Bill Totten's Weblog

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Free Nature Movement

Why the environmental movement has failed to protect the environment. Introducing the "Free Nature Movement" and why like abolition and suffrage it can succeed in freeing nature from humanity.

by Chuck Burr

Culturequake (March 03 2009)

The Fall of Modern Culture and The Rise of Earth Culture

Environmentalism is not a movement. For a political campaign to be considered a movement, it has to drive a new right into the Constitution. Recycling and carpooling is not amending the Constitution. The environmental movement cannot, as it is currently structured, protect the other species from our burgeoning population.

Nothing is effectively achieved until the Constitution is amended. A 28th Amendment that gives all other species equal rights to humanity would enable legislation to begin to reverse the 233 years of exploitation that the US is founded upon.

This is not as far fetched as it sounds. In 2002 the lower house of parliament in Germany, the Bundestag, adopted a bill that for the first time enshrined animal rights in the Constitution. The bill, passed by a huge majority. The bill added, "The state takes responsibility for protecting the natural foundations of life and animals in the interest of future generations". This makes Germany the first country that as far as I know to give constitutional rights to animals. This is as good a place as any to say where the Free Nature Movement began.

On a local level, your town council or county commissioners can adopt the "The Rights of Nature Ordinance". First passed in 2006 by the Tamaqua Borough Council in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, the ordinance states that, "People and their communities are trustees of nature, and communities of nature and ecosystems form part of the natural trust".

What is a "right"

A right is more than the right to vote. A true right is to allow all other species to follow their own destiny as given by the universe and by god.

Today we have enslaved nature to do our bidding. The Bible refers to man's dominion, "over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth".

As many know, this enslavement actually began with agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago when one tribe started living a new story that, "the world belongs to man". This was the birth of our modern taker culture. One tribe in the fertile crescent between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers cast away the story that enabled humanity to live in symbiosis with the earth's ecosystem for three million years that, "humanity belongs to the earth".

Equal rights also includes equal consideration and representation. Most indigenous tribes have rituals to testify that the human family is one strand in the larger web of life, to acknowledge all our relations. For instance, the Hopi of the Southwest United States have celebrated a Council of All Beings ritual with masks representing plants and animals for thousands of years.

"Freedom" is a lie

Freedom is probably the greatest lie created by the agricultural revolution and is the foundation of our modern culture. Since we are born our culture tells us that we want to be free from want; it's a double negative. And the way to obtain freedom is to work hard to be able to buy or consume the things that will make us free including food, shelter, and clothing. Our culture's idea of freedom is a lifetime of enslavement to pay for mortgage for a roof over our heads.

True freedom, like a true right, is the ability to follow your own destiny. Being locked in a consumer culture making things to get things is not freedom.

The concept of freedom has also been used as an excuse to perpetuate our culture in the form of continued exploitation of man and beast. Because those at the top "are free" they can do as they please. The wealthy are free to consume in a global economy where a minority exploits the majority.

We also use freedom to justify our unlimited procreation. As far back as the Old Testament, Adam chooses Eve. Eve literally translates to "life". Adam has chosen to forgo the limits of nature, to take more than humanity's fair share from all other species, and to produce a surplus of food to grow a larger population. We can do this because, "we are free - humanity is free of limits".

Earth Culture will enable the Free Nature Movement

When enough people figure out that modern culture cannot take care of them or their decedents, a tipping point to the creation of new cultures will have arrived. Today new earth culture(s) are beginning to grow out of our decaying modern taker culture. Our current financial crisis probably will begin this awakening or remembering.

We are beginning to remember what it took for an average person to make a living in harmony with the web of life. It boils down to giving support to get support instead of making things to get things.

Once we can turn that corner and make that mental shift that we are just one strand of the web of life and that we need the entire web for not only our sake, but for the sake of our relations, then we will let go of our false freedom. For instance, we will also be at the point we are able to let go of private property and growth without limits. When this shift in values happens, we will give our selves the alternatives we need to live new lifestyles.

By letting go of our "freedom" to do as we will, we "free" nature from her bondage and exploitation.

Transition to a new culture

So how are we going to get there? A big part of the answer to that question is in this graphic of Saudi oil depletion. We are good through 2010, then it is down to nothing in a relatively short period of time. Just look at the chart at .

Think about this, world population in 1850 before the use of oil was about one billion, and that was before we entered overshoot and significantly drew down natural resources. In 1850 we had nearly an intact new continent and ecosystem, today we have peak everything and a biodiversity crash with 6.8 billion. This means there are about 5.8 billion people here, in my opinion, mostly because of oil. An eight-wheel farm tractor with a GPS does no good without diesel; your back to the draft horse. And don't tell me you are going to mine, mill, smelt, and fabricate a steel tractor with a solar collector.

Many say we have a century left of coal, but that may not be the case either. For instance, according to a recent USGS study, the coal reserve estimate for the Gillette coal field is 10.1 billion short tons, which is a mere five percent of the original 200 billion ton resource total. In other words, the USGS has just revised the Gillette resource base down by 95%. The Gillette coal field in Wyoming has been the most prolific coal field in the US. This region has been nicknamed the "Fort Knox of coal". In 2006, output from the Gillette region totaled over 431 million short tons of coal, or over 37% of US total yearly production.

The transition to the steady-state we are heading for will take in my estimation, another 100 years to finally plateau. How rough it will be remains to be seen. But, judging by how hard the dominant paradigm is hanging on, it will be rough. My biggest question is how much biodiversity, the ecosystem's resilience, will be left by 2100?

What will the new lifestyle look like?

You have to accept that we are not going to be here to see it. We will see the transition from the age of exuberance to the age of powering down; that is happening now. The age of powering down will be one of learning lost skills, building community, figuring out how to do with less, and leaving behind much of the stuff we can't use any more. If you take the seats out, your SUV may make a nice playhouse for the grandkids.

In this phase, humanity may begin to loosen its grip over nature. The diminishing human population will start to leave more room for the other species. Our mindset will have not changed yet, the world will "still belong to man", but nature will get some breathing room. I just hope there is enough of her left to regenerate. Humanity is pushing every species except cows to the edge of extinction.

If enough of nature is left after 2100 years, that is when the restoration time begins. Hopefully what is left of modern culture will be so shell shocked in 100 years by what they have lost that our descendants will just walk away from that failed lifestyle and live closer to the earth. They will have to.

It is easy to describe a future supped-up 1850s lifestyle maybe with radios, but it is the ethics and story that we live by that will make all the difference. For the last 110 years our ethics have been blinded by an addiction to a cheap energy surplus that created all this stuff, technology, and the middle class. Without cheap energy, it will all go away. Lets hope there are people starting to think about building knowledge arks now.

The point is that it is the story we live by that can free nature. If we can remember the original story that worked for humanity for three million years, that "humanity belongs to the earth", then we will be able to let go of our selves, our grasping, and our freedom in order to free nature.

In the end, I believe that the Free Nature Movement will just happen because the dominant culture will just go away. There will be very little modern taker culture left to have to convince to allow nature to follow her destiny. It will just happen.


Read Culturequake: The End of Modern Culture and the Rise of Earth Culture.

Visit to learn more about the book Culturequake and the blog.

Copyright (c) 2009 Chuck Burr LLC


BBC News - Germany to grant animal rights

CELDF - Rights of Nature Ordinance

EarthLight - The Ecological Self

Culture Change - Counter argument for "Stimulus", growth and employment

The Honoring All Life Foundation - Exploring Choices Honoring the Essence of All

Culturequake - Usufruct: End Private Property to Solve the Financial Crisis and Create Food Security

The Oil Drum - Saudi Arabia's Crude Oil Production Peaked in 2005

Energy Bulletin - How much coal is out there?

Wikipedia - World population


Chuck Burr teaches permaculture in Ashland, Oregon. Chuck has an MBA in finance, a BA in accounting, interned for President Reagan, is a retired software CEO, and has served on several nonprofit boards. His latest book is Culturequake: The Fall of Modern Culture and the Rise of Earth Culture.

Chuck Burr, LLC.

Culturequake: The End of Modern Culture and the Rise of Earth Culture

"I predicted what’s happening today and for the next ten to twenty years back in 2007 in the first edition of Culturequake. To find meaning in our world today, I have integrated the history that brought us here, a prediction of the growing perfect storm, with the only real long-term solution - living a new story." -- Chuck Burr

"Tying together the bits and pieces, the anecdotes, stories and flashes of recognition for the first time". -- Marc Hurlbert.

"While not everyone is ready to drop their current lifestyles, the idea that there is a different way to live that harmonizes our relations with all living beings is both comforting and exciting. Culturequake is a highly recommended read." -- Kris Holstrom

"A thoroughly researched and well-indexed book. Great for those who are new to the idea of how people in our culture live beyond the human definition. It also serves as a great reference for those already 'in' on the taker/leaver concept. Chuck writes in a simple, easy to read style without a lot of flowery conjecture. This is a fact-filled book that I believe I will use as a reference for years to come." -- Eric Jergensen

"As alarming world news is now, his fresh, brilliant, new message is that the answers that served humanity well for so long before these times can still serve us well. In fact, combining the best of both world's, it could be so great, we'd look on the last few thousand years as a mere hiccup." -- John Cruickshank

Trafford Pulishing.

Bill Totten


  • I stopped reading after Chuck Burr wrote that "environmentalism is not a movement". That told me this guy has no idea what he is talking about. Check your facts Mr. Burr. The roots of the environmental (social) movement are founded within the animal rights movement that questioned the rights of animals that led to questioning the rights of plants and and earth. The movement is rooted in the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, and Leopold (the father of the environmental movement - read the "Land Ethic" chapter of A Sand County Almanac to see where the movement was born leading up to the first Earth Day Celebration and subsequent celebrations, protests, etc.). There is a very good reason that A Sand County Almanac is noted as the Environmental Movement's "Bible". Perhaps if you bothered to read this book, you would know why that is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:10 PM, January 04, 2013  

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