- Earth First!
Rachel Carson's " Silent Spring", Aldo Leopold's land ethic, and Edward Abbey's " The Monkey Wrench Gang", a group of activists pledged "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!" Environmental activist Dave Foreman, ex- Yippie( Youth International Party) Mike Roselle, Wyoming Wilderness Society representatives Bart Koehler and Howie Wolke and former Park Ranger Ron Kezar were traveling in Foreman's VW bus from the Pincate Desert in northern Mexicoto Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Provoked by what they considered a sell-out by mainstream environmental advocates during the "RARE II" (the Forest Service's Roadless Area and Review Evaluation) meetings, the activists envisioned a revolutionary movement to set aside multi-million acre ecological preserves all across the United States. "Suddenly Foreman called out 'Earth First!' The next thing you know," Wolke says, "Roselle drew a clenched fist logo, passed it up to the front of the van, and there was Earth First!"Fact|date=January 2008
There are Earth First! groups in the
United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium Philippines, Czech Republic, India, Mexico, France, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, Nigeria, Slovakia, Ireland, Italy, and Spain.Fact|date=January 2008
The early years
During the group's early years (1979-1986), Earth First! mixed publicity stunts (such as rolling a plastic "crack" down
Glen Canyon Dam) with far-reaching wildernessproposals that reportedly went beyond what mainstream environmental groups were willing to advocate (with conservation biologyresearch from a biocentric perspective). The group's proposals were published in a periodical, "Earth First! The Radical Environmental Journal", informally known as the "Earth First! Journal". Edward Abbeyoften spoke at early gatherings, and his writings were an inspiration that led him to be revered by the early movement.Fact|date=January 2008 An annual gathering of the group was known as the Round River Rendezvous, with the name taken from an Ojibwamyth about a continuous river of life flowing into and out of itself and sustaining all relations.Fact|date=January 2008 The rendezvous is part celebration with art and music, part activist conference with workshops and accounts of past actions.
In the spring of 1985, a nationwide call to action in the "Earth First! Journal"Fact|date=January 2008 brought Earth First! members from around the United States to the
Willamette National Forestof western Oregon, to take action against Willamette Industries, a logging company. Finding logging road blockades (carried out by Corvallis-based Cathedral Forest Action Group) were offering too short-term a protection, Marylander Ron Huber and Washingtonian Mike Jakubal devised tree sittingas a more effective civil disobediencealternative. [ [http://www.penbay.org/ef/treesit_first1985.html Earth First! 1985 ] ]
May 23, 1985Mike Jakubal made the first Earth First! tree sit. [ [http://www.penbay.org/ef/mikejakubal_1sttreesit85.html Earth First! 1985 ] ] When U.S. Forest Servicelaw enforcement official Steve Slagowski arrived, Mike Roselle, Ron Huber and others were arrested sitting at the base of the tree in support. This first tree sit lasted less than a day—Jakubal came down in the evening to look over the remains of the forest that had been cut down around him that day, and was arrested by a hidden Forest Service officer—but the tree-sitting concept was deemed sound by Earth First! members. Huber and Jakubal, in the company of Mike Roselle, brought the concept to the June 14th Washington EF Rendezvous; [ [http://www.penbay.org/ef/washefrendez85.html Earth First! 1985 ] ] on June 23, a convoy of activists arrived at Willamette National Forest, and set up tree platforms [ [http://www.penbay.org/ef/milleniumlog85b.html Earth First! 1985 ] ] in a location "Squaw/Three timbersale" [ [http://www.penbay.org/ef/ronhuber_squaw3map2.jpg] Dead link|date=August 2008] the group thought was threatened with imminent destruction. While at one point, up to a dozen trees were occupied, a July 10 clash [ [http://www.penbay.org/ef/ronfedstatements85.html Earth First! 1985 ] ] took down all the trees with platforms except for Ron Huber's as the other sitters had gone for an overnight meeting elsewhere. Huber remained in his tree, dubbed Yggdrasil, until July 20when two Linn County sheriff's deputies were lifted in a crane box [http://www.penbay.org/ef/ronhuber_treesitter1985.jpg] and wrestled him from the tree.
Later, from about 1987 on, Earth First! became primarily associated with
direct actionto prevent logging, building of dams, and other forms of development which Earth First! finds may cause destruction of wildlifehabitats or the despoilation of wild places. This change in direction attracted many new members to Earth First!, some of whom came from a leftistor anarchistpolitical background or involvement in the counterculture. Dave Foreman has related that this led to the introduction of such activities as a " puke-in" at a shopping mall, a flag burning, heckling of Edward Abbey at a 1987 Earth First rendezvous, and back-and-forth debates in the "Earth First! Journal" on such topics as anarchism, with which Foreman and others did not wish to be associated. Most of the group's older members, including Dave Foreman, Howie Wolke, Bart Koehler, Christopher Manes, George Wuerthner, and "Earth First! Journal" editor John Davis became increasingly uncomfortable with this new direction. This change reportedly severed their ties to Earth First! in 1990. Many of them went on to launch a new magazine, " Wild Earth", and a new environmental group, The Wildlands Project. Roselle, on the other hand, along with activists such as Judi Bari, welcomed the new direct-action and leftist direction of Earth First!.
Starting in the mid-1980s, Earth First! began an increasing promotion of and identification with "
Deep Ecology," a philosophy put forward by Arne Næss, Bill Devall, and George Sessions, which holds that all forms of life on Earthhave equal value in and of themselves, without regard for their utility to human beings. Earth First followers use this philosophy to justify an ecocentricview of the world in which intrinsic values for organisms and ecosystems outweigh their resource values.
Earth First since 1990
Since 1990, action within the Earth First! movement has become increasingly influenced by
anarchist political philosophy. The change also brought a rotation of the primary media organ in differing regions, an aversion to organized leadership or administrative structure, and a new trend of identifying Earth First! as a mainstream movement rather than an organization. In 1992, Earth First! push as a mainstream movement caused members who refused to abandon criminal acts to start a militant offshoot called Earth Liberation Front. [ [http://portland.fbi.gov/pressrel/2002/testimon.htm] Dead link|date=March 2008] Most members of Earth First! liken themselves to a decentralized, locally informed activism based on communitarian ethics while Earth First adversaries characterize the group as conducting a form of terrorism [mail tribune par.5] .
In various parts of the country, individual citizens and small groups form the nuclei for grassroots political actions, which may take the form of legal actions—i.e.
protests, timber sale appeals, and educational campaigns—or civil disobedience— tree sitting, road blockades, and sabotage—called " ecotage" by some Earth First! members, claiming it is done as a form of ecodefense. Often, disruptive direct action is used primarily as a stalling tactic in an attempt to prevent possible environmental destruction while Earth First! lawsuits try to secure long-term victories. Reported tactics include road blockades, activists locking themselves to heavy equipment, tree-sitting, and sabotage of machinery.Fact|date=February 2007
Earth First! was known for providing information in the "Earth First! Journal" on the practice of
tree-spikingand monkeywrenching(or ecotage) which have led to reports of injuries from such tactics, although no evidence that Earth First! was involved in related activity. [ [http://www.iww.org/unions/iu120/local-1/EF/JBari11.shtml The Secret History of Tree Spiking - Part 1 | Industrial Workers of the World ] ] In 1990, however, Judi Bariled Earth First! in the Northern Californiaand Southern Oregonregion to renounce these practices, calling them counterproductive to an effort to form a coalition with workers and small logging businesses to defeat large-scale corporate logging in Northern California.
Some critics of the movement still call Earth First! activity
eco-terrorism, though Earth First! proponents say that the term more accurately describes the people who destroy the environment. In response to being labeled terrorists, some Earth First! members have adopted the neologism"terrist" instead.
Judi Bari car bombing
In 1990, a
bombwas placed in Judi Bari's car, shattering her pelvis and also injuring fellow activist Darryl Cherney. Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigationsuspected that theyClarifyme were responsible for the bomb but were unable to find any evidence tying them to the explosion. Bari died in 1997 of cancer, but her federal lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland, Californiapolice resulted in a 2002 jury verdict awarding her estate and Darryl Cherney a total of $4.4 million. [law.com par.1] Eighty percent of the damages were awarded for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights during the course of investigating the bombing. [law.com 020612b par.2]
Some theories have focused on Mike Sweeney, Bari's estranged ex-husband, who is alleged to have a history of domestic violence and political bombings dating back to the 60s. This theory has been advanced by Kate Coleman, author of "The Secret Wars of Judi Bari", as well as Bruce Anderson, editor of the "Anderson Valley Advertiser". This theory is dismissed by "Friends of Judi Bari" as part of a "right-wing funded smear" campaign [FOJB - "The latest attack on Judi"] . Bari's supporters believe there is evidence the FBI helped plan the bombingFact|date=February 2007, although there has never been a government investigation into this claimFact|date=February 2007. Special Agent Richard W. Held, who supervised the Bari case for the FBI, was dismissed from the lawsuit in early 1997 Fact|date=February 2007.
Earth First! in the UK
The Earth First! movement in the
United Kingdomstarted in the 1990, when a group in Hastings, Sussexorganised an action at Dungeness nuclear power stationin Kent. It grew rapidly, and many groups formed, with or without the EF! name, over the next years.
The first big Earth First! actions happened in 1992 and focused around the importation of tropical hardwoods. The first major action happened in
Londonat Port of Tilbury. The second major action, the "Merseyside Dock Action", attracted between 200-600 people who occupied Liverpool docks for two days. This action coincided with the Earth First! roadshow, in which a group of UK & US Earth Firsters toured the country. Other early campaign also focused on timber-yards, most notably Timbmet yard in Oxford. [http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,,481362,00.html 10 years of Earth First! | Society | The Guardian ] ]
There are now various regional Earth First! groups and a yearly Earth First! national gathering [ [http://www.earthfirstgathering.org.uk Earth First! Gathering] ] . At the first gathering in Sussex the debate focused on the use of criminal damage as a protest technique. Earth First! did not "condone or condemn" criminal damage, instead it focused more on
non-violent direct actiontechniques. Some people at the gathering coined the term Earth Liberation Front(ELF), which became a separate movement which spread back to the US. Actions involving criminal damage did happen often under cover of night and were typically done under ELF banner and attributed to elvesand pixies, giving a distinctly British feel to the movement.
Major growth in the direct action movement started when the focus shifted to roads, and a protest camp at
Twyford Downwas started, against the M3 in Hampshire. Whilst Earth First! groups still played a major part, other groups such as the Dongas tribe soon formed. Alongside SchNEWS, such publications as the Earth First! Action Update, [ [http://www.eco-action.org/efau/aulast.html Earth First! Action Update online ] ] and "Do or Die" [ [http://www.eco-action.org/dod Do or Die - Voices from the Ecological Resistance ] ] were means of communication between the groups. The movement grew to other road protest camps including Newbury bypass, the A30 and the M11 link road protestin London, where whole streets were squatted in order to slow down the construction work. Later the focus widened to other campaigns including Reclaim the Streets, anti-GMO campaigns, [ [http://www.geneticsaction.org.uk/ Genetic Engineering Network ] ] and Rising Tide. More recently, there have been groups such as Peat Alert [ [http://www.peatalert.org.uk/ peat alert in south yorkshire ] ] and Plane Stupid[ [http://www.planestupid.com Plane Stupid - bringing the aviation industry back down to earth! ] ] .
The UK Earth First! groups differed considerably from the U.S. groups as reported in a ten year retrospective of the Earth First! by two of the founders Jake Bowers and Jason Torrance:
Earth First! in popular culture
Earth Day2000 motto of the Young Republicanswas "EARTH FIRST! We'll log Earth first, other planets later!" [ [http://political-fallout.blogspot.com/2007/04/every-day-is-earth-day-eh.html Political Fallout--Earth Day April 22, 2007:] ]
The Simpsons" episode Lisa the Tree Huggerfeatures an environmentalist group called "Dirt First", a parody of Earth First!
*The character Nick Van Owen in "" reveals himself to be a member of Earth First!
*In Tom Clancy's novel, "
Rainbow Six," the antagonists are members of Earth First!
Confessions of an Eco-Warrior"
Earth Liberation Front
Earth Liberation Prisoner Support Network(ELPSN)
The Monkey Wrench Gang"
List of environmental organizations
Operation Backfire- FBIoperation targeting "eco-terrorism"
* U.S. national wilderness preservation areas
* [http://www.penbay.org/ef/eforegon85.html Penobscot Bay Watch] "Earth First! Treesitting Blockages Begin. Spring/Summer 1985"
* [http://www.fojb.org/ fojb.org] "Friends of Judi Bari - FOJB"
* [http://www.theava.com/00/01-19-talbot.html Anderson Valley Advertiser] "Who Bombed Judi Bari? Interviewed by Bruce Anderson"
* [http://www.law.com/regionals/ca/stories/020612b.shtml law.com] "Cal Law - FBI, Oakland Handed Defeats in Bari Lawsuit"020612b
* [http://www.sierranevadaearthfirst.org/main.asp?goto=history.asp Sierra Nevada Earth First!] "History of Earth First"
* [http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress02/jarboe021202.htm Federal Bureau of Investigation] "Congressional Testimony - The Threat of Eco-Terrorism"
* [http://www.mailtribune.com/archive/2003/0123/local/stories/07local.htm Mail Tribune] "Forest speaker says he's no terrorist - By Paul Fattig"
Further reading: books about Earth First!
Books about the early Earth First!
* Davis, John, ed. "The Earth First! Reader: Ten Years of Radical Environmentalism" (1991) (ISBN 0-87905-387-9)
* Foreman, Dave. "Confessions of an Eco-Warrior" (1991) (ISBN 0-517-88058-X)
* Foreman, Dave. "Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching" (1985) (ISBN 0-9637751-0-3)
* Manes, Christopher. "Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization" (1990) (ISBN 0-316-54532-5)
* Scarce, Rik. "Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement" (2006) (ISBN 1-59874-028-8)
* Zakin, Susan. "Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! and the Environmental Movement" (1993) (ISBN 0-8165-2185-9)
Books about the post-1990 Earth First
* Bari, Judi. "Timber Wars" (1994) (ISBN 1-56751-026-4)
* Lee, Martha. "Earth First!: Environmental Apocalypse" (1995) (ISBN 0-8156-0365-7)
* Scarce, Rik. "Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement" (2006) (ISBN 1-59874-028-8)
* Wall, Derek "Earth First and the Anti-Roads Movement" (1999) (ISBN 0-415-19064-9)
* Chadwick, Paul "Concrete: Think Like A Mountain"
* King, Elli (Editor) "LISTEN: The Story of the People at Taku Wakan Tipi and the Reroute of Highway 55 or The Minnehaha Free State"(2006)
Books critical of Earth First
* Arnold, Ron. "Ecoterror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature" (1997) (ISBN 0-939571-18-8)
* Bradford, George. "How Deep is Deep Ecology?" (1989) (ISBN 0-87810-035-0)
* Clausen, Barry. "Walking on the Edge: How I Infiltrated Earth First!" (1994) (ISBN 0-936783-12-5)
* Coleman, Kate. "The Secret Wars of
Judi Bari" (2005) (ISBN 1-893554-74-0)
Earth First today
* [http://www.earthfirstjournal.org Earth First! Journal]
* [http://www.earthfirst.org Earth First!] ("unofficial international site")
* [http://www.earthfirst.org.uk/ Earth First! UK Action Reports]
Other links relevant to Earth First
* [http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress02/jarboe021202.htm FBI on Eco-Terrorism]
* [http://www.keele.ac.uk/depts/spire/Working_Papers/Brian_Doherty_working_papers/Covert%20Repertoires%20Ecotage%20in%20the%20UK.doc Covert Repertoires: Ecotage in the UK]
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