to move it.

I prefer to let the poor elephant run free – it may be big and grey, but it has been done a grave disservice in metaphor-land. Elephants live as sustainably as all other non-civilized living creatures: they control their populations and the areas they use through natural processes – any attempt to be unsustainable would be suicide for an elephant herd. No, I prefer to use a different metaphor: a gigantic machine chewing up the Earth’s natural resources, belching out polluting liquids and gases, run by a workforce made up of billions of willing slaves. One of the machine’s jobs is to make sure everyone ignores what the machine is doing and just carries on working for it, though thick and thin. Unless the machine is slowed down it will carry on until there is nothing left to feed it, and no one left to operate it. Some of us may wish to stop shopping, stop travelling, change our eating habits, leave our jobs and live sustainable lives; some of us may wish to reverse population growth and help restore the degraded land; some of us may wish to educate people and sabotage the tools of disconnection but – and here is the paradox – unless the sabotage is taking place, none of this will get any easier, not even the sabotage. Sabotage creates the conditions for change.

This is why sabotage is both the single most important Level One activity and also the single most important Level Two activity. I don’t think I need to repeat what I said in the last section – we know there are people ready to do the work, and you may well be among them. Those people, you included, are the key to getting this process moving at the speed it needs to go. I’m sorry if this sounds like needless repetition, but I wouldn’t repeat it if it wasn’t important: in order to motivate entire groups of people to change, the things holding them back must be removed.

*   *   *

It might feel as though we are leaving the suggestions provided in Level One behind; don’t worry, the list of “Ways To Live” is still completely relevant and lies at the heart of preventing catastrophic environmental damage. Read it, print it out, stick it on your wall. You may also think that I have gone into more than enough detail about the mechanisms of change in Level Two; and, indeed, I have spent quite a bit of time on them – suggesting how we should live is all very well, but without many people adopting these changes, there is no chance of these catastrophes being prevented. Level Two is also vitally important.

There is one more level that is missing, though: the one that lies far deeper than anything I have yet seen in an environmental book – the level that shows how to actually lift people out of their civilization-induced slumber in the first place. Without something that actually picks people up and, at least metaphorically, gives them a good shake, even the very best Salesperson has nothing to work with. That is what we need to discuss now.


Level Three: Ways To Influence People

My younger daughter told me recently that if we were to show all the people driving 4x4s the last few minutes of “The Day After Tomorrow” then they would stop driving. I think this level of confidence is wonderful in a nine-year old, but I had to be honest and tell her that most people driving 4x4s weren’t ready to change (I didn’t explain Diffusion of Innovations to her – I’m not that mean!) It got me thinking, though, that there must be something that can wake at least the Early Adopters up, and smell the green grass, newly watered soil and fresh air. As I said earlier, there is a big problem with creating a message that is sufficiently “sticky” and also contains the information necessary to steer people in the right direction. We can concoct a decent message from the huge amount of information I have included in this book – perhaps something that fills a poster, or a short burst of conversation – but what would make that message good enough to cut through the consumer noise and light-green platitudes that are currently occupying peoples’ minds?

The idea of the Meme is a good starting point. Richard Dawkins first coined the term “meme” (pronounced “meem”) in his book The Selfish Gene; describing it as a replicator, which acts, not on genes, but on cultural ideas like songs, religions, sports, fashions, art, methods of construction, or ideas like evolution, gravity and faith.[xliii] Unlike genes, which have been literally pulled apart by scientists, we have a pretty poor understanding of how memes work: the best that can be said is that they share some of the characteristics of genetic behaviour but, unless you include their physical representations – books, paintings, recorded music etc. – they only exist in the minds of the carriers. Dawkins suggests there are two ways in which a meme might successfully replicate to the next generation or group of humans: either they have “merit” (in other words they have some intrinsic ability to remain, regardless of anything that surrounds them) or they are highly compatible with the cultural environment.[xliv] The idea that it is good to survive, rather than die, has merit and has thus replicated throughout all of humanity. The idea that the daily habits of a particular movie or music star are worthy of discussion has little merit in itself but, as long as that star is shining brightly, then that meme will be replicated: when the star is no longer a star then the meme fails.

One characteristic that memes do share with genes is that if they mutate more rapidly, or to a greater extent, than is beneficial to their continued success, then they quickly lose their advantage over other memes. Rapid mutation can be a good thing if we are prepared to accept huge collateral damage for the sake of one highly adapted super-meme; but if that final meme bears little resemblance to the thing you wanted to be replicated then it is little better than no meme at all. In fact, in the world of environmental information, the super-meme may be extremely damaging!

What we are seeing in a so-called age of Environmental Enlightenment is actually a set of basic ideas about the way we need to act and the reasons for acting, being mutated out of existence in the cacophony of competing ideas, which no one can seem to agree upon. This is in part due to the presence of the powerful commercially-funded body of sceptics; but made worse by a huge range of environmental groups that are each trying to compete for a slice of the “we helped save the world” pie.[xlv] The ideas and messages are changing so often that there is currently little chance of a genuinely effective idea dealing with the competition.

Or is there?

I believe is it possible to create something that will motivate people to act in the right way, regardless of everything else that is taking place. Such an Eco-Meme must have the following three characteristics:

1.      It is sufficiently “sticky” to get an individual’s attention.

The uniqueness of the message is an important factor here – we are not talking about “10 Ways To Save The World” but something far more interesting and far more striking: the need to bring down something that we have been brainwashed into thinking we cannot do without. To make the message very sticky, though, it needs to be short, easy to understand and memorable. A message that is too complicated will fail to stick.

2.      It is powerful enough to appeal to an individual’s basest instincts to act.

The message needs to harness the things that go to the heart of what it means to be human: survival is one of them; another is the unique experience of being connected – something that is impossible to achieve without “tuning out” of civilization; the final one is the natural anger that comes from realising you are being forcibly disconnected by the system you have trusted, possibly for all of your life.

3.      It is robust enough to avoid losing its meaning when passed on.

Again, simplicity is a key here – if everyone can understand the message then there is a greater chance of it remaining intact when it is passed on; the shorter the message, the greater the chance of it being passed on in its entirety. This book is not the message, but because it has been written to be easily understood by a large number of people then the message can be reinforced by the supporting material.

To create a message that is suitable as an Eco-Meme, we need to first boil down all the relevant material into a short burst of information. The first part needs to contain the “why?” information, i.e. “Why do I need to do something?”

It looks something like this:

Human activity is destroying the natural systems that we depend upon for our survival.  Our most basic instinct as humans is to survive; yet we continue to destroy our life-support machine. Connected humans understand this terrible contradiction; disconnected humans do not.

Not all humans are responsible: just those who are part of Industrial Civilization. Industrial Civilization depends on economic growth and the unsustainable use of natural resources, so it has developed a complex set of tools for keeping people disconnected from the real world and living a life that keeps civilization running. Humans have been manipulated in order to be part of a destructive system

The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization.

The second part needs to contain the “how?” information, i.e. “How can I make this happen?” Again, it needs to be in such a form that it is suitable as an Eco-Meme:

Civilization is complex and delicate: it depends on everything running smoothly and also depends upon people having faith in its goodness. Global ecological systems are changing in unpredictable and major ways; natural resources are running out rapidly; the population is growing, particularly the population of urban areas; there is considerable political and civil unrest developing throughout the world: all of these things will lead to a sudden and catastrophic collapse of civilization during the 21st century.

It is possible to create a situation where civilization is left to crumble gradually, reducing the impact on humanity – the sooner this is done; the less the global environment will be harmed. The key things we need to do are:

1) Reconnect with the real world, so that we can understand our close relationships with it in everything we do. The more you connect, the more you will realise how unreal civilization is.

2) Live in such a way that we do not contribute to the expansion of the global economy, reducing our impact on the natural environment in the process. Be aware that authority figures within the system, such as political leaders and corporations, will attempt to provide you with “green” advice: this advice is designed to ensure that civilization continues, and should be ignored.

3) Create the conditions so that others may also change through education and, more importantly, sabotaging the tools that civilization uses to keep us part of the machine. Don’t waste time protesting: this changes nothing – that is why it is legal.

A future outside of civilization is a better life; one in which we can actually decide for ourselves how we are going to live.

I’m sure a better writer than me could go through this and construct something more eloquent, but that is the essence of the message; and that is what I think needs to go out to humanity – at first to a receptive minority and then, as conditions become more conducive to change, to a progressively larger audience.

*   *   *

Now we have the basis of a simple, but comprehensive message, we need to ensure it stands the best chance of being successful in the big, bad world that is the Culture of Maximum Harm. There are a few things we can do to help.

First, we need to be careful about the words we use. Some words, which we unwittingly use in neutral terms, are deeply grounded in civilization; as though that is the only way of being. “Consumer” has become a general term for a person going about their daily life, when it actually means someone who is taking part in a consuming activity, like shopping or tourism. “Advanced” and “Developed” are terms used to describe cultures that are at the peak of human endeavour, when they are actually very specific terms to describe a high level of technological or economic activity; likewise, “Backward” and “Undeveloped” are used to put non-industrial, low resource use societies in a poor light, as opposed to “good” civilization. “Developing” is purely aspirational: it implies that a society or country that is not “developed” is aspiring to become so. “Civilized” and “Uncivilized” are similarly used to imply positive and negative aspects of a culture or society when these words actually describe to what extent the society is based around living in cities.  Words like “Savage”, “Wild” and “Animal” have been framed in almost completely negative terms, when they simply imply that something is natural.

Redefining such words will, in the short term, just be confusing: instead, where a word is always going to be seen as negative, like “Savage”, it should be avoided; and where a word specifically relates to Industrial Civilization in positive terms, we should try and use it negatively. It is surprising how quickly this type of meme (the definition of a word) can spread throughout a population.

On a related point, we need to start talking as though not having stuff, not consuming, not travelling etc. is a positive thing: how can being genuinely environmentally friendly be anything but positive? Typically, a person in the Culture of Maximum Harm, if they are asked about something relatively non-destructive they own or have done, tries to play it down in order to seem “normal”. For instance, they might say: “I just went camping / holidayed locally” or “I’m going to get one next week” or “Sorry, I can’t afford it at the moment.” We have become extraordinarily coy about not being rabid consumers, when we should be proud of it. Again, this is a kind of language change that can be extremely effective.

I have talked at considerable length about sabotage, but I’m going to mention it again: in order for a message to get out in its strongest possible form and remain untainted, civilization must not be allowed to mess around with it. It is not possible for a corporation to be “green”, therefore at no point must the message be allowed to include business as an ally; politicians are not enablers of change, they exist to maintain the status quo, so are not going to play a part in the solution; connection can only be made with an artefact of the real world, it cannot be reproduced in a technological “experience”. In this case, sabotage needs to be focussed on exposing the damaging alternatives to real change as “greenwash”, lies and attempts to keep us as parts of the machine.

Finally, we must never forget the way in which the message is delivered: trust is by far the most important factor here. The best person to persuade someone why and how they need to change is a person that they trust, however humble and unassuming. The best salesperson isn’t always the person who has been in the game the longest or has the best track record; he or she may just be someone who has the ear of someone else. You are delivering a message that is critically important and undeniably positive in its outcome: it will not be a breach of trust to deliver this message, however hard it may be to digest. We may not all be heroes, but we can all be part of the change.

*   *   *

What we have experienced over the last thousand or more years is a progressive addiction to a way of life that cannot, under any circumstances be maintained. There is no cure to addiction and almost all of us will feel a certain amount of withdrawal as we move away from a life of toxic abuse to one that provides little or none of the paraphernalia we have become so dependent upon. The next generation, though, will not be addicted: they can grow up in a culture that doesn’t try to cut them off from reality. The current generation may become a generation of ex-civilians; the next generation will simply be free.

Getting rid of civilization is not going to be easy, but the alternative is far, far worse. In the next chapter I am going to show you how make the process of withdrawing from this culture easier for yourself, and help insulate you from the worst of the after-effects of Industrial Civilization: when something that big comes down, however it comes down, it is bound to make a bit of a mess. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.


[Continue to Chapter 17]


[i] Daniel Quinn, “Beyond Civilization”, Three Rivers Press, 1999.

[ii] The Capital Economy is the newest type of economy – that which relies on the transfer and acquisition of material (monetary and object) wealth. Economics is actually the management of the home, and all of the most basic things needed to ensure it can be run effectively. Riane Eisler (“The Real Wealth Of Nations”, Berrett Koehler, 2007) posits six sectors of the economy, the first three being most critical but largely ignored in Industrial Civilization: Household Economy, Unpaid Community Economy and Natural Economy. The other three sectors are Market Economy, Government Economy and Illegal Economy (essentially the non-legal Market Economy).

[iii] The economic system is headed in one direction – up – so any move in the opposite direction places tremendous pressure on the instruments that support this system. Thomas Homer-Dixon (“The Upside Of Down”, Souvenir Press, 2007) writes: “The American economy, for example, must expand 3 to 5 percent annually just to keep unemployment from rising [the unemployment being created by increases in technological efficiency, population growth and immigration]. And to get this growth, our leaders and corporations – operating on the implicit assumption that people can be inculcated with insatiable desires and ever-rising expectations – relentlessly encourage us to be hype-consumers.”

[iv] Thomas Homer-Dixon, ibid.

[v] The definition of “essential” varies according to whatever cultural system dominates. For humans; food, water, air, shelter and warmth are essential – that is all. In some measures of “poverty”, a deprived person is one who lacks a television and a refrigerator; clearly something has gone wrong if deprivation is defined in terms of consumer goods. The use in the text is merely relative; most “essentials” are unnecessary outside of Industrial Civilization.

[vi] “President Bush signed a $168 billion economic stimulus package on Wednesday that will extend rebates to U.S. taxpayers…’We have come together on a single mission and that is to put the peoples' interests first,’ Bush said at a White House signing ceremony. He was flanked by members of Congress and his cabinet.” (from Robert Schroeder, “Bush signs economic stimulus package”, Marketwatch, (accessed 14 May, 2008). Clearly the peoples’ interests means maintaining the status quo of control and disconnection.

[vii] Kate Smith, “Balance not calories making children fat”, Sunday Herald, (accessed 14 May, 2008).

[viii] Examples include: “Auto industry spent record $70.3m lobbying Congress”,; “Car Dealers Lobby Against 35 MPG”,; “EU bows to car lobby on pollution limits”,; “Germany torn on EU climate plan as car lobby bites”, (all accessed 15 May, 2008).

[ix] “Why Bikes Are a Sustainable Wonder”, Sightline Institute, (accessed 16 May, 2008).

[x] The figure is derived as follows: In Europe, the average automobile emits about 170 grams of CO2 for every kilometre. In the USA and Canada this is considerably higher, but let’s take the European average as a starting point. If I were to travel from A to B by car then my vehicle would emit approximately 3.4kg of carbon dioxide. If I travelled at an average of 100kph (about 60mph), then the journey would take 12 minutes, during which time I would not exert myself, and thus personally emit only 8 grams of CO2. The total for the journey would thus be 3.4kg of carbon dioxide, give or take a few grams. If, instead, I travelled by bicycle, then I would have to exert myself. There is no way I could cycle at 100kph, but can easily reach 20kph, making my journey last 1 hour.  When I cycle I breathe at between 20 and 30 breaths per minute, so let’s assume 30bpm, with no increase in oxygen intake per breath. Over that hour of cycling, a person would therefore emit only 100 grams of carbon dioxide, or just 3.4% of the carbon emitted by the combined vehicle and human.

[xi] Daniele Fanelli, “Meat is murder on the planet”, New Scientist, 2007, (accessed 16 May, 2008).

[xii] Dominic Kennedy, “Walking to the shops ‘damages planet more than going by car’”, The Times, (accessed 16 May, 2008).

[xiii] Attributed to Jim McGurn, probably in Cycling Monthly (defunct), 1994.

[xiv] For a detailed, but probably unintentional, analysis of the hopelessness of sufficiently lowering greenhouse gas emissions within Industrial Civilization, read George Monbiot, “Heat”, Penguin, 2006. Monbiot’s analysis is based on a 60 percent global reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030; which is insufficient, based on Jim Hansen’s recent work – and which Monbiot himself has recently admitted is too little. Even a 60 percent cut is monumentally difficult within the constraints set by Industrial Civilization.

[xv] “Book Burning”, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, (accessed 20 May, 2008).

[xvi] For example: “China seizes books from Japan school because of Taiwan map”, Japan Today, 28 June 2005,; Ali Asghar Ramezanpoor, “The Scope and Structure of Censorship in Iran”, Gozaar,

[xvii] “Every Child Matters: Change For Children”, HM Government, 2004, (accessed 20 May, 2008). The “Every Child Matters” scheme was implemented as a response to the terrible abuse suffered by young Victoria Climbie at the hands of her “carers”; the UK Government took the opportunity to sandwich the Citizenship elements within the otherwise well thought out recommendations on ensuring child protection standards are raised. Of course, in a culture where caring is valued more than money, such schemes would be absolutely unnecessary.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Jan Lundberg, “Unlucky to have a job”, Culture Change, (accessed 20 May, 2008).

[xx] Joseph Tainter, “The Collapse of Complex Societies”, Cambridge University Press, 1988.

[xxi] United Nations Population Division statistics, (accessed 20 May, 2008).

[xxii] For example: Tim Colebatch, “Europe paying for ageing population”, The Age,; “France Moves to Encourage Large Families”, Deutsche Welle,,2144,1720921,00.html; C. J. Chivers, “Putin Urges Plan to Reverse Slide in the Birth Rate”, New York Times, (all accessed 21 May, 2008). It is interesting to observe that many politicians stress the threat to pensions and the care of those in old age, when they are clearly worried about the threat to the national economy; they are merely appealing to the public’s soft spot. Interestingly President Putin (NYT article) suggests a threat to the Russian State; something that is still key in the hearts of voters.

[xxiii] Callum M. Roberst et al, “Roadmap to Recovery: A global network of marine reserves”, Greenpeace International, 2006, (accessed 22 May, 2008). The reason that the section on implementation is so brief in this extensive report is that there really is no way of implementing such a grand scheme in the current regime of uncontrolled marine take – civilization would never allow it.

[xxiv] The World Commission on Protected Areas (part of the IUCN) say, of West Africa: “Protected areas cover more than 8.6% of the land area of Africa but, in many cases, they are threatened by civil unrest, weak institutions, poorly trained staff and limited budgets.” ( The Wilderness Society USA state: “For over a century, the National Wildlife Refuge System has protected America’s unique wildlife and irreplaceable habitats. But several years of stagnant or declining budgets have exacerbated the more than $2.5 billion operations and maintenance backlog, and have forced a dramatic 20 percent reduction in staff nationwide.” (“America’s Treasures Wildlife Refuges on the Brink”, Greenpeace Brazil state: “Although the organization recognizes the recent efforts of the federal government in braking the destruction of forests, as Operation Arc de Fogo and the embargo of illegally deforested areas, the report released in March shows that the government fully complied with only 30% of the activities provided for in its Plan to combat deforestation.” (“Desmatamento na Amazônia cai 80% em março em relaçăo a fevereiro”, (All accessed 21 May, 2008).

[xxv] Steve Connor, “Researchers 'seed' ocean with iron to soak up CO2”, The Independent, (accessed 22 May, 2008).

[xxvi] James Lovelock and Chris Rapley, “Ocean pipes could help the Earth to cure itself”, Nature (443), 2007.

[xxvii] I don’t see a problem with the tools of civilization being used to help bring down civilization, at least in a way that the problem is not exacerbated: the Internet, for instance, has become essential to reach the huge numbers of people subjected to the Tools of Disconnection. This is one example of a necessary ethical sacrifice; something that will be encountered in the section on Sabotage.

[xxviii] Richard Lovett, “Burying biomass to fight climate change”, New Scientist (2654), 2008.

[xxix] Dmitry Orlov, “Civilization sabotages itself”, Culture Change, (accessed 27 May, 2008).

[xxx] Bruce Schneier, “Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World”, Wiley, 2004.

[xxxi] This includes all of the metaphorical and physical machinery of civilization, not just the mechanical cogs and wheels.

[xxxii] Derrick Jensen, “Endgame Volume II: Resistance”, Seven Stories Press, 2006.

[xxxiii] David W. Orr, “The Greening of Education”, Schumacher Lecture, Bristol, 1994, (accessed 30 May, 2008).

[xxxiv] For the full analytical text, see Everett M. Rogers, “Diffusion of Innovations: Fifth Edition”, Free Press, 2003.

[xxxv] Gregg Orr, “Diffusion of Innovations, by Everett Rogers”, book review, (accessed 31 May, 2008).

[xxxvi] Carol J. Adams, “Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook”, Continuum International, 2003.

[xxxvii] Malcolm Gladwell, “The Tipping Point”, Abacus, 2002.

[xxxviii] It seems that educators, despite being restrained by a system that suppresses change, are some of the most radical people in society. This extends to librarians, booksellers and many people working in the social services.

[xxxix] Ibid.

[xl] Gil Kaufman, “What's The Point Of Live Earth? Facing Criticism, Al Gore Says Concerts Are Just The Beginning”, (accessed 3 June, 2008).

[xli] There is a wonderful parody of this “do something, do anything” attitude in a music video starring Russell Brand. It’s in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and at the time of writing could be seen at (accessed 3 June, 2008).

[xlii] The campaign was launched in 2002, and is still at the forefront of HSBC’s efforts to increase its global reach; such is its success. See (accessed 3 June, 2008).

[xliii] Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene”, OUP, 1976.

[xliv] Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”, Bantam Press, 2006.

[xlv] Take a look at the “successes” pages of any number of environmental organisations’ web sites or magazines and you will see vast numbers of achievements being trumpeted when, in fact, almost nothing tangible is achieved or the organisation in question played little or no part in the “success”. Particularly eye-watering examples include:, and any number of “press releases” pages of larger groups.


A Matter Of Scale by Keith Farnish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 Unported License.


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