May 19, 2009
Derrick Jensen, author of What We Leave Behind, Endgame, and many more, has written a piece for Orion Magazine on the consequences of having hope when you’re fighting a hopeless battle—and the advantage to be had in giving up hope for the future in favor of action in the present moment.
A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself. . . I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn’t drive them extinct.
For more on hope—and on what an individual can do to achieve effective action once hope is gone—take a look at What We Leave Behind, co-written with Aric McBay, or at the modern classic of environmental action, Endgame: both books about how bad things have gotten, and how we as individuals—without hope—can fight back.