Industrial civilization is strip-mining Life. Human economies are suffocating our remaining natural living systems. As a result, wildlife and insect populations are plummeting, while humans, pets, and livestock numbers are soaring. But some of the newest threats to the natural world are from unexpected sources: wind turbines, solar panels, energy storage, and other “green technologies.”
Rare earth mine, Bayan Obo Mining District, Mongolia (Google Earth) / Jean Arnold
An astounding new book BRIGHT GREEN LIES: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It — by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert — asserts that renewables and other “bright green deals” will not salvage us from our hot mess. Instead, the effort to remake our energy systems will further eviscerate the natural world. And "green tech" will fail miserably to meet any semblance of the fossil fuel reductions needed to keep a livable climate.
What now counts as “sustainable” technology is just a new iteration of our extractive economy’s endless need for metals, minerals, and materials. To add insult to injury, “eco” tech is not displacing fossil fuels, but only piling on top. Greening our industrial system is a delusion, plain and simple.
If we believe we can have our industrial civilization and “clean energy” to drive it, we are drinking “Bright Green Kool-Aid.” It’s the lies we tell ourselves that are the deadliest. And deadly not only for ourselves, but for the rest of the Living animals and Living Systems. In 2021, we are pushing hard, ceaselessly to bring everything we care about down with us.
These are bold statements, but BGL backs its claims with mountains of data, and searingly clear stories. Has the end of the world ever been so wonderfully readable and explicit?
BGL raises inconvenient questions: What are the “green” technologies made of? Where do their materials come from? What poisons and devastations are required to make them? What infrastructure is required? What communities and ecosystems plundered and ruined? If “green” tech were scaled up to meet indi-civ’s rapacious appetites, what then? Is any of this “green” tech remotely sustainable?
Perhaps you can guess the answers to all of these questions, but authors Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert first expose the Green Lies, then explode “green energy” viability. That is, if you think survival on our wondrous Earth is important.
What we call “clean” or “green” tech has deep, dark, and dirty shadows.
BGL provides a grand world tour of the devastation already wrought on behalf of “green” industry: mining, and lots of it. Green mining is an oxymoron – extracting and refining rare earth metals, lithium, cobalt, and iron is choking waterways with debris, dispersing heavy metals, and killing nearby Life.
Pushed into the crosshairs for “low carbon” projects – wetlands, forests, grasslands, and estuaries will ironically release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere when destroyed.
Making renewables with renewables will never be possible. Jensen et al explain how fossil fuels are irreplaceable in the mining, manufacturing, placement, and eventual disposal of renewables. Huge dirty fossil fuel energy inputs, combined with renewables’ marginal energy output means that their ability to actually replace fossil fuels is impossible. Today, in 2021, the amount of fossil energy running our world is ~ 84%. Yes, wind and solar have increased, but have replaced and “mitigated” 0.00% fossil energy.
Zip. None. Nada. In other words, renewable energy is not offsetting fossil fuels, just piling on top of existing energy systems. Fossil fuel use has increased throughout all of the meetings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – all the way back to President Reagan, who started all of these wasted wishes and broken intentions in 1988.
President Biden wants to go big on “clean” energy. But it is way too late to either “go big” or save our consumptive, extractive, and plundering way of life.
Unfortunately, “green energy and green tech” cannot save us. It boils down to this: we cannot sustain industrial civilization (in any flavor) and a livable planet, too.
Our only constructive response is to drastically constrain, curtail, and constrict our industrial economy before we destroy the last vestiges of the living world – the very basis for our existence. Sharply shrink the entire human enterprise: Why is this considered insane, while wrecking the world isn’t?
While we talk incessantly about sustainability, 99% of what we do in industrial civilization makes us extinction-bound. If we realize this, then we can perhaps engage in some salvage options. We face the choice between saving something or saving nothing. Our current route destines us to ride dreaming off the cliff into oblivion.
Our job is to wake up to Life, to Choose Life, to triage what is possible, and let go of what is not. The task is to engage the better angels of our human nature to carry what is possible into the future. This possibility is diminishing daily, as we continue telling Bright Green Lies of keeping our way of life, while plundering and consuming Life itself.
This is the true and central story of our time; Derrick and his team illuminate that Reality. And they pose the right question: Can we actually love Life, love the gift it is?
Stand Against Thacker Pass Lithium Mine!
On January 15th, Max Wilbert (BGL co-author) and Will Falk launched a protest on pristine land in northwest Nevada — aiming to stop a proposed $1.3 billion open-pit lithium mine that would rip open this wild sagebrush steppe to extract lithium with harsh chemicals like sulfuric acid. The mine would build vast mountains of toxic tailings, and leach heavy metals and uranium into remaining groundwater after pumping nearly 1.5 billion gallons per year of precious desert water.
This would destroy critical habitat for endangered species, including: sage grouse, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and King’s River pyrg, (a critically endangered snail).
Donate to fund the grassroots resistance and defend this land.
Read more about Thacker Pass and how you can support the protest.
 See Bright Green Lies, p. 434: “By 2000 the zoomass of wild land mammals was only about one tenth of the global anthropomass.” Vaclav Smil, “Harvesting the Biosphere: The Human Impact,” Population and Development Review 37, no. 4 (December 2011): 613-636.
 Bright Green Lies, p. 154, cites the research of Richard York, who “has shown that for every unit of ‘green’ power brought online, only one-tenth as much fossil fuel is taken offline. Richard York, “Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels,” Nature Climate Change, 2, 441-443, March 18, 2012.