Friends, Romans, countrymen (and women) – lend me your ears. I come to bury James Lee, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with James.
Madman, misguided, martyr? Or perhaps just a man – angry, desperate and ignored, but a man who was willing to die for what he believed in, right or wrong. A criminal: a man who threatened murder and mayhem certainly – yet in the end, only a man. But as we so quickly do, I’m sure that whoever James Lee was before 1PM EDT Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 will be subsumed into the media swirl and cultural maelstrom of the era we live in.
And even as we speak, the brush is being pulled out and swabbed over what little is known about him. To the great relief, I’m sure, of environmentalists keen to distance themselves from his views – for he is the sort of man that can seem like an axle-stone around the necks of an entire movement. While on the other hand, to the intense delight of anti-environmentalists who cluck gleefully at the day’s events, hell bent on labeling any who care about our species’ survival as murderous extremists.
So before the body is grown too cold, I’d like to give an honest airing of the man’s views – so that if he be damned, let him by his own words be so. It will likely be the last time so small a justice will be paid him.
Here are excerpts from his website - www.savetheplanetprotest.com/protest.htm – concerning the reasoning behind his protest of Discovery Channel back in 2008.
“We are running out of time to save this planet and the Discovery Channel is a big part of the problem, not the solution. Instead of showing successful solutions, their broadcast programs seem to be doing the opposite. Shows like “Cash Cab” and “Dirty Jobs” serve as diversions to keep the focus off what is really important, which is Global Warming and Animal Extinction. Why do they broadcast a show like “Future Weapons” that only promise to destroy the planet even more? And their new lineup “Planet Green” is all about more products and other substandard solutions. Do we really need shows like these when the planet is in crisis? No, instead the focus should be on coming up with new formulas that actually work. Why would the broadcasters and programmers focus more on the destruction of the planet rather than saving it?”
Hmm. Is here lunacy? I spy in this some small truth: we are indeed rapidly running out of time to prevent the calamitous death of our civilization from ecosystem failure. And true, Discovery Channel, which in its earlier years was as great an advocate as could be imagined for the Earth, has more recently turned nigh completely to pop TV – while adding insult to injury by having Sarah Palin host a program on the wildlife of Alaska. And I must concede that more militarism and more consumerism are not the responses we truly need to a global ecological crisis. It would hardly seem so outrageous to imagine that the Discovery Channel (the mother company of the channel Planet Green) might focus its mission on continuing to champion for solutions in an era when they are so desperately needed.
“If something is not functioning; there needs to be a change of course. It’s time to bring about new initiatives and try different approaches whether they are conventional or unconventional. It is evident that the old approach is ineffective. We can see this when we watch the news or read the newspapers that their ways are not working. It’s one disaster after another. They are deliberately showing ineffective shows to make it seem like something is being done when nothing is.”
Has this not been the rallying cry of the drive for sustainability since day one? That business-as-usual simply was no longer an option? That innovative new ideas and technologies were necessary for us to move forward? And how ironic the failure at the 2009 Copenhagen UN Climate Conference, the continuing lack of American political action on climate change, and the Gulf Oil Catastrophe - in light of these words from 2008? It seems sad indeed that it takes an extremist with a gun and homemade bomb to push this to the forefront of our minds, when it should be branded there with all the ills we so stridently suffer now, and the more yet we fear to come.
Now here more words – these from this year – from this site: www.savetheplanetprotest.com
“The Discovery Channel and it's affiliate channels MUST have daily television programs at prime time slots based on Daniel Quinn's "My Ishmael" pages 207-212 where solutions to save the planet would be done in the same way as the Industrial Revolution was done, by people building on each other's inventive ideas.“
Having not read My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, I can’t speak to the work or the author. But, apart from the tone of the statement as a blunt demand, there’s certainly some sense in doing this to facilitate individual enterprise and initiative. This country is sorely seeking new paths to job creation, and the Green economy has continually been touted as the only real way to do so. Is hoping to spark American dreams of entrepreneurship in the face of a collective crisis total insanity?
“Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. A game show format contest would be in order. Perhaps also forums of leading scientists who understand and agree with the Malthus-Darwin science and the problem of human overpopulation. Do both.”
Apart from the man’s hatred of children, and his vitriolic and tyrannical tone, I see little substance here that smacks of open madness. There has been considerable commentary on our population crisis since the 1960’s and its undeniable impact on our usage of resources, destruction of habitat, and generation of waste. Zero Population Growth was a rallying cry of the 1970’s – which saw its cinematic climax in Soylent Green (a truly dystopic, but sadly not impossible fate for our civilization). And it is fundamentally true that there is no consensus on whether we can feed the current population of the US, let alone continue to maintain the current 7 billion souls on this planet after Peak Oil, since modern agriculture is so heavily dependent on petroleum-based fertilizer and mechanized processes.
“Do all until something WORKS and the natural world starts improving and human civilization building STOPS and is reversed! MAKE IT INTERESTING SO PEOPLE WATCH AND APPLY SOLUTIONS!!!!”
It is interesting to point out that no less a mind as James Lovelock himself – the man who practically invented the modern ecological Weltanschauung – has argued that the only plausible future for our civilization was in “rolling it back”, not in more growth. This is a view echoed by M. King Hubbert, the Shell Oil scientist who originally recognized the Peak Oil scenario and the impossibility of unlimited growth based upon a petroleum-derived economy. Again, the tone aside, the message itself is not anchorless.
(I can't help but point out that he must remind them to make it interesting. Has Discovery fallen so far that they'd forget otherwise? Tsk tsk, Discovery, Inc.)
“Saving the Planet means saving what's left of the non-human Wildlife by decreasing the Human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies! You're the media, you can reach enough people. It's your resposibility (sic) because you reach so many minds!!!”
Now here indeed is madness shown – to think that the anyone in American mass media might undertake any action out of a sense of moral responsibility… well, clearly the man is out of his mind!
But in all seriousness, this and the rest of his eleven point manifesto do clearly show a man that has undergone a significant downward slope psychologically.
“Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! This is your obligation. If you think it isn't, then get hell off the planet! Breathe Oil! It is the moral obligation of everyone living otherwise what good are they??”
“Develop shows that mention the Malthusian sciences about how food production leads to the overpopulation of the Human race. Talk about Evolution. Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people's brains until they get it!!”
“All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions. In those programs' places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it.”
Apart from his admonishment to ‘Breathe Oil’ (not a bad epithet to hurl, in fairness), and the points herein previously mentioned – it is clear enough that we have a man at the extreme of his faculties. Here is a mind overthrown with frustration and rage at a world inexplicably stagnant in the face of an impending ecological catastrophe. I cannot but help but to some degree sympathize with this poor soul, as much as I must take him to account for his unbridled vitriol and destructive hatred – and the manner he chose to exercise it.
So I hope at least that if we have here condemned the man, we have done so with some small degree of equanimity, and perhaps even a touch of compassion in his treatment. I dare say that few in this nation will give him even so passing fair a review as this, being so quick in their rush to put the body in the ground (before even the gravedigger’s work be done). For in the end, as grievous an insult he may have given, and as much risk to life he may have incurred – in truth, the only one that died for what he believed in was he himself. And if that be enough, that some small measure of good may yet be wrought from what passed today, then may we consider ourselves lucky at the gain for so little lost.