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The Doomer Mentality Dooms Us to Failure

By Max Wilbert /
Jan 12, 2021
The Doomer Mentality Dooms Us to Failure
Photo by Max Wilbert.

Anyone who is honest about the present state of affairs on this planet knows that things are very bad.

The oceans are dying. Coral reefs are collapsing. We’re living through a 6th mass extinction event; around 200 species are driven extinct every single day. And things are getting worse, fast. Emissions are rising, not falling. Pollution is increasing. Population is exploding. Energy consumption is skyrocketing. The permafrost is thawing and life as we know it—perhaps life itself—is under serious threat.

Meanwhile, economic inequality is at it’s highest level ever. The rich grow ever richer as the poor work to the bone, grow sick, and die. Meanwhile, popular culture glorifies technology, fast cars, and pornographic images. We live in a culture of adolescents ruled by sociopaths. The Amazon is falling, the forests burn, and millions of tons of plastic churn through the seas.

Despite how bad things are, there are multiple issues with the mentality of “we are doomed.”

First, it presupposes failure. That is not something we can afford at this point. If we have already failed in our minds—if we are already convinced of our defeat—that is a problem.

It is a victory for the dominant culture when we have lost our will to fight. One of the main objectives in any war is to destroy the opponents will to continue fighting. The dominant culture is always trying to destroy our will to fight, in many different ways, through all kinds of different propaganda. This is something that we need to overcome. When we become apathetic, when we say “there is nothing that can be done,” we are surrendering. And I, for one, do not mean to surrender until ever last tree, every last fish, and every last human being is dead.

As long as there is wildness and beauty in this world, there is something worth fighting for—and there is no time to waste wallowing in self-pity.

In some senses the doomer mentality is a parallel to the consumer mentality that says “everything is okay, go on with your shopping.” These two mindsets (doomer and consumer) coexist together very well. Both allow the status quo to continue.

A truly oppositional mindset looks at the dominant culture that is destroying life on this planet, sets itself in conscious political opposition, and organizes from this mentality, not from a sense of doom.

We need to organize with an understanding of reality. Things are very bad. We are deep in a hole. It’s not hyperbole to say that humans could even be driven extinct due to runaway global warming, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, and the collapse of the soils. These are serious trends, but it is not too late for life on this planet.

Action now can make a difference.

I have interviewed some of the top climate scientists in the world, and without exception, they all told me “it is not too late.” Everything we can do now to reduce the destruction of the natural world will create a better future.

Does this mean we have a great future? That everything is going to be fine? That there will be no problems? That we will live in utopia in no time?

Not at all. We are in for some dire times ahead. It is possible that in years to come we will look back at years like 2020 and, despite coronavirus, we may say “that was an easy year.” It’s likely that things will get worse.

It is ironic to me that many doomers, like me, actually have a roof over their head, food, and clean water. Many people around the world are already living in a state of collapse. In the short term, the future is grim.

So what can we do instead of simply saying “we are doomed” and then walking away? The more mature response is based on love for the planet, the beings on it, our family and friends, both human and non-human. The mature perspective works to protect and enhance the future no matter how much hope there is.

If you love then you keep fighting.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you will change the situation and improve outcomes. There is no magic formula to make things better, but we can make fundamental changes.  We can. We must.

If we defeat ourselves in our minds by believing that we are doomed, without taking action and fighting for what we love, then our souls have already been defeated.

If you would like to hear more about this subject, you can listen to an interview Max did with Michael Dowd on his “Post Doom” podcast.

Max Wilbert is a writer, organizer, and wilderness guide. A third-generation dissident, he came of age in a family of anti-war and undoing racism activists in post-WTO Seattle. He is the editor-in-chief of the Deep Green Resistance News Service. His latest book is the forthcoming Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It co-authored with Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith. His first book, an essay collection called We Choose to Speak, was released in 2018. He lives in Oregon.

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