Cultural Roots of the Eco Crisis

(August 5, 2022: Yikes!! This post is WAY outdated! I am now updating it. See changes in strikeouts and bold text.)

In my book DEEP GREEN, published in 2017, I called out North American consumer culture as the culprit of ecosystem degradation and social/economic injustice on this planet. And, I called on my fellow North Americans as being the ones who could lead the shift to a sane, humane culture by radically reducing our own footprints.

Now, from my present-day perspective, with an increased awareness of systemic racism, I realize that what I meant, specifically, was that Anglo-European North American culture is the prime culprit of ecosystem degradation and social/economic misery on this planet. It is the dominance of AngloEuroNorthAmerican culture that has caused our human footprint to be so outsized as to render us capable of destroying entire ecosystems and extinguishing human life on this planet (taking who knows how many other species with us). Update: COLONIZER CULTURE. It’s called “colonizer culture” and “white supremacy culture” (often abbreviated WSC).

Speaking as a person of Anglo-European descent, I say the above not in the spirit of woeful self-flagellation, nor performative penitence. Rather, I say it because WE (the same culture that started it) CAN FIX IT by dismantling colonizer culture. Our culture has spread all over the world. Now, by our deliberate choice, we can DISMANTLE COLONIZER CULTURE, in order to make space for the cultures of deep eco-awareness and deep compassion that already exist on this planet but are being destroyed by colonizer culture. Then, compassion and eco awareness will come to underlie more and more of our everyday actions, even those of us who are born into and baked into colonizer culture.

Tasks for us white people include: unlearning the programming that induces us to compulsively center ourselves. Support and amplify the vouces of Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color by paying them for their labor. Promote their businesses and organizations, do micro-reparations, check into what “Land Back” means. The primary task, first and forever ongoing, is LISTEN AND LEARN.

Note, this is nothing personal — in the sense that it’s not about beating up individual AngloEuroNorthAmerican people. It’s about recognizing that our minds have been colonized. And setting about decolonizing our minds. And each doing our part to dismantle WSC/colonizer culture so the prevailing mode on the planet can get back to mutual care and nature-connectedness. And THAT is where it gets personal in a GOOD way.

Because my book is addressed to AngloEuroNorthAmericans as the ones who need to lead the change (by dismantling WSC), does that mean I am seeking to ignore Black readers, or other people of color who might read my book? No way!

To any Black person, indigenous person, or other person of color who has read my book or followed my blog, or has found this post: I am truly honored that you are here, and I hope you will find my writings helpful to you in achieving your personal and planetary goals.

By addressing my book to my fellow AngloEuroNorthAmericans (“AENA” for short?), I am simply acknowledging that MY culture (white North American colonizer culture) started the problem, whereas Black and indigenous cultures were originally sustainable, earth-centered, & regenerative, before the colonizer culture took hold. And, because of the political, social, and economic oppression wrought by systemic racism, I am in no moral position to tell people of color they need to reduce their eco footprint.

That said, if you are a person of color who has arrived here because you want to find out more about how your seemingly small daily choices as a citizen/consumer can help the planet (while also benefiting you personally), then I am thrilled to welcome you, and will support your quest in any way I can. (And by the way, fellow white people take note: Numerous research studies have shown that there is a significantly higher percentage of Black people and other people of color in the USA who are concerned about the environment, than white people who are. Not surprising when we consider that communities of color tend to be disproportionately affected by pollution and other environmental issues.)

This post is a work-in-progress. I’m still finding my voice to speak up about this thing called systemic racism that needs to be spoken up about, as a first step to rooting it out. And at the same time, noticing how and where stepping up my anti-racist study and practice can intersect with my environmental activism; my efforts to spark a “grassroots green mobilization.”

Update: The very useful term I’ve learned for this synthetic, extractive culture that has spread its damaging influence across the planet, is “colonizer culture.” As in colonialism. And the appropriate corrective effort is to de-colonize. De-colonization movements are gathering momentum all over the world, in every sphere.

Anti-racist study resources: Special thanks to Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso for its Anti-Racism Training webinar. And to Robin DiAngelo for her book White Fragility (a book that has become a bestseller, even edging out a blockbuster pop-fiction title — something that gives me renewed hope for humanity). UPDATE: Although that book happened to be the first antiracism book I stumbled on, it has been widely pointed out that it’s problematic. A white woman wrote it and is profiting from Black people’s labor.

Instead: There are books that I subsequently heard about from recommendations by antiracism educators who are Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color, and I now recommend those instead. For example, Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall; and How To Be an Anti-Racist by Ibrahim X Kendi have been immensely enlightening to me in my ongoing efforts to decolonize my mind and take that awareness out into my interactions with community, such as calling-in fellow white people.

On TikTok: Portia Noir, White Woman Whisperer, Desiree B Stephens are the three I follow most closely. (I follow many others as well — there are plenty, and once you start following Black antiracism educators, the TikTok algorithm will start to populate your “For You Page” accordingly.) No TikTok? No problem! Each of these three educators has a Patreon feed and/or website as well.

Email newsletter: Antiracism Daily, by Nicole Cardoza with various contributing writers.

Facebook: Ally Henny.

All of these Black educator-activists, and many more, have helped me become more aware of systemic racism, and how to dismantle it in myself and in the world.

Final note: “Whiteness” is a construct. It is not a real thing. For example, I am conventionally seen as “white.” But really, I am of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Scandinavian, and Slavic ancestry. One important part of dismantling white-supremacy culture is to learn about our ancestral roots. At one point, all of us came from indigenous cultures. English peasants had a real culture, etc. To delve into this important work, follow Desiree B Stephens on TikTok and check out her videos on ancestral healing. Here’s one: “Ancestral Healing for White People.”