While discussing the ideas in your books, some people have said that, yes, if our culture continues without change, there will be a cataclysmic event. But, they argue, there is no way to kill our entire species, as we’re the most adaptive and intelligent one on the planet. I’m finding it hard to point to conclusive evidence otherwise, and I find the notion entirely possible. Hmm, there’s a question in here somewhere. . . .

I suppose that if the impending Taker-wrought ecological disaster doesn’t wipe out our species, it’d be almost a given that the survivors would be logically forced to dump the Taker lifestyle, as they’ve not only seen but experienced what it invariably leads to, right?

I first heard about Derrick Jensen’s work through a recommendation you made on your reading list several years ago for his book A Language Older Than Words. I thought Language was a deeply moving and beautiful book—still do—and I also admired his next book, The Culture of Make Believe, though its subject was so dark as to make it far from enjoyable for me.

In his more recent work, though, Jensen has expressed his conviction that “[t]his culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living” (quoting from Endgame). Based on that assumption, he’s argued that the very best those who love the world can do is to try to bring civilization down as soon as possible in a sort of planned demolition, like taking down a condemned building.

While I don’t agree with Jensen and see no reason to think you do based on my understanding of your work, my impression is that many people with an earnest desire to save the world have read books by both of you and would likely be interested in reading your reaction to his clarion call for us to “bring it all down.”

After reading My Ishmael, it has come to mind that there are a few questions about things that don’t make sense. In the history of our culture, we were told by Daniel that the ones deemed as the managers of the food decided to lock the food up. In this decision, they have abandoned the law that states that a tribe will do what is best for the tribe.

What has made them do such a thing when this law has been tried, tested, and true for millions of years? Would they not realize their error and the detrimental effects this is causing the tribe?

As well, after locking up the food, wouldn’t the tribe come together as a whole to extinguish these efforts for the good of the tribe? Those who would be hired as guards would obviously be only part of the community that they would need to convince that this is a good way to work things.

How could they convince a whole tribe, albeit a large tribe, that locking up their food is a wonderful idea without any resistance or tribal community?

I live near a Lake Champlain in the northeastern U.S. The lake has various “nuisance” species such as lampreys, zebra mussels, and Eurasian milfoil. These are not native to this ecosystem but have been introduced by human activity.

The government spends a great deal of money on control measures for these species—mechanical, biological, and chemical—such as applying TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol) to tributaries to kill lamprey larvae.

As I understand the message of Ishmael, these measures should be discouraged because they are based on the view that humans should be in control of what plants and animals live in the lake. That is, that we decide how the ecosystem should function and attempt to align it with our ideals.

Based on my study of your work I conclude we should leave the lake to evolve with the new species, but I have a kernel of doubt about my conclusion since humans were responsible for the ecosystem being changed in the first place. Can you share your thoughts on this?

I am a high school English teacher currently reading Ishmael with my 10th graders. We were discussing Ishmael’s idea that man is the only animal that breaks the law of limited competition—kills off other animals’ food sources or other organisms that are not his specific food source—in order to keep his food source plentiful.

One of my bright students shared a video that he had seen in a science class. The video is called The Evolutionary Arms Race (aired on PBS, WGBH 2001) and the part he shared was the practice of the tropical leaf cutter ant.

These ants cut leaves and carry them to their nests to feed them to a fungus which the ants in turn eat. In the process of feeding and caring for the fungus, ants seemed to develop a sort of white sticky film on their bodies.

It was discovered that the fungus has a predator—a mold. This white sticky film is a bacteria secreted by the ants that kills the mold. So the ant secretes an organic pesticide to get rid of a weed it doesn’t want growing in its garden.

In your opinion, would these ants be breaking the law of limited competition?

One career option I was considering was to work in virology, helping to find cures for diseases. Reading your book, though, I realized that this would be just another way humans are trying to control the planet and eliminate competition.

Everywhere we go we find new viruses that we try to kill, but viruses may just be the way nature is trying to restore balance on the planet.