Third Coast Activist

Get Apocalyptic: Why Radical is the New Normal

by Robert Jensen

In the summer issue of YES! Magazine, UT Professor Robert Jensen suggests that the central illusion of the industrial world’s extractive economy is the naive belief that we can maintain indefinitely a large-scale human presence on the earth at something like current First-World levels of consumption. Our task is to face a tough truth:

The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end. We can’t predict with precision how resource competition and ecological degradation will play out in the coming decades, but it is ecocidal to treat the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump.

Suggesting that “it’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out of the way,” Jensen argues:

To adopt an apocalyptic worldview is not to abandon hope but to affirm life. As James Baldwin put it decades ago, we must remember “that life is the only touchstone and that life is dangerous, and that without the joyful acceptance of this danger, there can never be any safety for anyone, ever, anywhere.” By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe, we undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability.

Jensen develops these ideas in more detail in We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out. He also is the author of the new book Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog.

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