James Apichart Jarvis

Critique the tactics used by one American environmental group.
Radical environmental groups reached prominence in the American discourse, through the latter decades of the twentieth century, by focusing on the movement of direct action to defend the environment. The most wellknown of such groups is Earth First!, a grassroots organisation consisting of individuals that are best characterised as ´eco-warriorsµ. Founded by five men including Dave Foreman, Earth First!ers used tactics that went beyond conventional direct action and instead focused on civil disobedience and ecotage as a means to embody their brand of radical ecology. This thesis will analyse and critique the tactics used by the Earth First! environmental group. In order to understand the motives of these ´ecowarriorsµ an assessment of the ideals of deep ecology as well as the circumstantial genesis of Earth First! will be displayed as a counter measure to the moderate mainstream views. Infrastructure is a key component in analysing organisations, and Earth First! is fundamentally a grassroots system, keen to distance themselves from the tidy bureaucracy of the mainstream. The significance of the group·s identity at grassroots level will be assessed, notably the apparent factions, when compared to other established environmental groups. The model of factions creates its own problems as well as disadvantages. Earth First!·s own brand of direct action with then be scrutinised, most notably the controversial use of tree spiking among their flagship ´monkeywrenchingµ devices in order to draw publicity towards an environmental issue. The issue of eco-terrorism will be addressed. To finish, a relevant critique of Earth First! shall be established in relation to its context among the environmental movement; whether or not it has made any substantial improvements while also looking at its present state today. The term ´deep ecologyµ first appeared in Arne Naess· article ¶The Shallow and The Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movements·.1 More of a philosophical idea, deep ecology retains the premise that the environment a biocentric equality to exist through preservation, while at the same time downplaying the importance of humans on this world. There are two prominent points among Naess· and George Sessions outlined principles of deep ecology that arguably forms the basis of radical ecology. First, humans ´have no right to reduceµ the richness and diversity of the environment, and second, ´present
Arne Naess, The Shallow and The Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movements: A Summary , Inquiry 16 (Osolo: 1973), pp 95-100
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human interferenceµ is excessive while currently ´rapidly worseningµ.2 What seems to be referenced here is an Eco-Wall that Rik Scarce has indicated as a psychological barrier that has prevented people from recognizing their perceived environmental responsibilities, usually born out of the lack of caring or ignorance.3 Deep ecology, a popular school of thought among all environmentalists, recognizes this fact and advocates that people should shift their interests towards the environment rather than self-attainment. Deep ecology, however, has its critics which in turn may invalidate the motives of Earth First!. Critics have pointed to the fact that there is no evidence of an impending environmental crisis that deep ecology suggests, the philosophy also ignores the part that advanced technologies may play in helping to preserve the environment. Henry Skolimowski and George Lukacs perceived the theory of deep ecology as a pretentious form of ideology: environmental concerns will always be a ´societal categoryµ and is about ourselves rather than about nature exclusively. 4 These statements contradict the foundation of radical ecology, but as Foreman points out that is not important. To Earth First! ideology is not what is important, neither is the method that people chose to defend the Earth, it is more important that people do something and take responsibility.5 Environmental philosophy is not what separates Earth First! from mainstream environmental groups, it is radicalism. Disturbed by the failure of the Forest Service to provide adequate environmental protection to wilderness lands in the RARE II program, dedicated employer of the Wilderness Society environmental group, Dave Foreman had become dishearten by mainstream environmentalism that has moved away from its roots and become an industry just like any other6. Foreman was not alone. Co-founders of Earth First! included; a former Wyoming representatives of the Friends of the Earth and Wilderness Society, Howie Wolke and Bart Koelier respectively; former educational director for the Wilderness Society, Susan Morgan; and Mike Roselle who was a ´veteranµ among radical groups. These founding members of Earth First! viewed the American government and corporations as the enemy; representations of human greed.7 An interesting context to the emergence of Earth First! was the political climate of a Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s that was pro
Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology (Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1985) pp 67, 70 Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement (Chicago: The Noble Press, Inc., 1990) p 8 4 Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilzation (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1990) pp 152, 156 5 Edited by Steve Chase, Defending the Earth: A Dialogue Between Murray Bookchin and Dave Foreman (Boston: South End Press, 1991) p 66 6 Hal k. Rothman, The Greening of a Nation? Environmentalism in the United States Since 1945 (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1988) p 183 7 Donald R. Liddick, Eco-Terrorism: Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements (Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2006) p 56-7
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industry. Environmental concerns were far from the political agenda in Washington due to the ´Reagan recessionµ of the decade. In his inaugural address, Reagan a Republican, declared ´to rekindle traditional American valuesµ by scrapping general revenue sharing. In 1981 the Budget Reconciliation Act reduced federal expenditure by $39 billion, which eliminated some existing intergovernmental programs. 8 With governmental interest focused more on recovering an economic recession it therefore could be argued that radical organisations such as Earth First! is needed to bring light to the environmental issues that concerns environmentalists. Dave Foreman explained, in his Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, that Earth First! aimed to be radical in positions, philosophy, style and organisation to avoid the pitfalls of the moderation and co-option that the founders already experienced. Noted goals of Earth First! was to re-establish enthusiasm and vigour into a stale and unimaginative environmental movement; to provide support for ´hard-lineµ conservationists and inspire others to become strong activists; and more importantly, to ´fight with uncompromising passionµ for Earth.9 Earth First! announced itself onto the national scene with the Cracking of Glen Canyon event in March 31, 1981. A three-hundred foot ersatz crack painted on a black plastic tarpaulin was draped on the face of the dam that obstructed the Colorado River.10 In an act of both the theatrical and the showcase of humour, this particular tactic proved to be extremely successful, by instigating a media accomplishment while avoiding any controversies that is usually associated with radicalism. Inspired by Edward Abbey·s The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) which followed the sabotaging activities of a ¶band of four idealists· who targeted innate objects such as bulldozers and crawler-tractors. The presentation of the difference between sophisticated tactics and mindless vandalism created a grand sense of justification that eco-warriors would have no doubt found romantic.11 Hence Earth First!, formed in the early 1980s, would be characterised by the movement of ecotage, the destruction of property that would harm the environment, while also exclaiming the slogan: ´no compromise in defence of Mother Earthµ.12 In distancing themselves from the now moderate mainstream, Earth First! focused its intention on radicalism, throwing a ¶monkey-wrench· in to the works, so to speak. Along with radicalism, another key aspect characterises Earth First! namely its grassroots infrastructure without a nominated leader or president, inspired by ´high profile elitesµ such as Foreman. Donald R.
D. Mckay, American Politics and Society: Seventh Edition (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) p 76 Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior (New York: Harmony Books, 1991) p 18 10 Hal k. Rothman, The Greening of a Nation? Environmentalism in the United States Since, p 182-3 11 Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang (London: Penguin Books, 2004) pp 74, 79-80, 86 12 Hal K. Rothman, The Greening of a Nation? Environmentalism in the United States Since 1945, p 182
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Liddick described the model of ´leaderless resistanceµ as an effective means in providing direction, dissemination of information, provision of financial support for direct action, and to inspire underground activists.13 With numerous groups at grassroots level, including Bay Area Earth First! and Phoenix Earth First! among others, it becomes clear that Earth First! is not a unified group but a collection of factions each with their own ideas and code. Anyone can become a member of the Earth First! clan. The only branching ideal is that Earth comes first before humans, regardless of the methods of its protection. This is what makes Earth First! unique, a movement for the people that anyone can contribute to, but it also in itself creates its own problems as the rest of this thesis will show. Furthermore, Earth First! success in attracting activists could be attributed to the tactic in relating the group to the western ¶cowboy· rhetoric. The cowboy image appears in the mythology that the founders created the group while in a desert or in a whorehouse, an image that is far removed from the reality of a discussion in a VW bus on the road to Albuquerque. 14 The cowboy relation could also be seen in the attachment to Buffalo Bill·s Wild West Show with Earth First!·s own version: the Earth First! Roadshow which promotes their ideals. Then there is the Round River Rendezvous that includes drinking and singing around campfires. 15 It should also be mentioned that Earth First! was male dominated, a view that is not far from the frontier myth, as Jeffrey Shantz analysed in the article Judi Bari and ¶the feminization of Earth First!·.16 That is part of the apparent appeal for radical activists to join Earth First! the chance to live in a western rhetoric that is deemed to be lost in today·s mainstream society. The radical stance of Earth First! includes a spectrum of various civil disobedience tactics. The list accommodates: blockades, demonstrations, treesits, sit-ins, self-imposed entrapment by locking themselves to bulldozers and cranes. The movement of radical ecology calls for individuals and small groups to partake in such acts in order to defend the wild. 17 All of these direct action tactics has been described as ´guerrilla theatreµ by Hal Rothman in order to successfully increase media and public attention.18 However, monkeywrenching is no doubt the distinctive attribute of Earth First! as an environmental group. Dave Foreman attempted to defend monkeywrenching as a ´proud American traditionµ despite the criticism and controversy that surrounds

Donald R. Liddick, Eco-Terrorism: Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements, pp 69-70 Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement, p 61 15 Donald R. Liddick, Eco-Terrorism: Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements, pp 57-8 16 Jeffrey Shantz, Judi Bari and the feminization of Earth First! : the convergence of class, gender and radical environmentalism, Feminist Review, No. 70, (2002) pp. 105-122 17 Carolyn Merchant, Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World (New York: Routledge, 1992) p174-5 18 Hal K. Rothman, The Greening of a Nation? Environmentalism in the United States Since 1945, p 184-5
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it.19 In Ecodefense an outline, almost sermon in style, advocated monkeywrenching as ´non-violentµ, ´not organisedµ, ´simpleµ and ´funµ. Organised into a brochure format, ¶Strategic Monkeywrenching· seems almost desperate in its attempt to validate the motives of ecotage, despite its well written approach. 20 It is also interesting to note the title of the book, Ecodefense, a product of the ¶moral· stance taken by radical environmentalists, because it could so easily be called Ecoterrorism instead. Earth First!ers accept that monkeywrencing is an illegal act and is not suited to everyone in the environmental rhetoric. The act of ecotage is rather viewed as an effective campaign to target the ´rape-the-landµ corpotations bank roll, in order to halt, at least momentarily, the act of wilderness destruction.21 For Earth First!ers monkeywrenching is seen as an operation that should be taken as a last resort, to act in the event of an unresponsive government. 22 However, it could be argued that radical Earth First!ers would always proceed to monkeywrenching without taking any prior initiatives. Radicals are just that, radical, and it is arguable as to whether all Earth First!ers would initiate in alternatives to ecotage. A very controversial and potentially dangerous method of ecotage, and a topic of high interest, is tree splikeing that has become affiliated strongly with Earth First!. In what has been turned into some form of a cult, tree spiking prevents trees from being cut down by driving nails in to the trunk. The nails do not harm trees but can cause ruin to lumber mill saw blades which at $3000 repairs lumber companies take heed of any warnings of spiked trees.23 Not as easily defendable as monkey wrenching, Dave Foreman·s attempts finds him fielding three criteria of justification; ´is tree spiking safeµ; ´is tree spiking ethicalµ; and ´is tree spiking effectiveµ in saving trees. It is no surprise that Foreman concludes that tree spiking does fulfil each of these questions, by helping to prevent the genocide of ecosystems, finding relative success in the states of Washington, Oregon, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Montana. 24 Although Earth First! have always prided themselves on not enacting harm to humans, tree spiking have resulted in one case of bodily harm where a George Alexander, a Californian timber mill worker, was injured severely. What proved to be further irresponsible was the fact that the mill was never warned, a procedure that is usually carried out by Earth First!ers. Within Earth First! there is also a sense of uncertainty over the values of
Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, pp 117-8 Dave Foreman, Strategic Monkeywrenching , Various authors, Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monekeywrenching, Third Edition (Azburg Print, 1992) pp 9-11 21 Edited by Steve Chase, Defending the Earth: A Dialogue Between Murray Bookchin and Dave Foreman, p 70 22 Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, pp 144-5 23 Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement, pp 74-6 24 Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, pp 153-8
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tree spiking. Judi Bari, worked towards improving public relations between the radical group and mill workers. Motivated by the improved dialogue, Bari and a few of her followers in Earth First! renounced tree spiking as a dangerous undertaking. 25 These two cases illustrates two problems that face Earth First! as a valid environmental institution that has strong ties to tree spiking. First, ecoterrorist allegation. Critics have accused radical ecologists of being no better than terrorists, who engage in violent action. The estimated total cost of ecotage each year is thought to be within the region of $20-25 million.26 There is validity in the ¶terrorist· point, mill workers lives are at risk when working in a woodland area that is ¶spiked·. Although, Earth First!ers point out that human harm is not the motive, acts of ecotage does, however, effect the economic well being of hard working lower class citizens. The cost of repairs could directly correlate to a reduction in pay and even redundancies. The second problem is the grassroots infrastructure. Above are two examples of misdirection, the irresponsible Earth First!ers that failed to warn the mill company in the Alexander case and the opposing ideas of Judi Bari·s faction. The model of ´leaderless resistanceµ presents a case where different Earth First! groups would naturally have varying ideologies and philosophies. It also presents an environment where there is no supervision or no-one to administrate correct management of ecotage that Dave Foreman tried in earnest to allocate. The environmental movement is still dominated by a handful of the largest natural organisations, all of which are centred in stance, and headquartered in Washington D.C. 27 Although Earth First! is founded on the idea of direct action, that is not to mean that they have abandoned the lobbyist intentions of mainstream environmentalism. Nevertheless, and in keeping with their style, Earth First! promotes a radical position. Their leading proposition is the ¶Wilderness Preserve System·, announced in June 1983. Earth First! required that fifty reserves, 716 million acres in total, be declared ´off-limitsµ to human industrial civilization to preserve the natural processes. Wilderness should be preserved for its own sake. 28 This is an extreme measure which was inevitably turned down, it would seem that Earth First! as an environmental organisation lacks the realism and nous in politics to get favourable results. But this is where Earth First! has found its niche and its uses; in being overtly extreme and radical in their proposals it has turned mainstream environmental groups in to the moderate and reasonable voice in
Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement, pp 76-7, 83 Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilzation, pp 9, 151 27 Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1996) p 5 28 Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement, p 66
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environmental politics. Jim Norton, the Wilderness Society·s southwest regional director, appreciates the contribution of radical groups in helping the ¶moderate· mainstream in gaining results in politics. Dave Foreman himself concedes that Earth First!·s real purpose is to make groups like the Sierra Club more effective, Earth First!·s radical position has helped to ´redefine the parameters of the debateµ. The mainstream collective was always more important than an isolated radical environmental group.29 The lack of direct success eventually muted Earth First! as a radical voice, coupled by the death of author Edward Abbey in 1989 and the sting operation by the FBI the group separated in to two groups of fundamental differences. Dave Foreman and his followers departed from Earth First! because the hard line view a postapocalyptic biocentric society as a valid reason for radical action had lost relevance over the years, the FBI intervention proving to much of a strain. The second group, headed by Mike Roselle, also eventually departed from Earth First! to form EMETIC due to the criticism that former had not lived up to its radical intentions.30 This is a direct result of the model of ´leaderless resistanceµ, a model that is assembled by varying and apparently contrasting grassroot factions. Since then, Earth First! never really recovered and lost its edginess by turning into a large, international ecologic movement. Far removed from the grassroots radical cowboys of the 1980s. In addition, an important shift in tone emerged by placing significance and concerns to human interests rather than the deep ecology philosophy that has lasted so long. Donald R. Liddick views this shift as an implication that Earth·s necessities no longer comes first. 31 The best example of this lack of radicalism in the contemporary scene can clearly be seen on the pages of the Earth First! website. 32 No more slogans of ´no compromiseµ, neither a fist for a logo, what we have instead is a format that is similar to numerous websites that belongs to corporations. The conception of Earth First! and the radical tactics used ultimately makes it hard to administer praise if looking at direct results. Dave Foreman and the founders viewed Earth First! as a movement to enact change through direct action in order to draw media attention to an environmental plight. At best ecotage only slowed down the inevitable on a temporary basis while at worst caused serious harm to humans through the controversial act of tree spiking. In the political domain the extremist stance were unrealistic and were never going to be approved by an economical conscious Reagan administration. The success of Earth First! is
Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement, p 25 Donald R. Liddick, Eco-Terrorism: Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements, pp 59-61 31 Ibid, pp 61-3 32 Earth First website, www.earthfirst.com
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not found in direct consequences but through the successes of the now moderate mainstream organisations in passing through seemingly ¶reasonable· policies. Without such radical groups, environmentalism would have little to be proud about. In the end it can be viewed that Earth First!, as a movement that is based on an infrastructure of ´leaderless resistanceµ and radical direct action, became an uncontrollable entity that in the end proved too much for its founder Dave Foreman and too little for radical ecologists who wanted a more results based on their actions.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang (London: Penguin Books, 2004). Edited by Steve Chase, Defending the Earth: A Dialogue Between Murray Bookchin and Dave Foreman (Boston: South End Press, 1991). Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology (Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1985). Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1996). Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior (New York: Harmony Books, 1991). Dave Foreman, ¶Strategic Monkeywrenching·, Various authors, Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monekeywrenching, Third Edition (Azburg Print, 1992) pp 3-11 Donald R. Liddick, Eco-Terrorism: Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements (Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2006). Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilzation (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1990). D. Mckay, American Politics and Society: Seventh Edition (Oxford: WileyBlackwell, 2009). Carolyn Merchant, Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World (New York: Routledge, 1992). Arne Naess, ¶The Shallow and The Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movements: A Summary·, Inquiry 16 (Osolo: 1973). Hal k. Rothman, The Greening of a Nation? Environmentalism in the United States Since 1945 (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1988). Rik Scarce, Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement (Chicago: The Noble Press, Inc., 1990) Jeffrey Shantz, ¶Judi Bari and ´the feminization of Earth First!µ: the convergence of class, gender and radical environmentalism, Feminist Review, No. 70, (2002) pp. 105-122 Earth First website, www.earthfirst.com

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