Undermining and Risk

Sometimes disclaimers are just a way of making something out to be more dangerous than it really is; sometimes they are necessary. I was only two or three chapters into writing Underminers when it became clear that a disclaimer was absolutely necessary – not so much for the legal protection it could give to the author, publisher, distributor and retailers; but for the warning it gives to the reader. Activism, for want of a better term, is no longer about pretending to be doing something – if change is to happen on the scale required to prevent global catastrophe and the end of humanity, then we have to be talking about the kinds of activism that carry uncertain levels of risk, at least for those prepared to be Underminers.

New Society saw the idea behind Underminers and were brave enough to see the project through from raw text to publication of the book that goes on sale in September 2013. That in itself is a risk, for from its inception, it was clear that in order to save humanity and the wider environment from the kind of catastrophe we are currently headed toward, nothing less than the end of Industrial Civilization as we know it would be required. Civilization protects itself with the kinds of things most ordinary people are scarcely aware of; the kinds of things that keep us disconnected from the truth of what it means to be human; the kinds of things that keep rearing their heads in a ferocious effort to protect The Machine, then washing self-proclaimed citizens of any subversive thoughts. All it takes is a nice vacation, a trip to the shopping mall, a major sporting event or a new app, and everything is once again fine.

Anything that undermines these Tools of Disconnection is dangerous to the industrial system. Anything that is dangerous to the industrial system gives us the chance of a future on Earth.

I cannot make it any clearer: Industrial Civilization is incompatible with a living, thriving ecosystem. The purpose of civilization is to create a culture of domination and power, that imbues material wealth with far more importance than the lives of the people it controls. No civilization is sustainable. In our hearts we know this, but know we can only whisper such a dangerous truth.

There is potentially a host of Underminers waiting to bring down the system that is killing us and everything else that lives on planet Earth. Are you among them, and are you prepared to take a risk? After all, it can’t be any more dangerous than being a slave; a victim; a puppet; a voter; a consumer; a citizen…

We are the Underminers, and this is our time.

Underminers is available NOW from New Society Publishers. Just follow THIS LINK if you are in the USA or Canada (other parts of the world soon…)


I have gone through life with the sad knowledge that I will always be a monoglot. Languages, aside from my native tongue, do not come easy to me – I am trying my best to embrace Scots dialect, and have a sprinkling of French, but years of experiencing everyone around me absorb different languages with apparent ease (my younger child is a non-deaf user of British Sign Language, my wife can get by handily in German and French, and my brother-in-law is many-tongued) haven’t made my lack of proficiency any easier to bear. Then again, how many people in indigenous cultures would have chosen to speak a language alien to their common tongue? Moreso, language has, until very recently, been a means of protection against cultural dilution across the world, so I can claim some sort of moral position speaking only the language of my native land.

But at the moment, only speaking English doesn’t always help get messages across where they need to be heard. Therefore, I am hugely grateful to the Spanish correspondent who contacted me just two days ago, and has since delivered a perfect translation of the Introduction to Underminers. This is now on the relevant page, and is also going to be used to subtitle the Underminers video (as well as the English subtitles I’m going to add) as soon as I get the chance.

Anyone who fancies a similar challenge, in whatever language is welcome to contact me. I can’t pay you anything, but I can credit you and, of course, you will be doing a very important piece of work in defence of humanity and the wider natural environment.

Get A Free Book


Thank you for all your kind comments and offers of distribution.

Yes, it’s true, I have some free copies of Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change to give away, courtesy of the funds remaining from the Kickstarter project back in 2012, and which I would like to use up before a year has elapsed.

The book available is the one for sale (for the moment) at Lulu, a 524 page, lovingly-crafted brick of paper that will be superceded in September, once New Society starts selling the published version Underminers: A Guide to Subverting The Machine. There are enough funds for about 30 copies, and the offer is limited to one copy per application.

All you have to do is contact me via the form below telling me why you or your organisation needs a copy of Underminers, and I will do the rest. Books will be sent by surface mail, so may take a few weeks to arrive. This is not a competition – if I think there is a good case for sending a book then it will be sent. The only condition is that the book is read, re-read, passed around and made available in the same way as the electronic version.

Keith, June 2013.

The Odd Tweet Here And There

I’ve sort of embraced the world of the Twitterati. Ok, “embraced” is a relative term – I send about 4 or 5 tweets a day, all sitting at my computer (never mobile, I don’t have anything like a smartphone) and only ever when I think it’s worth it.

My publicity people asked me to set up a Twitter account so as to reach people who might not have heard about Underminers, but might like to – so I created the @UnderminersBook account, and it would be quite nice if, when people see anything resembling an act of Undermining, they can use the hashtag #underminers.

That is all. Try not to spend too much time online…

A New Earth Blog

After more than 6 years struggling with the horrible coding structure, advert frenzy and barrage of spam comments, I have finally had enough of Bravenet. As of now The Earth Blog is hosted on WordPress. For anyone who doesn’t know, I started The Earth Blog in 2006 as a place to put my thoughts, with an article called “A Call For Action, Please Read This”, which I still think is relevant:

Forget the views of the conservative environmentalist who tells us that all we have to do is change a few light bulbs and buy a more economical car and all will be well; to turn the climate around we are looking at a fundamental change in what we consider to be normal and acceptable levels of consumption.

If a billion people currently sit comfortably above the “poverty line” in the western world – a poverty line based on the acquisition of consumer goods – try imagining a further 2 billion people obtaining that level in the next 50 years. If climate change is a problem now, stacking this upon the ever increasing profligacy of the west is, by any reasonable calculation, going to lead to annihilation of one sort or another – catastrophic weather events causing mass deaths, global ecological shifts tipping the natural balance of life into a state that can no longer support us, positive feedback cycles pushing the climate into ever tighter loops of change or just the complete lack of oil, a substance that is so fundamental to our way of life that even this potentially positive outcome would cause hundreds of millions of deaths.

Any one of these will force an unsustainable (for humans) change in human activity at far more rapid a rate than the admittedly fast, but controlled and planned change that we currently need but which governments and especially the vested interests of commercial economic growth are refusing to look in the eye. Denial is the only response, denial and a wink to the acceptable conservative environmentalism which is just a way of making us feel better about ourselves whilst letting the problem slip like so much hot sand between our fingers.

Ok, maybe the idea of “planned change” altered between then and a few years later, but the point was clear – the fundamental issues weren’t being addressed, even (especially) by the Environmental Movement, and I had had enough. The Earth Blog turned out to be a place I could hone my writing and ideas, and was the gestation of, first, A Matter of Scale / Time’s Up! and then Underminers. So, I am determined to keep it alive and more accessible than ever, so people can understand where I, and an increasing number of people are coming from.

Using www.theearthblog.org (or clicking the link) will immediately take you there.

For reference, the blog address is http://originalearthblog.wordpress.com – it’s not ideal, but someone already used the better names, and The Earth Blog has been around for an awfully long time!

A Publishing Date

Hooray, I have a date for publication. I know this because I checked on Amazon. It’s September 26th 2013.

That’s the last I really want to have to do with Amazon because, as most people probably know, they screw publishers and especially authors into the ground so they can sell books as cheaply as possible, thus in turn screwing other booksellers, especially independents into the ground. They also use offshore tax havens, so also screw taxpayers, or rather people who would otherwise use services that are paid for with the tax that Amazon does not pay.

Like it or not, though, most people are going to buy the book through Amazon, which is a great shame. I suppose the same applies to other online booksellers like Borders and Barnes & Noble, and both of those, with their physical outlets, did a huge amount in killing off the independent bookseller. Basically this (although Black Books isn’t your average independent)…

It’s a fair way off, this publication date, but there’s lots to do, not least all the pre-promotion stuff which will mean speaking to a great many people who don’t get Underminers, nor will condone any suggestion that Industrial Civilization is a Bad Thing. Still, if life is meant to be a challenge then what’s the harm being challenged?


Underminers and Deep Green Resistance

Look! Over there on the right. There’s a link to Deep Green Resistance. I only put links to things I think are genuinely useful and important.

Just thought I should get that clear straight away, in case anyone was getting the idea that Underminers was some kind of rival, or alternative to the fomenting DGR movement. It certainly isn’t – they are, while not quite partners, two complementary things that support and reinforce each other in startling ways.

First off, if you don’t already know, Deep Green Resistance is a movement of people, united by the desire to see the end of industrial civilization. In short:

The goal of DGR is to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. This will require defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases. This is a vast undertaking but it needs to be said: it can be done. Industrial civilization can be stopped.

The way DGR aims to work is not easily explained in a paragraph, so I recommend you go here and find out more. Clearly DGR and Underminers (and the burgeoning Underminers Network) has a lot in common, but there are key differences. Underminers is focused on removing the Tools of Disconnection that prevent the vast majority of people from taking back their lives and no longer being part of the industrial machine – I believe that there are currently far too few connected people to make a significant difference.

DGR is about directly attacking the industrial machine, removing its ability to continue destroying the living planet. Like Underminers, it starts from a point where there are already people ready and willing to create change, except that with DGR, that change means actively dismantling the industrial system.

Neither are contradictory. This diagram should help:

Paths to Change

The Underminers’ world is primarily in the top left box, by which the act of undermining frees up more people to carry out further acts of undermining directly and via a number of side-effects, such as community building. Those people liberated through undermining may not choose to consciously carry out undermining themselves, but through Personal Impact Reduction, they do so anyway, because the effect of this is to weaken the grip of industrial civilization on their daily lives, thus Weakening Industrial Civilization.

The Deep Green Resistance movement comes into its own in that right-hand box, where countless acts are being supported and carried out to directly weaken the industrial machine. I strongly believe that undermining is essential if the DGR movement is to reach its potential. Similarly, DGR is essential in weakening the grip that civilization has over people’s everyday lives – DGR is a both a direct force for change and a form of undermining.

I look forward to this being a truly collaborative effort. We are, after all, in the same boat, and would really like to go in the same direction…at first. What happens after is up to you.

Note: In the light of recent events occurring between the authors of the DGR book, and members of DGR with regards to gender politics, it is worth stating that I wholeheartedly support the fundamental aims of the Deep Green Resistance movement, whilst not necessarily agreeing with the views of all members of the organisation. In any collection of people there will be disagreements – it’s just a shame that a disagreement over something that could have been a long-term goal, has been allowed to manifest itself so virulently.

Americanization, yeah!

Well, it was bound to happen, and so it has. Those who have taken the time to pore over my written output – especially those from the northern part of the continental landmass conventionally called America – are bound to notice that I bring more than a little Britishness to the page. Obviously that’s because of the way I speak, but I have also made a little effort to reach out across the Atlantic and take a sprinkling of Americanisms to the text where it seems appropriate, especially if the subject in question is in that (your?) part of the world.

The online version of Underminers, and the Lulu (soon to be unavailable, get it while you can!) book is written in that British-sort-of-American-with-a-touch-of-Scots way, which is perfectly fine for most purposes and which I have no intention of changing. On the other hand, when a book is about to be pushed out to the North American public (and I mean public rather than the people who would normally seek out my work), then a certain amount of translation is called for. It was explained to me, very understandingly by my publisher, that the convention for books to be sold in the USA is to be written in American English.

Here is where I plead ignorance. Until my gracious and tolerant copy-editor pointed out the multitude of words in the book that were rarely if not ever used in the USA, then I had no idea. The spelling – mainly involving “z”s (pronounced “zee” rather than “zed”) – was perfectly fine; hell! I write “civilization” instead of the British convention “civilisation”, all the time. The words, though, were interesting. Here’s a sample, to give an insight into the process:

Caravan. In Britain, a caravan is a thing that you attach to a car (automobile) and take on holiday (vacation) with you so you have a home-from-home. I had to change it to “motor home”, even though it wasn’t – “travel trailer” is unknown in Europe, so that wouldn’t have worked.

Paracetamol. In Britain, it’s a generic painkiller that acts on the central nervous system. In the USA it’s called acetaminophen and usually Tylenol. I have never taken acetaminophen knowingly, but the converse applies in the USA, so an explanation is now in a footnote.

Football in Glasgow. In Scotland there are (at the moment not, but that’s very complicated) traditionally two big football (soccer – I could have gone native and said fitba’) teams, Celtic and Rangers, or rather Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers. They are rivals in terms of football, and in terms of different flavours of the same major branch of the same religious belief system – i.e. one is Protestant, one is Catholic. Fights ensue. There is even a new law in place ostensibly to stop fans of one team using religious slurs against the other. This takes time to explain, so I just took the reference out.

Workmate. This is a type of folding workbench produced by the manufacturer Black and Decker that was all the rage in the 1980s in Britain, and which I still have in almost pristine condition from then – they were very well made. I checked, and they are unknown in the USA, so even though I did use a Workmate, to save confusion I took out the whole reference, and just used a saw.

There were lots more, along with all sorts of stylistic changes including a bizarre round-trip. A friend had seen an early extract and pointed out the proliferation of “that” where the word wasn’t really needed in his opinion, such as “the house that Jill built”, which reads more easily as “the house Jill built”. I agreed and spent ages removing every excessive instance. What I didn’t realise is that in the USA, the word “that” is used much more frequently than in Britain, so back a load went! I did re-remove a few, though – you can have too much of anything.

The final edit is complete, and the manuscript is now with the layout people, who will do all sorts of fancy things over the next few weeks. This is the bit where I don’t really get involved much at all – they know how to sell books; I just write the words.

All Hail Jan Lundberg

Regrets, I’ve had a few. One of which is not being able to find a place for a cracking essay by Jan Lundberg in the final version of Underminers. Back in mid 2011 while planning who I would like to write guest essays for the book, it was clear that Jan – sometime muse and sparring partner at Culture Change – was an obvious author who would make a valuable contribution.

The essay that he so generously provided was thought-provoking, challenging and interesting, and I was sure at least some of it would slip nicely into the latter quarter of the book. As these things so often go, the course of writing didn’t match my original intentions. Jan’s intervention was to come in a weighty Conclusion, tentatively entitled What Does Success Look Like? alongside contributions from other prescient individuals.

In the end, having come to a satisfying conclusion of itself in the final chapter, I didn’t feel any need for the final-final chapter. Instead, perhaps egotistically, perhaps because it was a piece always waiting for the right moment, I ended up using a small piece of (perhaps) fiction called A Last Toast to the Old World which somehow still makes me well-up – maybe because it is just my own emotions in words. Whatever the reasons, the end essentially created itself and it didn’t feel right to fight that.

But, for no other reason than it is a really good essay, I take great pleasure in reprinting Jan’s writing below. Thanks mate, and see you on a boat sometime…

The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

Usher in the “new” economics of local self-sufficiency and community cooperation

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man*
– Imagine, John Lennon

I like to think that critics of civilization are above all compassionate, nonviolent and realistic. So perhaps we can keep in mind that wishing for quick change to save the planet and throw off the shackles of capitalism and authoritarianism has to be weighed with today’s vast dependence on industry. Yes, the economy will collapse and end most greenhouse gas emissions. But this is not to say everything will be just fine as soon as manufacturing and oil-powered transport stop. There will be severe repercussions to “lifelines” of energy, food and materials being cut or terminated.

As industrial civilization is built on exploiting nonrenewable “resources” (many of which should never have been tapped), and human population and consumption of manufactured materials are near peak, the unsustainability of unlimited industrialism should be obvious.

Whether the unsustainability is obvious or not, collapse can be sudden and rapid, as the house-of-cards economy built on cheap, ample petroleum can have the rug pulled out from under it by any break in the chain. Then the infrastructure fails once and for all, beginning the final rusting of the machinery of civilization on all levels.

One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, “That’s fine, the Earth needs a break.” But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization.

If we have simple starvation, and can survive the other assaults, then we can paint a picture of the world after industrial civilization that has a viable human presence. I am optimistic about it. A new culture borrowing heavily on traditional ways of various indigenous cultures, with some helpful influences from recent visionaries, will emerge from the rubble of petrocivilization. The breakdown of the previous global corporate culture and lack of cheap, fast travel will assure a larger world of innumerable autonomous bioregional nations and tribes.

Individually the end of industrial civilization and massive government means being free from jobs, i.e., working for others for their purposes to earn money to buy essentials that nature actually provides freely. This is unthinkable by many today, but they tend to distrust the masses’ thinking for themselves and managing with self-rule and voluntary cooperation.

Along with rejecting the obvious failures and mistakes of the previous era of growth and “progress,” the new culture will have to find harmony with nature. This cannot be done with the hierarchal, patriarchal, religious empire-building mindset that ravaged the planet starting with perhaps Sumer. Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.

As to nuts & bolts, or the lack of them, I wrote in January of 2007 in Culture Change Letter #150, “one can visualize local crafts-people soon making due with scrap materials and some renewable resources. The individual’s possessions will not be so voluminous and overbearing when the change comes. There will no longer be a great number of things used daily, because new stuff won’t be available and cheaply shipped to everyone the way it once was. So, re-using finally becomes the rule of the day.”

However, maximizing bicycles and bike-trailers may be a transition phenomenon that lasts only a century at best. This may not be so terrible: as we become less material oriented we become more spiritual. It can be argued that nature and spirit are really one. If a “primitive” and simple life for all sounds objectionable, tough shit. The question is “what is really ahead?”, not what we feel we are entitled to as modern homo “sapiens.” As part of the swing of the pendulum, spirituality identified with the Earth will return strongly, as people revere life in part by deploring the past era’s trashing of the living world.

As certain regions will be damaged for centuries by past practices and the distortions of climate change, they cannot provide every essential food or material for sustaining the lives or happiness of the tribe or nation, if isolated. So trade will be perhaps essential. Without cheap oil, and in the absence of renewable fuels such as biofuels that still depend on mechanical systems involving high entropy, the low-tech, efficient mode of sailing will return to the fore. Already it is making itself attractive in a cost sense as the corporate global economy continues to pollute the atmosphere with disastrous bunker fuel and routine oil spills out of view of the news media and public consciousness.

People in temperate and arctic climes can live without coffee, chocolate, and other delicacies now shipped thousands of miles to addicts and bon vivants. But people prefer not to be deprived: if something can be done, it will be done. Additionally, a favorable environment here for producing olives, for example, can result in a reasonable surplus to trade for some grain from over there. Specialization is a questionable reliance, but sharing and assisting other communities will be carried out between peoples who, since the Great Collapse, will be evolving their bioregions into very diverse, unique cultures. The loss of languages and cultures will be remedied over time. Sailing will keep up the right level of communication, knowledge, and mutual aid, for the new reduced population size.

That’s if we can survive the undoing of civilization and its toxic and radioactive consequences.

*Lest any feminists be offended by the quaintness of the last line, it is worth recalling that Lennon was soon to unleash “Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

I Have A Publisher

And it’s not me.

One good thing about being the eternal realist is that when really good and unexpected things happen, they really are good and unexpected bringing with them all of the lovely positive emotions those particular things entail. The blog of April 12 described what I genuinely believed at the time: “When the book is finished then I will begin work on a publishers version, with the aim of selling as an e-book and Print on Demand – assuming no publisher takes this on as a going concern.” Even earlier I used the phrase: “No publisher will touch this”, and really meant it.

At some point along the way I threw a few emails to publishers asking if they might be interested, ignoring those that had onerous application demands which essentially boil down to: “How much money will the book make us?” (Only one of the publishers got back to me, and that was just to apologise they didn’t have the funds to take on anything new.) In the main, publishing is a business – a very big business indeed, which makes this kind of question obvious. For me, it’s a barrier; the key question should be: “Why is your book worth publishing?” I think it is worth publishing, so I went off and did it myself.

Part of that process was engaging in the, now successful, Kickstarter project, which has led to me being able to send copies to various people involved in the publication of the book, and which was also intended to fund an eBook version of Underminers. What also happened was that a representative of New Society Publishers got in touch saying they were interested in the book and would like a chat. That was back in late November. As of now I am an author with one of the few publishers I would have really liked to have published Underminers.

The upshot of this is:

1) The Kickstarter project money will be used to fund the sending of the “big” version of Underminers to a variety of groups and individuals who could benefit from having it to hand.

2) A honed-down version of Underminers, which I have edited specially to be more digestible but no less radical, will be produced by New Society in paper and eBook (EPUB, Kindle, Nook etc.)

3) The online version will remain available on this website in perpetuity under a Creative Commons license in HTML and PDF format.

4) The self-published Lulu version (see sidebar) will be available only until the New Society marketing campaign starts this spring, upon which I will take it off sale out of respect to the publishers.

This all sounds very formal, but in a nutshell it means the text will be available to the widest possible audience in the largest variety of formats available, which has to be a good thing…unless you are a big fan of industrial civilization.

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