“The longer we wait for civilization to crash–or before we ourselves bring it down–the messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.
Had someone brought down civilization before 1492, the Arawaks would probably still live peacefully in the Caribbean, Indians would live in ancient forests all along the Eastern seaboard, along with bison, marten, fisher. North, Central, and South America would be ecologically and culturally intact. The people would probably have, as always, plenty to eat.
Had someone brought down civilization before the slave trade took hold, 100 million Africans would not have been sacrificed on that particular alter of economic production. Native cultures might still live untraumatized on their own land all across that continent. There would probably be, as there always was, plenty to eat.
If someone had brought down civilization one hundred and fifty years ago, those who came after probably could still eat passenger pigeons and Eskimo curlews. They could surely eat bison and pronghorn antelope. They could undoubtedly eat salmon, cod, lobster. The people who came after would not have to worry about dioxin, radiation poisoning, organochloride carcinogens, or the extreme weather and ecological flux that characterize global warming. They would not have to worry about escaped genetically engineered plants and animals. There probably would have been, as almost always, plenty to eat.
If civilization lasts another one or two hundred years, will the people then say of us, “Why did they not take it down?” Will they be as furious with us as I am with those who came before and stood by? I could very well hear those people who come after saying, “If they had taken it down, we would still have earthworms to feed the soil. We would have redwoods, and we would have oaks in California. We would still have frogs. We would still have other amphibians. I’m starving because there are no salmon in the river, and you allowed the salmon to be killed so rich people could have cheap electricity for aluminum smelters. God damn you. God damn you all.”
— by Derrick Jensen
Painting by Heinrich Harder (1858 – 1935) of Great Auks, who were hunted to extinction by humans in the mid-nineteenth century for food and down.