Q: "If we dismantle civilization, won’t that kill millions of people in cities? What about them?"

A: "No matter what you do, your hands will be blood red. If you participate in the global economy, your hands are blood red because the global economy is murdering humans and non-humans the planet over. A half million children die every year as a direct result of so-called “debt repayment” from non-industrialized nations to industrialized nations. Sixty thousand people die every day from pollution. And what about all the people who are being forced off their land? There are a lot of people dying already. Failing to act in the face of atrocity is no answer.

The grim reality is that both energy descent and biotic collapse will be ever more severe the more the dominant culture continues to destroy the basis for life on this planet. And yet some people will say that those who propose dismantling civilization are, in fact, suggesting genocide on a mass scale.

Polar bears and coho salmon would disagree. Traditional indigenous peoples would disagree. The humans who inherit what is left of this world when the dominant culture finally comes down would disagree.

When I asked a member of the Peruvian rebel group MRTA, the Tupacameristas, “What do you want for the people of Peru?” his response was, “What we want is to be able to grow and distribute our own food. We already know how to do that. We merely need to be allowed to do so.” That’s the entire struggle right there.

It is true that the urban poor would be worse off at first, because the dominant culture, like any good abusive system, has made its victims dependent upon it for their lives. That’s what abusers do, whether they are domestic violence abusers, or whether they are larger scale perpetrators. That’s how slavers work: they make enslaved people dependent upon them for their lives. One of the brilliant things this culture has done has been to insert itself between us and our self-sufficiency, us and the source of all life. So we come to believe that the system provides our sustenance, not that the real world does. Yes, life would be much harder at first.

But in the long run, the urban poor would be better off. Most of the urban poor are people who live in third-world slums. That’s more than a billion people, and, if trends continue, that will double in two decades. Many of these are people who have been forced off their traditional land. The poor will be able to take back this land if the governments of the world are no longer capable of propping up colonial arrangements of exploitation.

I have another answer, too. As this culture collapses, much of the misery will be caused by the wealthy attempting to maintain their lifestyles. As this culture continues to collapse, those who are doing the exploiting will continue to do the exploiting. Don’t blame those who want to stop that exploitation. Instead, help to stop the exploitation that is killing people in the first place.

The authors of this book are not blithely asking who will die. In at least one of our cases, the answer is “I will.” I have Crohn’s disease, and I am reliant for my life on high tech medicines. Without these medicines, I will die. But my individual life is not what matters. The survival of the planet is more important than the life of any single human being, including my own.

Since industrial civilization is systematically dismantling the ecological infrastructure of the planet, the sooner civilization comes down, the more life will remain afterwards to support both humans and nonhumans. We can provide for the well-being of those humans who will be alive during and immediately after energy and ecological descent by preparing people for a localized future. We can rip up asphalt in vacant parking lots to convert them to neighborhood gardens, go teach people how to identify local edible plants, so that people won’t starve when they can no longer head off to the store for groceries. We can start setting up neighborhood councils to make decisions, settle conflicts, and provide mutual aid."