Derrick Jensen: Lives Less Valuable
April 4, 2010
Derrick Jensen is one of the most intelligent nonfiction writers around. His intellectual ability, brilliant writing and passionate voice for nature, for the powerless (not just people, but our fellow plant and animal species), and for the wounded, have made him a hero for many who oppose the structures of modern society. I was not familiar with his fiction before reading Lives Less Valuable. It’s very difficult to write fiction with a political message, but Jensen succeeds here. Even though the reader knows there is a political subtext, the story and the characters work well, they’re both believable and instructive.
The story centers on Malia, an environmental activist in a modern city where people are dying from a toxic river. The corporation that is at the root of the problem does everything possible to maximize its profits and does not care about the environmental cost borne by the poor people of the city. She is drawn into a complex web of events that forces her to make choices about her beliefs and what she must do to make meaningful change, and when she does, the effects of her choices resonate through the lives of many others. And they do make a difference.
Talking to Derrick Jensen was a great experience for me. He has so much to say about human beings, our relationship to nature, and the meaning of political action, not to mention writing and story telling. In this interview he talked about many subjects, including the nature of activism, the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction, and the details of the writing of this book. He’s as eloquent and brilliant a speaker as he is a writer. Derrick Jensen truly is one of our great public intellectuals. Please note that this interview is longer than usual at 32 minutes, but should reward the listener with a worthwhile experience.