By Roland Watson
A standard approach to activism is to consider supply and demand factors. In situations where nature is being destroyed, we must determine who is supplying, and demanding, this service.
Also, one other distinction should be made. Telling people what they must do is a form of dictatorship. As individuals, we want to try different things and find out for ourselves what we like and dislike. Such experimentation is fun, and also how we learn. And, as part of this, we come to understand that our choices involve risks, tradeoffs and consequences. This is an essential aspect of life: we are responsible for our behavior, and we must be allowed to make our own decisions.
On the other hand, telling institutions what they must do is not dictatorship. They are our creation, and were developed to serve us, the public. Since they have now evolved to serve themselves, they must be changed. They must be transformed shrunk or eliminated and for the former restructured such that they again fulfill a positive mission.
This line of thought can be applied to any consumption issue. Considering recreational and spiritual drug use, all such use should be legal, not only decriminalized. This should then be coupled with education, about peer pressure and the risks of addiction and changes to brain structure that may result from long-term use. At that point, though, we, meaning society, can have no further say. Each individual must be free to determine to choose his or her own behavior. In other words, there should be no restrictions on supply, or demand. Among nations, Holland has one of the best policies regarding drug use, although it still falls short.
Returning to nature, people need to change their perception and see suburban sprawl for what it really is, the destruction of the Earth lot by lot, death by a thousand cuts, and to be aware of all the brainwashing that underlies this including consumerism and conventional views of status. The demand for millionaire ghettos and middle-class projects will only cease when the general public has been so educated, and de-programmed.
This will take time. An appropriate activist response, therefore, is to protest the supply. The builders and developers that destroy nature to make a profit, and that propagate this brainwashing, must be stopped. Further, they are institutions, not individuals. We have the right we are in fact obliged to end their crimes against nature.
As another example, there is the trade in endangered species for traditional medicines. The demand for tiger parts extends to all of East and Southeast Asia: most towns have Chinese medicine shops. This demand can only be eliminated through education, but this could take decades and in any case may not even succeed given the strength of the cultural norms in question. The immediate goal, then, is to end the supply: to attack poaching and the related problem of habitat destruction.
What these examples illustrate is that the situation with nature is so dire that education alone, the preferred and demand-focused alternative, will not work. By the time the general public understands and accepts biocentrism, biodiversity will be gone. Hence our immediate focus must be on the supply, and in the strongest possible direct-action terms. If you see it happening, stop it. Now.
Note: This does not mean to infer that one should not, as an activist, confront the demand side of the equation as well. You should. When you see people doing something unethical, such as wearing fur, you should let them know that you disapprove. You have freedom of expression as much as they do. And, the more unethical their consumption, the stronger your expression of disagreement should be. Tell them in no uncertain terms what you think of their consumption, behavior and lifestyle choices.
© Roland O. Watson 2001-3