The Question Every Environmentalist Needs to Ask

We don’t have to forsake civilization, but we owe it to ourselves to consider it

Anna Mercury
9 min readSep 28, 2023
Photo by Sangga Rima Roman Selia on Unsplash

“So you’re like, anti-civ now?” he asked me after I started ranting, once again, about agriculture. I laughed. Reddit always has a catchy term for everything, don’t they? In this case, anti-civ is short for anti-civilization, a position of critiquing human civilization itself and doubting whether settled civilizations are sustainable or desirable.

To answer the question, I would say, no… at least, not entirely. I’m not anti-civilization per se, but I am questioning the value of civilization. I am taking the question seriously, and the more I think about it, the more I think we all need to think about it.

Is civilization, as we know it, actually good for anyone? Or is it perhaps the fundamental problem, the poison responsible for the myriad personal and collective ills we face today?

If it’s not a question you’re used to considering, it might sound destructive, misanthropic or just plain stupid. What does that even mean, to be anti-civilization? What alternative is there, and why would anyone ever want it?

Well… as I’ve been learning lately, there are actually some pretty good reasons to think civilization itself is harmful. Our…