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Crit crit! END:CIV (2010) review, part 1: We really hope Derrick Jensen is wrong

by Greg DeanAndre Guimond Media Analysis, →Environment

López interviews Jensen (photo by Dawn Paley)
López interviews Jensen (photo by Dawn Paley)

Also posted by Andre Guimond:

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If we thought there was any value in rating films on a scale of zero to five interstellar balls of plasma, we would have to give END:CIV five solar system-engulfing blue supergiants for its analysis and lucid presentation of some of the major issues we face today as they relate to the “problem” of civilization: climate change and global warming, mass annihilation of the planet’s non-human species and the ecosystems they (and we) depend on, the ongoing colonization of indigenous peoples and their land, co-opted environmental movements, the depravity of “green” consumption, and the coercive system of violence that enables it all to march blithely on.

END:CIV is a new documentary from director Franklin López (a compañero in the VMC), based on “philosopher poet of the ecological movement” Derrick Jensen’s two-volume Endgame series, which places responsibility for the sorry state of the world on the shoulders of industrial civilization, thus justifying its complete dismantling.

As Jensen defines it, civilization is a “way of life characterized by the growth of cities.” He explains that since building a city means clearing out the existing landbase and replacing the trees and plants and streams and animals that lived there with homes and offices and streets, that means that a city can’t grow its own food, or even produce most of the goods it needs to be built in the first place. Like, say, the steel and drywall and concrete needed to create all those beautiful 80-story skyscrapers that block your view of the mountains (but hey, at least we get to live just like those tasty beakless chickens stacked on top of each other at KFC farms!). So cities need to import goods. No way around it.

Big deal, right? So just get some trucks and build an airport and bring in whatever the city needs. No need to whine about it!

Well, there’s more. The way that cities work mean that someone, somewhere, has to produce all the energy and food and consumer and industrial goods required to build, maintain and expand civilization. That’s where the continued exploitation of human labour, non-human life, land and communities on the periphery of a city enter into the picture. At the same time, the amount of resources required to feed industrial production, transportation, heating and the like, and the things that have to be done to get those resources out of the Earth and into the city (see: oil) means that, as it is, our dear industrial civilization is impossibly unsustainable, is suicidal in that it destroys exactly what life requires to live (the land, sea and air and all the intimately interconnected life therein) and contains the seeds of our and its destruction in its very nature.

See the problem?

López continues to explain the thesis by covering four of the twenty theoretical premises that Jensen discusses in Endgame, and fleshes them out with a number of real-life “figures” that effectively describe how it’s all playing out right before our eyes, if we so choose to look. Briefly, the premises are: industrial civilization is not sustainable; traditional communities are forced to constantly resist attempts by others to take their resources; the workings of our entire society are enabled by a broad system of violence; and that the culture of industrial civilization is insane and driven by a death urge to destroy all life.

The first premise hopefully requires no explanation; once non-renewable resources like oil and natural gas and metals are depleted, they’re gone, and along with them cars, plastic, medicines, computers - damn near everything. Poof. See ya.

The second is a nasty little fact that gets too little attention, especially in Canada. As a number of indigenous activists like Gord Hill and Waziyatawin point out in the film, that’s probably because Canada was built as a colonial settler society, on the backs of countless slaughtered, infected, expelled, assimilated and marginalized indigenous peoples. In other words, Canada (and the U.S.) was founded on the mass genocide and exploitation of indigenous peoples. Today, the settler population continues to unjustly reap the lion’s share of the benefits while systemic poverty, disease and theft of traditional lands continue unabated in most indigenous communities.

One of the highlights of the film follows when a number of indigenous people speak about different ways of living, their traditional ways: living in harmony with the land and all of nature, never taking more than what’s needed, recognizing the spirit present in all things. These are all incredibly powerful ideas and experiences that we should all be drawing from, and that deserve many books and films of their own.

Premise three, the underlying system of violence, is probably the biggest mind-fuck segment of the film for those as of yet unaware of how everything actually works around here, from paying rent to buying clothes to why our friends the police are always around.

López juxtaposes a skyshot of Las Vegas next to the bombing of Baghdad while audio from a shopping network plays in (“This platinum chain has FORTY-SIX diamonds!”), murderous chicken factories next to a KFC commercial of a family tucking in to a tub of ol’ fashioned, sweatshop workers slaving away beside glamour shots of name-brand jeans and clothing.

Then Jensen is back with a series of questions and answers, “Where is your t-shirt from?” “Why do you pay rent? If you don’t, some guy with a gun will come and take you away.” “What happens if you’re hungry and you go into a store and start eating? The same guy comes and takes you away again.” The point is twofold: one, most violence is exported, like to the country where your t-shirt was made, so we don’t often see it; and two, that “we’ve bought into the idea that we have to pay to exist on the planet, and if we don’t someone with a gun will come and bad things will happen to us.” Nearly everything we consume, and most of our behaviour, is created or driven by violence or the underlying threat of it.

All of these premises are completely rational and are integral to understanding how society really functions. END:CIV does great service to these ideas and its audience with such a clear and careful treatment of them.

When we reach the fourth premise, that the culture of industrial civilization is “insane” and “driven by a death urge” - well, honestly we got a bit lost here. Up to this point, the analysis END:CIV lays out is strictly of civilization rather than of, say, global capitalist economics or top-down political systems or the like, and that’s fine. The points that were made earlier could apply as equally to industrial civilization and they could to capitalist societies, for instance.

How is it that civilization is driven by a death wish, though? Granted, it’s incredibly stupid to live in areas that require exploitation by necessity, but why can’t cities and their supporting infrastructures be sustainable and co-operative? It would require radical shifts in thinking, organization and power structures, learning about nature and our place in it rather than above it, putting technology to use for social good instead of private profit, building a new economy controlled by those who actually do the work so we can make smarter decisions about what and how we produce, and more. It’s a lot of hard work, but surely just as much as dismantling industrial civilization would be!

Ultimately, the problem with the critique of civilization that END:CIV lays out is that it fails to mention other systems at work. So of course one might conclude by looking at the way industrial civilization works, in isolation, that if we stay on this path it’s going to destroy the planet and kill us all. (Actually, that part’s probably right.) Further, if we keep staring at civilization, ignoring all else, one might start to get the impression that everything that’s wrong with society is a product of civilization. One could go even deeper and look at the fall of ancient civilizations like Babylon and Inca and piece together a theory about the inherent evil of all civilizations, and start seeing the relatively innocent-looking lives of non-civilized peoples (which we know little, if nothing, about) as the way to go. Back to the forests, everyone! We’re blowing the dams!

It’s a dangerous thing to forget the fact that every time we talk about an “economy” or “community” or “civilization,” we’re simply describing a small piece of the puzzle that we’ve chosen to abstract from the whole picture of society. So looking at the world in the way END:CIV does is just as fraught with pitfalls as Marxist thinking is in its one-tracked focus on the economy, or as some veins of anarchist thinking are in their singular focus on the state. All monist, or single-focus, theories are apt to fail at some point because they don’t attempt to take the whole picture into account and they privilege the part they’re concerned with above all else. It’s like staring at a point in the background of the Mona Lisa and missing her portrait and the frame and the wall it’s on and the museum it’s in and all the people around you staring at it, too.

So you’re likely to miss things like the greed and competition that dominate society today as somehow being connected to the world’s richest 37 million people owning 40% of global wealth, and those very same people exerting tremendous influence over governments to devise policies in their best interests. Or that it’s mostly rich white men in the most significant positions of power and that it’s predominantly women, non-whites and the poor that get the shit end of the stick. Or that market economies by their very nature fail to account for “externalities” like pollution and soil erosion and the disappearance of 90% of all large fish species - and that all of these things and more are intimately interwoven, co-dependent and co-replicating.

Last gripe, we promise: calling for the end of civilization is some scary shit, in two major dimensions. First, what does that even mean? What would it look like, how would one go about it? Does that mean we need to destroy everything? Is destruction an inspiring vision? How are you going to get the general population to buy into something like that, and if you can’t, then aren’t there some serious concerns about bringing down the walls of the house that most of us live in without our consent?

Which leads to the second scary bit: wouldn’t billions and billions of people face incredible potential harm if civilization and all the benefits of modern technology and industry disappeared?

If the call for civilization to literally end is real and serious, that means vast amounts of food and medicine production and distribution would cease to exist. Sewage treatment plants that often rely on non-renewable sources of energy would stop functioning; infectious diseases would become almost impossible to manage. No more energy to homes means no more heating, which leaves millions at risk of freezing when winter hits. You get the idea.

Unfortunately, END:CIV doesn’t address any of these issues.

At the same time, though, the film is careful not to make explicit calls for anything related to actually ending civilization. That’s probably for the best, since it won’t put López in jail - and more importantly, because he clearly respects his audience enough to believe that anyone that sees END:CIV will take what he’s given them, think about it, and make up their minds for themselves.

That the film doesn’t preach or presume to tell anyone what to do next is just as valuable as its consciousness-raising potential and for making us think about industrial civilization in a whole new light - regardless of how wrong we hope Jensen and others are about needing to tear the whole thing down.

In the second part of this review, we’ll further discuss some of the underlying ideas that seem to drive END:CIV, like primitivist or “return-to-nature” type thinking, including one of these writers’ past experiences with end-civ groups; hope and cynicism; and organizing for a good society, one that doesn’t need to be burned down and built back up again.

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Plasma balls?

Love the startup of this piece dudes!


Great story folks!



Plasma balls!

Ha, I was going to make the same comment. (Great minds, ya know...)

Love the style of the review! Sweet, can't wait to see it.

Thanks peeps - very kind of

Thanks peeps - very kind of you! :)

Heh! plasma balls! Heh!

Completely agree that issues like wealth concentration have a much more immediate relevance today.

Hypothetically, a massive redistribution of wealth would help correct the balance of power, freeing up time and resources to address the longer term questions, like if any form of technological civilization could ever be sustainable.

I'm inclined to say no, but it seems like the kind of question that would take lifetimes to explore.

But right now, the priority is dealing with the tyrants, and we can't do that without building up the culture of resistance, which Frank is damn good at. 

Keep the good fight!

Hi Jeremy,Thanks for your

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for your comments, much appreciated!

Although we didn't really touch on it in this piece, I do agree (Greg will have to speak for himself) that resistance to this "culture" is necessary - in most of the forms that resistance takes, e.g. solidarity work, education around the types and extent of systemic destruction and violence going on every day, direct actions to assist the most vulnerable/precarious, growing food in our communities, "transition" tactics, etc. I think most people generally accept these forms of resistance and lots are actively involved. So in that way I might even go so far as to agree with Jensen when he says "we need it all."

I just wouldn't include "ending civilization" in the "all" part of that statement (or violence not done in self-defense or to protect others at risk of imminent harm, for that matter).

This may be an extreme example, although it has come up a few times in comments below already so maybe it's not, but if there are people out there planning to take down the power grid and leave us all out in the cold, doesn't that seem incredibly selfish and arrogant of them? That's not working on any kind of widely-held principle or vision for social change that we all generally agree on; in fact, it would seem just another form of tyranny to me, honestly. Of course, that's in the extreme case, and as someone else pointed out below, these forms of "resistance" aren't often actually lived and put into practice, thankfully.

Hopefully that example makes sense... I'd be happy to explain more if it doesn't. :)

Thanks again!


tread lightly

I think you need to clarify that nowhere in the film is there a suggestion of taking out the power grid. With that said, would you not consider what's happening to the planet now "imminent harm" and that acts of sabotage in the name of saving the biosphere to be in "self defense" done to "protect others at risk"?

I think the transition movement is a great one. But is it moving fast enough to stave off ecological collapse? The answer is no. The construct that is civilization has to end in order for life (and freedom) to flourish. Civilization is the root cause of our demise. Socialism, Capitalism, Communism and Facism are all born out of it and they all support systems of massive consumption and accelerated resource exploitation. Any action that is not actively working towards ridding our selves of the culture that is civlization, is simply a band aid solution.

think lightly

I was going to stay out of this discussion until after reading the Jensen Volumes and seeing the documentary, but I don't think that's necessary. I'm still going to read the Volumes and see the documentary, but I'm also going to try to discuss the ideas being launched about.

Here's a practical question. If the actions of the already existing transition movement like urban farming, bicycling, and sustainable building are not moving fast enough to stave off ecological collapse, how can a possible future movement to end civilization be expected to reach its goal any more quickly?

The problem I see is the the "construct that is civilization"  is a mental construct. I can't grab this end of civilization and you grab that end, then on the count of three we pull. The problem exists with all talk of systems, ideology, and society. You get it right in the last sentence, when you oppose band aid to radical action. Radical action is working on our selves, ridding our selves of culture, ideology, systems, society and civilization. These concepts exist no where but in our actions, thoughts and relationships.

An MLK quote was going around the internet, the other day being MLK day. And it's relevant here.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I'm convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we ... must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. . . . Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world, declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.

What constitutes the shift, the movement, the social change? What is thing-oriented, or person-oriented?

This Quote

was posted on facebook earlier...


"the state is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently"


And then someone posted this link.


Some good ideas.



Maybe the wording was clumsy

Maybe the wording was clumsy when I said "This may be an extreme example, although it has come up a few times in comments below already so maybe it's not..." but that was meant to link the example to the comments here, not the movie. You're right, though, couldn't hurt to be even clearer: the "bringing down the grid" example I used was not from END:CIV, but taken up because of other comments here (see Sun, 01/16/2011 - 22:26 — Dorian Ohnwentsya). The only thing relatively close in the film is a joke Jensen makes that "the only way to respond to [a state figure in California claiming that watering lawns was a god-given right] is with dynamite," a clear reference to blowing up a dam.

In response to applying the "imminent harm"/"self-defense" idea to global warming, climate change, resource extraction, etc.: how did you feel when Bush II & Co. used similar rhetoric to justify the invasion of Iraq? I don't mean that to be inflammatory at all, I mean it quite seriously. "Ending civilization before it ends us" and "killing Saddam before he kills us" amount to the same thing: an pre-emptive strike before other options have been pursued. And just as the U.S. went ahead with it against massive global opposition to the invasion (before and after the propaganda machine racheted up), sabotaging the industrial/technological infrastructure that holds everything together would face overwhelming opposition, and for good reason, so it would have to be undertaken without the consent of those that rely on it for basic survival at this point. I really don't see how the two are so different.

When it comes to the principles of self-defense and the protection of others facing imminent harm, when taken seriously they are meant to be excerised in direct response to harm in the first case (e.g. someone attacking you) and in the second, after all other reasonable avenues are exhausted

In the former case, it's understandable how that principle could act as a rationale for "resistance" (in the insurrectionary mode). However, I find it extremely difficult to look at how relatively comfortable and privileged most of us are and think that our situation compares in any way to the very real and brutal direct harm and violence that people in places vastly more exploited than Canada have to face every day. (Not to say that there aren't marginalized groups here in very similar situations - clearly there are.)

So it seems to me that, if anything, we fall into the second category of protecting others (including the natural world) against the threat of harm, or real and ongoing harm, as the case may be. And if anyone is suggesting "sabotage" or "ending civilization" at this point, then considering the absolute lack of non-issue-based organizing being undertaken here, hopefully I don't have to explain how many options have yet to be exhausted until we get to the point where those kinds of things become necessary tactics.

In other words, if we've barely started organizing in any serious way against these injustices (and for a good society), then how could anyone possibly claim that "there was no other option" when millions of people are suffering because someone thought they were doing the right thing when they brought down the grid?

Don't we have an obligation to try everything else first before undertaking such drastic measures, especially ones we know full well will cause greater harm to vastly more people than is currently faced?

Thanks for not showing favoritism

Hey boys, thanks for your honest review of END:CIV. Of course I disagree with you "negative" critiques of the film. I'll focus on one aspect of your review and post more if time permits (booking a 6 month tour is a full time job!)

For "Premise Four" I chose the most glaring example of the insanity of civilization to hit people over the head. The Alberta Tar sands. The fact that this culture sees the destructive process of extracting oil in Fort McMurray and does nothing to stop it, and justifies the destruction in the name of "energy independence" well it's just insane. You can apply this thesis to many aspects of civilization, clear cuts, over fishing, war etc. I feel this is one of the simplest premises to understand.

Of course there are many processes at work here. But this is a movie, with limited time. Well I guess I could have made a much longer film. But I strategically made the film one hour and fifteen minutes to fit the current state of attention spans that most of North Americans have. In the end Jensen does a fantastic job et expemplyfing these premises in the 1,000 pages or so of the Endgame books. My goal with this film was to whet people's appetites and hope that they pick up his books. Also to get people talking!

Finally, one thing that y'all don't take into consideration when building your city centric utopia (heh!) is the limited amount of time we have to curb carbon emissions among other things. Like most defenders of cities, you fall into a human and first world centric way of thinking without giving much thought to the third worlders and non-humans who don't have the luxury of time. They need this insanity to stop yesterday.

Don't get me wrong, I love cities and support those who are working towards making them work withing a post carbon future. But the primary issue that we need to take care of is stopping the flows of carbon into the atmosphere. This will only be accomplished by destroying the power structures that protect those who have the most to loose from the clogging of the carbon arteries. This will only be accomplished by well organized resistance cells. And of course there are many "bonus" side effects that we could all enjoy if this succeeds.

all for now and thanks again!

No problem: we're all

No problem: we're all honesty, all the time! Like the 24/7 honesty vigilance cable news network over here, I tells ya. It just happens to be a little more negative than positive sometimes, unfortunately... ;)

I can totally appreciate the time limits you were facing; the amount of material actually was covered was pretty impressive in its scope and seriousness. But we all know about the filtering effects of time pressures on media institutions, now don't we? hehe

Maybe you can explain a bit more about how civilization is a separate process/entity from resource and technological path dependency, the growth and profit imperatives, top-down decision making structures that leave those in the best position to make decisions about their lives completely without power to, the related issue of corporate power over every aspect of society, etc.? I'm still having a hard time understanding how "civilization" is responsible for things like the tar sands rather than the companies undertaking it within the systems (legal, political, economic, etc.) that enable and encourage such behaviours.

Otherwise, in regards to "destroying the power structures..." I would suggest building alternative structures to make those power structures irrelevant is an option, too, and one we have an obligation to consider before doing anything more drastic (see my above comments).

can't we do both?

I  spent all of last night re-reading Endgame:Resistance. I consider Derrick Jensen to be the most brilliant writer/philosopher of my generation but I am also torn at the idea of simply "bringing it all down". I agree it has to stop and should have done yesterday as mentioned above, but seeing so much interest in permaculture and Transition movement and other ideas to stop the negatives without completely abandoning the positives-I wonder can't we do both?

Could we not encourage things like Transition, decolonization and return to ancestral values that ARE sustainable, permaculture, green building etc that are already lowering carbon and other pollutant outputs while simultaneously supporting that network of resistance to the oligarchy, resistance to civilization as the insane destroyer of all life? As Jensen points out it IS going to fall whether we pull it down or not and the more we convert to sustainable practices the less suffering and death will occur in both the human and nonhuman worlds. 

The more we create networks of resistance AND networks of helping, social networks that reconnect us to community, landbase and nature the better everything will work. If people already have passivehaus design with zero  heat inputs needed then when the grid fails(whether from resistance fighters or whatever) then they won't freeze! If people have a permaculture food forest in their neighborhood or suburban yard then when the trucks stop bringing food t the stores they won't starve-and if they''ve developed Transition Town initiatives and are helping and sharing and working together as communities-*no-one* will starve so no one will be going all mad max and shooting you for your rutabagas;-)

Transition and permaculture work and are being used in the first, second, third and fourth worlds already (the man directing our local permaculture group just left to work on a project bringing permaculture design  to Pine Ridge). The more we re-localize and the less we feed our energy and money and time into the system that is destroying everything, the less energy it will have to sustain itself.

We have to change minds, our own and others, share information, create new ways of doing things and/or return to discarded older but more functional ways-just like going on a diet if you don't change your habits  it won't work. If  people take out infrastructure and bring down the grid for instance, and people are freezing then those freezing people are not going to support resistance they are going to be turning resisters in and making their lives hard-the freezing people will be galvanized in their support of civilization and the oligarchs in charge who were supplying heat before(no matter what they are destroying to supply that heat). If instead people are changing on their own, and the prices go up as they are and will, people will naturally copy those who are saving money (and not putting out pollution) and then when the grid falls it will only be production that is affected rather than  causing mass suffering.

Maybe I'm just a rosy glasses idealist and it very likely won't work that simply but  we have to work with what we have-and people talking to neighbors, family members, friends, schoolmates etc may work better and faster than it seems that it could in the face of faux news and all the other brainwashing propaganda going on.

I'm just coming from my own perspective as a disabled person trying to make things better with limited resources-I know I can talk to people and share info, I know I can work on a Transition town initiative and help people learn to grow food and heat their houses with the sun-I don' t know that *I* could go out and take out infrastructure, I don't know that I could do that kind of resistance to bring anything down even if I was absolutely sure it was the right thing to do-physically I'm not really capable.

Thanks for the review. I

Thanks for the review.

I generally like the information covered in these type of documentaries but when the focus turns to "destroying the system"  I have to admit that I tend to tune out at least for that portion.  I understand  there are benefits to abruptly stopping the institutional violence of the state and I also personally am not a pacifist because I believe in using all means to protect oneself. But I've heard this kind of 'tear the system up' talk for most of my life and have yet to see those advocates begin even the preliminary preparation steps, let alone actually carry out even a small scale act that galvanizes many people (I don't define smashing windows or wheat pasting walls as armed struggle). 

I think the message would be more honest if people like Jensen (and others) said that people should follow their example and dedicate their lives to writing, film making and education.

To the reviewers...

I have had the good fortune of following much of what this doc was trying to get across, and sadly, think that premise four is the most important of all-- politically speaking.

The phrasing: "Last gripe, we promise: calling for the end of civilization is some scary shit, in two major dimensions. First, what does that even mean? What would it look like, how would one go about it? Does that mean we need to destroy everything? Is destruction an inspiring vision?"

Really personally gets my back up. First off, truth is what matters-- and the empirical truth is what industrial society-- socialist or capitalist-- has led us to, in terms of inevitable collapse and complete irrationality.

Perhaps the real problem (I'll let Frank and others deal with that themselves) is the unfortunate choice of the term "civilization". When I hear that term I think of the Gandhi quote, but I digress... every society formed with some level of vision (state [almost always] or otherwise) has used an industrial model. State socialism, in point of fact, was *conceived* on the idea of being better than capitalism at *administering industrialism*.

Destroying everything sounds, well, nasty. But the real kicker here is how to get to a new start, and that means clearing the decks. And the first thing to do is smash the city based model of supply-distribution-alienation from what we consume. We cannot possibly feed 6-7 billion people with this model, and there is simply no way around that. Perhaps Empire has a model-- some have posited that the long term plans are to 'cull' the population to a 'rational' model number, say 1.5 billion. However, Malthus was right is another part of all of this I have come to believe, and peak oil theorists will back me up. Malthus simply didn't understand the role of the free energy that consuming coal, oil and other matter that assumed the labour and earth power of centuries at once would play in allowing for a vast expansion of food, transport, etc. So people wrote off Malthus. And now we stare at the consequences.

The destruction of industrial society is an immediate inevitability. This fourth premise allows us to be masters rather than slaves to how that process evolves. It allows us to start doing simple things-- planting our own food, getting off the car-- and to start examining the hard questions: who in power is actually willing to take these questions to heart, or do we have to simply fight back no matter what.

Many people resist these hard truths. For many reasons. What they personally have invested, what it will mean to their daily lives, how insignificant other projects are. I'm writing from Venezuela. A country whose processes over the last 12 + years I have vocally and publicly supported. But you know where their financing projections are headed? six million barrels of tar sands production a day. That's over four times in Canada. That cannot be a revolution, no matter how much we may wish so.

So ultimately, in North America we have a situation where Climate Change is ignored by the government for money-- but is also lied about in terms of solutions by "environmentalists"-- for money. There is no fundraising for telling people they are going to learn to live entirely different lives, and consume a lot less. Even the people who know that will lie to themselves.

So the phrase "Is destruction an inspiring vision?" is the wrong question *entirely*. The facts are the facts. We will deal with the climate crisis and stop worrying about the fundathons and petitions or we will fail. And all the other victories we have struggled over, in the valleys and the plains of so many societies, will be washed away.

Peak oil is real. And industrial society ("civilization") has the solution of get the worst stuff possible out of the ground and keep going. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Bolivarian Revolution is indeed an anti-capitalist one. The problem is that this is simply insufficient. And so is any hesitation to tackle the overwhelming nature of what we face.

If, for no other reason, than when the food riots, the disappearing land masses, the dried up rivers hit? The evil that is power today will have their solutions. I, for one, do not want to leave it up to these people in charge of most governments, armies and police today, to determine what to do with a crisis that will eclipse anything seen by even the great depression-- making it appear to be nothing but a few extra ants showing up at a picnic.


I did enjoy the review, if that was not clear :)




I was also going to make a similar comment about my dislike for the use of the term "civilization." I haven't read any Jensen (yet - gotta see the doc to motivate me!), but I like Macdonald's use of "industrial society" in its place.

I haven't investigated the roots of the word "civilization" but it has been used as a Euro/Amerikan/Kanadian-centric paternalistic and racist term to distinguish white societies as civilized and separate from other Peoples and societies that may not be industrial societies. Or they may be industrial societies in a more collective local kinda way. Some have taken the word back in order to challenge its paternalistic and racist use.

Do the books or film get into a discussion about the choice of word?

yeah, yeah, I'll have to read and see 'em to find out... ;)

Civ is the word

The world civilization also applies to Mayan, Aztec and Egyptian (and others) societies that over exploited the land, used slavery and had hierarchical models where violence was doled out from the top down. So no, it's not a white thing.


Yeah, I agree. But just because a few Empires are included doesn't mean it's not a Euro-centric racist thing. Just like, ya know, Obama being prez doesn't mean that teh government isn't a Euro-centric white thing... Maybe not the greatest analogy, but...

It's not analogy

Civilization is a social construct which includes may Empires and nations which was born out of the domestication of wheat aka agriculture. The critique of civilization is looking at the root when humanity took a wrong turn. Many "uncivilized" peoples live sustainably as nomads or in villages and camps.


well, many people also live pretty sustainably despite having domesticated corn and other foods and have extensive agricultural practices that go back thousands of years. not all became empires. anyways, i looks forward to seeing your doc and potentially reading some Jensen.

People need to think

People need to think realistically about what is likely to happen during a collapse so they can be prepared. The elite usually do okay because they have the resources to acquire heavy firepower or hire mercenaries who will provide them with security. They also have the resources to leave an area and get to a safer, secluded location. This is what happened during Hurricane Katrina. Some people were able to secure provisions from the stores but there were many more poor folks who were left stranded and in dire straits. 

Having a garden is also a good undertaking in a stable society but won't do one much good in a volatile, chaotic situation like a collapse. The infrastructure is likely to be unreliable so it's not as if watering a garden from a hose is possible. Maybe one has planned ahead and has a storage of water but then they had better have plenty of weapons for those who are starving and won't think twice about taking what they have. Not only should they have weapons but they had better know how to use them and be prepared to do so against another person.

Diseases, sewage and waste are another hazard to think about if one is living in the city during a collapse. Where is the drinking water going to come from? Where is the food going to come from as any stores will have likely been depleted and no fresh food will be delivered.

Got a car? Where is the gas going to come from and where are you going if you do leave the city? Are you prepared to deal with road blocks of armed men or possible ambushes?

I could go on and on but I think anyone can imagine the scenario. Jensen needs to talk about this reality and if it is what he wants then he should also talk about how to realistically prepare for it because it won't be an easy time for most of us.

Resistance is most needed during collapse

For all the reasons you address. We cannot sit by "disarmed" while the elites and their mercenaries push us around. Food gardens are great, but who's going to defend them?

nuff said...


However, the building of alternative structures by some while others bring down the monster is the only possible (sane) outcome. The question, to my mind, is how to get the food garden growers not to be afraid of those who destroy the power structures that threaten farming, at least-- not afraid of the allies as much as the enemies? The crap in the movement that allows for marginalizing the militant has to go.

So your question, for which I have no answer, is the important one... and begs a repeat of the greatest quote from Berthold Brecht:

"I have noticed that we put many people off our teaching because we have an answer to everything. Could we not, in the interest of propaganda, draw up a list of the questions that appear to us completely unresolved?"


I'm not afraid of self

I'm not afraid of self described militants. In fact, I see them as posers who  try to persuade others to do what they lack the courage to do themselves. Anyone who travels about giving speeches and is otherwise publicly identified as a militant (at least in the snakkkes or kkkanada) is most certainly not anyone I would take seriously or look to in the event of a collapse.

So how are we supposed to get the word out?

I've heard this argument time and time again. Resistance movements have propagandists who are above ground and militants that are underground. Jensen is a brilliant propagandist and becuase of our current system he cannot take part in any underground actions becuase it would land him in jail or worst and his effectiveness as a communicator would be hindered or lost completely. That said, putting yourself out there publicly and advocting militant actions is no small task and the people who have the courage to do so have big fucking crosshairs on them.

Propagandist for a non existent force

The word would get out if there was an actual movement for them to educate people about. The reason I'm sure you've heard this critique over and over is because it's silly to have propagandists and theorists for a non existent underground movement. Instead of reading, writing and speaking about a theoretical resistant movement, perhaps one of these advocates should have spent at least a year doing a basic implementation of some post end scenario.

Until people like Jensen and other progandists can demonstrate some basic competency in their favorite causes, most reasonable people are likely to ignore them. If I had gronw up my entire life in the city and was faced with the scenario of a collapse, the last people I would look to are academic writers and coffee shop speakers. I would seek out any hunters, ex veterans or survivalists types I knew. Most people will gravitate toward centers of state refuge like refugee camps or designated "safe zones" because they are not prepared to take care of themselves let alone their families and loved ones.

"I have noticed that we put

"I have noticed that we put many people off our teaching because we have an answer to everything. Could we not, in the interest of propaganda, draw up a list of the questions that appear to us completely unresolved?"

I very much agree with this. It's more inviting to enter into an open discussion than one that is predetermined. That's why I like to talk methodology, even though I do it in such a way that seems very adamant, I'm all about the way we enshrine process for participation. I could take a page from Brecht.

Thanks MacDonald. I'll be out there with the massive chain pulling down the ships through the isles with ya Highlander.

I think it clear that end:civers and primitivists however are implicitly saying that co-operative societies (non game-theory) are impossible, so end civilization even if that means massive die-off of billions of the world's poor ('Hey, maybe all the toxic waste and resources won't totally spill out when we violently shut down all their systems, and other species will get some breathing space'). That's pretty fucking far from a participatory society of mutual-aid.



Hey GD, thanks for your comment. I think you (and others) mix a lot of things that you've read elsewhere with the content that's actually in the film. I think it's great to include other info related to this review, but you have to have clarity from what's actually shown in END:CIV.

if you look at the section about indigenous people, I briefly touch on how communities were able to exist sustainably and co-operatively for tens of thousands of years. Yes this is possible and history proves it.To say that end:civers (wow, the film now has it's own sect! heh!) and primitivists (I hate that term BTW) are "implicitly saying that co-operative societies (non game-theory) are impossible" is a gross generalization. Maybe you can provide a citation?

Just because "we" (if you want to place us in one group) want to dismantle the systems of destruction, violence and hyper exploitation doesn't mean we are not imagining and working towards what comes "after" or the consequences of bringing the whole thing down. But what are the consequences of letting it be?

Again, the discussion on how we actually bring down civilization and what to do after is not discussed in the film, because of the short-comings of the medium. It would also be a disservice to pretend that these questions could be answered in one film. Jensen answered some of these questions, but it took him about one thousand pages to do so.


"Got a car? Where is the gas going to come from and where are you going if you do leave the city? Are you prepared to deal with road blocks of armed men or possible ambushes?"

More than half the world "prepares" for this every day. I have only done so a few short days in my life. It's called scarcity. Imperialism and capitalism and industrialism make it a daily reality already for most of us.

It will become one for the rest of us in the most vicious manner almost immediately if we do not deal with the collapse orderly. It's happening one way or the other, that's the point.

So, no I'm not prepared for it. What bizarre human is? I'm "ready" for it, as it's going to happen. Like death to a terminal patient, eventually you drop denial. But then what? Yell at it for happening, or try to do something to mitigate the collapses worst excesses, and try to build something moderately human in its place? Or simply complain that it happened?

Many of these arguments are blaming the messenger, Frankly. Capitalization intended.




Wow, this has motivated a lot

Wow, this has motivated a lot of really interesting discussion! It could be really nice to hold more screenings of the film in Van with discussions. Maybe a showing in grandview park.

I think Jensen's analyses of civilization is really important for understanding the roots of this systematic expoitation the earth and all it's creatures have been living under for much too long. As well as showing how they are connected, and the need to be treated as so.

This would be great!

I am rolling out a campaign today to encourage peeps to screen END:CIV on May day. Grandview Park would be awesome! But wait, how do people get past the fences? Heh!

Another Review posted

Readmore wrote: "It could be really nice to hold more screenings of the film in Van with discussions."

Yep, this is a valuable discussion starter. And I have suggested some discussion questions:

Not so sure about sitting alone watching it, make it a collective experience.

Book reading blog

I've started reading endgames. And I'm blogging it. Chapter for Chapter. Looking for comments.

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