Often called the Philosopher-Poet of the ecological movement, Derrick Jensen has produced fiction, non-fiction, spoken word, and even a graphic novel and a children’s book. When introduced to Jensen, finding a place to start can be intimidating. He covers an amazingly broad spectrum of subjects, and treats them all with intensity and passion. His two-volume manifesto Endgame is 960 pages alone. But even more daunting than the volume of his work is the subject matter. Jensen forces the reader to deal with problems that most people would rather ignore. As captivating as his work is, you can’t help but have a sinking feeling in your stomach as you read it. I often feel like a selfish child who’s been caught doing something wrong, and now has to face both my conscience and the consequences of my actions when Jensen confronts me. His beliefs, such as his argument for the destruction of modern civilization to save the world, are admittedly extremist in nature. But Jensen’s ideas that recycling cans and using better light bulbs are little more than the “green-washing” of a corrupt and collapsing culture hold more water than I’d like to believe.
How Shall I Live My Life is manageable in both size and intensity. The book is a collection of short interviews conducted by Jensen. While it lacks his impassioned, creative writing style, it is a good introduction to the subjects that he typically writes about. I’m not certain if it was his motive for compiling these interviews, but they do present a less heartbreaking introduction to the subjects. Sometimes when reading a Jensen book, I get the feeling that it’s “me and Jensen against the world.” When read as a collection of works from 10 different people, the situations don’t feel as hopeless. I found the interview with Jan Lundberg about the end of car culture to be the most compelling and interesting. The relatively short entry is still able to deal with the problems caused by car-dependency in a depth that I’ve found all together absent elsewhere. It made me feel like I’m not alone in banging my head against the wall trying to rid myself of my car. But each of the articles, on everything from human interaction in the modern world to corporate accountability for political instability, were all quite convincing in regards to what the book calls the “destructive, dominant culture.”